A November 2004 trip
to Florence by dolphoto
Quote: My four lovely days in Florence reminded me of why I should go there more often.
Located near Santa Croce, Enoteca Pinchiorri is a gem of a small restaurant. There is a main indoor room, a lovely patio for summer, and several smaller rooms for smoking or an after-dinner coffee. (Smoking is not allowed in the dining room, but the break to one of the lovely lounges is quite pleasant.) The rooms are all beautifully decorated and furnished. The dining room even included the thoughtful touch of a bench to hold a purse.
The menu can be a bit underwelming in terms of detail. When in doubt, ask the waiter. Be prepared for unusual ingredients (ever hear of Parson's nose?). Everything is amazingly delicious. Not everything you'll eat is on the menu. Like many fine restaurants, there are several small dishes served before or between courses that can be tiny treasures.
Whatever you eat, pace yourself to leave room for dessert. This is really a two- to three-course affair in itself. First there are the chocolates, little homemade wonders. (If you are too full to eat them then, you might be lucky as I was and get a box to take with you). Then there is the dessert itself, which is sure to be more than you expected. My chocolate napoleon was accompanied by a luscious vanilla ice cream. After dessert, take the time to enjoy one of the small rooms while having your coffee or tea.
Enoteca Pinchiorri is, as its name suggests, famous for its wine. Being on medication, I did not indulge. Well, there was that one lovely glass of champagne at the beginning of the meal.
What truly takes this restaurant up a notch above others with great food and ambience is the people. The staff is sizable. One person's sole job seemed to be to replace napkins as needed. The waiters are very friendly without any pretense. I was lucky enough to spend some time chatting with one of the owners. By the end of the evening, I felt I was among friends.
As would be expected, these are very expensive friends. Dinner for one, including that glass of champagne, came to over US$200, well worth it for such a wonderful experience. I left the restaurant loaded with goodies, including chocolates, brochures, my menu (no need to remember the dishes), and an ashtray (I’m sure glad I passed on that temptation to sneak one into my purse). I realize that the price of this one meal likely exceeds the average traveler's weekly food budget, but it also is likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and perfect for any special celebration.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 11, 2005
Via Ghibellina, 87
The eastern doors to the Baptistry are graced by Ghirberti's famous bronze reliefs, referred to by Michelangelo as the "Gates of Paradise." The ones seen now are copies. The originals can be found in the Grande Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (Cathedral Museum) at the far end of the piazza, along with masterpieces by Michelangelo and Donatello. The bronzes have amazing detail and exemplify the use of perspective.
Walk inside the Baptistry, sit down, and look up. The octagonal ceiling is covered in gorgeous mosaics from the 13th and 14th centuries. While most represent biblical stories, angels, and saints, the sections on the separation of the blessed from the damned are particularly striking.
Photography is permitted, but use of tripods is discouraged. The back of a bench works well for the stabilization needed.
Baptistry (Of Saint John)
One of the older of the many remarkable churches in Florence, San Miniato has a somewhat more intimate feeling than many. Built late in the first millennium, it includes art added through to the 15th century. Among these is the small, but magnificent shrine by Michelozzo incorporating Della Robbia terracotta’s.
On the upper level, behind the altar, there is a mosaic of Christ in benediction. Most visitors miss seeing this in all its glory because they either can't find the coin box to turn on the light or won't pay the 1€ fee. Pay the Euro. It's definitely worth it. The coin box is near the top of the stairs to the right. Another coin box near the church's entrance lights a wider area of the building.
Again, behind the altar, but this time on the lower level, there is a small purely Romanesque chapel that the resident monks still use for prayers. If you're lucky enough to be there for one of the offices, sit for a while on one of the benches outside the chapel and drift off to the middle ages.
When you've absorbed all you care to, take a leisurely stroll down the hill back to the city. This is how you'll get some of the picture-postcard views and see some others that aren't quite as commercial. An easy footpath leads you past views of vineyards and the city walls to Piazza Michelangelo. Filled with tour and city buses, this is the spot for getting that requisite panoramic photo of Florence. Sunsets from here can be spectacular (and rather romantic), but a dramatically cloudy day is great as well.
Continuing down via steps leading from the piazza, it's a pleasant stroll down to the city. Take the time to get a good look at one of the old city gates close to the Arno. After this walk, you will have earned that gelato.
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