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Lunch at La Terrazza

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Over Christmas, some friends were looking at photos from my September trip to Italy and came across a few that I had shot from the rooftop cafe La Terrazza, which sits atop La Rinascente, the downtown Florence department store.

It's actually a great little place for lunch -- probably only a dozen tables; not bad prices for a panini or salad and a glass of wine; and, most important of all -- fantastic views. I popped up there on my second-to-last day in Florence, and while the late September wind was cool, the sun shone and the scene around me was spectacular. I felt as though I could almost reach out and touch Firenze's fantastic Duomo.

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Just as my friend Girasoli (http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/girasoli/) loves to climb towers -- church towers, clock towers, bell towers -- I love to sit in rooftop cafes and have a drink while admiring a panorama.

You can definitely get that on La Terrazza. The department store itself sits right on the corner of the Piazza della Reppublica in Florence's historic centre. It is also midway between the landmark Duomo and the Piazza della Signoria, arguably the artistic centre of Florence.

Besides the spectacular sight of Brunelleschi's dome, there is also a lovely view down onto the Piazza della Repubblica, although in my view it has seen better days.

Heresy, perhaps. But to me, this piazza is a bit too modern to be stuck in the centre of historic Firenze. This piazza was in ancient times the site of the city's forum, and later, of Florence's ghetto, which was swept away during the city improvement works or Risanamento initiated during the brief period when Florence was the capital of a reunited Italy, according to Wikipedia.

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The porticos with the triumphal arch, called the "Arcone", was designed by architect Vincenzo Micheli and was inspired by the most courtly of Florentine Renaissance architecture, although critics would say that modern changes made this design quite different from the true Renaissance style.

The pompous inscription on the arch reads:
L'ANTICO CENTRO DELLA CITTÀ
DA SECOLARE SQUALLORE
A VITA NUOVA RESTITUITO
(The ancient centre of the city / restored from age-old squalor / to new life)

On top of the Arcone had been an allegorical group of three women in plaster, representing Italy, Art and Science. Alas, the Florentines instead nicknamed them after three famous prostitutes of the era: la Starnotti, la Cipischioni e la Trattienghi.

Having deteriorated, the group was removed in 1904, according to Wikipedia.

The view south towards the Palazzo della Signoria is blocked, as this photo of one side of another palazzo, indicates.

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Comments (19)

I love reading your blog and seeing your photos. I love seeing the photos of Florence, but I also really like seeing your pictures of the other places where I haven't got to. :)

I went up the San Giorgio and the San Marco towers in the lifts, with Alessandro on my last trip, and sent him up the Modena and San Gimignano ones. :)

I can't cope with the climbing now - although we did go up the Leaning Tower - but Alessandro pulled me up!

Sandra,

This little restaurant atop Rinascente is my favorite "secret" spot in Florence! And you know what else? The time we were scheduled to meet, this is where the meeting would have been. I'm glad you found it anyway!

Dana

sandrac:

Thank you so much, Leslie! I also enjoy your blog and your photos so much.

I love the towers in San Gimignano, but I still haven't even seen Pisa. One of these days!


Hi Dana, it's too bad we hadn't been able to meet in Florence when we were both there -- then, I wouldn't have had to wait so long to discover this lovely spot!

Sandra, great photos!! My favorite it your first photo! Beautiful shot!! I wish I knew about this little spot when I was in Florence. I will definitely have to check it out the next time I return. I enjoyed learning a little more about Florence.

Love the photos and the spectacular view from La Terazza. I wished I had known of this rooftop cafe back in 2001 when I spent a month in Florence.

I'm not too fond of Piazza della Repubblica; I walked past the square almost everyday and only stopped there to watch the street performers.

Wonderful views! Love seeing Giotto's bell tower since I've been thinking and reading about him recently. And I shopped at that dept. store when I was in Florence but didn't know about the roof-top cafe...wish I'd known! Love your photos.

sandrac:

Hi Girasoli, I know that you would like it up there! It's not as high as a belltower, perhaps only five storeys off the ground. (I think the department store has four storeys, with a small, indoor cafeteria in one corner on the fourth floor. There is a flight of stairs that leads from the cafeteria up to the open, rooftop cafe.) So it's not really high up, but still has some great views.

Maria, the Piazza della Repubblica does feel a bit soul-less in such a historic city -- but it actually looks better from about 5 storeys up than it does at ground-level.

I didn't realize that you had spent a full month in Florence, lucky you!

Annie, the bell tower and dome are both so lovely. Are you reading Ross King's book about Brunelleschi? I've been meaning to -- I loved his book about Michelangelo and the Sistene Chapel.

No, I've got the Ross King book about the dome but haven't read it yet and also haven't read his Sistine Chapel book. I'll add that to my ever-growing list!

I'm reading a book about the Scrovegni Chapel that I bought in Padua and also a book I already had, "Giotto's Complete Works" which is very short since so many of his paintings haven't survived. I'll be blogging about him soon...I am still pretty "gobsmacked" about that Chapel and need to collect my thoughts!

