Sunday, September 28, 2014

Firenze: Settling in San Niccolo

A view of Florence from our neighborhood in San Niccolo.
I've returned to the San Niccolo quartiere of Firenze this year. I'm sharing an apartment with Anne, a friend from Norway that I met last year in the hall of this palazzo, where I had rented a different apartment. We're on the 3rd piano (4th floor), and it takes walking up 60 steps to reach our place. But it's lovely and comfortable, and much more affordable than previous rentals in Florence. Outside, there's a lively piazetta, with several cafès, a wine bar, several restaurants, a forno (bakery and baked foods), an alimentari (small grocery), a cartoleria (stationery store), a gelateria, and various other shops. There's also a chiesa (church) nearby: we can see the bell tower from our kitchen window and hear the bells quite clearly when they ring. We're right inside the city walls, and the nearby Porto (exit) leads to Piazzale Michelangelo, high above the city. It's my favorite part of Florence, and I feel lucky to be living in San Niccolo two years in a row.

Waiting in line at the Uffizi for free entrance.
The day after I arrived in Florence, the state museums were open to the public for free, and I took advantage of the opportunity to go the the Uffizi. I arrived about 15 minutes after it opened, but had to wait in line for an hour before getting in. Since I've been there many times before, I know my way around, and visited the areas I most enjoy and the current exhibits, rather than trying to see everything.
Everyone loves Botticelli!
That evening, Anne and I went to dinner (cena) at one of the nearby restaurants. Anne is in Florence working on a Masters project, about the life of an apprentice learning the skills of art restoration. San Niccolo is a haven for artists, and there are many botteghe (artist workshops) here.

Cena with Anne at the nearby Osteria Antica
The next day, I met up with my friend Haruko, and we walked around the centro storico. We met up later with Anne, planning to attend the Festa della Rificolona, which I've attended several times in the past. Haruko introduced us to an interesting cafè in Piazza Repubblica, Cafè Giubbe Rosse, which was once a hangout for the literati of Florence. We stopped in for aperitivi to pass the time before the festa started.
Cocktails at Cafè Giubbe Rosse , with Haruko and Anne
We waited around in Piazza Santa Croce where the sfilata usually starts, then moved on to Piazza Signoria, but didn't see much happening in regards to the festa. However, there was a large crowd in front of Palazzo Vecchio, and we heard rumors that George Clooney was inside. Those rumors turned out to be true, but we never were able to see him. As the evening got darker, children started filling the piazza carrying their lanterns, and piano, piano (slowly) a band arrived. But it was not the New Orleans Jazz Band of previous years. Instead it was a city band, singing a religious song, which seemed more of a dirge than a celebration. Since Anne and Haruko had never attended the festa before, we were all disappointed that this year the parade was more somber than usual. You can read about a more festive version here:

Festa della Rificolona 

and here's a fun video, from 2010:

The ever-present Duomo.
I had a few days to get settled in before heading out with Haruko to visit Pienza and Montepulicano in southern Tuscany.

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