Tuscany has to mean bliss in Italian, with Florence being the crown jewel of the region. As if the stunningly beautiful Duomo isn’t enough, the city also hosts Michelangelo’s masterpiece David and offers a plethora of authentic Italian cuisine experiences.
The photo above is such a tragic attempt to capture the intricate sculpture and detailed artistry that covers the massive Duomo in Florence’s city center. Thankfully better photos are safely stored on our DSLR memory card so perhaps a post from home will include some better snapshots. While Tej loved the unique color scheme, for me the best part is that it truly pops out of nowhere. For such a huge structure, you would imagine that you would see it from every area of the city, but we literally turned a corner and stood at it’s footsteps with our mouths hanging open. The green and red exterior sets the Duomo apart from other Italian churches and basilicas, and really embodies the quirky and rustic spirit of the city.
A major highlight for us here was a food tour we booked through Florence for Foodies. Starting off with our Florentine-born guide “Mama Nat” we were led to a Pasticcheria (bakery) for a traditional Italian breakfast. Nat was so playful and fun, and renamed each member of our group with a traditional Italian name… I was Beatricce and Tej was Francesco (not making this up – Nat felt he should be named after the current Pope). We were served creamy cappuccinos and the shops signature sfoglia pastry, a warm “leaf” of puffed pastry with a vanilla cream filling. As we sat waiting for the groups pastries to be delivered, we watched as the baker literally brought fresh batches of 8-10 s’folias, which flew off the platter before making it to the pastry case. One bite.. Instant love. This bakery shop hosted us each morning for the rest of our stay in Florence and it worries me as I consider the lengths I’d go to for another one right now.
This post could be the longest in history if I explained each stop on the tour fully, so the readers digest version is as follows:
- Boiled Beef Sandwiches from the “old market” in Florence where the butcher refuses to speak to any tourists. You must have an insider that can order for you. And ps – don’t make the mistake I did at first and assume “boiled beef” is gross. I hate roast beef and this baby blew me away.
- Market Tour showcasing stalls with the most gigantic steaks ever, and traditional Tuscan foods like dried mushrooms, truffles and bull testicles (the dish served by Florentine wives when their husbands are in the dog house)
- Balsamic Vinegar, Olive oil and cheese tasting at the most beautiful wine cellar in an artisan shop. The owner shared her wealth of knowledge on the depths of the flavors and explained what separates a grocery store balsamic from a tiny $100 euro bottle. For those that are curious, One drop on a teeny spoon and you taste the classic balsamic flavor that proceeds to linger with a super smooth molasses finish. We had to take home a truffle honey, sourced by the owner from a private farm outside Florence. Truly liquid gold.
- Gelato and Semifreddo from Florence’s best gelato shop. Like all local secrets, the outside was completely unassuming but the flavors were sooo decadent. Earthy pistachio, chocolate as dark as brownie batter, and their signature flavor “la bomba” a custom tiramisu espresso gelato with chocolate chunks and lady finger.
This tour was perfection. Totally worth the money and definitely gets the Pandher stamp of approval! Thank you Florence for Foodies and Mama Nat for an amazing, authentic experience.
The next day we explored the Uffizi Gallery, home to famous works including the Birth of Venus, La Primavera and Da Vinci’s Annunciation. We then headed to the Accademia to view the statue of David. While neither Tej nor I claim to have any expertise in viewing art.. Seeing this masterpiece in person it is clear that it was a revolutionary work. The lifelike intensity of David’s expression and relaxed pose literally make you pause, waiting to see if he’ll blink. What I love most is that this sculpture was created by Michelangelo from a block of marble that two previous artists attempted to work on. Abandoned due to it’s difficult nature, and called too “imperfect”, this block of marble ended up becoming one of the most revered and admired pieces of art in history. There’s a little free motivational inspiration for you!
In summary, Florence filled our tummies with love, our minds with culture, and captured our hearts. If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that we’ll be back.
Next stop: Venice.