This was my day to really get to know Florence better and what better way to do that than with a local guide. I had the pleasure to meet a lovely couple from Florence four years ago at Melbourne airport as I waited to leave for my first trip to Europe. We talked at length that night and I met up with them a couple of weeks later in Florence. Four years later the delightful Alesandra was meeting me later in the morning to show me her Florence. I couldn’t wait.
But first, awake early, I decided to hit the hot spots for photos without masses of tourists. I started with the early morning light on the Arno and the sunrise glow on the other side of the Ponte Vecchio. Then it was past the Palazzo Vecchio to the Duomo where I took dozens of photos of a building that it is pretty impossible to fit in one photo! Did I mention yet how utterly in awe of this building I am?!
Then it was a stroll through Piazza Santa Trinita back to my apartment. All before 8am on a Sunday, hence the quiet streets.
Once I caught up with my friend Alesandra she showed me some of her favorite places, a school she studied at, her favorite church and then we moved onto food. Her family background is Sicilian so she found me some of her Sicilian favorites in Florence. Arancini, cannoli, and granita were all delicious.
From there we went to the central market, the Mercato Centrale, which is in an unassuming building that I would have walked past without a second glance on my own. Inside it was bustling and full of food vendors. The smells were sensational. We had delicious rolls with braised pork I think!
Stuffed full of delicious food it was time for some serious sightseeing. First to Piazza Santa Maria Novella and its most beautiful Basilica. It has a quite unassuming facade by Italian standards but inside it utterly stunning with a lovely courtyard and cloister.
After spending quite some time at SMN, we then headed to another beautiful piazza. Piazza Santa Croce is another stunning piazza with it’s own basilica. We didn’t enter this one but instead spent time admiring the piazza and Alesandra explained about the event that was being set up for. Again, like the Palio in Siena, there is a competition in Florence that pits neighborhoods against each other. The event is a ball sport called the Calcio Storico Fiorentino. Worth a google to get a better explanation of it than I could give. I recalled having seen a forgettable movie about the event on my flight home from Greece last year. Lost in Florence, only worth a look for the Florence scenery.
Ignoring the fact that I was about to go to a gelato cooking class our last visit was for gelato. We found a little shop near the piazza and it was delicious. I had mandarin, and pink grapefruit, my absolute favorite gelato flavour.
I was so grateful that Alesandra had given up her day for me. She showed me a side of Florence I would never have found myself and while I love traveling alone, it is fun to share experiences too.
My evening was spent at a cooking class that I will make a separate post.
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