Ever since the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, all the women I know dream of visiting this gorgeous Italian region, at least once their lives. I was not an exception. You can imagine how thrilled I was when an opportunity to visit this place presented itself a couple of summers ago.
Hubby and I followed the suggestion of this french guidebook that was provided by the french travel agency that organized our trip:
We just changed it a little bit, opting to go to Arezzo and Cortona instead of Volterra. The first leg of our trip was France – Firenze, since we were coming from my parents-in-law’s place in the South of France. We took a flight via Volotea, a low-cost Spanish airline.
Upon arrival at the airport in Firenze, I was surprised to find how small it is. It seemed more like a domestic airport than an international one. The ceiling was very low, the luggage took forever to arrive at the baggage carousel, and it was very much lacking in souvenir and food shops.
Immediately, we headed out to take our rental car, which was an Italian classic. Just what we were hoping to get:
This car is just the right size for the two of us. Don’t be daunted by its size, most cars in old European countries are small like this, because the old passages and streets are quite narrow.
In the city center, there are a lot of areas where the cars are not allowed to enter. Thankfully, the hotel that we have chosen, Hotel Pierre, which is right next to most of the places of interest, has a place for parking.
It was the evening of our wedding anniversary when we arrived in Firenze. We chose a cozy restaurant not so far away from the hotel, recommended by the hotel receptionist, to dine in and celebrate. Coincidentally, the wine that we have chosen came from the vineyard that we shall be visiting in Chianti at a later part of the trip. It was a very good red wine of the Chianti Classico variety.
Early morning of the following day, we set off to walk around the city and take in all the beauty of the Renaissance period. We went to the famous cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and climbed all the way to the top of the bell tower to have a view of the city. We were all tired and famished soon after. And so we headed towards the direction of Mercato Centrale.
The Mercato Centrale reminded me so much of the markets in France. It’s always a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by all the freshest, finest produce of the region. We saw a lot of food stalls making fresh pasta, meat and charcuterie hung in every corner, perfuming the air with all their delicious smoky flavors. And you get to eat them fresh as well because there is a restaurant conveniently located at the second level. It got very crowded, very quickly. We were glad to have come a few minutes before the lunch rush hour.
After the mad rush for lunch, we headed off to Galleria del Academia to see some glorious naked statues. But these statues are found just about everywhere in the city center, not just inside the museums. But not, if you want to see the original David by Michelangelo, which I had been longing to see ever since the first time I laid eyes on it in one of the pages of the thick volumes of the Encyclopedia of my childhood days.
On our last day in Firenze, we went to a rooftop bar overlooking the city center for apéro, took a stroll across the other side of Ponte Vecchio, and dined al fresco, underneath the tall plane trees, in one of the quieter cozier corners. What I really love about Europe, especially in France and Italy are the narrow streets and surprising corners that are inaccessible by vehicles. A lot of restaurants take advantage of these teeny tiny streets because people love to dine al fresco, something we cannot usually do in the tropics so much when the sun is just doing too much of its work.
Firenze, like most of Italy, is a very romantic city. Everything is just so beautiful, it makes you automatically reach out for somebody special to share this experience with.
When in Firenze, make sure that you wear comfortable shoes because it is a city made for walking. Try and get lost in the cozy corners because you never know what pleasurable surprise you may stumble upon. This is how you usually find interesting places to see and authentic trattorias to dine in that the guide books usually miss.