Friday, July 13, 2012

Europe 2012: Florence

Sorry for the delay, life gets in the way of posting!

Where did I leave off?  That's right, we took the train from Rome to Florence and arrived after dark.  Thanks to modern technology (aka google maps on my iPhone) we were able to walk to our vacation rental apartment without getting lost - woohoo!  After checking in we headed out for dinner and ended up eating amazing pizza.  We wandered along the Arno River on the way back to the apartment.

Hooray pizza and vino!
Ponte Vecchio at night
Living room - loved the exposed beams!

Bedroom of the apartment

The first full day started with pastries and coffee at a little cafe near the Duomo.  Since we were so close we decided to take the trek up the 463 steps to see unparalleled views of Florence's red rooftops.  Corey almost killed me after the exhausting & claustrophobic climb and rather high heights, but we was a great sport.


Inside Brunelleschi's dome

View of the Campanille from the top of the Duomo

Made it to the top!!
We then wandered around the winding, cobbled streets of Florence then along the banks of the Arno again until we reached the Pitti Palace.  I had high hopes for this Medici residence turned multiple museums in one and gardens.  Unfortunately it was pretty poorly put together with rather bad lighting but you live and learn, right?

Exterior of the Pitti Palace
That night's activities, however, made up for the lackluster afternoon.  I managed to convince Corey to attend a performance of up-and-coming opera stars at St. Mark's Anglican Church.  Neither of us had every seen an opera and definitely don't listen to it at home, so we weren't sure what to expect.  It was amazing!  We were literally in an old church with beautiful art and fixtures, seated around a small center area with a baby grand piano.  A Viennese husband and wife team organized the show with every euro spent on tickets going directly to an orphanage in India.  He played the piano accompanying 3 very talented young opera singers.  The performance that night was famous arias from various operas like La Traviata, Barber of Seville, Don Giovanni and more.  The best way to explain it all?  Magical.  We ended the evening with amazing gelato before heading back to our apartment.

Gorgeous interior of St. Mark's

The talented opera singers

My iPhone video of the best singer:

Best gelato of the trip!
Our final day in Florence was full but relaxed at the same time.  We started off just wandering a bit then headed off the the Mercato Centrale - a large indoor food market.  Needless to say, I was in heaven.  We even saw a Shiba Inu!  It was hard to tear myself away from the stalls of fresh produce, flowers, cured meats, olive oils, wine, get the idea.  In return for "suffering" through the market with me, Corey picked out a bar to visit with local microbrews on tap (pretty rare for Italy!)

Just like Lacey! (but better behaved)

Zucchini blossoms 

On our way to explore the Boboli and Bardini gardens we came across a roped off street with throngs of people lining both sides.  Eventually we discovered what everyone was waiting for - amazing cars!  The 1000 Miglia was making its way through Florence that day - an unexpected but fun surprise!  We saw more Ferrari's within a few hours than I have my entire life.  Also saw lots of cute old cars in the procession.

The gardens were beautiful and offered great views of the city.  The weather was beautiful that afternoon and we left just in time to avoid rain showers.  After the gardens we dropped into a restaurant for lunch and had a great time watching the owner, his son and another man play cards at the table next to ours.  We had no idea what they were saying or what game they were playing but they were fun to watch!

Duomo and Uffizi as seen from the Bardini gardens 

In the gardens

Bardini gardens

On our final night we decided to try the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina.  It is a cut of meat you can only get in the region around Florence and is supposed to be unbelievingly tender and flavorful.  Sadly, we weren't impressed.  

That night it was an early bedtime because we had an early train back to Rome in order to catch our flight to Athens.  At around 3 or 4 am, I woke up to the bed shaking and closet door rattling.  It took me a few seconds to realize it was an earthquake!  Just as soon as I woke Corey up and moments before I jumped out of bed to seek shelter, it stopped.  Turns out the epicenter was about 40 km away from Florence.  Luckily we were unharmed but we found out a few hours later it was going to mess up our travel plans in the worst possible way.

More on that and our time in Athens in the next post!