Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Florence Day 1: Bistecca, David, and the end of a sobriety streak

Arrived in Florence around noon today. Europe's high-speed rail system continues to be awesome. Logan and I snagged some Firenze cards (similar to the Roma Pass) and we all headed to our new apartment. Our apartment host, Elenora, was awesome. Even though we already had a "must see" list, she gave us some food recommendations and walking recommendations (streets to "get lost" on), which ended up being really helpful.

Since we arrived on a Sunday, some of the museums and most of the restaurants were closed. We headed to the Centrale Mercato. It normally has a large food market downstairs and food/coffee/drinks upstairs (Sacramento totally needs one of these by the way - in addition to the high speed rail). The market was closed but the food court was open so we went over to grab some lunch.

Instead of Italian food, Doug and I grabbed vegan/vegetarian burgers and fruit cups. Good stuff. I got "The Donatello" which was a vegan patty on a pugliese oregeno bun with pickled tomatoes, capers, stracciatella cheese, courgettes, and pesto. I don't remember what Doug got, but it was similar and had sliced beets on it and was also delicious. The food was quick and easy, but it was healthy and satisfying - we were ready to hit the town afterwards. 

Pea puree and cheese curd "sauce". 

Doug's beet burger. You can't see the beets, or hear any beats, so this picture is maybe pointless. 

Our fruit cup had these tiny little sour berries. I'd never had them before and wanted to know what they were. Our Italian table mates told us they were "ribes" but didn't have the English word for it. I had them spell it out and Google Translate told us they were currants (I think I've only had dried before).

I have directed your attention to the ribes/currants using the tip of the small javelin they provide to consume the fruit. 

Staying with our theme of a non-Italian lunch in Italy, Doug snagged a small beer instead of wine. 

I'm sorry, but I ordered the small beer? 

Screw it. When in Rome! Oh wait, we're in Florence now. Damn it! Just drink the beer then. 

Since we're arriving in Florence on a Sunday and leaving Wednesday, it only gives us Sunday and Tuesday to view any museums, so we had to make sure to leave for the Galleria dell Accademia Sunday afternoon. Florence is much smaller than Rome, and our apartment was just a ten minute walk from both the train station and the Galleria dell Accademia, which was super convenient (and gave us a great introduction to the city).

Our Firenze pass was another awesome tip from Rick Steves, though we did encounter our first line of our Italy vacation (so spoiled). There was some confusion over having to wait more than three seconds to enter a museum (we had to wait about 15 minutes to enter). So spoiled. However, compared to the line of over 3 hours that the non-Firenze pass holders were standing in, I was still feeling pretty smug about the pre-planning research on the Firenze pass, despite the short wait.

Kendra, blending in with a sea of people who obviously don't read Rick Steves. AKA "people who wait in three hour lines". 

Inside, there was some sort of statue there that everyone was pretty excited about.

I knew that Michaelangelo's David was a massive statue, but seeing it in person, I think I gasped audibly as we turned the corner. It is an amazing piece.

A great selfie, ruined by a photobomber. 
Obviously the main attraction at this museum is David, and we certainly spent the majority of our time admiring this piece. But there were other cool parts, too, of course. We were all surprised to see Marco Polo's personal bible and his diary/journal on display. A special musical instruments exhibition was in the back, which was really neat (old pianos, string instruments, and horns). There was also a series of unfinished pieces of "The Slave" series (we have seen his finished work), which are attributed to Michelangelo, but, because the proportions of the legs, hands, feet, etc. are not consistent with the rest of the body, there is debate as to whether Michelangelo truly created these pieces, as opposed to shop assistants.

There was also a room filled with giant plaster molds, which was neat, and a different sort of art display for a museum.

The front statue was yet another piece depicting bad times. It's hard to like a sculpture that's beautiful but depicts a rape (and even has it in the title). 

Rape of the Sabine Woman

The Galleria is adjacent to an actual academy in Florence. So there are some parts that look like a college hallway (it probably is).

There is also a really aggressive sign, which I found awesome.

STOP! And back it up, bitches. 

