“Eat”-alia, part 1

Boy oh boy, do I have things to share with you today, readers!  We just returned from an 8-day holiday in Italy, and it was absolutely wonderful in every way possible…  You may have guessed by the title and your knowledge of Italian food, we ate pretty well on this trip!! 🙂  Today, I shall give you a little detail of the beginning of the journey.

 

But first, a quick couple of photos of King’s Day, which was a few weeks ago.  We celebrated Friday night in Den Haag, where the “King’s Night” celebration kick starts a fun weekend.  We went out to dinner with our friend, Ben, who came up from Paris again this year and also our friend, Jan, and his crew.  After dinner, we made our way around town through the various concerts and carnivals going on.  A great time was had by all!

Having a great time on the Denneweg!

Having a great time on the Denneweg!

There were a few other people out to celebrate!

There were a few other people out to celebrate!

 

The next morning, we made our way to Amsterdam where the King’s Day festivities are the biggest!  We didn’t get quite as early of start this year, and that meant a LOT of people on the train with us.  It took us almost 3 hours to get from Den Haag to the canal rings of Amsterdam… (that’s a long time.)  We did stop along the way for a quick photo op in front of the Rijksmuseum…

I really liked the tulips in the water!

I really liked the tulips in the water!

Then finally, we found our expat friends and took our place along the canal to watch the never-ending parade of boats and party-goers… (This is people watching at it’s best!)  We have a lot to cover in this post, so I will just give you a few photos to give you an idea…

It gets a little congested from time to time...

It gets a little congested from time to time…

Some had unique qualities...this one opted for a orange smoke...

Some had unique qualities…this one opted for an orange smoke…

Our front row seats!

Our front row seats!

 

 

Okay, now back to the matter at hand…ITALIA!!  We flew out on Friday afternoon, destination: Florence.  However, about 30 minutes before landing, we were informed that we had been diverted to Bologna, due to the bad weather in Florence.  So that was a fun 2 hour detour by bus on what was neither a smooth, flat nor straight road!  It was, however, a very scenic drive…

IMG_2812

Wait, that’s not right…

Yay, bus ride...

Yay, bus ride…

 

Eventually, we arrived in Florence.  Our hotel is worth description here.  We stubbled upon the Palazzo Guicciardini on a hotel search website and it looked amazing!  We knew it had to have opened recently, given the lack of reviews and fact that it was in our price range…so it was risky!  It turned out to be fabulous.  The walls and ceilings of this place are covered in the original 14th century artwork, but the furniture and amenities are all brand new.  The staff was extremely friendly and helpful also.  They recommended places to see and eat, even making reservations for us!  It doesn’t get more Italian than this!!  I took a couple photos of our room for you…

Not a great shot, but gives you an idea of the walls.

Not a great shot, but gives you an idea of the walls.

This is the ceiling above our bed!  Literally, angels watching over us.

This is the ceiling above our bed! Literally, angels watching over us.

 

When we arrived, the weather was not ideal.  The guy at the hotel recommended a nearby square to grab a bite to eat, so we took the opportunity to not wander about in the rain!  We settled in under an awning and had some appetizers and panini’s…a good start to a trip full of tasty food!

This was the place of choice!

This was the place of choice!  Gusta Panino.

Then, we had read about the BEST gelato shop in town being very close to our hotel, La Carraia.  We naturally decided to investigate.  It was indeed AMAZING!

My excitement level was high.

My excitement level was high.

Almond and Dark Chocolate...a brilliant combination.

Almond and Dark Chocolate…a brilliant combination.

 

Saturday was basically our only day to see Florence, so we hit the ground running (despite the again nasty weather).  We checked out the Ponte Vecchio first.  The Ponte Vecchio is an old Medieval bridge across the river, which is still lined with shops.  It’s a pretty rustic looking bridge, but I really loved the look.  At that point in the day, the shops were closed, so traffic was light.  We revisited later in the day to cross the bridge, and it was packed!

Our first view.

Our first view.

Buildings along the river.

Buildings along the river.

From the other side.

From the other side.  Apparently a popular rowing spot.

From there, we did a quick look at the line at the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most famous art museums in the world, containing works by some of the most known Italian artists (Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael – just think Ninja Turtles…)  Unfortunately, the line was too long to wait, since we had only one day to get around.  Apparently it was Labor Day weekend in Italy, so there were a lot of people out and about!

We then headed to “Il Duomo di Firenze” – one of the largest churches in Italy that has a beautiful marble facade and a gigantic dome!  We had hoped to climb to the top of the dome, but again, the line was crazy…and that was for people who already had tickets…and it was pouring rain…  I guess another reason to make a return trip!!  But here are a few photos from the outside…

The basilica.

The basilica.

The dome.

The dome.

The start of the line.

