Gabby and I always talked about taking a Grand European Tour after college.
From Great Britain to France to Italy to Greece to Egypt, we were going to see every significant museum, artistic and archaeological piece that there was to see. And then maybe hit a beach and ride some camels, or something.
But I don not know that either of us really thought that it would ever happen. Our graduation dates were far apart and everyone knew I was going to be getting married some time soon.
But when she conveniently landed in Europe for her summer study abroad at the same time that I was living on this continent, we just had to make something happen. Even if it wasn’t the full out Euro-trip, it would be something.
So we made plans to fly down to Italy from Helsinki after her visit here. A round trip flight from Helsinki to Rome is one of the cheapest flight options (all roads lead there, after all) so we started with that. We flew into Rome early Monday morning and took a train directly to Florence -the most incredible city in the world- where we stayed for the first 3 nights.
I spent 4 months in Florence in the spring of 2012 to finish my minor degree in art history. What an ideal location, right? I must have spent the whole time walking around with my head on a swivel, a sketch book in my hand and stars in my eyes. I remember sitting out in the cloisters of San Lorenzo sketching until my fingers were too frozen to properly control (Italy had a cold spring that year).
Needless to say, I was extraordinarily excited to make my first return. Naturally, I formulated a ridiculous itinerary that had us doing everything at every minute of the day to ensure that we saw everything in 3 days time that I had experienced in 4 months. I am proud to say that we did pretty solid damage, despite taking a slower day in the middle.
Here is a lovely photo diary of our trip:
If you are traveling to Italy -Florence in particular- please contact me if you are looking for suggestions. From food to shopping to the biggest and smallest of museums -I am your girl.
Now, I figured most of these photos do not need explaining. They are some of the greatest sculptures and pieces of architecture in the world.
Just look at them!
Brunelleschi’s Dome is possibly my most favorite piece of architecture of all time. It is genius and stunning and to walk inside of it and touch the brick work is a privilege. But then to stand atop it and view out over the sprawling red clay roof tops of Florence…. sigh.
A lot of our time otherwise was spent inside museums and wandering the streets. Not much to say that the images do not: this city is magic and romance all wrapped up in tiny alleys and winding streets and corner osterias.
One story worth telling, of course, is the night Gabby and I went out for our “fancy meal” of the trip, where we would enjoy one nice meal without fussing over the budget. I chose La Giostra, one of Florence’s best known restaurants. The walls are hung with framed photos of various celebrities with the young owner, but it is not showy or flashy; it is tucked into a side alley with a very unassuming entrance and decor.
We sat down for our meal and our waiter -around our age -came up to take our orders. He asked how many courses we would like (two sounded reasonable after the crostini’s and prosecco that you receive upon entering) and promptly removed our menus, asked about dietary restrictions (and if we trusted him) and ff he went.
Our first course arrived: 3 samplings of their most famous raviolis. I cannot even remember what they were aside from the pear one, but they were simply melt-in-your-mouth, make-your-eyes roll-back, pour-me some-more-Chianti good. I could have died a happy and satisfied woman right there. But next he brought out a steak in balsamic sauce for me and a veggie dish for Gabby. THEN he brought out this ridiculous cold rice pudding thing with raspberries that could not have been more perfect to end such a ridiculously large and rich and fabulous meal.
But the fun did not stop there. He asked us if we would like to meet the chef in the kitchen, since he had made the orders for us. Well, yes of course! I was expecting to meet an old Italian gentleman, but we were introduced to a 25 year old Italian Stallion sweating in the hot kitchen. They invited us to stick around until closing to go to some bars with them.
Now, of course I am married, but you never say no when local people ask you out. Especially when they bribe you with a carafe of limoncello. I mean…ok…. And periodically stop by and take a shot with you.
The night ended up being fairly mild, aside form us sitting and waiting for a while, as it was a Tuesday at the end of the summer when most people are on vacation. After one bar, we were pretty beat, it was closing in on 3am, and there was nothing going on, so we made our way home.
But it made for one hell of a meal! (and not a bad story!)
Oh, and of course I stopped by Via Guelfa 38, my old apartment from my time as a student here!