Starting our Day
Starting our day getting off the train in Florence, we began our planned urban hiking route which brought us past the magnificent face of this church (Basilica of Santa Maria Novella). Being only slightly after 7am we almost had it all to ourselves to soak up the beauty. This wide-open square gives ample opportunity from which we could stand in awe at the intricate contrasting marble designs. Little we did we know that this was the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amazing architecture of Florence.
Cappuccinos in Florence with the one you love. What more can you ask for? I am always amazed by “coffee art.” We just happened upon this charming cafe that morning and it was a welcome respite to sit and take a coffee break from the crisp March morning.
A year ago, I learned how to make biscotti, or as we found out here, also goes by the original name of cantucci. It was going to be a batch Christmas gift to send to family back home in Chicago. In Florence, we enjoyed a small farmers market (Il Mercatale) in the Piazza della Repubblica while it was being set up and delighted ourselves with by far the best biscotti I’ve ever had. The fig biscotti was fantastic and I look forward to trying to make ones like these this fall when friendly neighbors have figs to share.
Tip: If you plan to visit the Il Mercatale in Florence note that it is only held on the first Saturday of the month except in January, July, & August.
Florence was an exciting city. We determined that our method of visiting cities is best termed as an urban hike. As we prepared to head to our pre-planned lunch spot, we cut a trail down some less traveled streets and were treated to some views of the fantastic Florence architecture at different and less-common angles.
Zeb Gastronomia | Food with Family
Pear Ricotta Stuffed Ravioli… Just one of the delicious offerings at Zeb Gastronomia. The service was impeccable and we felt like one of the family. This pasta dish, and the other dishes we had there, was one of those memorable meals that we will fondly remember, long after our trip is over!
Tip: Make sure you’re there when they open, even for lunch, or you might not get a seat at the family table!
Cimitero Delle Porte Sante
After a filling lunch, we made our way up a steep path to this monastery and for the first time in our travels we encountered a graveyard. It was a very somber place, but despite the old looking appearance many of the graves were for people who died only a couple decades ago mixed in with quite ancient ones, some with the same family names spread over hundreds of years. Seeing the lineages of family plots in Florence at this hillside church was a very unique experience that we would highly recommend taking the trek up to, church was stunning as well and also free to get into, unlike many of the churches/sites in Florence.
Finding a Secret Spot
It’s no surprise that the Duomo, Baptistry, and Bell Tower are the visual center of Florence. There are many places all over the city where you can turn and see it from many angles. We enjoyed it up close and from far away, but the journey to find this spot was quite entertaining. Having been turned around by google maps to a sign telling us to find an entrance on a different street and then wandering around to the other side of the building where we were met with a closed sign. Finally, a sweet older lady spying our confusion pointed us in the right direction with a simple gesture and a couple words in Italian that we could only imagine was “straight ahead!” as we then found the entrance only a few short steps further ahead!
Finally making our way into the building and past the front desk to an elevator. As we made our way to the third floor the elevator stopped on the second floor and in confusion we exited as a group of students got on board. It quickly turned awkward as it was clear we had no business on that floor and the students gave us funny looks since it was a slow rising glass elevator. After waiting for the elevator to return we finally found ourselves in a room full of people working on their computers (everybody looked at us like we were out of place) with an adjacent courtyard that afforded this view of the Duomo and the Bell Tower.