AND...happy birthday to you too! I might have missed yours while I was in Venice, but pretty cool that we are both December birthday girls (isn't it the worst possible month for a birthday?!). Funny because I'm a Capricorn who feels more like a Sag much of the time (Dec. 27 was my actual day).

Have you ever had your chart done? I did many years ago and I'm all earth and fire with very little air and water. It's pretty interesting stuff. Maybe I love Venice because it balances me out?

Anyway, hope you are having a wonderful holiday!

sandrac:

Hi Annie! I completely forgot that you had discussed the Condé Nast article when you returned from Venice. (I'm using my French-language keyboard at work, so I can put the proper accent on Condé!)

I had been very intrigued at that time by your mention of the Brunetti's Venice book, based on Donna Leon's mysteries, and by the Giotto book that you bought in Padua in the Scrovegni Chapel. I wonder if I could order that book? I'm going to Google and find out!

Were you often ripped off on your birthday, because it's so close to Christmas? When I was younger, it really bugged me! I rarely had birthday parties and always got one gift ("This is your birthday AND Christmas gift.") Children are very sensitive to that sort of injustice! I suspect if I had my charts done, it would show a deep vein of bitterness. Ah well, we Sags can get carried away some times.

I haven't actually had an astrological chart done, it would be interesting. I very much like your theory that you need Venice and its water, to balance all of the earth and fire that's in your nature.

According to my Chinese horoscope, I have a lot of water in me, but I don't think I have enough earth. I have difficulty grounding myself. Perhaps I'll make resolving that imbalance my New Year's resolution!

How many memories I have of the rooftop terrace in question! It is a magical spot that I learned about the year it opened and to which I gravitate EVERY time I am in Florence on a day trip.

How I agree with you about the Piazza della Repubblica!!!!!!!! Almost like a scar!

Happy New Year, Sandra. Hope to see you again in 2009!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mary

Oh yes, the one gift thing always bugged me and I seldom had parties either. Even today, it seems that everyone (including me) has holiday exhaustion by Dec. 27 and the last thing anyone wants or needs is more celebration!

The book I bought is "Giotto in Padua" by Roberta D'Adda, the English translation. Nice reproductions of all the frescoes!

Happy New Year to you!

sandrac:

Hello Mary -- you always know the best spots! I'm happy to hear it's a favourite with you, too.

Happy New Year to you, and I sincerely hope to see you in 2009!!!!

Annie, 2010 in Venice at the SlowTrav GTG, we'll celebrate our birthdays early, and in the manner in which they were always meant to be marked -- with a big, Italian party.

I'm going to look up the Giotto book and see if I can find it online.

Happy New Year to you, too, and all the best for 2009.

Mindy:

Hi Sandra!

I'm definitely making a note of this place. I think I read somewhere that this department store also has a fabulous bathroom!

Great photos.

Stopping by to wish you a happy and prosperous 2009. Buon anno!

Anne:

Gorgeous photos!! I'm transported right back to Florence...ah, good times.

Have a happy, healthy and safe New Year's Eve! Hope 2009 brings only good things to you!

Hi Sandra, I wanted to wish you a fabulous New Year! Also, I see I have missed your birthday. Happy Belated Birthday!! I hope it was a wonderful day.

Because my birthday landed right at the start of a new school year when I was little, I also always felt like I got ripped off, getting school clothes just like everyone else. A Christmas birthday would be even worse though, especially as a child.

Anyways happy happy belated birthday and New Year!! :)

sandrac:

Hi Mindy! You should pop up there, even for a coffee, the next time you're in Florence (which I might be this year? after your food tour?) But I'm afraid I didn't check out the bathrooms -- next time!

Thanks Maria, wishing you a wonderful 2009 as well!

Anne, I wish you the same: health, happiness and travel in 2009!

Thank you Girasoli, I hope you have a wonderful 2009 with a lot fewer power outages, fewer migraines and plenty of good Obama news.

I hadn't thought about how other big, annual events (like Back-to-school) could mess up a kid's birthday plans. I can just imagine what a ripoff it must have been to get new school clothes (or school supplies!) in the guise of gifts. Parents can sometimes be way too practical!

Barb Cabot:

Dear Sandra, After you left a comment on my blog I stopped by yours! I was so surprised to see the photo of the view from the terrace of the Rinascente cafe. My daughter took me there in Feb for a hot chocolate. The view that day was just as you photographed...you do feel as though you could reach out and touch the Duomo. I will post a photo of this as well one of these days on my blog. It's a great spot and as for the bathroom, it's a nice one and I've popped in many times before as it's so central. The word is out though and there's often a line. I love your blog and have been a fan throughout 2008. Happy travels in the new year.

sandrac:

Hello Barb, thanks so much for your kinds words! And for the tip about the Rinascente washroom, good to know for my next trip to Florence!

Your blog looks great, and I'll be watching for your post on the rooftop cafe. Hot chocolate on a rooftop in central Florence.....what could be better?

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