Reading back over some of my earlier entries here, I see that I more than once promised to post extra details later—then never did. So now I’m going back over some of the notes I took during our ice cream tour of Europe this summer—well, as much of a tour as we could fit into two weeks—so I can fill in some of those details and keep my promises.
Given how much we’ve raved about the ice cream in Florence, I’ll start there. When we arrived on the train from Rome, we walked to our hotel only to find that they were overbooked. The manager apologized profusely and compensated by giving us a room around the corner—a beautiful one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen (which went to waste, as the food there is so good) and living room. For the same price we’d have paid for a hotel room! Lovely. We dropped off our backpacks and went out to explore, stopping along the way at Deanna, a café by the train station, for sandwiches and gelato (of course). Both were inexpensive and better than we expected, given the location. We split a small cup of coffee and tiramisu gelato. The coffee flavor was excellent. The tiramisu (never my favorite anyway, but I was overruled) was a bit chewy but not bad.
We were too late for the Duomo, which was already closed, but we wandered along the Piazza della Republica with its interesting mix of Roman columns and a merry-go-round, and the Piazza della Signoria with its replica of Michaelangelo’s David and more than a dozen original famous sculptures. Beware, though—at the Caffe Fiorenza nearby we found the only substandard (and overpriced) gelato in Florence.
We wandered over to the Uffizi Gallery to check the line, but without much hope, as Rick Steves describes as containing the “greatest collection of Italian Renaissance paintings in captivity” and also highly recommends reservations. Here we discovered a phenomenal stroke of luck: not only was there no line because the museum was closing in an hour, but admission was FREE because we had fortuitously arrived in Italy for Culture Week! We made wonderful use of our hour, absorbing more breathtaking art in one place than should be allowed: paintings by Raphael, Rubens, Michaelangelo, Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, Boticelli—famous paintings we’d seen in photos our whole lives, up close and personal. I won’t even try to describe this experience.
We were nearly the last to leave the Uffizi. From there, we went across the Ponte Vecchio to the Golden View Open Bar restaurant, which Bethany and I had loved on our first visit two years earlier. We were early enough to score a table with a view of the Arno, and the waiter was so taken with my girls that we received superb service. When he discovered both girls were mine, he thanked me! The food was equally superb—focaccia and cheeses, chicken with truffle sauce, salad with tuna and avocado, and Chianti, of course. This was Tuscany! Here’s the view from our table.
Grappa and limoncello afterward. We spent nearly three hours there, then waddled back across the Ponte Vecchio to the Caffe Delle Carrozze at the foot of the bridge for our final gelato of the day. The chocolate mousse, in particular, was divine.
Back to our lovely room, walking arm in arm in lockstep, just to confuse people, talking and laughing all the way. A perfect afternoon and evening, with the prospect of another full day in Florence tomorrow.