Now moving on from Prague, two weekends ago we went to Florence and Pisa with our program, API (aka this trip was included in the price of the program..pretty rad). We left SUPER early on Friday morning, around 7:15 AM…I still don’t understand why we couldn’t have left on Thursday night and then had ALL day Friday but I am not going to worry about it. Anyways, we got to Florence around 11:30 am (about a 4 hour drive). We had a city tour at 2 so we had some free time to kill. Before leaving, I had emailed this girl Lauren who was one of the front desk assistants at the David Zwirner Gallery where I interned last summer. She had lived/studied in Florence a few years ago so she gave me the name of a bunch of amazing restaurants and places that I had to see, etc. So after arriving in Florence we went to this little hole in the wall sandwich place called I Dui Fratellini (or The Two Little Brothers). It is literally a counter in the wall of a building. You order sandwiches by number…I had sundried tomatoes, goat cheese (which i have missed sorely) and turkey on this delicious crusty roll. It was so yummy! We just munched on our sandwiches and wandered around the main shopping street in Florence. Around 1:45 we headed back to our hotel…which I forgot to tell you was literally ACROSS THE STREET from the DUOMO: you’ll recognize it when you see it
Blah okay. SO we get to the hotel and split off into groups for the tour. The tour ended up being pretty boring and uninformative. The tour guide was really nice he just wasn’t really giving us any relevant information…or anything really interesting at all. I kept zoning out and going off to take pictures, since I now know how to use my camera in manual so I am like really good at photography and stuff now. I kept getting left behind obviously…this always happens to me during tours or just walks in general. I get distracted by something I want to look at and people don’t realize it and then I look back and they are miles in front of me. Whoops. Perfect example of this on the tour: Apparently the tour guide pointed out the Pontevecchio/we were ON the Pontevecchio and I had NO IDEA. I didn’t realize I had been there/that that was actually the Pontevecchio until later Saturday night…solid listening skills. The tour guide showed us a few things around the city and by the end of the tour and because Florence is TINY we felt like we had a pretty good grasp on how to get around. Some of the stuff we saw on the tour:
The tour was only an hour and a half so we had lots of time afterwards to do one of my favorite things..SHOP. The mission was a leather jacket. Was that mission accomplished? Yes, but only after 3 hours of looking. Oy Vey. I won’t show you a picture of the jacket because pictures don’t do it justice and it just looks like any other jacket…but it is freakin beautiful. Dark brown, leather as soft as a (not purple and weird) baby’s bottom, and IT HAS A HOOD (detachable of course for when I want to be a tad more CLASSY, if you will). I love it! Its also skin tight which is a slight problem since I am never not wearing a million layers (except when its 1.6 million degrees in charleston). But is fine since leather jackets look dumb if they aren’t like a second skin. We got the jackets from our new friend Massimo. Here are some pictures of leather belts and a picture of me Alana, and Michelle with Massimo, the leather guru for desperate and broke students.
We went back to our lovely little hotel to get ready to go to dinner. We were gonna go to a place that Lauren had recommended but then we had a brilliant idea to ask Massimo where HE likes to eat. He directed us to a place called Palle di Oro, which when translated means the Golden Balls (get your mind out of the gutter…seriously what are we in second grade?). We didn’t make a reservation which was slightly dumb because it is a local place and local places usually fill up around 830-9 because that is when all the locals like to eat dinner. It wasn’t that big of a deal we ended up only having to wait 20-30 minutes and sat down for our authentic Florentine meal around 930. We were STARVING and had been looking at the menu while we waited so we ordered our food and wine immediately. They had probably the best house wine I have drank since being in Italy. DELISH. I ordered a grilled tomato and mozarella di bufala antipasti:
Benissimo! I got a little too excited when my pasta came, Spaghetti Arabbiata (spaghetti with a spicy sauce), so I forgot to take a picture. Just trust me…it was amazing and I ate the entire thing. After drinking the rest of our wine and doing a little digesting we meandered back to the hotel and PASSED OUT. I was exhausted and had a big, early day ahead of me. Julia and I were planning on going to the Ufitzi Gallery (one of the most important galleries in the world) at 930 AM.
I woke up the next day to the hotel’s free breakfast (croissants with butter and jam and some tea!) and a beautiful sunny sky! Julia and I got to the gallery at the PERFECT time…as we were leaving all of the giant annoying tour groups were showing up. There was no line to get in and we just wandered around the gallery for about an hour and a half. I saw so many amazing works that day…to many to count. It always blows my mind (for lack of a better phrase) when I see the works in person. For so long I have seen them in Art History slideshows and now I am actually getting to see them IN PERSON! There is nothing like looking at art with your own eyes…it is impossible for a slide or picture to do an actual artwork justice. We saw works by Giotto, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Raphael, Michelangelo, and others. It was fabulous. Julia and I geeked out every 5 minutes and had super intellectual discussions about the art. It was lovely. Getting out of the gallery was another story. It honestly took us 30 minutes to figure out how to get out…that is NOT an exaggeration (which I am prone to). The signs were so confusing at one point we took an elevator that somehow took us to the same floor that we had gotten on the elevator at. I kept saying that we got incepted (for those of you who have seen the movie Inception). There was one point when we asked one of the workers how to get out and she said you go to room 23 and Julia looks at me and goes..”we are IN room 23……” (I guess it was one of those had to be there moments). Anyways, after we emerged from disillusion we figured out where the exit was and FINALLY got out of the building. Then we headed back to the hotel to meet up with the API group for our COOKING CLASS.
