Firenze... Firenze...

11/05/2009

I've put off writing this post, because I knew that once I wrote it, I would acknowledge that the holiday is over, that the souvenirs of Florence are there to be committed to paper, photo albums and the web, and that life will never be as good as those six golden days in glorious Tuscany. Such is life, I presume, and we can only attempt to cherish the enchantment for that beautiful instant.

So on to the memories. I will try to keep it brief, as I fear you will all be bored to tears after reading the first of many pages. The photos are by all three of us, including my munchkin, who turned out to be a natural photographer. We actually have photos of ourselves thanks to her!

We arrived in the most gorgeous city on earth on a Saturday. This photo was taken from Piazzale Michelangelo at dusk, after we traipsed up the staircase from our little corner of the city.
Where is the Duomo, you ask?

I didn't want to take the traditional touristy photo, so tried something different.

We were fortunate enough to stay in San Niccolo, a quiet neighbourhood of Florence, a good ten-minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio, or old bridge. Largely locals, the odd tourists strolling through on their way to the Piazzale. Next door to us was a tiny toy store, with a grandfatherly figure, who set sight on our munchkin and adored her presto (potential customer, n'est-ce pas?). He gifted her with a butterfly brooch on day 2 and she insisted on buying a book about La Cenerentola (Cinderella) from him as a return gesture. Across from our apartment was the church of San Niccolo.

We had a corner bar and restaurant, where we headed for our daily cappuccinos and paste (pastries).


Our days were spent eating, strolling around the city, visiting churches, idling away time in the Loggia dei Lanzi statue gallery, which our daughter was strangely obsessed with, and generally enjoying life. Not necessarily in that order, I might add, lest you should think that we were a couple of degenerate food-obsessed pigs.

Above is the munchkin's photo of her favourite statue, the Rape of Polyxena. Yes, I know, not exactly child-worthy, but neither are Grimm's fairytales, which is are, for the most part, grim. Note the composition. I didn't dare take a single photo after that...

At some point, though, we got bored of Florence and its zillions of tourists. It is impossible to venture anywhere near the trifecta of Duomo, Uffizi, Palazzo Vecchio, without literally cutting a swath through flocks of tourists herded by their shepherd guide from one attraction to another. Other places were strangely quiet, such as Santa Maria Novella church.

So, we decided on a day trip to Siena, with a quick stop in Panzano at a traditional butcher's. I will save this bit for last, as I want to savour it a little longer. In Siena, we were largely unimpressed with the square, which I somehow remembered as more expansive in my imagination. The munchkin, however, used it for the most efficient workout ever, running up and down the square's pathways and expending a lot of energy in the process. She was rewarded with an ice cream, after which we carted her off to the city's impressive Duomo. The storm broke just before this photo was taken.

The next day was a split day, in the sense that I had a museum visit to make, while the munchkin and SO entertained themselves exploring the Oltrarno. But first, we stopped at the temple of fragrance, known as the Farmacia Santa Maria Novella, for some of their heavenly scents. Read more about it here.

In the afternoon, my long-awaited visit of the Vasarian Corridor finally happened. I add the only two photos that I was allowed to take while inside and a photo of the outside. It runs from the Uffizi (Cosimo I's offices) along the Arno, over the Ponte Vecchio, in Santa Felicita Church, and into the Palazzo Pitti.




What can I say? I waited fifteen years, and thanks to an excellent organisation and guide, I finally got to walk through it. It was worth every second and penny.

And now for the part that I, and maybe you, have been saving for last: our visit to Panzano and Dario Cecchini's butcher shop. I had read about this store many years ago and stored this item of food knowledge in the back of my memory. So we drove down, after having bought bread and rucola, on our way to Siena, with the idea of buying some sliced meats and pick-nicking in some field. Well, it took us about 1.5 hours to find it, if only because we drove in a circle for half an hour along the colle of Chiantishire. Finally, we ended up on the outskirts of the village, in front of a pretty chapel, and I managed to get the directions from a guy in combat gear on a Vespa. We walked into the store, our eyes glazed over, and all systems failed. But Dario was hands-on and shoved a menu under our noses with the immortal words: are you hungry? Hell, yeah, we were affamati or starving by then. You can choose from the MacDario or the Accoglienza, he said. And then the magic door opened and we were led up to the terrace with the long tables.

I am ashamed to report that I only have about four photos, none really of the food, because we ate it all before even thinking of the camera. The arista di porchetta almost reduced me to tears and I cannot even begin to describe its delicate herby taste or the crackling. As for the sushi del chianti (raw meat, with lemon, etc., you know me, I love it), it was delectable. So I leave you with a pic and the man's website. Click here for more information and many more photos.
And on that fantastic note, I end my travel report. Something tells me we will be back next April, exploring more of the Chianti region and searching for an excuse to hit up Dario's again for even more tasty morsels of his food.

PS - gelato aromas tested during our visit: zabaione, limone, rosa, vaniglia, cioccolato fondante, zuppa inglese, stracciatella and many more... And yes, I did eat Bistecca while there.

5 messages:

Milo said...

Thanks for the write up, certainly sounded like you had a good time! That will be me very soon!

Chris said...

Loved reading this travel post, while drinking a nice Illy espresso. Conclusion : a good mind comes with a full belly.

Fresco said...

I am so going to steal your first paragraph for my future travel posts.
Loved the pictures on fb.

Vikki said...

Beautiful. Someday...

Lula de Montes said...

@Milo: if there's anything else you can think of, re my mail, then just drop me a line.
@Vikki: sooner than later. We will be going back next April. My SO seems to have fallen in love with Italy overnight.
@Fresco: by all means, be my guest. Thanks for the compliment.
@Chris: life should be all about food.

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