Italy| Day 7 Cinque Terre to Firenze (Florence)

Monday, June 22, 2015

  Only a few days left in our Italian adventure!

We woke early and grabbed a not so typical Italian breakfast at Il Pirata. The cannoli's were really really good and the owners were kind enough let us order one for breakfast.

We finally beat the usual breakfast crowd and got to see all of the 250+ baked goods that sell out of everyday.

We took the train from Vernazza to La Spezia. Then La Spezia to Pisa, and finally from Pisa to Firenze, as the Italians call it, or more familiar to most of us Florence. 

On the train we passed by mountains bearing the white signs of quarried marble.  Huge marble slabs lay in rows along the train tracks ready to be purchased and shipped out around the world. I'm wishing I had a pretty slab of Carrara marble in my house (Aren't we all?).

When we arrived at the Santa Maria Novella train station, we found an insane taxi line, so we decided to save the time and money, and walk the few blocks to our new Airbnb.  Italy is an old country and sometimes as Americans we forget that there aren't sidewalks and ramps on every street.  We probably looked the "tourist", lugging our overflowing bags down the dusty road, up and over curbs and street medians.  Our Airbnb host met us outside the apartment and kindly let us drop our bags off early, so we didn't have to carry them around until our official check in.

Our three bedroom apartment in Florence was conveniently located just a block off the Arno River. But our favorite part was the beautiful sunny terrace with a flowering Jasmine trellis.

Figuring out the lay of the land in any new city is tricky and I found it particularly frustrating in Florence.  Thankfully, when you're traveling in a group you always have someone who can pick up a map and help navigate. 

I had really high expectations for the food in Florence.  Not technically Tuscany, but the closest big city to the famous region, Florence is known for amazing food.  Particularly, Florence is known for such dishes as: Bistecca alla fiorentina (steak), antipasti, and pappardelle al cinghiale (wild boar sauce in pappardelle pasta). All of which were on my list to try.
To start things off we had a nice lunch that was accompanied by little gratis desserts. No a bad way to be welcomed to the city. 

Florence is the home and birthplace of the Renaissance.  There is amazing art, architecture, and sculptures, everywhere.  You could spend months here dedicated to exploring and learning about all  of it.  Cramming that into 2.5 days was going to be difficult.

The Duomo and Cathedra of Santa Maria del Fiore is probably one of the most famous sites in Florence. The Dome is the show stopper (not pictured). Interestingly, it was built before they even had the technology to finish it!  They just knew someone, someday would figure it out.. and they did.  More pictures of that tomorrow.

The Church of Santa Maria Novella

The Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella is one of the worlds oldest pharmacies and it's famous for beautiful perfumes that have been worn by Queens and Dukes.  

In Paris, perfume and cosmetics were everywhere.  I had assumed (incorrectly) that is would be similar in Italy.  My sister had asked for a souvenir bottle of Italian perfume, but other than this famous (and expensive) store we didn't see perfume anywhere else!

The pharmacy is beautiful and overwhelming.  At 90 Euros a bottle we didn't end up making any purchases.

Aside from the incredible art and food, Florence is known for it's leather and the Leather School or Scuola del Cuoio, is the most famous place to buy leather in Florence.  The school was started by a Friar after World War II to help orphans develop a livelihood. Today, it is run by the Friars daughters and its mission is still to help the underprivileged. 

We visited near closing time on a Sunday, so we didn't get to see any of the students at work, but we were able to admire the work spaces and showroom.  If you do visit when they are working and you make a purchase they will permanently emboss it with your initials in gold leaf.

The wall of people who have visited the school is quite impressive and include Presidents, actors, Popes, and now us. :)

After looking through the leather school, and oddly getting a bunch of mosquito bites, we decided it was time for an appertivo. Based on a bloggers recommendation we went in search of Il Santino. Not for the first time that day, we walked in circles and felt incredibly lost. Not a good combination when you're hungry and tired. 

The weather was beautiful and the piazzas were packed with people out enjoying the night. We could of stopped at any one of these places, but we stuck it out and found this tiny yet packed little Italian bar. The image of an American bar is quite different than the Italian version.  First off Italians don't serve alcohol without food, so they aren't places to go "drinking".  Think of them as communal places where people slow down and have a little bite to eat and it may include an espresso or a glass of wine. 

Il Santino had almost as many customers outside as inside. 

We got the last seats inside right at the bar, which gave us an up close view of the chefs artfully preparing delicious meats, cheese, bread, and pickled vegetables.

Beautiful little plates of food mindfully created to accompany your beverage.

I made almost all of our dinner reservations prior to leaving for Italy.  When they say Italians don't eat dinner until 9 pm believe it.  Our reservations at  Trattoria 4 Leoni were for 9:30 pm and this is what the plaza outside looked like.  You can't imagine how many people are out and about any day of the week late into the night. 

Truthfully, we were tired and I don't remember a lot about this meal.  Looking back at the pictures I do remember this Caprese salad.  The mozzarella tastes nothing like the kind I usually pick up at Costco.  It was so soft and full of flavor and the TOMATOES.... oh wow.  It's like you've never tasted a real tomato before.  Delicious!

Finally, our first but not last Tuscan steak. 

Before we wrapped for the night, we took one quick pic in front of the Ponte Vecchio, Florence's most famous bridge.

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