You gotta love the streets of Firenze

I love it so much, after over 24 hours of being on planes and in transit to get to Europe, the first thing we did after unloading our bags at our hotel was to purchase a Trenitalia ticket from Roma to Firenze that very same day.

Here is ToT’s bro getting all excited just thinking of going back to his motherland for a very memorable summer.

Can you spot the tall Asian dude in this picture? (c.2003)

As for me… I was reading notes off my BB as to the itinerary at hand. I had plenty of experience in winging it and also getting lost, but we had 12 hours in Florence, and losing myself in the Renaissance city was not on my list of to-dos.

I’ve been pretty familiar with the Trenitalia and the Eurostar from my short stint in Firenze. It’s fairly inexpensive and a great way to see the (European) world without having to fly. Here is ToT reminiscing about Roma on the way home after  a 3 day weekend.

ToT and the pathetic, but successful, attempt to backpack to Milan to watch Destiny’s Child (c.2005)

Tired Pepperdine kids taking the train to the Aeroporto for Barcelona

Forward to 2010… and both Jerico and ToT were excited for the comeback to Florence, home to many a drunken nights, empty vino bottles, and lots and lots of pasta.

The great thing about the inter-regional trains in Italy is the ease of travel, and the consistent schedules which you can find online or on the station. You can just sit down and take a nap til you get to your stop, but I won’t recommend that so much coz I’ve missed one too many stops due to 2 minutes of extra nap time. If you get the First Class coach, you even get refreshments and snacks, just like these delicious jelly candies that I had to keep in my purse for long walks.

And upon arriving at the Santa Maria Novella Stazione in Florence, it felt like home once again.

We’re here!!! Eeeeh!

It’s easy to find your way in Florence, if you can take directions relatively easy. The main street across the station is Via Nazionale, and if you keep walking down that road after 5 minutes, you’ll end up in the famed San Lorenzo Market on Via Dell’Ariento, home to many flea market finds and souvenir shirts for your loved ones. On the first left (Via Panicale), take that left and you will see a big building on your right hand side. That’s the Mercato Centrale(central market). Great for produce and other stuff also.

Near the Mercato Centrale is Trattoria Za Za’s on the corner of Via Sant’Antonino. The al fresco has a lot of colorful hand painted tables so you wont miss it.

YUM! Order the Antipasti sampler (what we got), Porcini Risotto, and  of course, the infamous  (above) Bistecca Fiorentina. Oh, and all their pastas are AMAZING!

Once we got all full and tipsy from our noontime vino, Bro and I took a stroll down memory lane to hunt down our second must-visit place. But during the entire walk  we would stop at these buildings with BEAUTIFUL doors. This one was massive!

We end up in Piazza Liberta, very close to Pepperdine’s Florence campus where both of us had a short stint there. This place is great for studying… or so my classmates told me.

Our next stop was Caffe Liberta, which was literally my Starbucks/study nook/ weekday hangout for a few months. I love that I was able to catch up with my friends, Massimo the Manager and the Owner.

But what I really came there for… was the CREAM PUFFS! So what if I already had Tiramisu at Za Za’s? I missed my daily cream puff snack!

Look at ToT! From tired tourist to happy camper! Thanks Caffe Liberta for the afternoon jolt!

After our little snack, we walked on Via Cavour, which is another main street that leads to many major sights in Florence.

It’s also a good way to pass the time til we get hungry again…

On Via Cavour, the streets are so interesting, one can’t help but be in awe at the beautiful doors.

One interesting shop in the area is a Paperie which sells handmade paper and writing instruments. My personal fave is Lo Scrittoio on Via Nazionale, but we were too far to pass by it. They make the best leather journals with handmade paper and can even emboss your name on it.

Albeit this lady is Japanese, we couldn’t help but be awed at the fantastic art paper she was able to design by using oils on water and dipping the paper in it afterwards. The American tourists gobbled this up immediately and bought dozens. I just wished the lady was Italian then I’d really hoard that paper!

