And the great saga continues! (Click for Part 1 and Part 2.)

Our next great adventure was the lovely city of Florence.  My dad and brother spent the day visiting car factories, so my mom and I had the day to ourselves.  We caught a morning train into the city and soon began exploring the bustling streets.  There were a tad too many tourists for our taste, but we still greatly enjoyed our time.  Our favorite attraction was the Central Market.  It was an indoor market filled to the brim with vendors, and they had every type of food you could imagine from pasta, to cheese, to nuts and dried fruit, to fresh fruit and vegetables, to breads, pastries, and biscotti, to olive oil, to every cut of meat you could imagine (clearly just for me), and everything in between.  There were also a good amount of samples, my favorite being an exquisite truffle paste.  Truffles are very popular in Italy and for a good reason!
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Ohhh look at all that cheese!!!
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Talk about huge blocks of cheese… I can't even imagine how much these weighed!
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It was like they managed to find a way to dry every single fruit!
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Fresh pasta!
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While I'm not a fan of dry American biscotti, the real Italian deal is an entirely different, tastier story!
Florence really does have some gorgeous buildings.  While we didn't have the opportunity to see even half of them, we saw as many as we could!  And of course, we did see the Basilica of Saint Mary.  We were expecting the inside to be quite intricate to match the finely decorated exterior, however we found the gothic interior to me quite simple, though still beautiful.
The paintings in the dome were quite detailed however, and I loved the 3D nature of the floor.
While it may have been one of Florence's most famous buildings (and it was indeed beautiful), the city is full of other noteworthy buildings and architecture as well.
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Florence's oldest bridge is lined with shops.
Now of course Florence is home to Michelangelo's David, but the line was wrapped around the outside of the building, and mom and I decided that we didn't want to spend our day in Florence standing in a line.  I have never seen more lines than I saw in Florence in Rome.  Thankfully, you can pre-purchase tickets and avoid most of the lines.  We did that in Rome but hadn't thought the lines would be so massive in Florence.  We did up in one to see a museum (we had to see something!), and even for a line that had maybe 20 people in it, we waited nearly 45 minutes!  So the lesson: pre-order tickets whenever possible!

You're probably wondering what we dined on while in this gorgeous city.  Well, we ate at a little ristorante on a quiet side street.
We started with bruschetta, but it was nothing like the first time we had it.  In fact, it was rather disappointing.  The bread was dry and flavorless, matching the tomatoes that scattered the top.  There wasn't garlic or even olive oil!  We managed to get it down, but it took a hefty amount of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Luckily, the mushroom risotto that we split as our entree was quite delicious.  Much like topped the crostini the night before, the mushrooms were thick and meaty.  They really know how to do their mushrooms in Italy!  The risotto itself was also quite good, though I admit that I've made better at home.
The best thing we ate in Florence was the gelato (no surprise there I'm sure!).
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Just look at those fluffy pillows of gelato!
This time I tried fruit and yogurt (one flavor) and mint.  The fruit and yogurt was good, but oh goodness, that mint was incredible!  There were huge, glorious chunks of chocolate in it.  My mom got mint too, and she had a piece of chocolate that was bigger than one inch by one inch!
Although we greatly enjoyed Florence, one day was enough.  I had heard that I should as much time in Florence as possible, but I enjoyed the smaller, quieter towns more.  And as far as cities go, I liked Rome and Venice more. 

Speaking of Rome, that was our next destination!  Our first night there we didn't have anything scheduled so we wandered around the city and ended up visiting Castle Sant'Angelo.
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Bridge in front of the castle.
If the castle and small courtyard look at all familiar, you may be recognizing them from the movie Angels and Demons.  I watched that movie with my parents shortly after returning home from our trip, and there was a scene of "Robert Langdon" racing through that castle and courtyard, as well as several other places we visited.  That's one of the things that's so cool about visiting places like this - you see a movie filmed there and you can say, "hey, I was there!!"

There was an amazing view of the surrounding city from the top of the castle, and we even caught or first views of the Vatican!
Our first dinner in Rome was probably the most memorable meal of the trip - but not in a way you would think, or hope.  The food was crazy expensive, so we had to search for something cheaper in price, which we eventually found.  It was a cute little cafe with wide open doors welcoming us in.  The menu was written on a white board on the door, and although it was sparse, there were pizza and pasta options.  The rest of my family ordered pasta alla carbonara, a pasta dish with an egg sauce, bacon, and black pepper, a very popular dish in the Roman area, and I ordered the pizza margherita.  The man took our order and then retreated through a door in the back.  He emerged from what turned out to be a freezer with three boxes of frozen pasta, proceeded behind the counter where the microwave was stationed, and, without shame, began the "cooking" process.  He then whipped out a pre-made pizza crust with sauce from under the counter, sprinkled some cheese on top, and placed it in what looked liked a panini press.  We all watched, our eyes wide, not sure what to think.  He scraped the pasta from the plastic containers onto plates, slid my pizza onto a round tray, and dinner was served!
We all tried to keep an open mind, and my family said their pasta wasn't too bad.  While I wasn't expecting a pizza from a five star restaurant, that crust made rubber sound like fine dining.  I just couldn't eat it.  I hate to say something like this, but it was the worst pizza I have ever had.  The cheese was still fine, so I ate it off the top, leaving a naked crust behind.  I felt terrible, but I just couldn't stomach it.  The man was super nice though and even brought us complementary cookies!
We learned something that night - cheap price equals cheap food.  But like I said earlier, it was one of the most memorable meals, one that none of us will ever forget!

