Saturday, May 24, 2008

Piazza della Repubblica, Firenze

Here are the first of the photos that Doug took in Florence. I wanted to begin my trip telling with these instead of the usual Ponte Vecchio ones because I think they convey a feeling - an air which is quite different from Miami, Florida or any town USA I might add. Once you are in Italy for a few days you absorb this different air and begin to feel how you are really in another world.

Piazza della Repubblica was created when Florence (for about 5 years) became the capital of Italy upon its unification in 1865. It has a grand arch and arcade on one side and the other three have chic cafes and hotels. We sat at Gilli, which has been in Piazza della Repubblica since its inception. It is great fun for people watching. It was Saturday evening and people were finishing their shopping and rushing off to dinner. The waiters were anxiously waiting for the cocktail hour loungers to be off so that the real diners would arrive.

My favorite caffe is a similar one in Piazza della Signoria called Rivoire. You may pay $10. for a beer there but who can match the atmosphere. You are facing the Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia dei Lanzi, and (reproduction of) Michelangelo's David. You really have Florence in the palm of your hand. Sometimes when traveling I forget to just sit down and take in the atmosphere, the aromas, the sensations. I want to see lots of things and not miss anything. Doug is much better about trying to take it slow and remembering that we are on vacation. I didn't mean to do too much but we did most of the big sites in Florence. Museums: Pitti Palace (my favorite because I always prefer museums that were functioning homes so you can see how people actually lived), the Uffizi, the Accademia, San Marco Convent, the Medici Chapels. Churches: Santa Maria Novella, Santa Maria dei Fiori aka the Duomo, San Lorenzo, Santa Croce, San Miniato al Monte, and Sant' Ambrogio. I think that is about all we covered. Then we spent a day in Siena with its fantastic cathedral and one day in Milano (also has a fantastic cathedral), where we stayed for one night at a five star hotel (on points of course). As my husband put it, at a five star hotel they treat you like a human. They had Hermes soaps and lotions in the bathroom and a very fluffy king-size bed.

I really enjoyed Milan. We ate at a great restaurant on Via Fiori Chiari called Nabucco, like the opera. The walls were decorated in old opera posters from La Scala. The food and service were superb. I had some fresh gnocchi followed by a salt baked sea bass. Doug had a minestrone without tomato that he is still raving about. Then he had the sea bass as well, it was a whole fish for two. Lastly we shared a warm pear and chocolate tart-- buonissimo! I highly recommend this place.

In Florence we ate at a few good eateries. My favorite is a haunt I'd discovered with some visiting friends back when I was living there. It is called Osteria Belle Donne on the via delle Belle Donne, between the train station and Piazza della Repubblica. I had the most deliciously fresh mozarella di bufala with prosciutto followed my some homemade pasta. Doug had a chicken salad which doesn't sound very Italian but it had a wonderful combination of avocado, spinach, corn, soy beans, etc. We also ate a two other places which we were recommended to us by two different sources each: Trattoria Cammillo on Borgo San Jacopo just off the Ponte Santa Trinita, and Cibreo, across from Piazza Sant' Ambrogio. Our hotel was a little outside the city and near it we ate at a great little spot called Osteria di Giogo where we shared a sumptuous Florentine steak. I cannot leave out that Doug had gelato everyday.

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