Let’s do brunch in… Florence

Georgette Jupe is, as her blog says, a Girl in Florence. She’s also the girl who led us to our awesome Notte Bianca experience in Florence, by supplying the only English itinerary I could find online.

An American who’s been living in Florence since 2007, Georgette has a self-diagnosed obsession with food (as I would, if I lived in Italy!), making her a great fit for a guest post about, well, food. I like her blog’s local, not-your-typical-expat approach to everyday life in Florence: its food, wine, culture, humor, language and more. It’s a fun read, and a great resource for anyone Florence-bound—both travelers and immigrants (I won’t say tourists and expats!) alike.

So what does this Girl in Florence have to say about brunch in Florence?

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Florence eats: on & off the tourist trail

My most memorable meals in Florence were in two very different restaurants. One was a huge, wildly popular restaurant in tourist central; the other was a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall that we wouldn’t have discovered if it hadn’t been just a few doors down from our apartment. What they had in common was simply great food.

A short walk from the big tourist draws of the Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio, Il Latini is written up in all the major travel guides for its fun, family-friendly atmosphere and famous steaks. It has two seatings each evening: at 7:30pm and at 9:30pm. What I’ll remember most about Il Latini, though, was waiting amidst a throng of hungry diners outside its doors before the first seating began. I’ve never seen a crowd outside a restaurant like that. It was slightly insane.

Il Latini at the door

This is was the scene at the door: a crowd waiting to get in, the affable host keeping the chaos to a minimum with an authoritative but friendly manner, names being shouted out to gain entry, all while Signore Roberto Downey inside calmly carved up plate after plate of prosciutto and salami.

Il Latini starters

Everyone with a reservation got seated, but as walk-ins, Marlon and I waited for an hour. Still, we felt incredibly lucky just to get a table—especially when the specialty of the house was served.

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Essential Florence: 6 Sights You Shouldn’t Miss

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited. The entire city is a work of art, and completely brought the Renaissance to life for me. We stayed in a great Airbnb flat a short walk from the Centro Storico, where most of Florence’s cultural jewels are concentrated.

After just four days, I feel like I barely scratched the surface of this amazing city and wish I could’ve done more off the tourist trail. Having said that, the “tourist circuit” is deluged with visitors for a reason, and is truly worth every bit of time and money. Here’s my list of must-sees in Florence:

The Uffizi Gallery. Home to one of the largest and oldest private art collections in the Western word, the Uffizi Gallery contains masterpieces amassed by the powerful and wealthy (understatement of the century) Medici clan.

Uffizi Gallery1

Works by the who’s who of Italian art, such as Titian, Caravaggio, Giotto and yes, all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all reside here. The true revelation for me here was Botticelli; though I felt as if I’d seen The Birth of Venus a hundred times in pop culture, nothing prepared me for the impact of the real thing. (Plus: you can get a lot closer to Venus than you can to Mona Lisa.)

Uffizi Gallery2

Top tips: book tickets ahead at the Musei Firenze website to skip the queue, which can stretch for hours. The site is slow, but totally worth it. Allot at least three hours to soak up the full wealth and wonder of the Renaissance. Be prepared for Stendhal syndrome (as I experienced at the Vatican Museum); it’s best not to schedule anything visually heavy before or after. You’ll need your eyeballs rested for this one.

Also, the Uffizi Gallery has the best, biggest museum bookshop I’ve been in—not just for art and architecture, but also a great selection of kids’ literature, fiction and nonfiction.

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Notte Bianca in Florence: Art attack (3 of 3)

During Notte Bianca in Florence, the streets of the Centro Storico runneth over with people. It can get tiring slogging through the mob, as you can imagine from this scene at Piazza della Signoria…

Crowd at Piazza della Signoria

… and outside the Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of Florentine government during the Renaissance. Madness!

Crowd outside Palazzo Vecchio

At about midnight, I decided I needed a rest from the crowd and the walking. So Marlon and I sat down in front of the Palazzo Strozzi to catch a break from the hordes.

Crowd outside Palazzo Strozzi

Thus it was quite by accident that I discovered this magical sight inside the Palazzo Strozzi. If I hadn’t looked around the corner from where I was sitting, I never would have seen this. Tired as my feet were, I was drawn inside for closer look.

Aerial Boundaries by Loris Cecchini

“Aerial Boundaries” by Italian artist Loris Cecchini was an installation created especially for the courtyard of the Palazzo Strozzi for Notte Bianca.

“Through its multiple reflecting surfaces, the work of art interacts with the reality surrounding it, reflecting the image not only of the Renaissance architecture, the sky and the natural light filtering through to the courtyard, but also of the observer himself as he or she looks up.”
(via CCC Strozzina)

The juxtaposition of old and new, graceful symmetry versus irregular geometry, the serenity of the courtyard in contrast to the activity and noise outside it, made this not only a sight to behold, but an experience to savor.

Aerial Boundaries

Aerial Boundaries from the bottom up Reflections on the ground

I felt as though I’d fallen into a pocket of night sky and starlight. Like I was breathing in something pure, clean and crisp… but through my eyes. It was very hard to leave.

Aerial Boundaries detail2

I leave you these beautiful images until Monday. I hope that your weekend brings you something equally surprising, delightful, possibly even magical. Bonus points if it sparkles!

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Notte Bianca in Florence: Night Market (2 of 3)

You may have noticed that my husband and I like food. (No, really?!) We also like markets. So after getting our faces made up for Notte Bianca in Florence, it was only natural that our next stop that night would be the slow food market at the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, which was part of a slow food festival open that week only.

Food market by Santa Maria Novella

Like everything else in the Centro Storico that night, the market was throbbing with people.  It seemed that every region in Italy was represented at this small-seller market, so it was like getting a mini-culinary tour of Italy.

Notte Bianca food market at Santa Maria Novella

We walked around for a good twenty minutes, canvassing the scene before choosing what to have for dinner. I was particularly tempted by a gelato flavor I’ve only seen in Tuscany: cantuccini e vin santo, biscuits and sweet wine (which tastes like communion wine or mompo, thus the name). But I was raised not to have gelato for dinner (only for breakfast!), so I moved on.

Sandwich plates Gelato Vin Santo & Pasta di MandorlaOlives

Tuscany is serious about its meat, particularly pig… and in these parts, pig doesn’t mean cute pink farm-raised pig. It means brown, hairy, forest-roaming wild boar, or cinghiale.

Wild boar

The moment I saw a boar head nailed to one of the stands, I knew what Marlon was going to have for dinner. You don’t spend nine years together and not learn how to predict these kinds of decisions. However, he decided to go for cinghiale’s domesticated cousin instead: stinco, or pork hocks. I suspect this tempting sight reminded him of good ol’ Cebu lechon.

Stinco

As for me, I decided to go for an Italian calorie bomb: Silician arancini, “oranges” stuffed with meat sauce, mozzarella and rice. I made sure to get some gelati for dessert, though.

Arancini Siciliana

These two photos pretty much sum up the kind of food choices my husband and I make. He’s savory, I’m sweet. And they also sum up how happy food and markets make us.

Happiness, his and hers

If we were less compatible in this area, we’d probably be a lot skinnier! But I wonder if we would be as happy. His-and-hers happiness, what could be better?

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