EUROPE, ITALY, FOOD, FAMILY / May 18, 2017
THE MOOD : SPRINGTIME IN FLORENCE, ITALY
We visited Florence at Easter, as spring sunshine warmed the city and evening light lingered on the surrounding Tuscan hills. The city was buzzing with holiday activity. There were formal suits, colorful dresses and bouquets of flowers everywhere. Shop windows displayed enormous chocolate eggs wrapped in pastel foil.
On Easter Sunday, we attended the Explosion of the Cart, a tradition dating back more than 350 years. To ensure a bountiful harvest, a 3 story tall cart is filled to the brim with fireworks and exploded in the front of the Duomo of the Santa Maria del Fiore. We enjoyed standing with the celebratory Florentines in the heart of their city, many of whom were wearing period clothing, playing music, dancing and hugging.
I chose a sandwich from All’antico Vinaio as the lead photo of this post because it was sublime and I can’t get it out my mind. I am going back one of these days, hopping a flight to Florence for a roll of proscuitto on focaccia. (It seems completely rational to me.) Other things I will go back for: Dinner at Il Santo Bevitore and a scoop of gelato at La Carraia. I will slurp bowls of pasta pomodoro at Osteria Santo Spirito, a friendly little trattoria in the Piazza de Santo Spirito. I will stand in the same line for a slice at Gusta Pizza and take the same early morning stroll through Pitti Palace, filling a bag of pastries from a tiny bakery I fell in love with (whose name escapes me.) Oh mio Dio! Florence is a food paradise.
We stayed in the picturesque Piazza de Santo Spirito in the Oltrarno – on the other side of the river. I like this side and especially this neighborhood, which feels less touristy. The piazza has a few cafés, a weekend market and a fountain in its center. It’s a great base with children, as there is plenty of car free space to run, dance and play.
We stayed in a beautiful 2 bedroom apartment. While we liked the setting and views from the top floor, it was noisy at night and we didn’t sleep well. Word to the wise: Don’t rent an apartment near neighborhood garbage and recycling bins. We heard every shattered glass bottle being tossed into the bin by restaurant staff throughout the night. And listening to those bottles crash a second time when being collected at dawn, along with the heavy grind of garbage trucks gears and pistons, is no fun.
My youngest son is an artist. We stumbled upon a beautiful art store and let him choose a few pens and a sketch pad that would fit in my handbag, so he could draw when he felt inspired. Florence is a city built by art patrons, artists and artisans and seems to honor their role in society. It was fun seeing artists everywhere and talking with them about their work. We met a women on the Ponte Vecchio who was painting Tuscan landscapes with watercolors. After talking with about her work, we selected a few of her small paintings to take home with us. My son has a favorite which I told him he can keep forever and ever. When I look at that little green abstract of Italian cypresses I will remember the smile he gave me when I handed it to him, wrapped in brown paper and a strip of tape.
Our kids were very interested in Michelangelo’s David, inside the galleries of the Accademia. I can’t quite explain why, after seeing masterpieces all over Europe and often wondering, out loud, why this-or-that is such a big deal, that they found David astounding. Perhaps its the scale, the sheer awesomeness of those expertly sculpted alabaster legs rising up in front of them like a giant? We spent a bit of time in Leonardo da Vinci Museum, viewing Leonardo’s many inventions which display his curiosity, playfulness… genius. And we rented Segways, because the boys wanted to, and we thought: why not? They cruised around the duomo and its nearby side streets for an hour, while we strolled alongside them. It was fun!