That’s Amore

This past weekend I was an accidental tourist in Florence.

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My adventures abroad are usually packed with tours, museums, ruins, temples, churches, architecture, artwork, organic experiences…a breathless and sometimes frenzied expedition to see “NOTEWORTHY SITES”!

Florence is chock full of ’em.

The beauty of our recent trip was that Jeff and I embarked without agenda and did not strive to see significant sites.  I imagine my Italian grandpa was smiling down from above as we did his favorite thing:  Far Niente (do nothing).  Then Rest.

Florence is a significant place to both of us.  It is here that I studied as a teenager and discovered my Italian heritage and caught the travel bug that led to a lifetime of wanderlust.  It is here that Jeff and I spent our 10th anniversary with many dear friends in a villa on the outskirts of the city.  And it is here that we returned to celebrate our 20th anniversary, this time just the two of us.

I consider it Fate that we chose to stay at the JK Place, a boutique hotel that just happens to contain the initials of both our children.  Even better, next door was a bustling English pub, an unusual sight in Italy and a reminder of our new home in London.  Its name was prophetic:  The Fiddler’s Elbow.  This is also the name of the venue where our wedding reception was held in New Jersey.  Now that’s a noteworthy coincidence!

fate

On our first day, we wandered into the historic center of town and became accidental tourists as we turned the corner to see the glorious dome of Santa Maria Fiore, walked under the massive arch in Piazza della Repubblica, strolled past leather bags and mosaic crafts in the center market, ogled the David replica outside the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria, shopped along the formidable Via Tournabuoni, and gathered lunch provisions in the Mercato Centrale in the San Lorenzo market.

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All that without even trying!

We ended the day by enjoying the most marvelous meal in what literally was a hole in the wall:  Buca Lapi.  “Buca” means hole in Italian, and this local favorite is easy to miss with its small, nondescript entrance leading down a set of stairs to an inviting ancient brick cellar.  Located just off the Piazza della Santa Maria Novella, this restaurant boasts one of the only open fireplaces still allowed underground where the chef grills the most tender and flavorful bistecca fiorentina you will ever eat.  I enjoyed fresh pici pasta with sausage and fennel followed by a plate of homemade veal meatballs.  All this was washed down with a good rich chianti — Bon appetito!!

Our second day was just as leisurely.  The sun shone bright and temperatures rose to nearly 70 degrees.  This was a day to be outdoors not cooped up in a museum.  Off we went across the Ponte Vecchio to l’atro Arno (literally the other side of the river).

ponte

Before venturing to the Pitti Palace, we stopped for another memorable meal at the 4 Leoni trattoria, located on a tiny cobbled side street just minutes from the palace.  Here I ate incredibly delicate spinach gnudi (literally “naked” gnocchi) that melted in my mouth with every flavorful bite.  After another satisfying meal, we spent the afternoon walking off lunch.

When we entered the massive courtyard of the Pitti Palace, we were greeted by beautiful classical music as a small string ensemble performed in the corner, the sound engulfed within the ancient stone walls.  We ascended the outer stairs to enter the magnificent Boboli Gardens, strolling along acres of gravel paths past artistic fountains, marble statues, fragrant roses and lemon trees, manicured gardens, ancient amphitheaters, and shaded arbors.

fountain

From here, we continued walking further up river and climbed to the best vantage point at the Piazzale Michaelangelo.  There is no better place to view the city of Florence in all its terracotta tile-roofed glory.

view

Perhaps, the only rival viewpoint is the hilltop suburb of Fiesole where we enjoyed dinner at the beautiful Villa St. Michele.  Perched in a 15th century mansion cum monastery in the Tuscan hills, we watched the sun set over the city, casting a rosy hue over the iconic rooftops, duomos, and towers.

Over the weekend, I fell in love with Florence all over again…and with Jeff too!

US

Our pace was as laconic as Dean Martin’s memorable voice, and our trip was as romantic as good ole Dino’s famous refrain as he crooned,  “That’s Amore”.

Indeed, after 20 years, it truly is.

 

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