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Day 6: Cheese, truffles, and a 14-foot hottie!

A tour through Renaissance Florence and a love-affair with my truffle pasta.

overcast 20 °C

I’ve turned into a thief…a poverty stricken traveller resorting to stealing food. Gulp. Lucky the astute Italian brekky lady caught me and made me cough up the €1 for the bread roll I had hoped to have with my stinky cheese from Mercato Centrale last night.

The morning is dedicated to my Renaissance tour of Florence complete with skip the line entry to see my mate David in all his marble-giant-handed-glory. The tour started at Palazzo Strozzi, one of the two main families of Florence from eons ago, the other being the family of Medici. Like the Montagues and Capulets from Romeo & Juliet, they were in an ego-drive war. The Palazzo Strozzi was built with a bench seat around the perimeter as a gift to the weary people of the town, but also as a place where the townsfolk were required to sit to demonstrate which family they supported.
There was a similar bench seat around the Palazzo Medici.

I met the tour group and instantly started chatting with Nicole and Linda, a mother-daughter duo from New Zealand, travelling through Italy over a few weeks to experience history fuelled by Nicole’s passion for and study of ancient Rome. The tour guide, Laura, was excellent, and had an exceptional memory for the detail of all the buildings we passed and the history of the development of Florence.

We navigated a significant portion of Florence, including the Ponte Vecchio (the famous bridge where a myriad gold merchants are located), the arches under the Uffizi gallery, and Piazza della Signoria where the replica of David stands outside the Palazzo Vecchio. In this piazza is also the fountain with the statue of Neptune, and ‘the man who measures the clouds’ – a beautiful golden statue of a man standing on a ladder with a yardstick. In the centre of the square a golden man rides a giant golden turtle, whilst on the southern side there are more traditional sculptures, such as Purseo holding Madusas head, with the sculptors face cheekily carved into the back of Purseo’s head.
The final stop of the tour was the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s Il Davide. I can safely say my love of tall, handsome, statuesque men is firmly intact. It is quite a breathtaking sculpture, and quite literally had me proclaiming ‘wow’ as I turned the corner to the corridor of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures to see David at the end. Most striking is how freaking huge his right hand is comparatively! Apparently, thanks to Google, this is because in the Middle Ages David was commonly thought to be ‘manu fortis’, or ‘strong of hand’. Also, did you know Michelangelo carved David from a piece of marble which had been classified as flawed and which another sculptor had decided not to continue using? And did you know that someone chucked a hissy fit in the Palazzo Vecchio one day, throwing a chair out the window (as you do), and broke poor David’s left arm into three pieces? Poor dude.
Other than Il Davide, the Accademia, for me, did not hold as much interest as a tasty lunch, so with Nicole and Linda in tow, we decided to head (wait for it!)….back to the Mercato Centrale! At Andrew Speers’ suggestion, nay, insistence, I decided to try the pasta from the truffle place, and it was….spectacular! Creamy, with a generous quantity of freshly grated truffle…it was pure bliss. And accompanying it (to make the whole experience a little healthier and have at least one of my five veggies), I opted to try some fresh burato mozzarella, which is a version with a creamy soft centre – the cheese-equivalent of a Lindt Lindor ball – with ripe salted tomato and a drizzle of olive oil. Quite possibly the best meal I’ve had in Italy so far.

Back to the hostel for a nap, as is becoming customary, and then it was out once again for some explorations with Alyssia. We visited Santa Maria Novella church, near the Florence train station, which was absolutely stunning. It has a similar façade to the Il Duomo with green and white marble, something which appears quite distinctly ‘Florence’. The stained glass windows depicting biblical scenes were perfectly lit from the afternoon sun in the otherwise quite dark church, and are stunning. Our walk around Florence finished with a wine at a restaurant near Il Duomo called ‘Eataly’ (clever), before heading…you guessed…back to Mercato Centrale for dinner.
They were handing out vouchers for free beer which was opportune, and for dinner I had the salami and artichoke toasted Panini from a very cute very odd man behind the bar, who was dancing and off with the fairies! He offered to get me another drink…then demanded a tip! Cheeky mongrel.
Alyssia and I ended up speaking with a lovely older couple from Spain (a town about 300km south of Barcelona) at the table behind us. He was in the fabric trade, and had travelled extensively with his work. She didn’t speak English. They were ballroom dancers, and he joked to Alyssia that he’d also taken up art classes a couple of hours a day because he wasn’t getting any…ummm….action at home, despite being ‘newlyweds’, having both been widowed in recent years. He proclaimed that he was much happier with his new wife and because she was so much better than the previous one! A few beers and giggles later, and quite possibly the best pain e chocolat (choccie croissant) I’ve ever eaten…warm, oozy…delicious…it was food-coma/bedtime.

Daily summary:
Trips to Mercato Centrale – 2
Amazing baked goods – 2
Weird food-servers – 1
Giant right hands – 1
Number of Davids seen (real and fake) – 2

Finding out the reason why some people take art class….priceless!

Posted by jenniferhall 14:31 Archived in Italy Tagged statues history italy florence tour david pasta mozzarella truffles il_davide madusa burato

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