The home of the Renaissance

Florence, Italy We traveled by train from Rome to Florence yesterday and had wonderful rendezvous with our London friends, June and Alan.

Of all the places that one could share with like-minded people, Florence surely ticks most boxes. Amazing history, incredible art, wonderful food, plus lots and lots of cafés serving frothy cappucinos — if that happens to appeal to you.

We started our touring today at the Uffizi Gallery, that amazing repository of the Medici collection, which surely has no equal in the world of Renaissance art. We could only touch the highlights today, but what highlights. The iconography of Christendom is brilliantly displayed through the Annunciations, Nativities, Virgins and Child, Crucifixions, Resurrections, and assorted other key Biblical moments that are now a mainstay of Western culture.

But religion wasn’t the only subject of the era. There were treatments of classical themes, and portraiture of the rich and famous. Always a wise thing to flatter your patrons.

There is only so much one can absorb of such incredible visual stimulation. The overload factor was compounded by the enthusiastic crowds. The art and the throngs did not meld well together. A mid-visit cappucino on the terrace overlooking the Palazzo Vecchio was called for.

After lunch, we were booked into the Accademia, to visit the real David, not the less-stunning recreation in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. The crowds were astonishing, and the need for selfies in front of David was depressing to watch and irritating to navigate around. But the reality of this triumph of Michelangelo’s is breath-taking and rises above the fray. Other treasures abounded, such as his unfinished statues of slaves emerging from the stone, but nothing beat the main event.

Don’s Food Corner

Just because we haven’t reported on adventures for a couple of days doesn’t mean we stopped eating. So, here it is goes: Dinner on Saturday evening found us in a homestyle restaurant, complete with mismatched china and cutlery and cluttered décor. The food had a decidedly home-cooked approached, but with the kind of fresh ingredients that you would expect with the best of Italian cooking.

We started with a pasta dish with home-made ribbon pasta with a fresh porcini mushroom sauce. The pasta was wonderfully thin and delicate. The sauce was heavenly rich. I went on to a plate of grilled pork medallions with a light honey sauce. There was some concern that the pork would be too pink for my liking, so they decided to grill it longer than usual. I think they overdid it and cooked it a little too long, but it was juicy nonetheless and the honey provided just a hint of sweetness.

Jo had roasted chicken, very tender and succulent. Mounds of potatoes in a quenelle shape was served – surprisingly – cold. But another side — grilled radicchio — was served hot. For dessert, we tried a chocolate tart that was actually solid chocolate. It looked small on the plate, but it would have been impossible to eat more of this very rich confection.

For breakfast today. we went to the elegant Rivoire cafe on the square facing the Palazzo Vecchio. It was a splurge, smoothly served by a waiter in a white jacket and presented on fine china. Jo had a cheese omelet and I had scrabbled eggs of the yellowest color I’d ever seen. Fresh orange juice followed and a bowl of magnificent fresh fruit, featuring fresh figs and a stem of red currants. It was a beautiful morning and the setting couldn’t have been finer.

For our main meal today, we went to what we could consider a “traditional” restaurant. Incredibly for a city flooded with tourists, this restaurant was filled mostly with Italians. While the restaurant was mostly meat-focused, with huge slabs of meat in evidence at most of the tables, we went a little lighter. (We’ll try the famed Tuscan steak later in the week.) Jo had a salami pizza. The restaurant had a wood-burning oven for pizza. I had potato-filled ravioli with a very rich beef ragu. There were three huge ravioli and lots of meat-heavy sauce on top. Not the delicate pasta dish we had the night before.

We had a bottle of Chianti Classico Riserva DOC for a mere 11 euros. During visits to a few wine stores, I found that the region’s prized Brunello wine sells for about 30 euros a bottle. (We’re getting euros at 97 cents to the dollar, which is the best dollar/euro exchange in over 20 years.)

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