Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Postcards from Firenze (Florence)

I would probably risk being lambasted for this, but of all the cities we visited in northern and central Italy, Firenze (Florence, in English) was not my favorite. I had high expectations of it, too, being the birthplace of the Renaissance, but after walking around intensely for three days, it seemed pale in comparison to the elegance of Rome, the magic within the medieval walls of Siena, the enchantment of the Tuscan countryside, even the quietness of Orvieto. We found Florence lacking, except in the gelato department, that is. But more on that later.

Lacking what, exactly, I can’t put a finger on it. It’s not art, for sure, because two acclaimed musuems of fine art in the world - the Academia and Uffizi can be found in Florence. Michelangelo and Galileo are resident rockstars and both are buried in Florence. The irony is that at this point, we had fallen into some sort of museum fatigue that we didn't have the fortitude required to stand in line for hours to get in either museum.  I purposely did not make reservations to either museum (if we did, there will be no queuing) because I figured that la vita bella, I'm pretty sure, did not include wasting away precious hours in line when you could be at a restaurant sipping lambrusco with your bistecca fiorentina.

It is possible that I had the impression of it being one big tourist trap and to get out, one must cross any of the bridges to get to the other side of Arno where the local pulse can be found.  Given that Florence was crowded with tourists, the propensity of inauthentic tourist-centric commerce is heightened and crossing to the other side of Florence was very, very refreshing.

But no matter, we are privileged to have experienced Florence at least once.  We arrived at night and it was special to see everything with the night sky in the backdrop.

Santa Maria del Fiore 
Piazza della Signoria
Ponte Vecchio
Chiesa Santa Maria Novella
Suspended in air, The Crucifix painted by Giotto in the late 12th century
The altar and the painted chapels are majestic!
Across the Arno River
We crossed the Arno River via the Ponte Vecchio and happily discovered that it had more of a local feel.  It was late at night but restaurants and bars were still open with locals hanging out. 
Pitti Palace
The Pinacoteca at the Pitti Palace holds the second largest Raphael collection in the world, only overtaken by the Vatican Museum by one painting.  But alas! They don't allow photos to be taken inside.  It was a great use of the otherwise empty palace where each grand room would have Raphaels, Titians and other masters adorning its lavish walls.  The themes are still pretty much centered around religion and history.  Raphael has a distinct style and if you see his more famous renditions of the Madonna and child or the Virgin Mary cradling a baby John the Baptist, you would probably recognize it.  Raphael's paintings are soft and gentle, his rendition of baby Jesus so alive and real with that porcelain baby skin, stubby fingers, chubby thighs, and wispy soft curls.

Old World Charm
In a Cafe
Bistecca Fiorentina
Florence's signature dish made from chianina cows, Bistecca Fiorentina is a must-try!
It seemed like gelato was the universal language in Firenze.  Gelaterias were everywhere!  Our favorite is La Carraia.  Tip on how to tell a good gelateria from a mediocre one: check out the color of their pistachio gelato.  If it's unnaturally green, leave.  The shade of green of a natural pistachio ice cream is on the pale side.  If it's Kermit-the-Frog green, it's loaded with coloring and who knows what other artificial stuff.  

1 comment:

  1. Amazing pictures shared by you. I never visited Florence but heard many good things about this place. Couple of my friends went there and had a great time there. I wish I will also get some chance of visiting this place. Thanks!
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