Since dinner was, well, kind of a bust, we decided we must end the night on a good note.  Of course, that meant getting our daily dose of gelato!  This time I got cherry (though I thought I had ordered almond - guess I can't read Italian very well!) and soy chocolate (again, I thought I was ordering regular chocolate…).  The cherry was okay, but the soy chocolate tasted like a fudge brownie!  Maybe it's a good thing that I can't read Italian. ;)
And that concludes Part 3 of my Italian adventures!  More of Rome to come in my next recap!

Is there a meal that you remember very vividly, though perhaps not for the reason you would hope?
 


Comments

07/11/2014 05:17

I have been obsessed with your travels! I'm on a vacation right now, but yours looks incredible. One meal I remember vividly: Probably spaghetti at my Grandma's house 2 summers ago. I had a jet ski wreck and had just come home from the hospital. My whole family was there, and it I got to sit and talk to people I hadn't seen in years. It sounds like it should be a terrible meal because I was hurt and fairly drugged, but it was really lovely. Have a lovely Friday xx

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07/11/2014 18:22

Aww, sorry to hear about the "cheap" pizza experience! At least the day did end on a sweet note :)!

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Loving reading this article! I'm actually heading off to Tuscany next week, so I'm really excited for all the sites and of course the gelato! :)

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07/12/2014 02:24

Wow...a biscotti array? Seriously, no one does Biscotti like the Italians do! I never went to Florence but it looks beautiful.

I am in awe at that Roman dining experience- My mate went to disgraceful, tiny, gross looking restaurant but dammit...he proclaimed the food to be nothing short of amazing!

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07/12/2014 09:38

That is too bad about the pizza experience! I can't even believe it! Anyway, all of the pictures are beautiful. It's not all about the food, right? :)

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07/12/2014 10:25

Ugh! Vacation - how I long for thee! I appreciate these photos though, I could stare at them for hours and pretend I am actually in Italy!!

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07/13/2014 10:27

OMG at that dining experience- I think I would've been overly confused over what to think. The restaurant owner sure has guts to make the cooking process so public though! As for all that gelato- swoooon! It looks so yummy for words! One of the best flavors of gelato I've eaten was biscotti-flavored, especially the crunchy biscuit bits that were intertwined!

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07/13/2014 13:27

Sorry to hear about the yucky pizza experience! But you're right, usually cheap prices equal cheap food (not that I had to learn that the hard way too lol). The gelato looks amaaaaaaazing though! And so do all the monuments!!
I hope you're having a really nice time there :)

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07/14/2014 13:43

You know, I've always wanted to go to Italy but all your recap posts have made me want to go purely for the gelato alone!! haha Every single time I read one of these I want gelato (or at least some frozen treat) so bad! :)

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07/15/2014 08:59

Alex - you make me feel like I am there with your mom and you -walking through Florence - the eats, the treats, the views - so amazingly gorgeous! Wow!

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07/18/2014 15:10

Just caught up on your Italy posts, and I am now CRAVING an adventure like this! I'm so glad you were able to experience this gorgeous country.

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07/19/2014 04:09

oh how i love italy!! the gelato is the best, yes!!! take me back

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Ahhhh, I'm getting so nostalgic for time in Italy! I absolutely adore it there. I studied abroad in Sicily in college, and went to Venice last fall. How cool is Venice right?! I'm hoping to do a trip there to explore a bunch of Italian cities at some point. I can't get enough gelato when I'm in Italy either! I can't believe your crappy restaurant experience - OMG! How crazy. It definitely sounds like one of those experiences you can look back and laugh about at least!

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Oh my goodness, that market looks incredible! I went to a market while I was in Barcelona that sounds very similar! They had every kind of dried fruit imaginable and the most exotic juices. It was a foodie heaven! I'd love to visit one with fresh pasta though!

How terrible to be in Italy and given microwaved, pre-made crust pizza! At least you were able to consume quite a bit of tasty gelato! :) When I was in Barcelona, we wondered into some random restaurant for tapas after a late night of salsa dancing. No one in there spoke English and I was the only one in my group who knew minimal (very minimal) Spanish so I was stuck ordering in my broken Spanish. After we sat down, we saw a photo of Mao Zedong on the wall! Then, we realized we were the only people in the entire restaurant! It was all very odd, but the food was decent, if not remarkable!

The architecture and buildings in Florence and Rome look absolutely gorgeous!

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