Florentine Adventures, Part Two

On Thursday we had reservations for an afternoon at the Uffizi.  My folks—who enjoy spending all day at museums—were planning to arrive at 10am.  Since we have Penelope in tow, we usually aim for around four hours… maximum.  But the Uffizi is enormous, and more crowded than others in Florence, so we reserved at 12:15pm timeslot, hoping we’d find ourselves with plenty of time.  And despite the crowds at the outset, we enjoyed our visit very much.  The stars here are Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Raphael, da Vinci, and Caravaggio—plus, of course, the building itself, and the beautiful views of the Arno out of the windows.

Gorgeous view of the Ponte Vecchio from inside the Uffizi.

By the end of the afternoon, Penelope was getting a bit punchy, and, accordingly, amped up her art imitations.  This one was perhaps my favorite.  🙂

After we finished our time at the museum, we emerged into a rainy afternoon.  Jeremy headed back to the apartment, while Penelope and I walked over to the paper marbling/book binding shop I’d seen on my artisans’ tour, Alberto Cozzi.  There we found ourselves some wonderful souvenirs: a picture frame, stationary, and tiny pill box for Penelope, and a journal and some stationary for me.  Their wares are simply extraordinary, and it was difficult choosing just a few!  They wrapped our purchases well against the still drizzling rain, and we walked back home.

My parents soon joined us at our apartment, and we all relaxed a bit before a family dinner at Trattoria Bordino. 

My truffle steak was quite excellent, and Penelope and Jeremy both enjoyed the salmon.  My folks shared the bistecca alla fiorentina, which they enjoyed (but said their favorite restaurant in Florence did it better).  We had reservations later in the week, so time would tell!  After dinner, we walked back over the Ponte Vecchio, admiring the wooden security barriers of the gold shops and pausing for a family photo. 

We then continued toward the main pedestrian drag in town, Via dei Calzaiuoli, stopping en route at Il Porcellino to rub his nose and wish for a return to Florence. 

To cap the night, we indulged in a delicious round of gelato at Venchi.  Though it’s a chain, it’s also pretty dang good!  Penelope and I were happy girls as we ended another day in beautiful (if rainy) Florence.

Friday morning dawned sunny once again—overall, we’ve been so lucky with the weather!  After visiting the workshop of the mosaicists, I’d decided we should make a quick stop at Florence’s museum of that art, the Opfcio Pietra Dura.  En route, Penelope spotted a positively dizzying window display of hair decorations, and we nipped inside to survey the options and select a new headband.  She opted for one encrusted with both pearls and crystals.  #allthesparkles

On we continued, to the Opfcio Pietra Dura.  It’s a small museum—just a dozen or so rooms—but so many masterworks on display!  A definite recommendation if you enjoy this kind of art.

It’s hard to capture, but the artist here chose a semi-translucent pale white stone for each grape–so they both seem to glow and have depth in this piece. Amazing.

As we were leaving the museum, Penelope spotted an art supply store just across the street.  Inspired by all of the art she’s been seeing, she decided to use some of her savings to purchase watercolor pencils, a brush, and a watercolor art pad.

Two petite masterpieces painted later that day.

We then walked across town to another beautiful church, Santa Croce, and spent some time admiring its sculptural masterpieces and quiet cloister. (I also admit that, like any child of the 90s, I immediately started hearing an Indigo Girls song in my head while in front of Galileo’s tomb.)

Realizing we were close to the mosaic workshop I’d visited on Tuesday, I brought Penelope and Jeremy to see Mosaico Lastrucci, and they enjoyed the same interactions with the artisans at work there. 

After a few hours at home—reading, art, and schoolwork—it was time for our final Florence workshop: a cooking class featuring pizza and gelato!  Jeremy had again opted for a quiet evening at home (are we sensing a pattern?), so Penelope and I walked over to the Piazza della Repubblica to meet our chef.  As we waited, it became clear that this class was especially popular with families—by the time we’d all gathered, I’d counted 25 participants, 14 of whom were under the age of ten!  Penelope was in heaven, especially since most of the children spoke either English or French.  With the chef in the lead, we walked about ten minutes to the kitchens. 

What a fun evening!  We made the dough from scratch, learning how to mix and knead and stretch—then we chose our toppings from a dizzying array of choices. 

While the dough was resting, we gathered round and watched as the children combined the gelato ingredients into the delicious chocolate gelato we’d eat later.  Before the mixture went into the machine, we each had a spoonful of the hot gelato.  Equally tasty, I must say.

And at the end of the night, we were rewarded with two tasty pizza pies, followed by equally scrumptious gelato.       

Saturday was our final day in Florence, so we’d planned to visit as many places as we could!  We started with the Medici Chapel… where the lines stretched (I kid you not) two blocks long.  We decided we’d have to save the Chapel for our next trip to Florence, and continued walking toward the Santa Maria Novella, which my father had declared one of his very favorite churches.  And I could see why he appreciated it—the cathedral is chock-full of beautiful pieces of art, and especially vivid frescoes.  Given how many of the frescoes we’ve seen have been weathered and aged, these were a delight. 

After the church, we walked back toward the Palazzo Vecchio, where we thoroughly enjoyed even more glorious frescoes throughout the palace.  At this point, however, Penelope was reaching the end of her interest—so she could often be spotted reading her Kindle on any convenient steps in the room.

Or we’d play I Spy with the frescoes… can you spot the giraffe, the man with open-toe boots, and the pooping dog?  🙂

Her interest was momentarily revived in the Penelope room, however.  A gorgeous ceiling indeed!

It was now nearing mid-afternoon, and Penelope and Jeremy headed home for an afternoon of relaxation at our apartment… while I returned to the now-open gold merchants of the Ponte Vecchio, toured the San Lorenzo leather market, and finally visited a well-reviewed leather shop.  A lovely afternoon of solo shopping!

Our last evening in Florence was definitely our best meal (though we’d also really enjoyed the overflowing panini at All’Antico Vinaio, thanks to the recommendation of another former student—thanks, Gabby!!).  We met up with my folks at All’Antico Ristoro di Cambi, where they’ve been feasting on bistecca alla fiorentina for something like 20 years.  And it was just as good as they’d said.  We had delicious antipasti, shared more than two kilo of amazing steak, and ended the meal with cheesecake, crème brulee, lemon gelato, and an espresso for my dad.  You know it’s a great meal when you forget to take pictures!  Simply amazing—one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.

And so ended our wonderful week in Florence… but I can’t end this post without sharing some of the other art we saw during our time here.  The street art here is terrific: inventive, colorful, and—most of all—playful.  Here are a just a few of my favorites. 

Up next: the beautiful hills of Tuscany!

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