Florence and the Foodies

Our second day in Florence we had something really fun and different planned.  We booked a tour called Florence for Foodies.  It’s a tour based all around the local food-best idea ever!  The tour we did met at the Accademia gallery, the home of Michelangelo’s famous David statue.  The city has a couple copies of the statue out on display various places, but none of them can come close to the beauty of the real thing.

Source– I like this picture because it gives you an idea of the scale of it

 Our tour guide brought us in and told us a lot about the background of Florence during the time the statue was being sculpted and about Michelangelo too.  It is so massive and realistically carved, that it truly is amazing to see.  It’s formed from a single block of marble, so there was little room for error.  It’s amazing the talent that Michelangelo had to be able to sculpt something like this freehand without models and back in the 1500’s without any modern technology.

After viewing this masterpiece our group (which was just four of us) went to a nearby bakery for some pastries and coffee.  Then our guide Sam took us to the central market, kind of like the Pike Place Market of Florence.  This is where a lot of the locals come to eat lunch and do their shopping.  We started with something I swore I wouldn’t try-tripe sandwiches, AKA cow stomach lining sandwiches.  I couldn’t finish it, but I did try it and I was proud of myself for that.  I might have been able to if I didn’t know what I was eating.  This is a common and traditional food in this region and by lunchtime there was a huge line of people waiting to get some, so hey, it can’t be that bad.

We moved on to some much more appetizing foods like fresh bread, dessert wine, almond cookies, salami, cheese, olives, sun dried tomatoes, more wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegars, more wine, pesto, prosecco, and finishing it all with gelato.  It was amazing.  Some of my favorite things we tried were definitely the pecorino cheese with black truffles, all the balsamic vinegars, and the pistachio flavored gelato.  I’m so glad we did this tour.  We probably wouldn’t have gone into the market otherwise and it was amazing.  I learned so much about the food of the region and it felt like getting the VIP treatment in there.  We had our own little private tasting sessions, and people walking by kept trying to lean in and get samples too not realizing it was a private tour.

With our tour-mates from Wales.
Sam explaining the different cheeses and salamis and how they’re made.
The market had tons of beautiful produce.

Olives and sun dried tomatoes.
In a little wine cellar tasting prosecco.

Again, can’t say enough how fun the tour was.  I’ve never seen a food tour listed for another city, but if I run across one, I will definitely be signing us up!  I would definitely do this again, worth every penny!  For the rest of the day we explored the city.

On the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) over the Arno River.

We visited the Basilica of St. Croce where Michelangelo and Galileo are buried.  This church had a much more interesting and intricate interior than the Duomo.  There were many different frescoes, statues, and interesting floor work.

Galileo’s tomb
Michelangelo’s tomb.
The courtyard of the church.

That night we watched some more Eurocup because Italy was playing and we were trying to embrace the European sports scene.  By the end of the trip we are both much more interested in soccer and can actually name several players.  And we definitely had the Eurocup “jingle” in our heads for multiple days.  Now it was time to say farewell to Florence and hello to Rome.

Florence

Florence was a quick and easy train ride from Venice.  It’s a city known for it’s art, culture, and delicious Tuscan cuisine.  After dropping off our bags at the hotel we headed straight for the most recognizable building of the city, the Duomo.  Construction on the basilica began in the late 1200’s and was completed around 1418, but it had a big hole where the dome sits now because they weren’t quite sure how to construct such a massive dome.  The architect Brunelleschi was the one who ultimately designed and constructed the dome we see today.  At the time it was the largest ever constructed, it was later surpassed by Michelangelo’s dome on St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.  It remains the largest brick dome in the world.  The building is very impressive from the outside, but honestly the inside is pretty plain.  There are beautiful paintings on the inside of the dome but that’s about it.

Looking up at the dome from the inside.
Outside the basilica.

After touring the church we wandered through countless street markets selling every kind and color leather product you could imagine. We stumbled through piazzas until we finally made it down to the Arno River.

Thanks to our trusty Rick Steve’s guidebook, we had read about a piazza across the river you can walk up to for an amazing view of the city.

View of the Duomo in its full glory.
A lovely drink while we took in the view.

The piazza was a great stop for us.  It’s relaxing to go up and take in the view.  It wasn’t overly crowded but there were definitely tourists, and some vendors catering to them selling everything from beer to mini David statues.  We eventually hiked back down the hill and across the river to make our reservation for the Uffizi gallery.  The Uffizi is a huge art museum that houses mostly Italian renaissance paintings.  Probably the most recognizable work is Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.

Source

We again opted to go through the museum listening to a Rick Steves audio tour (are you tired of hearing me mention him yet?)  It was great because it can be very daunting to go through such big museums, and it was just enough information to keep us interested but nice not to listen to five minutes on each piece.

After our tour of the museum we walked to a place we’d seen earlier to watch Germany play the Netherlands in the Eurocup.  Now don’t judge us-it was an american bar.  We only went there because it was close by and we hadn’t really seen many other places advertising the game on.  But I’m not going to lie, I had a cheeseburger and it was amazing.  A nice little break from pasta 🙂  After the games it was off to bed for our early morning date with a man named David.