The beginning of Spring is the time to be in Italy. Flowers are starting to bloom. Light purple wisteria is starting to shroud the city – in a totally awesome way. The bright sun and clear days make the yellow, pink, and rust-colored hues of this city all the more vibrant. The sun-drenched piazzas are full of couples snuggling on benches, business people lunching out on restaurant patios, and kids (young and old) furiously licking up their rapidly melting gelato. Without question, my favorite sight.
And everywhere you turn, there is something beautiful (I guess most European cities are like that, so it’s a pretty unoriginal sentiment). But really, it takes all of 5 minutes before you’re captivated by the art and architecture of Florence. It is, after all, the origin of Stendhal syndrome – the name given to the phenomenon first experienced by French writer Stendhal, who was so overcome by the beauty of the art he had seen in Florence, he became physically ill. Who knows if that is really legit, but I like to think it is.
Casa Dolce Casa
We live in the Left Bank in the Oltrarno area, specifically an area called San Frediano (which I LOVE saying). The area is away from most of the tourist sites and I’ve heard from a few locals that this is a very traditional, Florentine neighborhood. It certainly seems that way so far. I do feel pretty local when I’m leaning out the window gingerly pinning our clothes on the clothesline dreading the moment where I drop an unmentionable and have to go downstairs and sheepishly request permission to pick them up…it is terrifying. And P.S. how awesome are dryers, right?? I am really over crunchy clothes and would love to feel a warm, fluffy towel in my hands one of these days.
We spent the first few days walking everywhere and checking out several piazzas. Piazza Tasso, Piazza del Carmine, and Piazza Santo Spirito are all very close to our apartment so we frequent them a lot. We also visited Piazza Repubblica and Piazza del Duomo, the latter being where the magnificent Duomo. The Duomo is one of my favorite churches, so you’ll see it up close and personal in a later post; it really deserves its own airtime.
Naturally, we checked out a few markets: Mercato Centrale – a huge indoor market housed in a large iron and glass hall, and Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio, a seemingly slower and less touristy market. We ended purchasing some produce at this market on our stop. And then one day, we unexpectedly came across the Thursday Flower Market in Piazza Repubblica. I spazed out a little when I saw it (maybe it was just a pinch of Stendhal syndrome). The colors and shapes and sizes are so varied – it’s almost too much. Almost. I wanted one of everything.
One of the most lovely, special things here is Loggia Lanzi. It’s basically an open air sculpture gallery. I get the same feeling I do when I’m walking along some ancient Roman ruins – do they really just let you walk among such precious relics? Well they do. There are beautiful (i really need to learn some more adjectives) sculptures just sitting there out in the open, waiting to be appreciated. It’s so weird and cool. You can just walk up to Perseus holding Medusa’s head, Hercules and Nessus, and Meneleus holding the body of Patrocles. Crazy.
Speaking of crazy, while I was gazing up at these sculptures, I noticed a clown-ish street performer doing some bits with innocent bystanders that walked near him. I found him particularly entertaining, but only from afar. Up close, I’m too anxious they’ll pick me to help them in their act. That might just be some PTSD, because as I’m writing this I’m remembering something I hadn’t thought about in a long time (Gosh, this blog has a way of surfacing the most random memories). Once when I was in Paris, innocently watching a street performer, the performer selected ME out of the audience to participate in his act. And if memory serves, I think I had to run around him holding a flaming torch in some sort of exaggerated Olympic style run…
Gelato was allegedly invented here, just one more reason I should be here. And I must say, I have eaten so much gelato. So. Much. Gelato. I’m a little impressed with myself. We have a few favorite spots (and yeah…we’ve only been here for a couple weeks) that we frequent and I love getting it and then running across to a spot where I can eat it in the sun. It is my favorite thing to do here.
First of all, even the espresso drinks are actually good and not just a cup of bitter juice (yeah, talking to you France). But we also have a fantastic coffee shop nearby that we go to almost every day to get drip coffee.
A specialty of this area is Lampredotto – and it’s often served as street food in the area. Lampredotto is slow-cooked cow stomach. Not just any stomach, but the fourth and final stomach. And when served as a sandwich, it’s typically topped with a spicy sauce and/or salsa verde. It’s surprisingly good, and a must-try if you are in the area.
This is happy hour on a whole other level. And my second favorite thing to do. The traditional drinks for aperitivo are Negroni, Americano, or a Spritz. And usually you pay a flat rate to take advantage of a buffet of food. And the spreads can be impressive – the last one we went to (one of the better ones) had multiple pastas, sandwiches, mozzarella and panzanalla salads, baked mini eggplants, fried anchovies, sausage in red sauce, etc. In other words, not too shabby. These are NOT intended to be dinner at all. But of course, that’s exactly what we did.
So, things are pretty awesome so far.