Winter in Tuscany 2012: Monday in Florence

Duomo - construction began in 1296

Duomo – construction began in 1296

Our daughter Kate came to Italy for vacation the first week of December. She flew to Rome and stayed a couple of days because she said that she couldn’t visit Italy without eating pizza at Dar Poeta (I don’t blame her, and we ate there twice!). Then we took the train to Florence for two nights and Venice for three nights.

We’d had so much rain in Italy in November that I worried that Kate would never see the sun in December, but we had two perfect days—one in Florence and one in Venice—one horrid rainy day in Florence, and two cloudy days in Venice. On Friday and Saturday in Venice, we even got SNOW. That’s right—SNOW in Venice!

We arrived in Florence around noon in glorious sunshine and checked into our hotel in Oltrarno (south of the Arno). The hotel was just west of Ponte Vecchio, and the location was perfect. Our first stop was lunch at a restaurant recommended by the hotel: Osteria del Porcellino, which was just behind the Mercato Nuovo, the open-air market with the bronze porcellino (pig). Although the mercato is named the “New” Market, it was built in 1551, which seems pretty old to me! We all enjoyed Osteria del Porcellino, where I had an amazing chickpea soup with croutons. I think I had pasta for my main course, but all I remember is that divine soup.

Tomb of Michelangelo

Tomb of Michelangelo

We then wandered through one of the main squares, Piazza della Signoria, and over to my favorite church in Florence, Basilica di Santa Croce. Apparently everybody was dying to be here, because an all-star lineup is buried inside: Michelangelo, Galileo, Ghiberti (who designed the glorious bronze doors of the Florence Baptistery), Niccolò Machiavelli, and the composer Rossini. A tomb commemorating Dante Alighieri is also located in Santa Croce, but Dante isn’t buried there—he’s buried in Ravenna. If that’s not enough, the church also includes works by Donatello, Agnolo and Taddeo Gaddi, and Andrea della Robbia and a lovely chapel designed by Brunnelleschi (who also designed the dome of the Florence Duomo). Simply glorious!

As the sun went down, the evening grew chilly, so we headed for Piazza della Republicca for a hot chocolate. We then headed home through the streets decorated for Christmas—each with different decorations—to get ready for dinner. I love walking through the streets of Florence—so much history happened there and so many famous feet walked on those streets!

Wall decor in Io Osteria Personale - the chef drew up his cooking plays!

Wall decor in Io Osteria Personale – the chef drew up his cooking plays!

It took us about 20 minutes to walk to the restaurant, Io Osteria Personale, in Oltrarno on Borgo San Frediano. We’d read a New York Times review of the restaurant, and it exceeded our expectations! We chose a tasting menu that began with beautiful fish on a skewer in a bed of broccoli cream with tiny pieces of broccoli, pancetta, mozzarella, and sundried tomatoes. Our next course was a scrumptious pairing of lentils, pumpkin, and potatoes, and our last course was a delicious poached egg in chestnut sauce. For dessert I had tiramisu with a twist—a crisp, thin chocolate wafer atop a perfectly prepared ricotta mixture. Yum! And no soggy lady fingers! I don’t know what Michael’s dessert was, but it had gelato, and you can see a photo below. It was also delicious. Kate had a lovely lavender granita on an olive oil cream with fruit jellies. My top reason to visit Tuscany is to eat good food, and we hit the jackpot at Io Osteria Personale.

One benefit of traveling in Italy in December: We saw just a few other tourists in Florence!

Ciao!

Ponte Vecchio from the Oltrarno (south side of the river)

Ponte Vecchio from the Oltrarno (south side of the river) – built in 1394

The Arno River west of the Ponte Vecchio

The Arno River west of the Ponte Vecchio

The Arno River east of the Ponte Vecchio

The Arno River east of the Ponte Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio - the town hall - construction began in 1299

Palazzo Vecchio – the town hall – construction began in 1299

Piazza Vecchio - detail

Piazza Vecchio – detail

Basilica di Santa Croce

Basilica di Santa Croce – construction began in 1294

Basilica di Santa Croce - Baroncelli Chapel - Taddeo Gaddi frescoes - "Stories of the Virgin"

Basilica di Santa Croce – Baroncelli Chapel – Taddeo Gaddi frescoes – “Stories of the Virgin”

Basilica di Santa Croce - Baroncelli Chapel - Taddeo Gaddi frescoes - "Stories of the Virgin"

Basilica di Santa Croce – Baroncelli Chapel – Taddeo Gaddi frescoes – “Stories of the Virgin”

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Basilica di Santa Croce – Castellani Chapel Crucifix

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Basilica di Santa Croce – Pazzi Chapel – designed by Brunelleschi

Basilica di Santa Croce - Pazzi Chapel - looking up into the dome

Basilica di Santa Croce – Pazzi Chapel – looking up into the dome

Basilica di Santa Croce - Dante's tomb

Basilica di Santa Croce – Dante’s tomb

Basilica di Santa Croce - Galileo's tomb

Basilica di Santa Croce – Galileo’s tomb

Department store wrapped in lights on Piazza della Repubblica

Department store wrapped in lights on Piazza della Repubblica

Decorations on the street leading to the Ponte Vecchio

Decorations on the street leading to the Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio Christmas decorations

Ponte Vecchio Christmas decorations

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Chickpea soup from Osteria del Porcellino

Chickpea soup from Osteria del Porcellino

Lentils with pumpkin

Lentils with pumpkin

Poached egg in chestnut sauce

Poached egg in chestnut sauce

Michael's dessert

Michael’s dessert

Kate's lavender granita

Kate’s lavender granita

My tiramisu

My tiramisu

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