Since we were so close to the apartment we all sort of split up and it was just Doug and I leaving. We stopped for some espresso on the way home, of course :)

It took me a few days to understand how espresso is served in Italy. There are no to-go cups or options (similar to France). But there are also seldom tables. To drink an espresso, you can either stand at the bar right where they serve you the espresso, which costs between 1-2 Euro. If you want to sit at a table outside, they charge you 4-5 Euro. So for the first time, instead of sitting down or ordering food, we stood at the bar to enjoy our drinks.

Doug with a hot cafe latte. 

It's much different than in America, where you order an enormous coffee or drink, sit down and "work" or "write" (translation: check Facebook and this blog) for hours. Not so in Italy (or France). Come in, take 5-10 minutes to enjoy a beautiful espresso, and be on your way. I'm diggin it.

We meandered home and had happy hour on one of our two patios.

This marked an important event, as Tanya had her FIRST DRINK OF THE TRIP. Drastic difference from the approach that Greg, Doug, and I took.

While some of us had happy hour, there were a few who needed a siesta hour.

Our sleeping beauties. 

With a royal castle bed like that, I can't blame them.

We ended up going to one of Elenora's recommendations for dinner, a restaurant called Trattoria Za-Za's near our apartment and the Centrale Market. I was worried about going to a spot so close to the tourist attractions (the Florence leather market is right across from their patio). My worries were unnecessary, as we had our BEST meal yet!

Trio of traditional Italian/Florentine soups.

Ribbolita, pappa al pomodoro, fagioli cannelini. 

Truffle french fries (requested from the teenagers). Nothing unique, but there was quite a bit of truffle which was exciting and tasty.

Fresh parmesan cheese to accompany the meal.

Greg was with us so we had a tomato dish, of course. Caprese salad (tomato, fresh mozz, and basil).

Pasta with walnut sauce. It was good, but it wasn't our favorite. It almost had a sweet taste - I think because I associate walnuts with dessert dishes. I really liked it but it was rich, so a few bites was plenty.

Pasta paparadelle X with wild boar sauce. A house specialty.

Beef tartare (raw ground beef). AMAZING. Better than Ella's :)

And, the centerpiece of the meal, the Bistecca steak, served with lemon wedges and whipped butter potato. This is a traditional Florentine dish (thanks Tanya for researching the local food so we knew what to look for when ordering. I think we have the gelato part down - the rest we are needing help with). We ordered two kilos because we were worried one kilo wasn't going to be enough. Either our metric conversion skills are way off, or we were famished at the beginning of the meal and actually thought we could take down 2 kilos of meat with the rest of all that food.

House wine, we got another glass litre of white, but our red was a chianti that had a label for Za Za's, which was kind of cool.

Dinner was amazing. The atmosphere was really nice - a huge covered and lit patio overlooking a busy corner of the city. We mimiced a true Italian meal -  it lasted several hours, with lots of wine, lots of talk and laughter, and lots of enjoyment over a delicious meal. It was a fun, relaxing, delicious evening. I was really happy with our meal, not only for loved ones and the good food, but for our success in recreating a classic Florentine experience.

Well, almost a classic Italian experience :D

"Dinner? Sure, whatever. Just let me text my friends right quick and update my Facebook status"... though maybe it's fair of me to tease since I took a photo of every plate and selfie'd at the table :)


  1. Becky, I'm glad it pleases you so much when I drink. It helped that someone left a bottle of gin just waiting for us at our Florence apartment. It was like a special gift just for me. Who need Italian wines anyway?

    1. I know!!!! It was like the universe aligned. So funny.

    2. I know!!!! It was like the universe aligned. So funny.

  2. My sister drank?! Oh, only gin. C'mon Tanya branch out, try the wine. Great post, but I think an edit is needed for the Facebook caption. Ever since us old people took over Facebook, the younger set now uses Instagram and Snapchat, (until we take those over too.)

    1. Trust me Laura, I harass Tanay about this ALL THE TIME. I will step up my efforts in the Cinqueterre - it will be less people around so I'll be able to be more demanding and bossy :) ("try this wine right now, damn it!")

    2. For the record, I have tried several wines here and, guess what? Gin is still better. And, I say if gin gets a shout out in That's Amore then it counts as an Italian drink.

  3. My sister drank?! Oh, only gin. C'mon Tanya branch out, try the wine. Great post, but I think an edit is needed for the Facebook caption. Ever since us old people took over Facebook, the younger set now uses Instagram and Snapchat, (until we take those over too.)