And then we saw this cute wooden sculpture of a bicycle. Very fitting for bro since he is currently training for the Iron Man in August. I don’t know how to ride a bike, so I was just there for the photo-op.

Florence is home to many works of art, from Michaelangelo’s David, to the different paintings of Raphael, Botticelli and other famed Renaissance men. But the grandest of all is the  Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo, located in the heart of the city.

Designed in the 13th century, it was only finished structurally in the 15th century with the innovation of Brunelleschi, who added the domes which are now a famous landmark in Florentine landscape. It wasn’t until 1887 that the exterior was finally finished after Emilio De Fabris won the contest to design it that the Duomo was said to be done. Because of this, the Duomo stands to be an integral part of Florence’s history as well as part of its charm.

Across the Duomo is the Baptistry, or the Battistero di San Giovanni with one of the most notable doors on our walk and in the entire world, Ghiberti’s East Baptistry doors, penned by Michaelangelo as “The Gates of Paradise”. All made of bronze with relief sculptures. It is such an important part of the history of Florence, most Catholic Florentines were baptized there until the 19th century. Now the have to gate it up because so many tourists want to get a hold of it, literally.

Around the Duomo, you’ll find a Gucci Store  on a corner. When you make a left, it becomes another interesting street where you can embark on another Florence journey on foot. Sorry I only remember Gucci coz you wont miss it and the street name changes every few blocks. so just walk that street!

The Piazza della Repubblica would appear on the right side of the street. Back in the day when Italy was just unified as a country, Florence was the capital and this piazza was its first forum, or center. Now it still has the same appeal with artists peddling their craft and cafes for people-watching italians. A must see cafe would be Giubbe Rosse which was the fave hangout among writers and artsy folk. Around that area is a gelateria, and a Zara store… I’m just saying!

As you keep walking further, the street narrows and on the right side is the Mercato Nuovo where you can find fine leather goods as well as some trinkets for gifts. Bro was there on a mission, but not for shopping…

But to find Il Porcellino! The infamous pig statue found which earned a cameo in Hannibal the movie! His nose was pretty worn out, because legend has it that rubbing his snout would mean guaranteed return to Florence. I rubbed it pretty hard, because I definitely wanna come back!

Oddly enough, we spotted this life-size Hannibal at a costume store on Via Cavour… creepy!

Moving along… Florence breathes art and culture… and even (literally) on the streets, you can see that energy emanating wherever you go.

But aside from art.. You could also smell the sweet calling of goodies and desserts in the area from the little PasticceriasAlimentaris, and Caffes that litter the quaint streets.

One of the sights to see in Florence is the Ponte Vecchio, which is the oldest bridge in Florence.

It’s not very big at all, but it’s the view on either side of the bridge that makes it a go-to place. It also goes over the River Arno.

I personally like the left side of the bridge but it’s not as picturesque.

Ponte Vecchio is also popular because of the concentration of gold and jewelry stores on the bridge

I’m not really a jewelry buyer… but someone is!!!

Being Filipino, we are forever hungry especially when travelling. So we usually stop by a Salumeria or Alimentari to grab a drink or something quick to eat. Here’s my brother trying to assess his hunger level.

After the Ponte Vecchio is the Palazzo Pitti, or the Pitti Palace, once the Medici’s home until they found it too small, it’s now a museum that houses such prized pieces from Caravaggio, Raphael, and mostly Renaissance artists.

After a whole day of walking, reminiscing, and eating… Bro and I decided to call it a day and head back to Rome, where our hotel is located.

But not before grabbing a bite to eat for the trip back! Little Pizzerias and Paninoteccas litter the streets. They look appetizing, but you know that’s almost like eating at a carinderia. The pizza isn’t as fantastic as the fresh made ones… but it’ll do.

I got a Caprese Panini… Yummy but really crusty and left me with so much white powder all over my mainly black outfit.

And we’re back on the Trenitalia heading to Rome. What a long and winding walk it was to memory lane with my brother. Florence will always have that special place in my heart, and I keep coming back to it every chance I get….More of the Eurotrip to come!