Cooking class was SO FUN! On the menu was eggplant caprese, fresh made fettucini with two different types of sauce: simple pomodoro and a meat ragu, and then tiramisu for desert. We started with the tiramisu since it had to chill for an hour in order to kill the germs or whatever. I was in charge of whisking the cream:
Here is our finished tiramisu:
We may or may not (as in definitely) overloaded on the cocoa powder, accidentally of course. It ended up being perfect because we could pick ours out of the other 6 trays…whoops.
Next we made the dough for the pasta which I didn’t do. Once that sat for a little bit we rolled out and cut the pasta using a neat little pasta maker machine which I want to get when I return home (wink mom wink).
While the pasta was being made Julia and I were working on the two sauces.
Last but not least was the eggplant caprese which was just a layer of grilled/roasted eggplant, a layer of tomatos, and then a layer of mozzarella topped with fresh basil and popped in the oven for a few minutes.
THEN WE GOT TO EAT!
After putting ourselves into major food comas we walked around for a bit. At 3:30 API had organized a trip up to this church which I cannot remember the name of and Piazza Michelangelo which has a wonderful view of the city. Julia wanted to go by the leather market to look for desert boots before we went to the piazza so we popped over there for a bit …. and WHO DO I RUN IN TO while leaving the shoe store …. my friend MEGAN FROM SCHOOL!!!! I had known that she was in Florence for the weekend (she studies in Barcelona) but it had been so hard to get in touch with each other because her phone didn’t work in Italy. We were both hoping that we would just run into each other and we DID! It was so exciting and such a good feeling to see a familiar face, like a really familiar face. It made me kind of homesick but in a good way. After we jumped into each others arms and made ourselves look like American fools we made plans to meet for dinner. Then me and Julia had to sprint because we were obviously late for the bus and going up there was optional so the bus wasn’t going to wait for everyone to show up. Thankfully we made it, almost, on time since we got a tad lost on the way there. The church was beautiful, the view was even better. Pictures > words. What else is new
We spent probably about an hour and a half up on the piazza just enjoying the view and taking pictures! It was lovely. After we got back we went to the Galleria Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. Everyone had advised us to go in the afternoon/early evening because the mornings are when the giant groups of tourists go. There was no line to get in and no crowd around the sculpture itself. Honestly, not that many things truly (i.e. physically) take my breath away, but this sculpture managed to do that. It is impossible to compare the David to any other artwork I have seen in person. It is truly unparalleled. I mean WOW. Just WOW. Thats literally all you can say when you look at it…it was an experience I will forever hold dear to my heart. The amount of detail, precision, attention to anatomy…It was the perfect end to a jam packed day. After we gawked at the David for about 45 minutes…literally I circled the sculpture for 45 minutes just staring…we returned to the hotel. I quickly freshened up to meet Megan for dinner! I decided we should go to this pizza place that Lauren recommended because apparently they had amazing melanzane (eggplant) pizza and that is one of my FAVORITE kinds of pizza..delish. I met Megan and her roomate Jenilssa outside of my hotel and we walked to the restaurant. We sat down stairs, ordered some wine and 3 giant pizzas, and caught up. Jenilssa was HYSTERICAL and Megan was her usual, lovely self. I mentioned before how GOOD it was to see and hang out with a familiar face from Charleston. Our pizzas came, one melanzane, one with sausage, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and one other thing, and then one margherita. It was very good! Once we were done eating we decided to walk around and get some gelato. We ended up walking all the way down to the pontevecchio (this is what I was talking about before…how I didn’t know I had been there until Megan showed me).
We parted ways and I ended up bumping into Michelle, my roommate, and some of her other friends who were on their way to a club so I decided to go with them. We took literally the longest possible route to the club and upon getting there I discovered that you had to pay 10 euro to LEAVE the club (it did include a free drink) and I didn’t plan on drinking so that was a no go. I decided to just walk home which was very peaceful. It was nice to experience the city alone for a little bit.
The next morning we trekked to Pisa. Pisa was pretty worthless. I mean seeing the leaning tower of Pisa is pretty cool…but it definitely was not worth the extra time it added onto our drive back. We stayed there for almost two and a half hours when really all we needed was 30 minutes in order to see the tower, take some pictures, grab some food and then hop back on the bus. The only REAL reason I was cranky about being in Pisa was because I had a midterm on Monday that I had not studied one bit for…it ended up being okay I got an 89 so BOOYA. Anyways here are some pictures of me being ridiculous in Pisa:
Fun fact: they recently restored the leaning tower in order to stabilize it better and apparently now it will be stable for another 150 years or something crazy like that.
So that was my trip to Florence. Florence is a great city to travel to and I am definitely happy I decided to study abroad in Rome instead of Florence. It is a very small place and I feel like I would have gotten bored quickly. It was a really fun place for a weekend trip! Got to see my fair share of art and beautiful architecture..always a plus. I will leave you with a picture of some DANK lasagna I made the other week. Too good to not share.