I clearly remember the first time I visited Florence. It was late September, 1979, and the air had a crispness, foretelling the changing of the seasons. I was astounded by the beauty all around: architecture, monuments, the contrast of terra cotta roof tiles against blue skies, chic people wearing furs and gorgeous leather!
After several trips over the years, we decided to spend a month in between winter and spring (the idea was to avoid heavy tourist times - ha!) soaking in all that is the wonder of this compact city.
We rented an apartment through Italy Perfect and stayed in Palazzo Antellesi on Piazza Santa Croce, a wonderfully central location. According to various sources, the Palazzo was first built in medieval times and enlarged in the late 16th c, then acquired in the early 17th c by Niccolo' dell'Antella (from whom the name originates) and joined with a nearby building to make one large palazzo. He commissioned frescoes to cover the entire facade. The frescoes faded over time but then the Cinelli family bought the building and restored them in the 1920's and again in 1990. Young Federica Cinelli inherited the Palazzo in 1945, then married Count Piccolomini, becoming La Contessa Piccolomini. La Contessa still lives here, as does some of her family. And we so much enjoyed meeting her and her daughter, Francesca!
Our first apartment had amazing Renaissance frescoes and high, high ceilings. After being there about 10 days, we moved to another apartment in the building that we absolutely loved! The colors of the Belvedere suit me perfectly....
Once we unpacked, gathered provisions and settled into our apartment, we began serious exploration. First up, a cooking class and market tour with Laura Franceschetti of Cooking in Florence. We had the most delightful time spending the day (!) with her, starting at the Mercato Sant'Ambrogio and then at her wonderful home, which happened to be a 5 minute walk from our apartment! (Almost everything is.... more on that later)
We met at the Mercato Sant'Ambrogio (which is not as touristy as the larger, newly renovated Mercato Centrale, but feels more "authentic") where we learned about purchasing seasonal foods, pasta, cheese ("there's no such thing as Parmesan cheese - it's Parmigiano"), meat, seafood and generally started to feel like being with a friend.
The cooking lesson was informative and the food tasted incredible, but I was equally enthralled with Laura's home. The floor tile! The ceiling!
After eating like kings, a few days later I convinced my husband, Bob, to make the hike up to San Miniato al Monte, my favorite little Romanesque church, with the most glorious view of Firenze!
Downhill from San Minato al Monte we found the charming San Niccolo' neighborhood and beautiful Piazzale Michelangelo.
....and we stumbled upon the most lovely boutique hotel, Villa Vedetta, where we felt like royalty, as we dined privately near the pool...
And the JK Place hotel, on newly renovated Piazza Santa Maria Novella, was a complete treat for the senses!
I loved the exterior of this little hotel even more when I saw the name: Hotel Botticelli And then I discovered it was built in the latter half of the 16th c. Sort of average for this city - ha! - but still impressive!
So many incredible edifices in one city!
And then there's Florence shopping! The food markets, flea markets and special/holiday markets. The clothing stores, shoe stores and perfumeries - so much to explore!
I could go on and on - and I will, in the next post! - but I'll close with this designer-y cup of espresso machiato I had at JT Caffe, across from the Palazzo Pitti.
Ciao for now!