It’s a travesty, but if you’ve only got one day in Florence, the best thing to do is put on your most comfortable shoes and go for una passeggiata. (pass-edge-jah-tuh). A walk.
All roads may lead to Rome, but when you’re in Florence just about all roads – 8 of them to be precise – lead to Santa Maria del Fiore, aka the Duomo. We took Via dei Servi.
(note: in case you’re actually following the posts in order, you may be wondering how – or why – we’re back up in Florence after only one day on Ischia. Let’s just say there’s been a glitch or two, which I am mortified to say have nothing to do with the computer. In any event, after today’s post, I’ll pick up from where I left off down south.)
The best view secondo me (seh-kon-doh may) – ‘according to me’ – is from the top of the campanile. As I explained in ‘A New Home for a New G – Boboli Part I’ (Nov. 17, 2013) it’s 414 steps to the viewing platform, but you’ll have plenty of time to recover as you take in the views, from the Mercato Centrale north of the bell tower, to the green expanse of the Boboli Gardens on the south side of the Arno River.
The plan was to meander over to the Oltrarno (‘On the Other Side’, Nov. 10, 2013) for lunch, but first a visit to the Mercato Centrale, Florence’s largest and liveliest market.
A couple of big changes had been made since my last visit (‘Taking a Break – Una Passeggiata a Firenze, Part I’, Oct. 20, 2013). The outdoor stalls that used to wrap around the Basilica of San Lorenzo had been pushed back to the area immediately surrounding the indoor food market.
The stalls on the ground level were as enticing as I remembered. It was hard to be just passing through.
But the biggest surprise was on the upper level. When I lived in Florence this is where most of the fruttivendoli (free-tee-ven-doh-lee) were located. As we climbed the stairs, I told my daughter about how I used to go up here to finish off my shopping. But when we reached the top of the staircase there wasn’t a fruit or veggie stall in sight. The entire floor had been transformed into an enormous, gourmet food court. One of the chefs told me it opened in 2014 and has been a huge success. No wonder! There is food from all across Italy and many ‘laboratories’ where you can watch traditional regional specialties being prepared as they are in their place of origin – specialties like la vera pizza napoletana (the ‘true’ pizza of Naples), and mozzarella di buffala from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. A virtual culinary tour of Italy. It wasn’t quite 11 am, but already a few groups were sitting down to tempting-looking dishes – con vino of course. And while the old market used to shut down in the evening, nowadays that’s when things really get going. It’s open until midnight and, as one of the vendors explained, waiting for one of the 500 seats is part of the experience. I was so enthralled with the whole thing I forgot to take any photos. One more reason to return.
By the time we got to Ponte Vecchio we were starving. Fortunately, while all the ‘distractions’ in Florence’s jam-packed centre means it can be slow going, if you put your mind to it – no window gazing, no loitering – you can be anywhere in a matter of minutes. Piazza Santo Spirito was a five-minute walk west of the bridge.
We walked around checking out the trattorie that lined the piazza and finally chose one that gave us a good view of the Basilica and goings-on in the piazza.
After lunch, in keeping with our trip’s outdoors theme, we headed for the Boboli Gardens. To reach the gardens you pass through the courtyard of Pitti Palace.
We didn’t see much of the garden. As much as I wanted to check out my favourite part, the Isolotto, I was worried about the dark clouds that had gathered while we ate lunch so after we climbed the central axis and had a look around we headed for the Bardini Garden where I knew we could find shelter. (‘Boboli’s Next Door Neighbour’, Dec. 1, 2013) We barely made it to the Kaffeehaus before it started to pour.
Eventually the rain let up and we left the ‘Other Side’ and made our way to Piazza Santa Croce. Just in time for an evening aperitivo.
Next – heading south – and staying there!