I sometimes dream of spending the afternoon inside a sprawling art gallery, getting lost in the endless halls of hanging canvas, and studying the intricacies of each piece-- every brushstroke, smudge, and drip. I’ll make up stories about the artists and what their work means, say something snooty to the person next to me as we contemplate. “See how the tiny paint bubbles pepper the negative space? How obviously optimistic.”
But, if I’m real, I don’t really get art. I want to get it. But, I get bored of galleries just about as fast as I do watching golf on t.v., and the fanciest thing I have hanging in my house is a print of Kandinsky’s Concentric Circles I picked up from Ikea when I was in college. How obviously cliché.
So, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d feel about Florence, or Firenze as they say in Italy, home of world-class masterpieces and birthplace of the Renaissance. With its gorgeous backdrop, Florence is the stage for all the greats: Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, and Galileo. Would any of it make sense to a girl who gets her art from Pier One?
I decided to find out.
After sizzling in Rome at the Colosseum and Vatican, we turned up the heat (if that was even possible) and headed north on a train to Florence to get a taste of haute couture. It was a quick trip by train and our hotel, the Ambasciatori, was a skip from the station. We dropped our bags and decided to tour the town.
Since the crowds and heat were high in July, we skipped the Uffizi in favor of the Accademia Gallery--home of the David. Now, I’d prepped Skinny Jeans just about as much as I could. I explained we’d be seeing a very famous sculpture and that he would be, well, naked. After a multitude of questions (“Will we see his privates?” “What happened to his clothes?” “Will we see his butt?”), I thought we were good to go. Come to find out, it was the adults who took the audible gasp, blushing and giggling like seven-year-olds, upon seeing David in all his massive glory.
Being the art aficionados we were, we promptly staged photos of us pinching his cheeks while gawking at his chiseled butt. Someone had to corroborate the obnoxious traveling American theory, why not us? Solid first introduction to sculpture, if you ask me.
After the David, we explored a bit, got lost in an outdoor market and stopped on a whim at an incredible, quaint gelato spot tucked into a fold of the city. Little did we know that Ettamo, with its award-winning strawberry balsamic gelato, was a fan favorite. It was exactly what we needed to beat the heat and feel like we’d been let in on yet another secret from Florence.
The day of wandering and wangs led us back to our hotel to freshen up for dinner. After the sunset, we walked to what ended up being my favorite part of our entire trip: Trattoria Marione. The small restaurant was a true gem and absolutely everything you’d want in a Florence trattoria (not as fancy as a ristorante, but a step up from an osteria): servers who knew their shit and kept bringing out specialties and aperitifs, if you asked for them or not, a bustling atmosphere, and, of course, bistecca alla fiorentina.
Now, I had heard about this steak, a classic in Florentine fare, and hadn’t thought much of it. I’m from Colorado where beef is what’s for dinner, and I am no stranger to the meat sweats. However, nothing in the states quite compares to the Tuscan breed of cattle, the Chianina, and the unique butchering and cooking that comes only from Florence. Cooked from room temperature at a high heat for just 3-5 minutes, the steak is legit rare, and served with no condiments, just a bit of salt. It is, to be exact, pure heaven for those unafraid to gnaw a T-bone the size of a tennis racket.
Me + Florence
While Florence is known for its artists and art, what I loved most were the lesser-known things about the city: the Museo Galileo which we had all to ourselves on a Uffizi free day or Ristorante Zocchi hidden along a white-knuckle, winding road just outside the city. When it was time to leave, I felt like we’d become friends, Florence and me. We’d giggled through galleries, taken down some serious steak, and gorged on gelato. She didn’t even care that I didn’t (and still don’t) know how to say Uffizi. If that’s not a girlfriend, I don’t know what is.
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