Spring Break – Florence (Part II)

Pursuing a lighter morning in Florence after the night we had in Cinque Terre, my friends and I dropped our plan to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s David statue, and instead opted for some much needed sleep.  We spent our morning walking from our hotel, across the famous Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge, to the Boboli Gardens on the other side of the Arno.

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Ponte Vecchio, reaching across Florence’s river, the Arno

 

Giardino di Boboli

The sun, confirming our pressed-for-time decision to visit the gardens instead of the museum, shone over the sprawling estate of the Giardino di Boboli.  For 10€, tickets included entrance to the gardens, a small porcelain museum, and a costume gallery.  The manicured plants with accompanying statues and fountains made for a pleasant stroll, but the highlight of the gardens was the view from the terrace at the rear of the property.  The most elevated point of the complex yielded perspectives of both the city of Florence and the Tuscan countryside.

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Though my friends and I planned for the gardens, we spent more time than expected in the Pitti Palace costume gallery.  This low-profile feature celebrated Italian women in fashion and design.  I was interested in learning about a few lesser known women in fashion history, and could not pull myself away from the outfits and accessories on display.

 

Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella

My travel research on the city of Florence led me to the discovery of a less popular tourist attraction: the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella.  Established in 1612, the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy is one of the oldest operating pharmacies in the world.  It offers an authentic, back-in-time experience with both corresponding and contrasting products.  One can purchase anything from (almost) original formula stress-relieving mints to up-to-date night creams.  With a price range from 5€ to too much, anyone can bring home a piece of 17th century Florence.

 

Gucci Museo

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Continuing on with our under-the-radar destinations, my friends and I visited the Gucci Museum for a story of true Florentine fashion.  The Friday night reduced rate of 5€ granted us access to all four floors of the museum, displaying chronologically the story of Guccio Gucci.  From luggage, to cars, to handbags, to gowns, visitors learned of the evolution of the Gucci brand and its relationship and impact on the creative world today.  One of my favorite parts of the museum was the Film Foundation feature.  Because of Gucci’s partnership with the Film Foundation, working specifically on film restoration, a room of the museum was dedicated to a generous loop of restored film clips.  A similar experience to that of the costume museum in the Boboli Gardens, it was a pleasant surprise to be interested in an aspect other than what I had anticipated.

 

Trattoria ZàZà

Students studying in Florence recommended Trattoria ZàZà for dinner, an affordable restaurant with an absurdly long menu.  As soon as we sat down, I could tell it was an establishment designed for abroad students: the menu was available via QR code in over five languages, the cheesy decor and dim lighting made it feel like an oversized bar, and there was not a diner over the age of 30.  To share, my friends and I ordered truffle fries, off of their specific Truffle Menu, which were tasty but were in need of more truffle, and baked peppers in special ZàZà sauce, which were bland.  I got a calzone that appeared huge but was really just full of air, and tasted not at all like I was in Italy.  ZàZà is great for a large, specifically international group looking to eat cheap, but the rest of us can do much better.

 

 

Destination Locations

 

 

Pace, Amore, Firenze

A.J.H.

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Spring Break – Florence (Part I)

With time already ticking, my friends and I spent the hours after our morning excursion in Pisa back in Florence to visit some of the local sights.  For 15€, the only option for entrance to any of the monuments, we got Il Grande Museo del Duomo tickets with access to the Cathedral, the Dome, the Bapistry, the Bell Tower, the Crypt, and the museum.  Even though we had the opportunity to see all of the attractions, we didn’t have the time or desire to, and it bothered me that they did not offer individual sight tickets, or a discounted rate for students, like many other locations.  Nonetheless, we made our purchases and waited in line to begin our ascent to the top of the Duomo.

 

“I’m not going to be mentally stable up there so no one talk to me.  When I point to myself, take a picture. “

From hugging the wall on tight overhangs, to squeezing along dark, narrow corridors, to climbing and descending vertical staircases, I am shocked that this experience does not come with a physical and mental health warning!  Many are prepared for the hundreds of steps required to travel to get to the top of the Duomo (463 steps, exactly), but the claustrophobic conditions that the process generates are often unforeseen.  Though I didn’t enjoy invading peoples’ personal space, I embraced the journey and marveled at the age and architecture of the structure that I’d soon be on top of.

The feeling of standing atop the Duomo looking out across Florence isn’t something I can easily articulate.  With unstable legs, both from the climb and from the impressive height at which we stood, my friends and I were quiet, taking in the view.  We then walked the entirety of the Duomo’s deck, and I left with an understanding that this experience was definitely worth paying for.

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We continued on with our ticket to climb the Bell Tower, with less impressive views, but a view of the Duomo, and to visit the Baptistry, with a beautiful ceiling, but an overall underwhelming presence compared to what we had already seen.

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Ready for a hearty meal after a long day, my friends and I went to Ristorante Perseus, a restaurant recommended to us by our hotel receptionist for the region’s specialty, steak Florentine.  As a medium-well kind of girl, I was nervous to try the rare meat,  but when in Florence…

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Steak Florentine

The meat, carved in front of us, wasn’t cooked how I would have preferred, but it was still a tasty steak and a must-try when in Florence.  In addition to the main course, we got grilled vegetables to share, but they were portioned too small for their price.  The restaurant was pleasant, but slightly strange, with a wait staff of middle-aged men and an unidentifiable customer crowd.

After our long day, I could not wait to take a warm shower and unwind.  Just a few minutes into the few moments to myself, though, the lights went out.  I thought perhaps they were on some sort of a timer, so I shouted to my friends, who responded that the power was out in our room, the hallway, and the entire floor.  Though this problem was quickly, yet ambiguously resolved, others with the hotel, Veneto Residence Florence, were not.  Connection to wifi had been weak since the moment we arrived, so I was often unable to contact my friends and family.  Similarly, after the first toilet flush, it would not stop running.  When we brought up the noisy issue to the morning receptionist, she claimed that it was a city-wide occurrence and would be fixed within hours.  We later learned from our familiar, front desk friend that these concerns were unrelated.  The only good thing about the hotel was the friendly evening receptionist, who answered all of our questions, gave us thorough advice about visiting Florence, and always asked us about our stay was.  I strongly recommend avoiding the Veneto Residence Florence, but I do suggest visiting the check-in desk around 6 pm for an amiable chat with a Florentine who knows what he’s talking about.

 

Destination Locations

 

Pace, Amore, Firenze

A.J.H.