florence: a day of sweeping views & perpetual grazing

After leaving to Galleria dell’Accademia, we headed for Florence’s giant iron-and-glass covered central market. On our way, we stopped at an Italian men’s shoe store; Mike bought a pair of nice leather shoes, which he had to lug around the rest of the day.

We went directly to the upstairs portion of Mercato Centrale to its sprawling food court with trendy little stands and restaurants. The market had an aura of Florentine elegance, with its bountiful Tuscan cuisine. I took some photos of the cute toilets and the butchery shop for my son, who was at that time working for a butchery.

We got a small snack to begin our grazing for the day at Selezione Formaggi di Qualità Dal: prosciutto, bread, cheese and olives.


prosciutto, bread, cheese and olives at Mercato Centrale

Outside, the San Lorenzo market lined the streets, with mostly leather goods, scarves and trinkets.  I accidentally stepped on a painting some guys had laid on the ground. Oops!

We stopped by the Basilica di San Lorenzo and went into its pretty cloister, but we didn’t go inside the church. Filippo Brunelleschi designed the basilica in 1425 for Cosimo the Elder, but he never lived to see it finished. This was the burial site of the ruling Medici family, who made their money in textiles and banking.


San Lorenzo Basilica


cloister at San Lorenzo Basilica


cloister at San Lorenzo Basilica


cloister at San Lorenzo Basilica


streets of Florence

We then strolled over to Basilica di Santa Maria Novella which was by the train station and not much to look at.  The lower half of this Dominican church was completed mostly in the 14th century and its pointed arch niches and marble patterns reflect Gothic design.  About 100 years later, yet another architectural style was added.


Santa Maria Novella

We were tempted by a gelato shop but managed to control our appetites. We paused again briefly at the Duomo.




the Duomo


the Duomo

At another little sidewalk cafe, we had a tomato and mozzarella sandwich, a bowl of Tuscan soup (tomato with lots of bread) and a Limone Schweppes. It was fun to eat and watch people walking by.  We saw two couples divided by gender: the men frowned over a large unfolded map trying to decipher it; I imagined speech bubbles floating over their heads – “Thought is life” – while their wives stood obliviously chatting, relying on their husbands to figure it all out.

Chinese tour groups sallied past, led by guides waving yellow flags.  A young man walked by dressed as if from 1920: linen shirt, vest, fancy shortish pants, bow tie, straw hat.  It seemed as if he came from another century or like someone from right out of The Music Man; maybe he was a poet or writer. Another man walked past decked out in plaid blue pants, a blue shirt, a flowered blue scarf and a blue puffy jacket.

After lunch, we poked our heads in briefly to Bartolucci Florence, a shop dedicated to to wooden toys, and in particular, Pinocchio.


tomato and mozzarella sandwich

Down the road from the cafe, I saw the Pandolfino sign, so I dragged Mike down to look at a shop I’d seen earlier that had been closed. It was still closed and a sign said it opened after 3:30.

The Basilica di Santa Croce beckoned at the end of a big square.  The 14th century Franciscan church holds the tombs of great Florentines: Michelangelo Buonarroti, Galileo Galilei, Niccolò Machiavelli, and composer Gioacchino Rossini.  It has a busy 19th century Victorian neo-Gothic facade and faces a huge square ringed with tempting shops.  We didn’t go inside, sadly missing the frescoes by Giotto in the chapels right of the altar.


Santa Croce Church


Santa Croce Church


postcards in Florence

We found the little scarf shop I’d seen on the first day, Massimo Ravinale, with silk Italian scarves, and I bought two – one for $75 and one for $36.  Both were exquisite.  The prim and dapper salesman insisted on wrapping them in cellophane and wanted to put them properly in a fancy box, but when I refused, he insisted on a lovely bag. He was obviously frustrated, but I had to carry them all day and I didn’t want the additional burden of a box.  He probably shook his head after I left: “Americana…”

We rambled our way to the Arno River and debated whether to cross and climb to the Piazzale Michelangelo, with its bronze statue of David. We decided finally to go for it; we crossed the Ponte Alle Grazie, the bridge east of Ponte Vecchio, and climbed ever upward for views over Florence from the famous Piazzale.

From the lookout, we had marvelous views of Florence and its surrounding hills.


view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo


view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo


view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo


view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo


view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo


view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo


view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

After enjoying the views, I walked uphill while Mike sat on a bench.  I took a couple of photos of San Miniato al Monte, another beautiful church whose green-and-white marble facade is crowned with a 12th century mosaic topped by a gilt bronze eagle.  The church is a fine example of Romanesque architecture and, dating from the 11th century, is one of the oldest churches in Florence.


San Miniato

We sauntered downhill, stopping at a rose garden, Giardino delle Rose, and an iris garden, Giardino dell’Iris.  We enjoyed the collection of more than 350 kinds of roses and 2,500 varieties of irises along with a magnificent panoramic view.  Within the garden was also a refined Japanese garden.

I wanted to go back to the shop near Pandolfino, but we were all turned around and getting irritable with each other. Finally we sat down near the Bargello Museum and found the street on the map.  We went to the shop and it was still closed, despite the posted hours that said it should be open.  Maybe it was closed because of the Labor Day holiday.  It was so frustrating.

Exhausted, we started our long walk back to the apartment.  We passed a crazy looking man wearing a furry coat below his knees, grimy fur cuffs around his ankles, and a bunch of stuff jangling around his waist. A girl with dreadlocks wearing dappled leggings that matched her dog climbed on a bus, carrying the dog.

We walked past the Jewish Sinagogue with a Moorish design, which housed the Jewish Museum of Florence, but we didn’t go in.


Sinagogue & Jewish Museum of Florence

We continued the long slog back to the apartment, stopping for a beer and two little sandwiches (one spinach mozzarella and one with smoked salmon and greens), and a bathroom break.

We sat on our terrace and had wine and crackers with cheese and prosciutto and enjoyed the warmth and sunlight.  Mike make an excellent dinner of Tagliatelle and green beans and pesto.  We had a side dish of cooked prepared spinach.


Mike on our “Terrace with a View”

Mike went out to get us gelato at Badiani, opened in 1932 by Idilio Badiani as a dairy and gelateria. The Pomposi family took over in 1993, renovating and expanding the space into a Florentine artisanal gelateria.  Mike got himself a cup of strawberry and chocolate mousse and me a hazelnut stracciatella, a gelato variety with chocolate flakes. A perfect treat for our last night in Florence.

*23,671 steps, or 10.03 miles*

*Wednesday, May 1, 2019*