Italy is all about...food!

Florence Travel Blog

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High speed Trenitalia liner

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".

Pay toilets in Florence Campo Marte station
  Trattoria, osteria, and restaurant all describe different levels of service; likewise, pizzeria, latteria, etc. directly describe the type of food contained within.  Italians seem to have built their culture around food.  It's considered rude to discuss payment until you're eaten - so, even at a "self service" restaurant (where you order at a counter), you don't even see the bill until after you're done.

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.

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Inside Mercato Centrale

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.

Side view of Ponte Vecchio

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).

Coniglio (rabbit) at Osteria Bella Donne
  The presentation is elaborate - everything is art in this city!  Outside the market is the Leather Market, where you can haggle with vendors for leather goods and (despite the signs) faux Prada, Gucci, and Dolce bags.

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).

Gnocchi at Osteria Bella Donne
  While this may seem absurd, most of the prominent scientists of the 16th, 17th, adn 18th century came from Italy (see the previous post about discovering Enrico Fermi's birthplace).  The museum featured much of Galileo's work (telescopes and astronomical instruments which were used eventually to show that the sun did not revolve around the Earth), as well as meny other important scientific devices.

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!)

High speed Trenitalia liner
High speed Trenitalia liner
Pay toilets in Florence Campo Mart…
Pay toilets in Florence Campo Mar…
Inside Mercato Centrale
Inside Mercato Centrale
Side view of Ponte Vecchio
Side view of Ponte Vecchio
Coniglio (rabbit) at Osteria Bella…
Coniglio (rabbit) at Osteria Bell…
Gnocchi at Osteria Bella Donne
Gnocchi at Osteria Bella Donne
Capuccino and tiramisu
Capuccino and tiramisu
Deluxe room at the Hotel Globus (I…
Deluxe room at the Hotel Globus (…
View of the Duomo from our room
View of the Duomo from our room
Piazza della Liberta
Piazza della Liberta
Happy hour with Italian tapas
Happy hour with Italian "tapas"
Sunset near Mercado Centrale
Sunset near Mercado Centrale
Streets of Florence at night
Streets of Florence at night
Florence
photo by: monky