I don’t know that we had the typical Florence tourist experience, but we very much enjoyed our visit. We stayed in the Oltrarno area, across the river from the major tourist sites, near the Church of Santo Spirito. The neighborhood was much less touristy than the areas near the attractions. We drank our Prosecco and Campari spritzes standing on the sidewalk outside a local bar, watching folks go by, listening to but not understanding the conversations around us. For anyone planning a trip, Rooms Althea was a great place to stay.
The square at Santo Spirito has many restaurants and cafes. Mornings, there is a street market with produce, clothing, housewares. The church itself is quiet. There is a crucifix there, in a side room, made by Michelangelo, in his early days. It features a Jesus much skinnier than one usually sees in church art. According to some guidebooks, the square is home to drug dealers. We didn’t see any, but did see a few indigent folks, enough to make us feel at home.
The afternoon of our arrival, we saw that there was no line to climb the bell tower next to the Duomo so we went for it. Four hundred fourteen steps up to a fine view of Florence, the surrounding hills, and the Duomo itself. As far as other tourist activities, we did visit the Duomo (crowded!), the crypt below (remnants of several older churches that had once occupied the site), and the Bapistry. I enjoyed the colorful Bapistry ceiling, the painting of the devil and serpents and what happens when you are on the left hand of Jesus. It’s not good.
The Uffizi line system was quite tiresome,despite having reservations. We enjoyed the art, although the most famous pieces are covered with plexiglass to prevent vandalism by dumbasses and are so crowded that you can barely see them. We did spend some time studying Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Spring, despite the insistent crowding. Lovely. A highlight of the museum were the ceilings on the “famous” wing of the second floor. So much was going on up there and hardly anyone was looking. Women and woman-animal hybrids with bare breasts cavorting, strange creatures, parties, workshops, you name it. A tourist could get a neck problem trying to watch all that action.
Another highlight in Florence is the graffiti. Some artsy, some profound, some funny.
Food-wise, we found more to our liking here than in Venice. We ate one night at an excellent little restaurant a few blocks from the church square, Trattoria da Ginone. A busy place, many German tourists, excellent non-meat choices on the menu. I had some stuffed peppers with a hunk of grilled scamorza cheese. A side of white beans. My husband had some tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and a side of spinach. All very fresh, healthy and delicious.
Our second night we ate at the square, at a restaurant where a woman makes the pasta fresh in the window. Unfortunately, we didn’t enjoy our experience too much as the waiter put our name on a list for a table and then proceeded to seat several other parties while he had us wait in the bar. Evidently, tourists are a low priority there, as the same experience was had by some Brits. Our food was quite good, but perhaps not good enough to make up for the service experience — ravioli for me and some type of stuffed squid ink pasta with fish for my husband.
I am writing this post sans wifi at the car rental agency where my patient husband has been waiting about 40 minutes to get the counter and check out our car. On to Montalcino! Ciao.