My husband and I recently (as of Monday) returned from Italy, where we spent a week in Florence. I have a few humble observations:
1. I've had a hard time summarizing any observations because we felt so much "at home" in Florence. We didn't feel like it was an exotic city. It was more of a "visiting family" feeling. We met a number of Americans living there that just couldn't bring themselves to go home at the end of their studies.
2. Just like Rome, pickpockets and gypsies really weren't a problem. We did, however, notice that some of the gypsy men had formed a group of musicians known as the "Gypsies of Romania." They played nightly at Piazza de Repubblica (I think that's the correct name) and even sold copies of their CD. They were very good, as were the other street performers.
3. Some of the best food we had in Italy was in Florence. I'm not at home so I don't have the exact names with me, but the Scuderi bakery was fantastic. Dreamy croissants. And I can only make out part of the name for our favorite restaurant "Giannino San C----." Every night it was full of locals. We also liked Cellini's. It was also full of locals. My husband has been talking about the steak with pepper ever since we left Florence. Sorry I don't have the locations for any of these.
4. Believe it or not, we chose not to go into the Uffizi. Mostly it was because we had already had enough of art museums. Instead we went to the Museum of History and Science next door and had a blast. Galileo's middle finger is in a reliquery there. So you could say he's flipping the bird to all eternity. :-) Their permanent collection is amazing, if you have an interest in science or the history of science. There was no need for reservations; we saw few visitors other than school groups. I understand they don't get nearly as many visitors as the other, more famous museums.
5. We visited the Accademy to see David, among others. I actually enjoyed the Prisoners and medieval art collection more than David...but that's just my taste. There was no line outside as we arrived right at opening, and we didn't make reservations. Maybe it had to do with it being early April....
6. The climb to the Duomo was actually fun. 460 steps between the two domes (inner and outter). It's amazing how many women make the climb in heels. And the view was incredible. The next day we watched the Papal Funeral from a giant television in the cathedral, with several thousand of our closet friends. It was quite touching.
7. Ponte Vecchio was interesting for a number of reasons. First is its amusing history. Then the gold shops have some incredible artistry. We didn't budget for jewelry so all we could do was admire it. And it looks like the tradition of leaving a lock on the bridge and throwing away the key has taken on a life of its own. I was told the locks were cut off last year. But judging from the current level, it looks like they'll run out of room again before the end of summer. I'm wondering how many keys are at the bottom of the Arno?
8. On our next visit to Florence we'll make it a point to budget for perfumes and exlisors (sp?) from Santa Maria Novella. The perfumery is amazing and the smell of the shop is fantastic. The cathedral is equally amazing.
9. Across the Piazza from SMN we found the most amazing Lebonese food. The place was called Mr Kebob. I ordered a lamb and rice dish that was out of this world.
Thanks to all of the TA'ers that helped us plan this trip. We had a great time and will definitely be back to Florence as soon as we can.