The start of the line.  The end was about 3 blocks back…

 

Next up, we visited the San Lorenzo and Central Market.  The San Lorenzo market is pretty much the same as all the markets around here…people selling their products of not particularly great quality and many of the same things over and over.  Always worth a stroll though.  But then we went inside the Central Market (a good indoor activity – break from the rain), which is a food market: fish, produce, meats, cheeses, spices…everything!  This seems like it would be a fun place to do your shopping, if you lived in Florence!  We went to the second level of the market, where there were cafes, and enjoyed a cappuccino.

San Lorenzo market.

San Lorenzo market.

A nice vegetable display in the Central Market.

A nice vegetable display in the Central Market.

Mmmm...Italian coffee.

Mmmm…Italian coffee. BC was proud of this photo, which includes the location of the market on the map…fancy!

 

From there, we aimlessly wandered around, snapping a few photos here and there before lunch.  Then we headed to Restaurante Accademia for lunch, based on a food bloggers recommendation.  It turned out to be a nice place.  I had gnocchi with a cheese sauce that can only be described as heavenly…and BC enjoyed a calzone.

Random photo - Duomo spotting!

Random photo – Duomo spotting!

Random photo - An umbrella amongst the umbrellas.

Random photo – An umbrella amongst umbrellas.

Brick oven calzone.

Brick oven calzone.

Gnnochi-n-Cheese!

Gnnochi-n-Cheese!

After lunch, we did the only activity we had actually planned for and reserved in advance of our Florence visit…the Accademia.  We came here (like most people) for one reason only, to see the David.  You have probably heard of or seen photos of this marble statue depiction of the biblical character David by Michelangelo…it’s quite famous.  It turns out you couldn’t take any photos in the museum, but both BC and I realized that after we had snapped a few…so you’re really lucky, people!   Hopefully I won’t get in trouble for posting this! 🙂  We were impressed with the level of detail in this sculpture – pretty cool – of course, we should probably expect that from a “masterpiece,” right?

 

There he is.  Enjoy.

There he is. Enjoy.

 

Next up on our list was the Piazzale Michelangelo – an open square overlooking the entire city.  We saw it described as the patio of Florence…  It was an uphill journey, but the climb is almost always worth the view!  I was not disappointed.

Ugh, stairs...

Ugh, stairs…

Pretty incredible.

Pretty incredible.

An old city wall.

An old city wall.

A nice view of Il Duomo.

A nice view of Il Duomo and the red roofs of Florence.

A quick shot of us now that the sun was out and we were dried off!

A quick shot of us now that the sun was out and we were dried off!

 

That night our hotel had made a reservation for us at a local, traditionally Tuscan restaurant for dinner.  This was not a place packed with tourists, which is usually a good sign!  We started with some house chianti and a mixed plate of antipasti (appetizers): meats, cheeses, olives, bruschetta, some fried vegetable thing, and chicken liver!  I was nervous about the chicken liver, but the guy said we had to try it.  It really wasn’t bad – kind of tuna-ish tasting to me.  Then the highlight of the night was the main course…a 1 kilo T-bone steak to split between us.  That’s a conversion of 2.25 lbs…but I’m telling myself the bone was at least 1.5 lbs. 🙂  This is what everyone was ordering – must have been the right choice!  Don’t worry – we have a photo.

This is for all my Iowa steak lovers.  (Sorry EOG)

This is for all my Iowa steak lovers.

 

One would assume that we were too stuffed that night to get another round of gelato…but you know what happens when you make assumptions!  We did re-visit the most amazing gelato shop ever…and it was packed!  I opted for a lighter lemon & berry sorbet option this time around…and this is where the lemon sorbet obsession began.   We then called it a night because we were in a major food comma state.

 

Sunday morning, we had just a couple hours of exploration time due to our train departure that afternoon.  We decided to use this time strolling by the Palazzo Pitti, a short walk from our hotel.  This palace and attached gardens looks like a pretty cool place to visit, but we had to just do our looking from the outside given our time crunch.  Near the palace, there was a strip of artists selling their handmade work (acrylics, photography, watercolors, ect.) to visitors.  We checked them all out and really fell for one lady’s watercolor & ink work in particular.  We decided to buy a piece!  (We realized this may have been a foolish decision given that we now had to carry the art with us for the remainder of our trip through various places, on trains, ect.)

Outside Palazzo Pitti.

Outside Palazzo Pitti.

Buying some artwork.

Buying some artwork.

 

Then the time had come to say goodbye to our short time in Florence.  I wish would have had another day to get to some additional attractions, but I think we saw a lot of the city given our brief visit.  It was time for a 2.5 hour train ride to destination #2: Cinque Terre!

 

I think I will break here because I have so much to tell you about Cinque Terre, and I know you are all busy people!  Please come back to see part 2 of the Italian adventure …coming soon…

 

A quick shout out to all the mothers (of humans or furry animal babies) out there who are constantly fulfilling one of the hardest and most stressful jobs!  The world is a better place because of you.  Great work!

 

Until next time,
-MK-

 

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