Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Firenze is the Italian name for Florence, the capitol and largest city of the region of Tuscany. It's known for its beautiful architecture and art museums. A friend from Bellingham, Alanna, is here for a few months visiting her boyfriend, so the timing worked out that I could visit them. We met at the stunning Duomo (cathedral) in the heart of the city.

The other thing to know about Firenze in the summer: it's hot. But it's not just the air, it's the buildings. The collect the heat from the sun all day, and even after the sun goes down, you can feel the radiant heat smoldering off the stone, so you always have this vague feeling that you are being cooked alive in an oven. It's very important to eat a lot of gelato, necessary even. I thought the gelato was fantastic, and I was really particular about trying new flavors. Some of my favorites: ricotta with fig (fichi), peach (pesca) with amaretto, and panna del pastore, which is mascarpone and honey.
Alanna borrowed a friend's bike for me to use, so we rode around the city, ever vigilant about cars, zippy scooters, masses of pedestrians, and rickety cobblestones. Actually the streets are so bumpy that the bike I used was a pregnant woman's, whose doctor forbade her from riding until after the baby was born!

We climbed a million stairs up to the cupola (dome) of the cathedral for an amazing view of the city. Then we rode across the river to a cute outdoor bar for drinks and a roasted eggplant and brie panino.

One Tuesday a month, all the major art museums are free, and it happened to be the Tuesday I was in town! We went to the Accademia Gallery, which houses the David. It was definitely one of those times where the 2-D pictures you've seen of something don't do justice to the real thing. It was stunning. We also went to Uffizi, which has one of the largest collections of Renaissance paintings in Italy. There are a ton of masterpieces there, by Michaelangelo, Rafael, DaVinci, Botticelli, and many others. It was awesome having Alanna's boyfriend with us, who happens to be an Art History professor! His English is excellent and he was so knowledgeable. No photos are allowed inside, but one of my favorites was The Birth of Venus (La Nascita di Venere).

Another day, Alanna and I took bikes on the train and did a day trip to Cortona. This walled city on a hill is now fairly touristy after Frances Mayes' book Under the Tuscan Sun. The property she bought was outside of Cortona. What drew me there though, is that it is supposedly where my Italian family is originally from! Indeed, I found Casali street and Palazzo Casali (Casali Palace) which now houses an Etruscan museum.

A big thanks to Alanna and Alberto for being awesome hosts while I was in Florence!

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