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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 10, 2013: Thunder, Hail, and Frescoes

Today we woke up to an alarming sight: It was past noon on our watch. We have been staying up really late, so our internal clocks are wicked messed up. We're fixing that tomorrow, though. No excuses!

We decided to get lunch (or breakfast?) at All'Antico Vinaio, a smalle hole-in-the-wall but famous little sandwich shop. We've walked by it for the past few days, and it's no exaggeration that the sandwiches, which are made to order, are the size of my face. Unbelievable. I had a delish sandwich on foccacia bread, chock full of fresh cheese, mozzarella di bufala, Salame Toscana, and fresh tomatoes.

We then walked over to Palazzo Vecchio (the old palace). Bought our tickets, bought our tablets/headphones for the tour, and headed inside. It was completed in 1302 by Arnolfo di Cambio. The palace still transports you to medieval times, although a lot of the interior of the palazzo was remodeled when Duke Cosimo I de'Medici moved in in 1540. This transferred the ruling family from its old home near San Lorenzo. It became known as Palazzo Vecchio when Cosimo transferred his court to Palazzo Pitti (the Pitti Palace). During the small period that Florence was the capital of Italy (1865-71), it housed the Parliament and Foreign Ministry.

The first floor is the Salone dei Cinquecento, a huge room full of frescoes and an intricately carved and painted ceiling. The frescoes tell stories of battles between Firenze/Siena and Firenze/Pisa. The frescoes in this room should really be by Michelangelo and Da Vinci, but the ones that we see are the work of Vasari. Michelangelo's "Genius of Victory" is in this grand salon.

All in all, it's an incredible building, full of history and decorative style of the Medici family. While we were up on the second floor terrace, a HUGE thunder storm rolled in and produced a ton of hail. It was a magical place to experience this storm in, and you could see the hail sweeping through Piazza Della Signoria from the windows, as poor umbrellas were no match for the winds or torrential rain. You could see the hot steam from the buildings rising up, creating a layer of smoke between where we were and the dome of the Duomo (easily seen from the second floor of the palace).

Our favorite room was the last room that we visited, called Sala delle Carte (Map Room). It has 57 maps painted on leather, showing the world as it was known in 1563. The maps were actually on the outside of huge closet doors, where the family kept valuables in.

We left Palazzo Vecchio and went to "Circus," which I describe as a Firenze "Starbucks." Pricey, but good. I wrote a postcard and we were on our way to nowhere. Just another aimless stroll through the city.

After a little bit of shopping, we ended up back in the Oltrarno neighborhood and had dinner at Osteria Santo Spirito, where I had my first group dinner in Florence with the NECA students in 2004. There's something special about this piazza, and dinner never disappoints. I had gnocchi, and Mike had ravioli with creme. The bread, wine, and olive oil were also delicious. Again, the vino was cheaper than Mike's acqua.

We capped off the night with gelato from Gelateria Santa Trinita, cousin Dawn's recommendation. I had Buontalenti e Marscapone with Santa Trinita, and Mike had Pistacchio and Buontalenti e Marscapone. Ended the evening while sitting on the Ponte Santa Trinita, eating ice cream.

Buonanotte, amici.

All'Antico Vinaio

Size of my face, right?

The Medici's should have just gone to Pier 1. Much cheaper.

View from the terrace in Palazzo Vecchio

View of Santa Croce from Palazzo Vecchio

Room with a view. Wonder what the rent would be? 

Un cappuccino e biscotti, per favore?

A braille map of the city

The sunset tonight was something that everyone's camera was aiming at.

Ponte Vecchio and Ponte Santa Trinita

Dinner from Osteria Santo Spirito

You can barely see it in the picture, but the cheese was bubbling hot as it came out of the kitchen.
Baked gnocchi from Ostera Santo Spirito.


  1. Sounds like another great day. I would love to experience a hail storm from that beautiful place. Sunsets look breathtaking. I don't think you will ever run out of interesting places to visit. Where will you take us tomorrow?


    Mom and fam

  2. Sounds like a wonderful day! I ate at the Osteria and also had the gnocchi. I love the Santo Spirito area and that gelateria is our favorite! I also love hanging on Ponte Trinita, especially for the view of Ponte Vecchio! Great place to enjoy a gelato!