Perfect Florence

4 04 2007

“Chi vuol esser lieto, sia; di doman non v’e certezza” – Make merry now, who knows what comes tomorrow. A long weekend in Firenze so what do you do? Luckily, Firenze is very walkable so you don’t need to hire a car. Just remember the street numbering scheme. There are two sets of numbers – normal and rosso (red). The latter is marked with “r” and printed in red on street signs. If your street is not a rosso, just follow the blue and black street numbers. Book a suite at the Torre di Bellosguardo, a Renaissance palace hotel where each room has frescoes. Request a room with a view (of course) and feel free to wander about the palace as requested by owner baron Amerigo Franchetti. Ring for a cab for Piazza della Signoria for breakfast at Bar Rivoire. Bypass the cappuccino for a superlative cioccolata calda (hot cocoa) in the sunshine. Walk across to Galleria degli Uffizi (order tickets online to bypass the 3 hour long queues) but before that duck into town hall and circle the court yard. For lunch, head to Belledonne, a trattoria frequented by office workers and enjoy the menu del giorno from seasonal produce. Radicchio. Zucchini with avocado. Head to the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. This is part monastery, part museum and part homeopathic paradise. Buy balsamic vinegar. Dab some Caterina de’ medici cologne (Acqua della Regina). Visit the Duomo and adjoining baptistery. The latter has intricate Gates of Paradise doorways on which Lorenzo Ghiberti spent his entire life. The dome is all terra cotta. Climb the corkscrew to the duomo top for the view. As the sun sets, descend from the cupola for La Pentola dell’Oro for crostini misti alla toscana. Finish with house desserts before heading to Jazz Club until 0200. Walk about Firenze before dawn when moped roars are replaced by fontana splashes.

Don’t sleep in too long as you head to breakfast at Gilli for rustici pastry nuggets with chocolate and truffles or marzipan cookies. You’re on holiday. Walk under the Triumphal arch to Via dei Tornabuoni. Palazzo Spini Feroni for Ferragamo HQ. Second floor for shoes. Turn down Via della Spada for Cellerini on Via del Sole. Leatherworks are authentic (expensive also) if the bottega (workshop) is on the premises. Lunch at Cantinetta Antinori in the Palazzo Antinori. Cross the river for antiquaries on the Via Maggio. No. 13 is Bartolozzi e Maioli. Use your Platinum card. Duck down the narrow Via dei Vellutini to check out some master craftsmen. Pick up your online booked tickets to bypass the 3 hour long queues at Galleria dell’Accademia. See David last when the crowds have thinned out but the four unfinished Slaves are the true highlight. You don’t need to book a guide – I did and boy was she not worth it. Head for the Santa Croce Basilica by recrossing the Arno on Ponte Vecchio and walk upstream to Via dei Benci and walk down the right for the rombs of Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Dante. Activate the coin operated light system for Giotto’s Life of St. Francis. Take Via di San Giuseppe to Via dei Macci for prosecco at Cibreo Caffe before dinner at Cibreo. Amazing balsamic vinegars and olive oils here. Enjoy passato di peperoni soup and polpettine di ricotta. Dessert with gelati at Vivoli and then dancing at Bar Maramao. Entry is free nightly but you have to buy a showy drink on Friday or Saturday night.

Last day! All’aperto breakfast on the terrace of the Torre to enjoy the Tuscan countryside then head through the olive groves to Firenze (ask hotel staff for directions) and then take a cab to the monastery of San Marco (Savonarola and Fra’Angelico!) . Then head for the tourist free Museo Nazionale del Bargello. Try Chianti quartinos at I Fratellini, a standup window on the Via dei Cimatori. Pecorino cheese panino! Cab it to San Miniato al Monte, the most beautiful church in the world. Walk down to city center by Via San Leonardo and hit a classical concert offered in a church. Ask the hotel staff where the locals go. Dinner at Caffe Concerto with sax live music and exotic tropical plants around you. For dessert, ask for crepes al limone. It won’t be on the menu but just ask. Trust. En route home, ask the cabbie to stop for five (5) minutes at Piazzale Michelangelo. If you haven’t been in love before, this is what it feels like. Again, trust.