Thursday, July 1, 2010

FIVE GUYS & ME-Florence-Day 2-Gushing & Gawking


Florence, Italy
Day Two – Gushing & Gasping

Waking up each morning in Europe was a thrill. But waking up in Florence to the slight din of Vespas careening on the street outside our window filled me w/ excitement and anticipation. My heart beat faster and not from the rich coffee we had at breakfast. I still couldn’t believe we were in Florence! Florence! (Obviously I was way over the internal hissy fit I’d when we arrived the day before.)

We finished our espresso. Our museum appointment to see Michelangelo’s David was our first stop. David! “The” David! As we walked, we passed a replica standing proudly outside in a piazza where all the Firenze pigeons proudly perch. They may not know much about art, but they know what they like.

But words leave me when I try to describe the feeling I had when I walked into the gallery where the real David stood reaching 100 feet in the air. OK – I’m exaggerating, but it seemed like a hundred feet to me. I gushed! I gasped! He was magnificent. So much bigger than I imagined him to be. So much more beautiful. I wanted to take pictures. We weren’t allowed. I wanted to touch the marble. Another no no. So I stared… then circled a bit around him and stared… then circled him a bit more and stared. I don’t think I let out the air I sucked in when I gasped until I completed encircled him w/ my stares. He was stare cased.

Breathing steadily again, we left the museum… my gushing and gasping over. Or so I thought. But, as we walked the streets art was everywhere! In piazzas!

On outside walls!

In archways!

On buildings!

Everywhere! My gushing and gasping almost overwhelmed me. It was time to stop my racing heart. And the only way to do that, of course, was to shop!

We made our way through alleyways and promenades where the city’s ‘undead’ (translation: alive) artists peddled their wares

and performance artists dressed and posed as statues for hours.

Finally, we reached the Ponte Vecchio and its gazillion jewelry and souvenir shops. The very bridge where Dante, himself, once walked and mused poetically.

Ponte Vecchio, one of the most famous bridges in the world, was originally built in 996, it was destroyed and rebuilt a number of times, the last incarnation of which was in 1345. Oddly enough, when the Germans fled Florence on August 4, l944 (the day Anne Frank was arrested) they left the bridge standing after burning every other bridge in the city. (August 4th is also my birthday.)

Sadly, the dollar in Europe wasn’t great and there weren’t too many bargains, so my heart slowed down to a normal beat as we window shopped and took in the view from the bridge.

It was getting late and my stomach began to growl. Time to eat. Since first reading Hemingway in high school, I had always wanted to eat at Harry’s Bar. I never had the chance in Paris, but the famed Florence Harry’s Bar was within walking distance. We strolled alongside the Arno River, the street lined w/ Vespas, till we found the restaurant.

Only a few lunch patrons were left lingering over espresso in the main dining room. We took a table in the bar by the window and began to chat w/ the dapper, elderly man behind the bar. The rooms had that wonderful ‘bar/saloon’ ambience with dim lighting, dark mahogany wainscoting and pink tablecloths and I felt I was ‘home’… atmospherically speaking.

Studying the menu, Richard asked him what “Leo’s salad” was. The man smiled. “I’m Leo and the salad is named for me.” Well, of course, Richard had to have it. He loved it… though the delicious dressing’s secret ingredient was kept a secret.

Nothing so healthful for me. There was a cheeseburger on the menu! I wanted the cheeseburger! I had to have the cheeseburger! No surprise to anyone who’s been reading my blog over time. It was perfect! I kvelled.

While we waited for our food, Leo, who started off at the restaurant as a bus boy when it first opened more than 50 years ago, was now, for all intents and purposes, “Harry,” overseeing the various Harry’s Bars around the world. Leo and Richard bonded over Herb Caen, the famous San Francisco columnist, who often visited the bar. Leo regaled us w/ tales of Hemingway and showed us the broken chair he kept in the back… a chair (so the story goes) that Papa smashed in a bar fight decades ago.

We were reluctant to say goodbye, but it was almost time to meet the ‘guys’ for drinks and dinner. We promised Leo we’d be back someday.

Someday ended up being later that same day.

After having a cocktail at the little bar in our hotel and hearing about Leo, the guys decided they wanted to go there for “appetizers” – so off we went.

 Leo was thrilled to see us again and bought us a round of Bellinis, the bar’s signature cocktail (he also makes a mean vodka martini).

Then, out came nibbles – my favorite – grilled cheese sliders! We wanted to stay for dinner, but had made a reservation at a recommended trattoria that turned out to be our only disappointment in Florence and will, therefore, be unnamed.

But the night remained memorable because of Harry’s Bar and Leo.

They say all good things must end - and our 'good' stay in Florence was ending... we were leaving in the morning... driving to an airport hotel in Rome w/ a lunch stop in Siena. My “five guys & me” Food Network adventure was almost over.


Stu said...

Wonderful pix and text, too.

Phillip said...

Bello! Mille grazie!