Yesterday was an extremely productive day.
I woke up with a fever. I felt soo sick for about an hour and then I got some drugs and perked right up. Problem number 1: It was raining. This is the first day (saying this, I realize how lucky I have been) that I have had to use my umbrella since I've been here. It's really yucky and my feet are very sloshy from all the standing water.
So, what better to cheer myself up than to go shopping :)
I decided to seek out a new outfit. I was also looking for this Florentine Puzzle Ring and a new book in English. I found my shoes first. They're black mid-calf boots with tassel ties and some pretty decent sized heels. Next I bought a pair of dark skinny jeans and a gray low back top. Finally, to complete my new outfit, I bought a black puffy jacket with a fur collar (the Italians are OBSESSED with their fur lines puffy jackets) and a gray wool hat. I couldn't find a bookstore with English books or my ring so I am off to try and do that today.
After shopping, I went to get some glue to fix my Carnival mask and some other necessities. I did some more transferring of pictures to a DVD (and flirted with my now pretty steady friend that works at the music store and chats with me while I'm sitting there for an hour waiting for the pictures to transfer). From there, I walked down to the gallery Ufizzi which is a rather large museum near the river by Piazza della Signoria.
The story of the museum is that it was an old office building (Uffizi in Italian means Office) that was built in the late 1500's. It was owned by the Medici's and they used it to display a lot of their artwork that they had collected over the years (as a sign of power and wealth to those who visited the government buildings). After the last Medici (Anna Maria) died, the collection was turned over to the City and from there, it was turned into a museum because of the importance of so many of the works inside of it. I got pretty lucky, as I only had to wait about 20 minutes to get inside, but often in the summer, the wait can be up to 5 hours.
The paintings inside were great. I didn't get an audio guide so I was at the mercy of the small plaques at each painting but I did gain a lot from it. Including a new favorite artist (or artists)! Their names are Filippo Lippi and Filippino Lippi (father/son - that's why I can't remember who did what). The dad was Boticelli's master and their work is wonderful. They depict emotion better than I have ever seen in a painting. Their characters all have their own personalities and they do amazing things with their eyes. They all look at each other and usually only one of them looks out of the painting to the viewer. It's really interesting to follow their gazes from one ot another and to study their emotion. A lot of this also shows up in Boticelli's work, especially in "Spring." Boticelli's "Birth of Venus" was also beautiful. My other favorites were the special collection of Napoleonic large scale French murals that were on the 1st floor. There were these two with harbor scenes (supposed to be of Livorno I think) and they were so huge and so gorgeous.
So after the Uffizi, I came back and was chatting with Leonardo (one of the brothers who owns the hostel) and we decided that I needed to go get a real authentic Florentine meal before I left. He made me a reservation for this place called 13 Gobbi down by the river and I took a shower, put on my new outfit and headed out. He warned me that people don't really eat alone in Florence, so there may be a decent amount of staring, but after a pep talk from Karen in Prague, I realized that I can't pass up this opportunity for amazing food.
So I get to the restaurant and tell them that I am the reservation for 1 to which the host replies "Oh perfect, well it's your lucky day, I am getting off work now and I'll sit with you!! Date with me?" Ha, well he was kidding, but he did come talk to me quite often while I was eating so it was nice. Now, you get the details of my amazing 3.5 hour meal.
I started out with some white house wine. It was very good, probably a chardonnay, pretty woodsy, but nice. I had some crunchy bread with oil and vinegar and then came my salad. I had a Pecorino and pear salad with a balsamic reduction. It was served on a bed of lettuce and cabbage and was absolutely fantastic. The Pecorino was SOOO fresh and the pears were a little under-ripe and a little crunchy as well. It was perfect. They had sat me at this perfect little table by a garden and it had a great view of the kitchen so I got to watch them cooking everything. They had literal, whole pigs hanging from the ceiling as well as peppers and heads of garlic. On my other side was a huge crate of wine in the garden. The table next to me was a circle table of about 8 men who were all dressed in suits and they talked like straight up godfather. They were so funny, using their hands and kissing every person who walked in the door.
My first course was Spaghetti with grape tomatoes and tuna eggs in some sort of Parmesan sauce. The sauce was an Alfredo, but it wasn't as thick or overpowering as American Alfredo... it was almost buttery, but not too creamy and it just barely coated the noodles. Basically, you didn't just taste sauce when you ate them. It literally was the best pasta I have ever had in my entire life. In the mean time, I see them pull my cow off the meat rack. It was a whole cow back which they then cut the bones off and then filleted. The cut my veggies off of the vines they are growing on in the garden. Everything was so fresh.
At this point, they gave me 15 minutes to settle. We switched to red wine as well. The red was delicious. It was a little sweet and not too dry. My friend Donaldo brought me a huge knife at this point and said "This is to kill your boyfriend." I laughed and thought, do you really think I would be here alone if I had a boyfriend? So my steak comes out next. It was just a normal filet cooked perfectly and seasoned just enough with some oregano and pepper. The best part of this dish were the potatoes. They were grilled garlic potatoes which tasted like old fashioned McDonald's french fries but they had absolutely no breading or fried anything. They were just so buttery and delicious.
For desert I had a Crem Caramel which was very good (not as good as the rest of the meal). I think maybe I just don't like Crem Caramel that much so maybe that's why I didn't particularly care for it. The restaurant was very busy but they never rushed me out. I could see parties of two waiting at the door (even at 10:30) but they never once asked me to leave or anything. I had a cafe to end the night with a little milk in it and it was amazing. It was so rich without being too strong or overpowering. Excellent!!
When I was leaving, Donaldo asked me to go have drinks with him (and I actually wanted to because he was quite cute) but he said he probably wouldn't get off work for another hour and I didn't want to just hang around and wait for him. So I headed back up to the Fish pub (my now regular hang out spot) and started talking to the first people I saw inside. They were two guys from Ohio studying in Rome who were on vacation in Florence for the weekend. We ended up sitting and drinking there for a while before heading to a VERY American disco down by the Duomo. It was fun, but nothing special, so I headed back home around 2:30.
This morning I got up (feeling much better than yesterday, thank goodness) and decided to go to mass at the Duomo. I did not understand one word of the entire service, but it was a total experience. It is amazing to me that I don't speak that language at all but I still can follow mass. I basically said the mass in English in my head and prayed out loud in English when I was supposed to. They had a pamphlet with the readings and the gospel in English so that helped me follow along as well. I didn't need to understand the priest for the homily because I was just so entertained watching him. I have no idea what he was talking about but I could tell I liked this guy. He talked so much with his hands and was so over-dramatic. It was great!! At one point he did say something in English, but I think he may have been making fun of some people not paying attention. Taking communion was much needed and it was great to just sit there and stare at the huge dome and the amazing fresco on the ceiling. The echo inside the building was also unreal and I felt like I was in a movie it was so huge.
Today I head to Rome. My friends from last night have a nice sports bar that they're going to be watching the Superbowl in so I will probably hook up with them. It doesn't start until 12:30 AM so it's going to be a late night for sure.