Italy is all about...food!
Florence Travel Blog› entry 4 of 13 › view all entries
After a brief respite at the Hotel Globus (and a shower, it's ungodly hot and humid!), we venterued back out into Florence to see some neighborhoods and generally just wander. We walked around the northeast neighborhoods a bit (San Lorenzo, which includes the university and botanical gardens), but unfortunately we didn't find much of anything - not many restaurants, shopping, etc. (really just a plain old residential neighborhood).
Given the lack of interesting information in this entry, I'll take to the time to explain all the different names for "restaurants" in Italy. Much like eskimos (or Clevelanders) who have many words to describe the variations on what the rest of the world knows as "snow", Italians have a multitude of words to describe "restaurants".
We headed back towards the market area (near our hotel), but on the way we stumbled across what appeared to be an Italian "happy hour" - a small cafe which was serving small plates (Italian tapas?). It was very lively, and appeared to have a bride's party going on. We stopped in, and enjoyed an excellent meal of small plates and several bottles of wine for a very reasonable price (about 35 euros).
After dinner, we walked around and cuaght some pictures just around sunset. The light at sunset seems incredibly vibrant here - it catches the stone and stucco buildings in a way that really makes the colors even more dramatic.
Our second day started with an early wakeup, followed by a trip to Rome Termini to catch a high speed train to Florence. While the distance is about half across Rome, it only takes 1.5 hours thanks to the high speed TrenItalia trains. Before boarding, we enjoyed some more capuccino (are you getting a theme here?) and a euro breakfast special (only 4.4 euros for cappuccino, OJ, and a delicious pastry). I've started to notice that the European "version" of fast food is countertop service - instead of taking your food and running, you stand and eat. I think it has the value of more interaction (you have to wait in line for the food), not to mention the lack the of industrial agriculture influence.
The train to Florence was very comfortable; the high speed trains are luxurious. The view was equally nice -- I can say that the Tuscany countryside is the rare place that meets the picture in your mind. We saw rolling hills, verdant landscapes, and beautiful palazzos on the hill.
After arriving in Florence, we dropped our bags at the Globus Hotel, and went for a walk in the streets of Florence. We walked quite a bit (everyone says Florence is much easier to navigate because "you can walk in Florence"), but it's still pretty big! Our first stop was the Mercato Central, the huge central food market. Walking in, you are immediately overcome by the smells - cheese, cured meats, garlic, and tripe. (Think Cleveland's West Side Market on steroids).
We walked towards the heart of Florence, near the most famous museums (Il Duomo, L'Accademia). This part of Florence is quite touristy, the streets are lined with vendors seeling souvenirs, etc. It's nearly impossible (and somewhat treacherous) to walk in the narrow streets with fast traffic driving around hairpin turns. We stopped to view the Arno river and the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge.
Instead of the myriad of Renaissance museums, we (Don) chose the Galileo Museum (formerly the Museum of Science and Technology).
We had our first lunch in Florance at another osteria recommended by the guidebooks. Following the advice of our food "bible" (Eating and Drinking in Italy), the Osteria Bella Donne did not have English on the menu. Using our guide, we were able to translate "conigilio" (rabbit) and other local foods. (These books are a must-have for travel when you're not fluent in another language!)