Saturday, December 08, 2007

Italy Trip Report: Florence

I was not really in the mood to put up the rest of the Italy trip report due to recent life events. But, for the sake of completeness, I felt obligated. Maybe that's a sign of OCD.

So where were we? Here are the past installments to get you caught up in case you forgot:

1) Rome
2) Naples and Pompeii
3) Siena

Now, we are in Florence. We arrived at the train station fairly late, so we didn't have the luxury of speaking to the tourist information folks; their office was closed. We ended up in an internet access joint right at the station to figure out the best way to get to our hotel, Hotel Giada. Turns out it was easily walkable from where we were, so we get there by foot. It wasn't easy to find, and many of the shopkeepers nearby were not familiar with the hotel, so it took us a while.

The hotel is not much to write home about, but the staff was friendly, the room was clean, and the location was decent. It had more of a hostel feel than anything else, but it was definitely a hotel. We couldn't really go much nicer on hotels in Florence, because the prices were really sky high. But, I thought it was good value for our money.

One of the first things we saw was the controversial Fountain of Neptune located at the Piazza della Signoria. Apparently this is an inferior work of art. I guess you need to have a trained set of eyes, because I have no idea how they figure this.

The inferior Fountain of Neptune

Next, we checked out Palazzo Vecchio. This grand palace was once the home of the Medici family. Here are a couple snaps of art inside the palace.

We tried out an authentic (but, touristy) neighborhood restaurant called Buca dell'Orafo when we were out there. We had the stracotto e fagioli, which is a dish of beef braised in vegetables and red wine with beans in tomato sauce. And, one of my favorite dishes from the trip was the Florentine tripe. Despite the visual similarity. I recall it having a much lighter taste than the Roman-style tripe. I really miss that dish. I know I've said this before, but if you like tripe, you have absolutely got to try it the way it's prepared in Italy.

stracotto e fagioli

Florentine Tripe

Here is a shot of Ponte Vecchio where you can find a ton of merchants selling all sorts of gold and jewelry.

Here is Giotto's Bell Tower, which we climbed. It was a hell of a workout.

The view from the top was worth the climb, as you can see here...

We also visited the Uffizi Gallery. It was really an impressive museum with a ton of awesome art inside. What's crazy is I saw the GZA's sister there, but I wasn't 100% sure it was her. So, I didn't say hi. I felt that if it was a case of mistaken identity, it would have been really odd for me to bother her and her companion while they were viewing art. The GZA then confirmed upon my return that it was in fact his sister. Such a small world we live in.

They had a special chess exhibit during our visit. Here's a snap of an old book talking about some chess strategy.

We took a side trip to Pisa. We tried out one of those walking tours, and afterwards we felt strongly that we could have had more fun for a lot less. So, if you do go travel, I would recommend you just do side trips on your own. It's more flexible and also cheaper.

Piazza del Duomo in Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Pulpit inside Pisa Duomo

The pulpit is neat, as it has columns made of different materials. The materials were imported from various regions, and if I recall, it was to show the powerful reach and influence of Pisa. If you look closely at the columns of the Pisa Duomo, you'll notice there's a column made of an entirely different material. Legend says that by staring at this column, you can help protect yourself from your spouse's infidelity for some limited time.

I have a close-up for all of you to see here...

While Pisa provided a few nice photo opportunities, I don't think it's really worth the time. It's definitely not a must-see in my book.

Another great dish I had while in Florence was this stew. I don't know what they called it, but it was really good. I loved it. I have a shot of the stew itself, and also a picture of one of its components.

On one of the nights, we hit up this really chill lounge called the May Day Club. I liked it a lot, and they served a wide variety of drinks. They even had this one Kiwi Vodka cocktail that was really refreshing. The place had all these old radios as decoration, too, which definitely added to its charm, I say.

Inside May Day Club

Amazing Kiwi Vodka Cocktail

Here is a picture of part of a golden door of the Baptistry in Florence.

Okay, that's it for Florence. Next stop... Bologna.

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