Tuesday, December 10, 2013

(Europe trip, post 9 of 14) Florence, day 2!

June 9, 2013

First of all, let me introduce our hotel from our stay in Florence.  We stayed at Soggiorno Battistero.

It's a small Bed and Breakfast owned by a couple where the wife (Kelly) is American, and she was so helpful and hospitable.  It was so nice to not have a language barrier during the planning phase of our trip too.  She was quick to answer questions and offered to make museum and dinner reservations for us in advance.  She even gave us personal opinions on restaurants I was looking at.  Through reading reviews I found that 2 of their double rooms had views, one of which has noise reducing windows - room #2.  We booked that room and were so glad we did.  That square got pretty noisy at night, but once we closed the extra window pain and shutters it was really quiet!

The room is small (this is the whole thing with a wide angle lens), but it was clean and comfortable.

The bathroom was even smaller (I'm standing in the shower to take this picture)...

 But let's be honest, we weren't in Florence to spend time in our room.  Besides - look at this view...

 This is the view of the Duomo right out our window!

The Baptistery and Duomo were literally right there.  It was amazing.

Breakfast was served in our room.

And we could sit and stare at the Duomo, listen to the church bells, and watch merchants set up their stands in the morning while enjoying our breakfast.  Perfection.
The hotel itself was small and modest, but its central location couldn't be beat and the view was to die for.  I felt so badly that Tommy and Megan weren't able to get a room with a view, but there weren't any available by the time they decided to join us on our trip.  Still...to walk right out your hotel door and already be right in the Piazza di San Giovanni at the foot of the Duomo...that was pretty awesome.

Megan and Tommy had different plans than we did this day in Florence, but we met up with them for dinner reservations that night.  As for Mark and I we hit the ground running early for another full day in Florence.  We starting things off well by going straight to the Accademia museum to see David.  He really was impressive.  The thing that I remember striking me the most was how much better I liked viewing him from the side so I could see the expression on his face.  And wow was he tall (17 feet), since he was initially intended to be viewed from the roof-line of the Duomo.  Definitely worth seeing.

Next we visited the Medici-Riccardi Palace, where the teenager Michealangelo lived there practically as an adopted son while he developed his talents.  We didn't spend a ton of time there, but were surprised how much we enjoyed it.  Then we quickly popped in the Leonardo Museum for a little impromptu visit simply because...well, our Firenze Pass already covered it.

Our next stop was the Baptistery.  The ceiling was especially impressive to me...it is all mosaic tiles!  Can you imagine?

We didn't spend too long at the Baptistery.  Next we were off to Giotto's Campanile (the bell tower).  Now, we had just hoofed it up to the top of the Duomo dome the day prior to enjoy the views, but we wanted to do the Campanile too - partly because it gave us a great view of the Duomo itself!  Anyway, one thing we liked about climbing the Campanile (which the Duomo did NOT have) was that every so often there was a large rest area with places you could peek out, like this before continuing on up the stairs...

The view is always worth the hike though...

There's that dome.

Mark and I with the Duomo right behind us.

After all that museum walking and stair hiking we had worked up an appetite.  I planned for us to grab a quick bite of something a little different (than Italian food) that day.  We grabbed a doner kebab at Turkuaz.  I ate plenty of those while on my mission living in Germany (there is a large Turkish population in Berlin).


 We browsed the San Lorenzo market...

This isn't the best photo (across the street and with cars zipping past), but while at the market I snapped this picture of these drinking fountains.  Italy had cool old drinking fountains everywhere that I never would have thought were still ok to drink from, but they are!  The locals use them, and so did Mark.

Time for another gelato!  I didn't take a picture every time we got one (we ate a lot of gelato), but this time the flavors we tried were cream and raspberry.  Yum-o!

Next we visited Santa Croce Basilica.  We really liked the interior or the church a lot, where the likes of Galileo and Michelangelo among others are buried...but of course we couldn't take photos.

Next was our visit to the Uffizi!  Again, no photos allowed inside, but Mark took this picture of the entrance line wrapping around the building.  We, on the other hand, walked right in to the Firenze Pass entrance without even one person in line in front of us!  At first I was worried that we were trying to enter in through an exit or something, but when the security guard saw our pass he motioned us in.  Most of those people in line outside were wet from walking around in the rain that day, and I almost felt guilty waltzing right past them and on in to the museum.  Almost.
We really enjoyed looking at all the amazing paintings in the Uffizi - I mean they have collected so many of the best of the best for that one museum.  We had to decide not to feel guilty about not lingering too much, between the fact that we were self-admittedly feeling a little bit of art-burnout after seeing so many masterpieces in such a short period of time, and the fact that we only had about 90 minutes in a museum that you could easily spend all day exploring.  Since we adopted a no guilt or anxiety attitude about whisking ourselves through the museum, we just enjoyed perusing past all the amazing art and stopping occasionally to admire pieces that particularly interested us.  I have to mention that I particularly enjoyed seeing Botticelli's The Birth Of Venus.  It was one of the pieces of art that piqued my interest in a high school humanities class that I took nearly 20 years ago.  It was actually during my time in that class that I decided that someday I desperately wanted to visit Italy.

Anyway, this is just a picture of me on a random street in the rain.  Part of the experience.

We met up with Tommy and Megan for dinner reservations at Acqua Al 2.  Another restaurant I read lots of reviews on and was super excited to try!

We decided to all get the pasta and meat samplers.  I wish that I'd written down what each of the dishes were, but they were delicious and it was so fun to get so many different tastes in one meal!

Though I don't remember what the center meat dish was on the plate, I'm sure it was tasty.  I had really been waiting to try the fillet mignon with blueberry sauce and the fillet mignon with balsamic vinegar glaze.  Everything was delicious, but I have to say the fillet with balsamic glaze made me want to sing!  (Don't worry, I didn't...sing, that is)

And even a dessert sampler plate.  Mmmm...
In short - the food was delicious, our server was extraordinarily helpful and nice, and if you're indecisive with chosing off a menu this place is a dream with all their sampler plate options.  Even if you are decisive (or just research menus ahead of time like me), the sampler plates were a fun, delicious way to go.  I'm glad we ate there.

Palazzo Vecchio was finally back open now that the political speeches from the previous day were done.  Luckily this town hall is open much later than other sites in Florence, so we were able to visit it after dinner!  We may have been the only guests there at the time, or there were very few others.  Again, no photos, but this one in the stairwell seemed harmless to take...
I have to mention that while exploring Palazzo Vecchio we were able to walk out on a veranda for a view of Florence at night and were even treated to a small firework show from somebody's local celebration (I don't know, a wedding maybe?).  It was so nice to enjoy the slow relaxing pace there as we capped off a busy, full day in that beautiful city.

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