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Report 679: A Student in Florence

By colleenk from MA, Spring 2004

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Page 12 of 16: Fantastic Final Friday in Firenze

photo by Colleen K.

Florence, Giotto's Bell Tower

Friday, May 7, 2004

I could have slept in as I was not attending class today but the thought of the early morning quiet around the Duomo propelled me out of bed at my usual 7am. It was cloudy and the skies didnít look too promising. I had climbed the Duomoís Dome on a previous visit to Florence so I thought this time I would climb Giottoís tower to get a different perspective of the Duomo. Besides it has 50 fewer steps!

The majesty of the Duomo in the early morning before the crowds arrive cannot adequately be described in mere words. It is a feast for the senses and spirit. Climbing the stairs in near solitude is also a joyful experience. On each landing I would ooh and ahh over the sights and the details of the magnificent faÁade of the Duomo. The sun cooperated for my shots of the glorious view of Florence below and the clouds lent a scenic backdrop.

On to the market stalls to exchange a scarf with a small defect (which they did after some persuading), it began to rain rather hard so I took the opportunity to duck into the Biblioteca Medicea Laurrenziana which is only open until 1:30pm Tuesday - Saturday. It is located in Piazza S. Lorenzo. There was an exhibition of Lucius Seneca that was quite beautiful and impressive. The whole library felt holy, almost church-like, bathed in very soft lighting on its displays of ancient and beautiful manuscripts. Definitely worth a stop. The rain had abated by the time I emerged from the library, which made it pleasant for my final shopping of the San Lorenzo stalls. I checked out gloves but none met the quality of the previously mentioned Madova store. I picked up a few more scarves for gifts and bought the black leather bag I had been eyeing all week.

I am very proud of this purchase because I bargained with the seller and brought the final price down 24E from the asking price. Bargaining is not my forte but I had read that it is fairly common in the stalls and I really wanted this black, very soft bag made by the Tosca Company. So I told her how much I liked the bag but that it was really more than I wanted to spend. I asked if she would give a discount for cash and she reduced the price by 10 E. A little more hemming and hawing and she came down another 9E. I said OK but was still sighing about the cost when she said she would discount it another 5 euros so I wouldnít have to come back. She was probably glad to get rid of me by then! I do love my bag though.

After stopping to drop off my purchases at my B&B, I headed out to the San Frediano District to Baccini on Via Pisana to check out a clothing store that Maureen from Slow Travel had said had nice clothes at outlet prices. Though it was a trek, I figured that even if I didnít find anything, I would have a better idea of prices when I went to the Prada Outlet the next day. The owner spoke very little English, so my Italian got a work out as we looked for a skirt (gonna) that might fit me. All were too big so I thanked him for his time and headed back towards the Ponte Vecchio. I checked out Trattoria Sabatino recommended by Maureen and Diva of Slow Travel and Rick Steves. Looked great with very reasonable prices but it was just a tad too early for lunch and I didnít want to be the sole dinner there.

Back to the Pitti Palace area to check out the street artistsí watercolors. Unfortunately the rainy weather had really hampered the showing of their wares so I was glad that I had bought a watercolor from what turned out to be my favorite artist, Hiko Nagahama, when I had visited the Bobboli gardens on a sunny day the week before. He is a very talented Japanese man who I felt had the most exquisite watercolors of all those I had checked out in the Duomo area, the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace. His prices were more than fair. I am looking forward to framing this beautiful and vibrant Duomo and cypress scene. I never found him again and ended up buying a smaller watercolor of the Ponte Vecchio from an artist near the Uffizi.

Now it was lunchtime and I tried Cammillo Trattoria, Borgo S. Jacopo 57r about which I had read some good reviews. It was a lovely white linen restaurant that was not too busy until a large crowd of British academics (at least thatís what they sounded like) descended. There were quite a few local ladies lunching also. I hadnít yet had one of my favorites (fried zucchini flowers), so I had them as an appetizer and they were yummy. I asked for the waiterís recommendation on a pasta dish and he suggested pasta with fresh peas in season with a light garlic and oil sauce. It was delicious! The restaurant was not a bargain but it was a really nice pranzo with house wine and an espresso to finish. Funny how I got into the espresso thing this trip. I am a cappuccino or caffe latte person at home and on previous trips to Italy. But add a little sugar to an espresso and I now get it! Great caffeine boost after wine with lunch.

On to the Baptistery because it was on the way home and I remembered loving the mosaics there (remembered correctly - they are impressive) before meeting up with Camilla to revisit Piazza Michelangelo and the nearby Iris festival and Chiesa San Miniato al Monte with itís chanting monks. We walked to Piazza Michelangelo and lucked out with only spritzes of rain. It was a lovely 20-minute walk and the views are always worth the climb. The Iris festival was pretty but not overwhelming with only a few patches of the planted areas fully in bloom. This may have been because of a very cold and rainy spring. Loved taking in San Miniato in a more leisurely pace, once again marveling at the exterior, exquisitely painted wooden beams, frescoes and the melodious monks. God must have been watching out for us as it had stopped raining as we emerged but vast puddles informed us that we missed a major rainstorm while inside this beautiful church.

Met my cousinís daughter for a farewell dinner in Piazza San Spirito at one of her favorite restaurants, Borgo Antico, Piazza S. Spirito, 6r. Had a great dinner for 54E, which included a bottle of Campo di Sasso that I had enjoyed so much in Fiesole, a wonderful caprese insalata and 2 wonderful pasta dishes. This was a happening restaurant with a youngish crowd but there was a fair amount of annoying smoke. My cousin had returned from a long weekend in Sicily, which she raved about and included a climb up Mt Etna! She has had many wonderful experiences during her semester in Florence and was not looking forward to returning home. Who can blame her? Italy is now in her blood too!

A busy but wonderful last full day in Florence. Definitely a day worth skipping class for.

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