Frolicking in Florence: 100th Blog Post Edition!

The lull of winter has finally passed.  Over the recent Easter weekend, we headed to Italy for a jam-packed weekend in Florence plus some time in Bologna and Siena.

We arrived in Bologna and took a train to Florence.  A pre-booked direct train ticket taking less than 40 minutes cost €25 each.  On the way back, we learned €7.50 each also buys a local journey in an hour and 20 minutes.  It's a trade-off, but we opted for the cheaper alternative on the way back.

First stop in Florence was the Duomo di Firenze, the city's main architectural symbol.  Pictures don't do justice of how elaborate, and not to mention well-kept, the cathedral really is.
Oh boy that's big
In between the Duomo and the Uffizi, we were lured by the sandwiches at I Due only €2.50 each, it was the perfect snack.  There is something alluring about very simple sandwiches - light and flaky bread, a layer of salami and a couple of soft artichokes - that's all it takes.
The Italian dilemma - which wine to choose?

We showed up at the Uffizi with pre-booked tickets for €15 each (€4 was for the booking fee).  Since the museum is surprisingly small, we were able to get through it in about an hour, making sure to catch the must-sees.  While I appreciate art of all forms, I'm not particularly captivated by the so-called Jesus genre.  Afterwards, we debriefed with something much more my style... frolicking around the Ponte Vecchio taking in the architecture and scenic views.
View from The Uffizi
The best way to explore any city is to get lost in its side streets.  This is exactly what we were doing when stumbling upon Uscio and Bottega, a cozy wine and snack shop.

Although we had no intentions of eating since it was close to dinnertime and we were planning for a traditional trattoria dinner, one look at the food and we gave in.  The bartender created a plate of different pairings of cured meats, cheeses and vegetables, all on crusty toasted bread.  He also poured a regional light and fruity red wine to balance it out.  Two glasses of wine and food set us back about €17.
Confusion and delight at the same time
A few hours later and many more streets explored, we sat down to dinner at Trattoria Trebbio.   Filled with meats and cheeses during the day, we opted for two pasta dishes (aka. Italian first courses) to share.  The first was spaghetti alle vongole (clams), the noodles were very al dente and it was loaded with clams.  But overall it lacked much flavor.

Next up was a egg pasta with lamb, this was very hearty and definitely tasted like home cooking.  The shredded lamb was really tender and the pasta soaked up all the delicious meaty flavor.

Two pastas and a jug of red wine (yes it's served by the jug) cost €33, but unfortunately €5 of that was a "cover charge" (€2.50 per person).  Did I miss some kind of entertainment that was being offered?  Oh no, it was for the place settings, napkins, and silverware...guess we should have eaten with our hands.

Day 2 of Florence followed a similar pattern.  After a morning trip to Siena, we went to the Basilica of Santa Croce.  Although it looked like an unfinished church from both the outside and inside, its significance lies underneath as this is the final resting place of renowned Italians such as Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli.

The cloisters attached to the church
After another healthy dose of Jesus, we set off to get lost again, and this time discovered another tiny wine bar All'antico Vinaio. The food looked delicious, especially the large sandwiches that I saw everyone get, but we were more focused on the wine, which are as little as €2 a glass.

We passed a restaurant called Trattoria Marione later with a long line and decided to give it a try.  We were surprised to find the line was because the restaurant hadn't opened yet, so by the time we got there we snagged one of the last tables.  This was definitely a highlight meal.  We started with a the traditional Ribollita, which is a Florentine soup that's so thick and hearty it can be only considered a stew, or just a bread and vegetable mush.  That may not sound very appetizing, and this picture may not look it either, but oh my god it was so delicious.

Next up was the lasagna... keep in mind these are only considered first courses.  This is lasagna perfection.  How did they get so many layers in there? And how is it holding together?  Instead of tomato sauce, which is both typical and overpowering, there was a creamy white sauce that was a great complement to the juicy meat filling.

To finish it off we had the veal ossobuco main course.  Perhaps the best part is that it was served with two pieces of bone with marrow still inside, perfect for scooping out and eating with bread.

By the end of the meal, I was sad to say goodbye to the food and the city.  The next morning we went to the Academia to see Michelangelo's David masterpiece (check), and then headed straight for the train station back to Bologna.  I could have easily spent another few days in Florence, but I know now there's certainly a reason to go back. 


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