the eternal city

oh before i get on the road to rome, i suppose i should go through florence… forgive the length, i write this for my own benefit as well. i don’t record this stuff anywhere else at the moment so this is both a journal and a blog… get over it.

florence was just gorgeous. so much to see… i could live there. although i suppose learning italian would be helpful first. it was just so grand, so much larger than life. we arrived after dark, and had a pretty hard time finding parking, as mentioned, but eventually we found a spot that we *thought* was okay, left the car and checked in at the hostel (side note: everything we read after going to florence warned NOT to try to take a rental car into the city. hmmmm).

claire did an amazing job the whole trip of researching things to do, which was fine with me as driving tired me out more than i thought it would, and left me wanting to just relax for a bit after arrivals (darn italian drivers! the concentration it takes just to stay alive is incredible). we left the hostel sort of late to find a restaurant that came with good reviews, across the river arno, around a 20min walk away. we probably would have been fine for time but for being completely mesmerized by everything we passed along the way… when we got to the duomo, also known as opera di santa maria del fiore, i was blown away. it was nighttime, the square was very empty, and this giant cathedral nearly took my breath away. why i didn’t bring my camera i’ll never know… and THEN, i was stopped in my tracks as i realized we’d nearly walked by the replica david statue (like, michelangelo’s david) in the piazza del signoria. more awe.

opera di santa maria del fiore (part of the duomo)

claire and i atop the duomo

claire in awe atop the duomo, florence

michelangelo’s “david” (replica)

we very unfortunately arrived at the restaurant just as they were closing up. the guy told us they might not be closed “for you girls” but after checking with the chef (we batted some lashes, to no avail), it was confirmed. and only because the next day they closed for a week for renos. too bad. but who knew finding an open restaurant in firenze on valentine’s day would be so difficult at 11pm?? not kidding, we didn’t find anything. so my romantic valentine’s day dinner with claire ended up being waffles with whipped cream, strawberries, and gelato. not so bad after all i guess, even if i had a sugar headache falling asleep that night…

the next day was just GORgeous. i could have spent all afternoon laying in the sun in the piazza del signoria, but we had lots to do. we checked on the car – hmm… surrounded now by motos. great, we were in a residents-only bike zone. deal with that later… we got coffee, and sandwiches at this local haunt that were fabulous. we climbed the duomo, 463 steps, and were blown away again with an incredible view of the city of florence. we went to the leather markets… danger. yes i got a bag. sigh. then we went back to the hostel to research dinner places, and ended up at another local place where we had some great chianti classico riserva, stuffed artichoke, and deep fried rabbit. we tried to meet up with a friend of a friend at a jazz café but didn’t catch them, but we still got to hang out at an italian jazz cafe, so, no big deal! we finished the night with some laughs shared with other hostel nomads.

dinner mmmmm

unfortunately the next day was slightly rainy. the other problem was that we really needed to move the car. so we headed that way, and as we approached the street we see a police car patrolling the area. when we reached the car, they had pulled up right next to our car… upon seeing us get in the car and turn it on they continued on, but GUARANTEED we would have gotten what certainly would have been a pretty hefty ticket. SO. timing=check!

we moved the car to a garage, hit up a café, then went to the central food market, tried a bunch of cheese, bought some gifts, ogled at cow stomach and fresh pasta and other such italian specialties, got cannoli, then got lunch (didn’t research this one, and guess what, it wasn’t very good. lesson learned). then we hit up santa croce cathedral where we visited the sepulchres of the likes of galileo, michelangelo, machiavelli and dante. after, we searched for a secret bakery that claire had heard rumours about online, but apparently it’s a well-kept secret because we didn’t find it (we consoled ourselves with gelato). we DID have reservations at a restaurant we passed the night before, il santo bevitore, and had a fabulous dinner and evening there, starting with prosecco and ending with sweet-wine (on the house!).

machiavelli’s sepulchre at santa croce

dining room at il santo bevitore
our dessert that didn’t wait for a photo

after getting a cappuccino at ‘supposedly’ the best coffee place in florence the next morning, and rubbing the boar snout for a safe return to florence one day (and there WILL be a return, one day), we headed off on the road to rome.

rubbing the boar snout for a safe return journey to florence

about 3.5hrs later we found our hostel and free parking, no trouble at all, and immediately wished we’d booked more time there. the hostel was really great – a renovated super old building that was more like staying in someone’s high-ceilinged apartment than a hostel. unfortunately, it started pouring. so we altered our plans a little, grabbed our umbrellas, and headed into town.

the repubblica, trevi fountain, pantheon, and a bunch of other incomprehensibly old buildings later, we found the restaurant ‘cul de sac’ recommended to me by a good friend of alex. it was a wine bar with a “wine’s by the bottle” list of over 1000 wines. we skipped that for the “by the glass” list… and subsequently had another fabulous meal, followed by some very strong grappa, which resulted in us skipping the spanish steps and just taking the bus home. passed some more 2000yr+ old ruins (no big deal) on the way and pondered who would have marched through the old city wall arches so, so many years ago…. (maximus? marcus aurelius? is that you??)

the pantheon
trevi fountain… wow.
wine’s by the bottle binder at cul de sac

the next day was packed as well. the vatican. sistine chapel. the coliseum. spanish steps. mouth of truth. and driving to our guest house in san gimignano, tuscany. it’s just impossible to describe rome, and how… well, how indescribable it is. i don’t know how many times i took out my camera only to realize the futility in trying to capture what i was seeing. i don’t even know if it was a valiant effort on my behalf. but i digress. i’m going to leave this here and tell you later about our… ‘interesting’ drive to tuscany after dark, realizing our guest house was actually in another town than what we thought, and being time-transported back to the 18th century.

claire outside the vatican museum, st. peter’s basilica in the background
st. peter’s square, vatican city
claire snuck a photo of the ceiling (no pictures are allowed)
coliseum!
me inside the coliseumruins…
more ruins…
mouth of truth
me, with gelato, on the spanish steps (à la audrey hepburn in ‘roman holiday’!)

ciao! prego!

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