Day 4: Firenze – A Taste of Tuscany

Morning train through the Tuscan countryside. Fields of sunflowers are left to fallow, their seeds hardening. Dotting the dry, rolling hills are churches and towers, perched on top of a hill, surrounded by lesser, common dwellings.

We take a tassì to Sognando Firenze B&B; Nicoletta greets us. The room is wonderful with soft yellow daytime light.

Technology Sidebar: Compact fluorescent light bulbs are nearly universal in Italy. Where you could imagine a romantic restaurant or hotel room lit for decades by the soft incandescent light of 40 watt bulbs is instead illuminated by hot white CFL’s. I imagine Europe will regain a bit of its legendary old world charm when they move on to full-spectrum LED’s.

We walk along the river, staying in the Oltrarno (“across the Arno”), a stone’s throw from the Old City. Lunch at Ricchi in Piazza di Santo Spirito is unspectacular, and when we go inside to pay, a hundred or more dirty plates and glasses are piled on the bar. For the first time in Italy, I feel taken; disrespect for the turistas. It takes a long walk down quiet, ancient, narrow side streets before I shake the experience and begin to enjoy Firenze.

It’s 4pm. We don’t have reservations for the Uffizi Museum, but walk there anyway. The line is over an hour long.

I walk past hundreds and duck into an office. “You can go in now with a reservation,” she says. “Cuanto?” “€15 for each.” “Due, grazie!” We spend €4 more per ticket than the turistas waiting endlessly.

The Uffizi is wonderful: Michelangelo, Rubens, Caravaggio and especially Botticelli. It has been in existence over six centuries, acquiring collections and receiving donated artworks, outlasting mortal threats including the flood of 1966 and the car bomb of 1993.

The walk back to our B&B is long; we walk through a couple streets we should have avoided in hindsight, but it was better to continue through than turn back.

A brief siesta, then a late dinner. Hosteria d’ Bricca had good online reviews, we try it. It is sublime. An insalata with spelt, rocket (arugula), tuna, olives and tiny marinated pearl onions. Then chicken cacciatore like it supposed to be – succulent chicken baked with black olives and a spicy, cayenne-infused olive oil with only a hint of tomato. It is decidedly the opposite of the American version with it’s canned tomatoes and dry, boneless super-chicken. We ask Daniele about his art; he joins our table. We vow to return.

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