-Leaning Tower of Pisa
-Best Italian dinner so far
-Sunset on Piazza Michelangiolo
Ever since we arrived in Italy, we have been searching for, how do I say this, "The Perfect Italian Dining Experience." Unfortunately, we have been a little disappointed. All our food has been good, of course, but just hasn't had that X-factor, you know? Something always tainted it somehow, like one of our dishes was awesome and one just okay, or they were tiny portions, or our waiter maybe wasn't the nicest. Since we only eat out one meal per day, we just keep waiting for that perfect place that has us raving and drooling from the first bite to well after the last. Well, my friends, I am thrilled to announce that today, we found that place.
Florence has been incredible in just about every way today, but ESPECIALLY in the food department. But we'll get there. Also, we didn't get a lot of pictures with our phones so today doesn't have too many photos. We will post them when we get home!
We caught a train this morning from Vernazza in the Cinque Terre to Pisa, with just enough time to run and see the leaning tower and then run back to the train station. Even though we were only there for a out 10-15 minutes, it is still a sight to see. I mean, I expected it to lean, but man, it really....LEANS. I seriously don't know how it hasn't fallen over yet. For all you Goofy Movie fans, I think between the two of us, Robbie and I quoted that line, "It's the leaning tower of Cheesa!" about 6 times. Pretty cool.
So we got to Florence, found our apartment (and found out we had no AC, and it was a million degrees in there) and accidentally broke our kindle. All in a matter of about 10 minutes. It was a rough start in Florence. But after a time of mourning for the kindle (Robbie was grieving), we picked ourselves up and decided to rock Florence. And that is exactly what we did! From that point, everything turned around and we ended up having an amazing day.
The first place we went was the Uffizi Gallery, home to tons of really famous Renaissance paintings. Now, for those of you that don't know (I didn't until about a year ago), Florence is where the Renaissance began and then spread through all of Europe from the 1400-1600's. So basically, this city is a breeding pool of CRAZY TALENT. Seriously, they had more than their fair share of talented artists, including our dear Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, (most of the ninja turtle clan), Botticelli, Filippo Lippi, Albrecht Durer, just so many. So we got to see works by all these men and it was crazy cool.
Let me begin by giving a disclaimer. Neither Robbie nor I are especially educated in art history. He remembered a couple things from a college history class, and I remembered the basics of what I taught about the Renaissance last year (which is really the bare-boned basics). So we almost felt a little guilty walking through, looking at these masterpieces, and definitely admiring their beauty, but also not really being able to fully articulate what makes them so unique. So at the risk of sounding like a phony, I will try to describe what made this so cool. Disclaimer done.
The gallery was set up in chronological order, beginning with late Medieval paintings (1300's). As we walked through, you could see the shift in style and new methods being used as the years went by. All of a sudden, there was depth and vibrant color, and more detail. People, instead of looking almost animated like they used to, started to take on really realistic human features. It was beautiful.
For those of you who do know things about art history, some of the big name original paintings we saw were "The Birth of Venus" and "Allegory of Spring" both by Boticelli, and "The Holy Family" by Michelangelo. It was pretty awesome. We spent about 3 hours in there, and then felt like we had art-ed enough that day (my apologies if I have disrespected any serious art-lovers).
This was when we had......drumroll......"The Perfect Italian Dining Experience." We have followed some of Rick Steves' suggestions in the past, and since we had both good and bleh experiences with them, we decided to roll the dice and just find a place on our own. We happened upon Trattoria il Bargetto, a little tiny Tuscan restaurant. First of all, they serve tap water, which immediately made me like them (I refuse to buy bottled water if I don't have to, so when places don't serve it free, I have to sneak sips from my own water bottle when they're not looking, and that's unpleasant for everyone). Second, the owner/waiter was the sweetest old man with a happy face that didn't seem to speak any English but was the loveable-est little thing. And last but not least, the food was incredible! We never order appetizers and dessert, but everything was so good here, we really splurged for the first time.
Appetizer: Bruschetta toasted to perfection with the perfect balance of crispness and chewiness covered in the most flavorful olive oil, tomatoes, and basil I have ever tasted.
Main dishes: 1) Ravioli stuffed with tons of yummy cheeses and smothered in heaven sauce, covered in more yummy cheeses. 2) Eggplant with pasta cooked just the right amount, covered in red sauce.
Dessert: Cannoli, a crispy, deep fried shell filled with sweet cheese and candied fruit.
I wish I was a food critic so I could think of a better way to describe something than "heaven sauce" but that is really the only phrase that seems appropriate from my limited food vocabulary. It was amazing! We couldn't stop talking about that ravioli all night. It was SO good that we already decided we are going back again tomorrow night :).
After dinner, we walked up to Piazza Michelangiolo, which overlooks the entire city, to watch the sunset. This was far and away one of our favorite Florence experiences. The lighting was perfect, a DJ at a restaurant nearby was playing Andrea Bocelli, and we could see everything! It was beautiful and romantic and perfect. The perfect way to end the day.