Firenze: Birthplace of the Renaissance, Pinocchio, and Gucci

My two-day trip to Florence began with a speedy stop at the McDonald’s in Termini Station. I had seen a Buzzfeed article a few months back about the newest item to be added to Italian McDonald’s menu: the Nutella burger. Officially called the “Sweety con Nutella,” I felt obligated to try the sweet bun filled with hazlenut chocolate spread, knowing I’d likely feel sick afterwards. Unfortunately, the Sweety tasted more like a burger than a dessert. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but a stale bun with a spot of Nutella and a lingering smell of beefy oil wasn’t it. Disappointed, but not surprised, I rushed through the station to catch my train to Firenze, home of historical figures like Michelangelo and Galileo, as well as that one season of Jersey Shore.

After a recommendation by both our Airbnb host and a friend from home, our first stop was lunch at All’antico Viniao, a famous sandwich shop with a line spilling out into the street. A few minutes and 5 euro later, I held in my hand the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten – raw prosciutto, truffle cream, and pecorino cheese. The pigeons surrounding the shop sure had good taste, too, flocking towards the patrons that ate their sandwiches in the street. No longer hangry, we ventured to our Airbnb, an apartment situated just steps away from Piazza Signoria – home of Palazzo Vecchio, the David replica, and Loggia dei Lanzi, an open-air sculpture gallery filled with Renaissance art.

A few minutes of navigating Google Maps later, we arrived at Galleria dell’Accademia to say hello to Michelangelo’s original David. It was amazing to walk his past small, unfinished pieces straight towards the towering David (pre-Goliath slaying).

A short walk past gelaterie, a Disney store, and a dozen souvenir shops landed us at the end of Ponte Vecchio, home of jewelry shops and beautiful views of the Arno River. After wandering around a bit and warding off gypsies trying to “give” us roses, we took a short break in our apartment before heading to an aperitivo place, also suggested by our Airbnb host. There is probably no Italian custom I love more than a 10 euro cocktail that comes with an appetizer buffet.

Our night ended with a few chilly hours of sleep, as our heat and hot water mysteriously shut off as temps fell below 36 degrees outside. Luckily, our hosts came to fix the issues in the morning, and we set off for our second day in the city. We spent lunch wandering the stalls of the Mercato Centrale, sneaking samples of salami and eventually purchasing panini to hold us over for a few hours. The streets outside the market were lined with dozens of leather sellers, eagerly trying to convince passers by that their purses were somehow different from the 15 other stalls selling the same items. This didn’t stop us from haggling over some prices and picking up purses of our own, of course ;-).

A short (and free!) walk through the Duomo left me amazed, and my neck began to hurt from gazing at the expansive frescoes and intricate architecture of the cathedral.

We then ended up in Piazza della Repubblica, a vibrant hub of tourists, street performers, and even a carousel. At this point we were all in awe of this beautiful city, where a monument could be found at every street corner. A quick stop for gelato with flavors like white wine and cinnamon reaffirmed my love for Florence all over again.

Almost every street, large or small, contained some sort of street art or graffiti. After two days wandering the city, we came across a series of pieces depicting famous works of art underwater. The bottom picture reveals a bit about the artist (signed “Blub”) with a large piece outside of Basilica Santa Croce. Under the artist’s depiction of Michelangelo’s Adam from the Sistine Chapel is a single Italian phrase: “Art knows how to swim.”

Between the public art, easy to navigate streets, and abundance of Renaissance art, it’s safe to say I never wanted to leave. Before heading back to the train station, we decided to end our short trip with a visit to Piazzale Michelangelo, where a guitarist played as tourists took pictures of the panoramic views of the city at sunset. It was such a magical end to a short and sweet weekend. Ti adoro, Firenze, ci vediamo. 

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