Prior Pages: Cinque Terre
To get into Florence we had to change trains outside the city and head towards Santa Maria Novella station. Our train skills had improved enough we got our tickets rapidly and we were there before we knew it. A short walk around the corner and a few additional blocks brought us to Hotel Aprile. We checked in but had to wait a half hour for our room so we scavenged their booklet bins and sat down in there patio to figure out the plans. We mapped out a few of the suggested restaurants we brought with us and then found a tour group doing a Siena / San Gimignano trip on Monday. We thought it a good idea at the time and booked later that afternoon. Our evening walk was at 5:45p, with that in mind and a few restaurants at hand we were ready.
We really didn’t know what to expect out of any of our rooms as we booked them. Hotels can make something look one way online or in photos but until you’ve stayed in the region you just don’t know. Hotel Aprile was pretty fantastic. When we got our room we were treated to vaulted ceilings and spaciousness that we had not afforded any place as of yet. A view of Santa Maria Novella church from the window, and the courtyard below, we had been given one of the quiet rooms away from the main street. Fabulous. We explored the area surrounding the hotel and grabbed panini for lunch then went back to our room to get ready for the evening.
We got to our meeting spot for the _Florence Evening Walk_ a little early so we stopped in a bar/cafe for some caffeine. It was rather foul which was disappointing but there is no excuse to scalded milk in Italy! heheheh. The tour however was another story. Our guide was Freya a cute little Australian blonde that had come to Italy for 3 months of language lessons and ended up staying five years. She took us across the Trinity bridge and gave some nice stories of local lore and old Medici intrigue.
After a good hour or so walk we stopped at a wine bar and enjoyed a wine from San Gimignano, Vernaccia. Freya gave us all tips on where to eat which turned out to be off the charts. After Freya left we went to _Sasso di Dante_ with an Australian mother and daughter duo, Carroll & Kathy, that was on the tour with us. This was probably the best time we had our whole trip. Our dinner mates were great company, and the food we had at Dante’s was just amazing. We got a bottle of Chianti, a filet w/ cognac sauce, a filet with peppercorn sauce, an herb & cheese gnocchi. The peppercorn steak and gnocchi were the best I have ever had. Simply writing about it makes me salivate. After finishing the wine and meal, Kathy got her mom & Robin into another mezzo (1/2liter) while I sipped on a single caffe’. Then, to top it all, our great waiter brings over a chilled bottle of lemoncello and shot glasses. A digestive he called it. Woooo.. It was snappy! We enjoyed a few sipped shots of that and stumbled our way home. Excellent suggestion from Freya!
The next morning I thought I would try and use the “Internet Point” that the hotel provided. It was a rather cheap windows box with some bad pay as you go ware on it. I picked up a scan pass and began to check my mail when I noticed the international keyboard for the first time. Well that sure did throw me for a loop. I still don’t know how to get the @ sign. I got what I needed done through as little duress as I could muster. Everything seemed quiet at home which is always nice. I did note the little technical geek in me that they were using ADSL and I could probably hijack their connection, which I did so on two occasions. I paid for my time didn’t I?
We packed our day bag and had decided that our targets for the day were the Accademia & to see one of the Leonardo da Vinci exhibits. To get to the Accademia we went through San Lorenzo square which is also the street Market (Mercato). Here we saw blocks and blocks of wares of all sorts. Shirts, bags, glasses, glass, plates, belts, leather products galore. In the middle of all this is their large market which has a bottom floor full of 2x2 blocks of meat, poultry, fish, while upstairs has all their fresh vegetables & fruits. Quite amazing. I am so jealous. We kept on going and ended up waiting a small spell in the reservation line (always good if you don’t want to wait 1+hrs). The Accademia really isn’t as large as I had thought. Michael is the largest attractor which was great to see. I am still amazed at how much artisan-craftsmanship was needed to make such a thing. After that we cruised through many rooms of religious artifacts and an exhibit on the history of music.
Leaving the Accademia we headed a few streets and blocks away to where an exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci bringing his sketches to life. You can see through his work that many ideas in the world were linking together. Ancient thoughts, old thoughts, modern thoughts, renaissance thoughts, all merging together to form so many of the fundamentals we still use today. It would have been neat to see the man in action.
More on Florence later..
Florence Part 2 of 2