A day in Italy is filled with so much possibility. One can certainly assume that they will enjoy great food, drink great wine, meet interesting people, see amazing architecture and get a real glimpse of ancient surroundings tucked inside a modern city. Today would be no exception.
I had so many items on my list of sites to visit today. I can’t say I was successful in making it to all places on my wish list but I did enjoy a full and enjoyable day.
After a wonderful complimentary breakfast consisting of eggs, Tuscan beans, bacon, pastries and cappuccino at the Michelangelo Hotel in Florence, we took the first available bus to the historic centre of Florence.
Our goal today was to purchase a leather briefcase in Mercato Nuovo and a gold charm at the gold shops on the bridge at Ponte Vecchio. The first vendor in the marketplace saw us looking at the briefcases and offered a GREAT deal on the briefcase (messenger bag) we were looking at. Because it was the first place we stopped, we let this offer pass and moved on to other shops. Well, his offer proved to be the lowest by far and when we returned to his booth, his offer increased and never went as low again. Regardless, we found a beautiful leather bag and purchased it at a great price. Most of the marketplace booths expect to you haggle. Sometimes your offer is accepted and sometimes it is rejected. It is great fun and you never know what you will end up with. This time I walked away with scarves, leather key chains and a wallet.
Just outside the marketplace, on the side street bordering the Mercato Nuovo, two artists were working on street art. Early in the day this is what their masterpieces looked like:
And later in the day, this is what we found:
After we left the marketplace we started towards the bridge to purchase gold. Here are some of the great stores we passed and happened to stop at.
We stopped at the gold stores on Ponte Vecchio where we were greeted like long lost family. I purchased a small gold charm for my daughter that the store told me is a replica of the first coin of Florence (a florin): featuring a fleur-de-lis on the front and a picture of St. John the Baptist on the back. We continued on across the Arno to the neighborhood known as Oltrarno where the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens are. Anyone who knows me knows that I love a flower garden. I could not wait to see the gardens. Unfortunately when I arrived at the gardens I learned they were closed – as it was Monday. But, I was able to steal a little peek.
My adventure in the gardens proved unsuccessful, however, we discovered a cute little cafe across the street from the gardens and Pitti Palace owned by an American woman (Jennifer Tatanelli). It is called JT Caffe. I enjoyed a refreshing Peach Bellini here. I was told that this woman also owned the clothing store next door and was a designer to boot. The little dress our waitress was wearing was designed by the owner. The cafe was wonderful and I highly recommend their trio bruschetta plate and pate. Sitting here looking at the palace, I can truly visualize the Medici’s coming and going to the palace in the 1500’s.
Our afternoon continued as we strolled towards the Duomo and Baptistry. The Baptistry of Florence, (located right next door to the Duomo) was built in the 4th or 5th century and is considered the oldest building in Florence. In the 12th century the green and white marble cladding was added and during the Late Gothic and Renaissance periods, the Bronze doors were added. Although there was some construction going on, I was able to get a couple pictures of the doors.
This was a full day of sight-seeing in Florence Italy. But the night was still young. The shopping continued when we found a little leather store right near the Duomo called L’ Arte de’ Ciompi. The young woman running it said her father used leather tools to pound out unique leather photo albums among other things. I am happy to say we bought one of these photo albums. I feel not many family owned businesses exist any more making and selling their own handcrafted items. Here is what I bought:
As we walked down some of the narrow, old streets of Florence in search of the perfect place to have dinner, the boys started planning their next search for a geocache. Although I don’t enjoy geocaching, I did appreciate that they took off looking for a hiding place which left me time near this ancient church of Santi Michele e Gaetano that had some wonderful architectural details. Angels are my thing – so I captured their pictures. This church is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel – fitting that there are so many angels on the facade.
I love a great walk and exploring new terrain. There is no place like Italy to accomplish this. Today I surely enjoyed a walk to remember and spent time with my family eating, drinking, shopping and learning about the history of Florence, Italy and meeting her people.