Tiddley-Bits tea

Tiddley-Bits tea

Thursday, 23 June 2011

{postcards from italy~Florence}

{Piazza Repubblica (all photos mine unless otherwise noted)}

I’m currently on a train from Florence on my way to Naples.
Florence was amazing! I was there for a conference on luxury and the courts, and the conference itself seemed particularly luxurious. It was held in an old Renaissance villa that is now used by the European Institute in Fiesole. We convened in a gorgeous room with 15th-century paintings of saints on the ceiling and a gorgeous fireplace (which was not needed in the 30 degree C Tuscan heat!).
{the setting of the conference}

{the decoration in the room}

{fireplace behind where I sat}

{the gardens-gorgeous!}

{the building the conference was held in}

Every night we all went out for a wonderful dinner with the ingredients that can only be found in Italy—things like fresh mozzarella, fresh basil & tomatoes that make your mouth water etc.. etc… oh & lovely vino of course! One of the conference organizers hosted a cocktail reception in his flat, which is in central Florence. The flat has beautiful frescoed ceilings and large, tall rooms opening up on to balconies that look down upon the busy Florentine streets below.
I was able to sneak in a few walks around Florence everyday before dinner. I’ve been to Florence numerous times and actually lived there for a month while I was a graduate student co-teaching a class at McGill. So in some ways it feels like home. Well not exactly, but at least very familiar. It’s also so amazing to walk around the city, spotting objects, buildings, paintings, and sculpture that I often teach in my Renaissance classes. These works of art seem like old friends, but somehow are seen anew every time I see them again in situ.
I had to take a break there for a moment from writing, and stop looking at the computer screen and instead look outside at the gorgeous countryside. I’m passing rolling Tuscan hills, gorgeous terracotta-tiled villas. Stunning!
Ok, so enough text, I know you want to see photos. Today I had the morning off before my train and I walked around Florence snapping photos of gorgeous shops, signage, and just taking in all Florence has to offer. I hope you enjoy.
Below, you’ll also find some recommendations for Florence. I often send these recommendations (with some edits)  to friends before they head to Florence. I hope you will find them useful as well.
{antique shops}

{we had drinks here the last night}

{lovely shops}

{the unforgettable duomo & baptistry}

{the home of Salvatore Ferragamo}

{lovely little restaurants in Sto Spirito}

{one of my favourite restaurants in Florence--4 Leoni}

{gorgeous palazzi are found everywhere--just remember to look up}
As those who follow my blog know, I love shots of lovely storefronts & signage. Italy is full of these & I couldn't resist: 
{lovely baked goods}

{tons of antique shops on the Oltrarno, near Sto Spirito}

{the home of Pinocchio}

{I love how a simple wine shop can be set in such a beautiful building with Renaissance creations adorning the facade}

Florence things to see/do:
-shop at the mercato di San Lorenzo (which is near the Medici palace, and of course the church of San Lorenzo)
-walk along the Ponte Veccchio into the Oltrarno and on to the Palazzo Pitti and walk through the Boboli Gardens (even better--go to the market and get fresh bread and cheese and plenty of vino and bring it along as a picnic to the Boboli Gardens)...there is a grotto that you can visit in the Boboli gardens that is pretty crazy (the rocks are carved into various creations, including woolly lambs). [note that there are seperate tickets: tickets for the Boboli gardens and tickets for the Palazzo pitti (the palazzo pitti was the residence of the Medici grand dukes and now holds a huge collection of artworks)]
-walk up to San Miniato for breathtaking views of the city--and a bit more of a calmer pace than the centre of Florence (only a 20 min walk through lovely lemon/orange orchards)
-have a coffee or an aperitivo in one of the lovely little cafes in the piazza of Santo Spirito (very cool and funky piazza that doesn't get hoards of tourists--again in the Oltrarno)

as for art...there is so much and as an art historian there's so many recommendations, but here are a few:
-Santa Maria Novella--the frescoes are really amazing in the Tornabuoni chapel (main chapel) by Ghirlandaio and Filippo Lippi's crazy designs for the Strozzi Chapel.   There's also Masaccio's trinity (trinita) which is a famous piece & always features on most undegrad art history exams! Alberti was the architect for the building.
-the uffizi: THE museum to see for Renaissance Art--I would recommend getting reservations-you can just walk right in, rather than waiting hours in line.--you can buy reservations/tickets online.
-if you're a Michelangelo fan, then the Accademia is worth seeing because of the famous David, and all his other sculptures...but again huge line-ups. Casa Buonarotti also has a collection of his work.
 -San Lorenzo: major church for the Medici family, has the old sacristy by Brunelleschi & the new sacristy by Michelangelo (but you can't get to the new sacristy through the main church--that's another lineup!)
-make sure you go to the Piazza della Signoria, where the Palazzo Vecchio (or palazzo della signoria the original city hall) is...just outside is where Savonarola (the great dominican friar) was burned at the stake. beside this is the uffizi ...& the loggia dei lanzi houses some major sculptures by leading artists of the 16th century.
-on the other side of the river are Masaccio's famous paintings in the Brancacci chapel at the church of Santa Maria del Carmine  (for Vasari, these marked the new age of the Renaissance)
While on this side, I would definitely go to the restaurant Quattro Leoni: ...super good food and really nice setting and friendly staff, and not yet completely bombarded with tourists...it's in the Oltrarno, so not too touristy--really lovely and they have outside seating in a little piazza. and it's pretty reasonable too. (see above for photos)
check out their website (which doesn't do it justice)and also, if you walk into the Oltrarno (Oltrarno means the other side of the Arno--the river that runs through Florence--you can get to this area across any bridge (the Ponte Vecchio being the most famous)) you'll find some other great restaurants.
There's so much else, but that's a good start.

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