Daytripping to Firenze and Arte Firenze tour

This morning we try out Caffeteria de la Colonna for caffe and a dolci (sweet buns). We can see this little bar across the piazza from our apartment. We’ve have not had coffee in the apartment and Scott finally gets his first caffe in three days.

After Easter Sunday’s trip to the Cinque Terre, we think we have the fine details of train travel down cold. Our trip to Firenze is uneventful but it takes a full 1.5 hrs. because you have to do the Regionale. At least it’s cheap: €4.8 for the two of us.

We are into Firenze by 11:00 and walk along what are indicated as shopping streets on a map Scott has. We do a lot of window shopping and no buying.

Via Parione
Palazzo Strozzi

Santa Trinita. Above Via Calziuoulo glove shop.

We stop at Cantinetta Antinori in the Palazzo Antinori because we’d like to have lunch there before we go on our Uffizi tour. They don’t serve until 12:30, so more shopping must be done. This time I find gloves (to replace the ones I left on the train). We take a quick look at Oran San Michele and Piazza della Signoria and return to the restaurant.

Oran San Michele

Above Piazza Repubblica

Cantinetta Antinori [Piazza Antinori 3, Florence, tel: 055/292234] is a small restaurant which features every wine that Antinori makes. It is situated in the piazza and palazzo owned by the Antinori family. The restaurant is on 2 levels and we sit on the upper loft area.

We order a bottle Tignanello for a mere €38. For the same bottle, we paid $80 retail in Calgary only weeks earlier. We don’t have much time so Scott has a fagiole e salsiccia and I have papardelle with meat ragu. Food is excellent, but not cheap for lunch. The primo was €14 and the secondo was €19. The bathrooms here are small but one of the most luxurious that I saw in our entire trip.

Courtyard and view from the doorway of Cantinetta Antinori:

Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio:

We then head to the Uffizi, [Loggiato degli Uffizi, 6, Firenze, open Tues – Sun 8:15 – 7pm] where we meet our docent, Elizabeth Butler, in front of the gelateria at #3 Via Vacchereccia. She has to be accompanied by Stella, a licensed Italian guide, due to some Italian law. Elizabeth did her masters in art history in Florence and has been here for the past 3 years teaching and touring and doing research with the possiblity of pursuing a further degreee. She starts with a brief overview of the piazza and the Uffizi palace. We already have a timed entry for the galleries and Stella gets the tickets while we wait in line. They are a little less fussy about the bags but Scott checks his backpack anyhow. Of course, no photos.

I have asked that we focus on the Renaissance since we’ve done a fair amount of Baroque in Rome. The organization of the Uffizi is mostly chronological and regional. We start with late Gothic early medieval Maestas, which are depictions of the virgin and child maybe with an appropriate saint for the setting or patron. The first room is like walking into a real life set up for the first class of my Renaissance art history course: Cimabue, Giotto and Duccio. We move on to so many highlights. The Bottecelli room with the Venus and Primavera as well as some of his later more religious paintings. The Leonardo room with the unfinished Adoration of the Magi but the Annunciation is on loan to Japan, with great controversy. Michelangelo’s Doni Tonda. A number of well known Mannerist paintings. Some excellent Corregios. We don’t try to see everything but make a stop at the room with Artemsia Gentilleschi’s Judith and Holofernes which Scott thinks is a Caravaggio, as well he might. It is in the same room as Caravaggio’s Jacob sacrificing Isaac, the surprisingly small Medusa on a wooden shield and his so called Sick Bacchus. Elizabeth takes us to the terrace of the Uffizi cafe where you get a very different view of the Palazzo Vecchio and Il Duomo. We descend to the bookstores and she departs.

Again, we found the tour particularly worthwhile, not only in terms of information but also because we had someone who could take us to see what we were most interested in. After three hours, our heads are buzzing from all the fabulous art we have looked at and we certainly didn’t come close to seeing everything on display. This time, the tour cost was not expensive because we have booked as part of a group tour but it ended up being only Scott and me. The tour was €33 each and included the admission to the Uffizi.

From the Uffizi, we glanced at the crowds on the Ponte Vecchio, and did some more shopping on the side streets. Scott managed to buy some tiny pocket knives from an older woman who spoke very little English. Between hand gestures, the odd word from the woman’s son, who did speak English but was being occupied by another customer, Scott and the woman managed to understand each other. After that, we bought some more wine at a small tabaccheria near Santa Maria Novella and then got back on the train to Lucca. I forgot to validate our tickets so we got a lecture from the train conductor, but he didn’t fine us.
We arrived in Lucca after 8:00 p.m., close to the time when going to dinner was more popular, but we thought we would just walk until we found somewhere that looked good. Gli Orti di Via Elisa [Via Elisa 17, Lucca Tel. 39-0583 491241] is fairly close to the apartment but away from the main tourist areas. It looked good because it was busy and has a wine shop attached. This restaurant was more casual, no linen on the wooden tables, but with an extensive menu. We are given the most interesting amuse which consists of tempura like fried things but the things are sage leaf, the stems and shoots of green peas and some other vegetable things that I couldn’t identify. For mains, I wanted a bistecca fiorentina. We aren’t in Firenze but it has been on the menus of the other Lucca restaurants we’ve been in. They have smelled so good every time I saw or smelled one going past me. The size of the steaks I have seen have been formidable so Scott agrees to split one with me. We have a discussion with the waiter about the size. You pay by the etto, which is 100 grams. An 8 ounce steak would be roughly 5 etto. The waiter talks us into ordering 11 etto. We have contorni of spinach with garlic and olive oil, stewed artichokes and roasted beans. When the steak arrives, it doesn’t look so big. I’ve seen other diners eat much larger slabs of meat all by themselves. However, I can’t manage to finish my half and Scott doesn’t want to finish mine. I don’t know how the others do it. It is very tasty and tender. The vegetables are delicious and the roasted beans which are cooked with olive oil and rosemary are very rich. We had a Chianti Classico which I’ve never seen before.

Another excellent place with very moderate prices.
During our meal, Scott had a (from my viewpoint, hilarious) conversation with the bus boy whose English was the equivalent of Scott’s Italian. From him, Scott found out the score of the UEFA Champions League soccer match between Manchester United and Roma and that the game was not over. We return to the apartment where Scott cannot find the match on any of the 511 channels. We can’t watch calcio but we can drink some more wine.

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