One of the absolute best things about living where we do is that we are less than two hours from Florence, one of the greatest cities in the world. To finish up my birthday week, we decided to spend the day in Florence just because we could. We had quite the debate over whether to drive or take the train. I was for the train, Steve wanted to drive. We ended up driving and I must say it went far better than I imagined. Although I still think the train is the way to go.
My birthday was Wednesday and ever since then we’ve had horrible weather. It’s been cold – windy, rainy, gray, stormy. We lie in bed at night and hear the wind racing by our windows. Then we hear the rain pelting down. We look outside during the day and see the black clouds and the mountains obscured and valley drenched. And we refuse to go outside except for the necessities. So we’ve been housebound and were itching to get out, no matter what the weather. As it turned out, Sunday was beautiful in Florence – sunny, but chilly. There was still a pretty healthy wind, especially in the wind tunnel around the duomo, but we zipped up and soldiered on.
I keep reading about how tourists are few and far between in the big Italian cities right now, but my experience in both Rome in Florence is that they out in full force. I’ve seen Florence more crowded, but not much more. We were hoping for a less crowded, more intimate Florence, but it’s still Florence in all its Renaissance glory.
We wanted to revisit the Duomo museum which we’ve been to a couple of times and have enjoyed. They have recently renovated it and it is even better than ever now. It’s just behind the Duomo and is the site of Michelangelo’s studio while he was sculpting David. Imagine. The original doors of the Baptistry, called the Gates of Paradise, are there along with a pieta by Michelangelo and a wooden Mary Magdalene sculpture by Donatello. Both are so evocative they make you cry. Michelangelo made this pieta for his own grave. However, for some reason, he ended up giving it to one of his assistants. The hooded figure at the top is his own likeness, done in an unpolished, rough finish. The Donatello Mary Magdalene is the ultimate representation of attaining glory through earthly suffering. In my opinion, this museum and the Bargello are two of the best. Just to know that you are walking on the ground where Michelangelo created David is inspiring.
After all that art and emotion, we were ready for lunch. We had a reservation at Osteria dell’Enoteca on the other side of the river from where we were. That meant a walk across the Ponte Vecchio with a thousand other souls. Once we got there, we were rewarded with a nice, quiet space in an old building with modern touches. It felt so good to settle in at our table and let the very attentive staff take care of us. For over two hours. It was heaven, which is appropriate since we had just seen all that religious art work.
We started with an octopus salad. It was so good – tender pieces of octopus cooked just perfectly with potatoes, capers, tomatoes and other wonderful things in the most divine dressing. We shared one of the most interesting ravioli dishes I’ve ever had. Stuffed with potatoes and a duck sauce. It was fantastic and something I would never think to put together. Duck is very popular here and it’s served quite often in a ragu with pasta. For the meats – we had our own dishes. Steve had an herb stuffed chicken breast with peppers and I had skirt steak with white beans. Both were excellent, but Steve’s probably edged mine out by a hair. But only by a hair.
After lunch we strolled around a little more, went through the Central Market, stopped in a couple of churches, and stumbled upon an antique market in a piazza. The sun was shining and we were so happy to see it. We felt a little like prisoners who’d been released from a dark, cold dungeon into the bright sunlight. It had only been a few days since we’d seen it, but we sure did miss it. Florence is one my favorite places and I’m so happy that we ended my birthday week there. And I’m so happy we got to stroll around it in the beautiful sunlight under a bright blue sky.