Here’s an e-mail I sent to someone who wanted to visit Firenze for a day. If you have time, TRY IT and tell me if it’s ToT-worthy or not!
Hi!
Here’s the link for Ristorante ZaZa’s location: http://www.trattoriazaza.it/index.html?Pagina=/news/primapagina.asp?idLingua=1&PrimaPagina=X&idSito=1

  • If you’re taking the train, from the Firenze Santa Maria Novella station exit, you will see Via Nazionale across the front road.
  •  Go down that path (V. Nazionale) heading to Duomo. If you will ask, duomo should be on the right hand side.
  • make a Right on Via Dell’Ariento where you’ll see a little flea market with stalls (aka tiangge) on on street.
  • on the first left (Via Panicale), take that left and you will see a big building on your right hand side. that’s the Mercato Centrale (central market). Great for produce and other stuff also.
  • turn right after that and you’ll see a couple of al fresco dining tents at the end of that little piazza. Za Za’s is the one on the corner of Via Sant’Antonino. But you can ask around. The al fresco has a lot of colorful hand painted tables. YUM Order the Appetizer sampler (what we got), Porcini Risotto, and Bistecca Fiorentina. All their pastas are AMAZING.

The Duomo with Brunelleschi’s bronze Baptistry doors will be right behind that piazza.. so great to walk around there

For Pizzeria Spera‘s, their address is Via della cernaia,9r firenze. it’s near the Pepperdine campus and is literally a hole in the wall place. but it was voted BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD by JAY LENO before I went there to study. Pizza is very good and fresh. The daughter now handles the business.

  • this one is a bit of a walk… but a nice one at that.
  • so from Via Nazionale (again) go down til you hit Viale Spartaco Lavagnini (main road)
  • Cross the street on Via Poliziano until you hit Viale Milton
  • there’s a small bridge that you pass to get to the other side of the dam (via Settembre)
  • take via Ruffini heading to Piazza della Vittoria and Via Cernaia is right behind it. it will be on the left hand side. with a cute sign that says Spera. The Pesto is good.

Since you are in the area, why not head to Caffe Liberta? Great coffee and mini cream puffs. Look for Massimo, the manager. He will remember me (I was just there earleir)

  • From Spera, try to get to PIAZZA DELLA LIBERTA
  • Go back to Viale Milton (from Spera) and turn left when you get there.
  • Turn right on Via Toscanelli and when you get to the piazza, turn left and the Caffe will be the first thing on your left hand side.

I know i know i know.. this looks a bit intimidating with all the directions. but it is easy if you get a map and tab the places.

  • when you look at the map, the Santa Maria Novella train station should be your center with the Arno river below it
  • Via Nazionale is on the upper-right hand side and Mercato Centrale (Zaza) also on the right
  • Piazza della Liberta is also on the same line/direction as via Nazionale on the upper right.
  • Via Cavour is a nice street to walk after Piazza della liberta to get to the Duomo. You will pass by Piazza di San Marco (cute), the fake David (on the right hand side, with iron gates), and the Accademia museum on the left hand side. Duomo will come after all those sites
  • once you get to the Duomo, try to find the Gucci Store (trust me, I’m getting somewhere), and take that street all the way. You will end up in Piazza della Republica, further down is the Orsanmichelle, further down is Zara & H&M (hehe), the Uffizi Gallery (with the real David) and after is the PONTE VECCHIO!
  • Also on that road are Gelaterias left and right. I think this is the selling point of the street (VIA ROMA becoming Via Calimala becoming Via Por S. Maria
  • Past Ponte Vecchio is the  Palazzo Pitti.

LAST: Don’t Forget Acqua al 2! Via Della Vigna Vecchia 40/R

THERE!
I made your itinerary for Firenze! hahahaha sorry… you know I get overly excited about recommendations. :)

Hope you guys wear comfy shoes… coz I dont know jack about bus routes. the walking is a great one to burn off the food that you will get.

Buon Appetito!
ToT