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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Confessions of a Europhile in Thirteen Volumes: VOLUME VI, Part B

Fanciful Florence

Renaissance art, picturesque bridges, Italian wine, and mouthwatering ravioli. What's not to love? Florence is a truly enchanting city worth visiting more than once. My first trip there (in 2003) barely lasted two days – totally inadequate. This time around, I made sure to give myself ample time (six nights) to wander the cobble-stoned streets.

Our first objective upon arrival was lunch. Famished, Becca and I entered a nondescript little restaurant near our hotel, where I had a simple chicken dish with a delectable sauce.

Reinvigorated by our meal, we decided to pop into a couple of the shops lining the unembellished street while waiting for our crappy accommodations to be readied. "Hello, 30-euro shiny red pumps!"

I don't impulse-buy often, so I welcomed the serotonin high as I bounded into the city center, where Brunelleschi's grand Duomo (cathedral) was waiting to greet me.

"Hello, Duomo!" (I was still under a slight shoe-induced delirium at this stage, and all that green and pink marble wasn't helping). The Duomo's accompanying, equally colorful baptistry boasts the Ghiberti Doors (also known as the Gates of Paradise), a 15th-century work in bronze by Lorenzo Ghiberti. It is widely considered to be the first artistic production of the Renaissance (omigod!). Ghiberti built the bronze doors for a competition, which he of course won. The doors on display today are an exact replica of the originals, which are now housed in the Duomo Museum. The photograph below is of the replica.

Closely scrutinizing every detail of those door panels is an exhausting enterprise, so we later rewarded ourselves with fresh air and enchanting vistas of Florence at the Boboli Gardens, which are located behind the Pitti Palace, former home of the Medeci Grand Dukes.

The Boboli Gardens seemed to me notably different from typical French gardens in that they weren't as meticulously manicured. Although nowhere near wild, they did seem more natural. This held a particular charm for me, as I'm accustomed to the "pelouse interdite" (forbidden grass) signs of Parisian gardens. Speaking of which, there's no better infraction to commit in France than frolicking on "forbidden" grass. Ahh ... to have been a wayward child in Paris!

*Espranglais does not hold itself responsible for any reprimands incurred as a result of illegal lawn activities.

As the afternoon began to fade, it seemed the perfect time to stroll around aimlessly. We stumbled across a street market as we headed to the Piazza della Signoria. The famed statues on public display were especially captivating in the waning daylight.

Once night falls, I like to head to the Ponte Vecchio, Florence's beautiful medieval bridge. Pedestrians hop in and out of little jewlery shops full of glittery gold and ornate cameos; scooters swoosh by haphazardly; the Arno River reflects the old bridge's arches. This landmark is so remarkably charming that it wins Espranglais' first ever "Bestest Bridge In Ze World Award." This is ultra prestegious, as Espranglais is a bit of a "bridge whore." Congratulations, Florence! Espranglais' photographs celebrate thee.

Also, there was food. LOTS of cheesy, sinful food. And wine! Grazie, Ristorante Il Latini, for offering us a free bucket of wine on Becca's birthday. We could never have taken silly pictures sitting atop other people's parked scooters without it.

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