As mentioned in my post on Day one in Florence, we were going to climb up the tower of the Duomo group on Saturday morning as we hadn’t done it yet and our tickets were valid for 24 hours. Unfortunately the weather was terrible and it was raining a fair bit. We stood in the queue for about ten minutes and then decided to give it a miss and go to the Uffizi art gallery instead where we would at least be dry.
Of course, as it was a rainy day you can imagine what the queue was like for the Uffizi! Luckily it was all covered though, which made queuing a bit more pleasant. You can actually purchase your tickets online and I did try to do this the night before but it wouldn’t let me for whatever reason. Whilst we were queuing we were approached by a company that offers guided tours and where you can skip the queue – for €40 each. The entrance fee is only €12 but we decided that €40 to skip the queue and have a tour by an expert was worth the money. Particularly as it was 11am and we had a lunch reservation at 1:30.
Our guide, Francesca, was so knowledgeable and you could clearly see her passion for art. I’m so glad we went for a guided tour as I have no doubt we learnt so much more than we would have, had we done it ourselves. Also when you are a bit pressed for time, having a guide who knows exactly where everything is saves a lot of time and probably stress. We only spent two hours in the Uffizi but really you need much more than this to truly appreciate the works on display and to spend a bit of time looking at the art works.
My absolute favourites were Botticelli’s The birth of Venus and Spring. I do love Early Renaissance art and Boticelli epitomises this era.
After the Uffizi we got a taxi to have lunch at Osteria Nacchero. As it’s about a 15 minute taxi ride from the centre, there didn’t seem to be any tourists there – just locals. It’s a quirky restaurant – old fashioned but in a modern way. There were some wonderful photographs and old vintage posters on the walls and the lighting was really good. Bad lighting in restaurants are one of our bugbears!
For starters we had some salumi and coccoli, which were almost like doughnuts, and stracchino (which is a soft cheese) – delicious but really bad for you… I also had pasta fagoli, which is a traditional soup made with pasta, beans and vegetables. It was absolutely fabulous but so filling – in fact, I could only manage a side salad for a main. My husband was less full than I was and had Paccheri cacio pepe.
We will definitely return to Osteria Nacchero the next time we are in Florence even though it’s a bit off the beaten track. I recommend you go if you truly want to eat amongst locals and try unfussy, hearty and simple food.
As it had stopped raining (and we were so full) we decided to walk from the restaurant, along the river Arno to Santa Croce. It took us about 30 minutes or so and of course as we got to the Basilica, it started raining again.
Construction of this beautiful church started in 1296 and it opened in the 15th century. Apart from being a very beautiful church, it is a treasure trove of artwork with frescoes by Giotto and his pupils, art by Donatello and even a sculpture by Henry Moore. Not only is it filled with absolutely breath-taking frescoes and sculptures, it’s also the burial place of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and Rossini which is why it’s also referred to as the Temple of Italian Glories.
As it was still raining when we left Santa Croce, we got a taxi back to the hotel and spent a couple of hours just relaxing. We had booked dinner at Cantina Barbagianni for dinner at 9:30pm but ventured out for a pre-dinner drink at around 8pm. We were surprised at how few bars there were but we eventually found one right opposite the Mercato Centrale and it was Cuban (Sabor Cubano)! They only serve cocktails and Cuban beer so I had a margarita and my husband had a piña colada. He enjoyed his so much he had another!
After getting a little bit lost we arrived for dinner at Cantina Barbagianni, which easily could have been called Buca Barbagianni as it was also a basement restaurant. It was really lovely – great ambience, excellent lighting and really nicely decorated. We were even given a glass of prosecco on arrival and an amuse bouche of ricotta with spinach and balsamic glaze.
For starters, I chose the Beef carpaccio marinated in Chianti wine with a fresh goat’s cheese mousse and my husband had Pici (a type of pasta) with meatballs and a Chianti sauce. We both enjoyed our starters very much and my husband (who is Italian) remarked that it’s the first time he has ever had meatballs with pasta! We had prosecco to accompany our starters.
For our main we ordered the Fiorentina steak, which came with vegetables and roast potatoes. They did actually ask us how we’d like it cooked (medium/rare) and it was cooked to perfection. We had a glass of Chianti, naturally, to accompany it. After dinner it was off back to the hotel to have a restful night’s sleep before flying home the next day.
I can honestly say that Florence has truly captured my heart and I cannot wait to return to explore it some more. It is certainly one of the best cities I have ever been to and almost everyone I know who has been to Florence says the same.