Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer in Italy: Florence Part II

I stopped midway when updating Day 2 of Florence in my previous post and mentioned that the following post would focus on the rest of Day 2 combined with Day 3 as a consolidated post of museums and churches in Florence. Well, I overestimated myself again. This post would simply continue on from where I left off in Day 2.


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~*Florence Day 2*~

After jumping like crazy hyenas at Porta San Niccolò (Torre San Niccolo), our next stop was to check out Ponte Vecchio.

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Mini electric cars are ubiquitous in Italy. They are exceptionally cute when driven by big-sized Italians. I think they would look cute when driven by us Asians too.

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I was intrigued by the range of landscape and vegetation along the Florence river, Arno. We observed sandy grounds which almost look like a beach. The people treated it as a beach too. Just about a few lamp posts down was an arid land with sparse vegetation and no people but lots of birds. Without any gradual change, the view of the sparse vegetation was soon replaced by tall plants. It was as if a giant drew an invisible line on the ground and planted different plants on the plots. The variety was all rather interesting.

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We were not to far from Ponte Vecchio, a colourful Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge which is the oldest bridge in Florence. It is believed that the bridge already existed during the Roman times. Its current appearance dates back to 1345 when it was built to replace a bridge which was destroyed by a flood. Houses were built on the bridge, a common practice in large European cities during the Middle Ages. In the 15th century these shops were greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers. Today, the houses and shops had been converted into shops selling a wide assortment of jewelry, ranging from affordable modern jewels to pricey antiques.


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It was half past two and the hubz was complaining about his rumbling tummy so we had to peel ourselves from the river walkway, enter the alleys and pilfer for food... I meant looking for an eatery. We decided to eat light so as to enjoy a heavier dinner later as the timing was a little off. We were always eating at weird timings in Italy.

The weather was sweltering and all the eateries seem to be emitting hot air except for Golden View Open Bar Firenze which felt like room temperature. The prices were fine for a restaurant that looked elegant and we made up our minds to stop our hunt for an air-conditioned eatery. (When crafting this post, I learnt that this restaurant has a 4-star rating on Trip Advisor.)

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The waiter showed us to our seat which was by the open window. When we saw the view of Ponte Vechhio, we did not even care that the section he brought us to was not air-conditioned. I chose the seat facing the unobstructed view of Ponte Vecchio only to realise that my backdrop for photo-taking wasn't as nice as kh's.

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Hence, we swapped places after kh had a shot with Vecchio. Check out the crowd at the 3 arches. I wondered if we could get a spot there for photo-taking later.

Did you know? The Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence that survived the Second World War unscathed. Rumour has it that Hitler found so much beauty in the bridge that he made an express order for it not to be destroyed. Well, historical rumours and gossips are just so interesting!

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What used to be my backdrop.

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We hoped that the lunch would be as gorgeous as the view we were having.

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We were a little clueless about how to eat the bread. Bottles of olive oil and vinegar were served with the bread but we had no dish to pour them into. When we dine at Italian restaurants in Singapore, we would always be served a little dish of olive oil and vinegar. Kh thought that the way to eat bread with olive oil and vinegar in Italy was to pour them straight onto the bread and did just that. Does anyone have any idea if what he did was right?

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Carpaccio Di Bresaola-- Dry Salted Beef Carpaccio with Rucola and Parmesian Cheese.

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Ravioli (Ricotta e Spinaci) Ai Quattro Formaggi e Tartufo-- Ricotta Cheese with Spinach Stuffed Ravioli with Four Cheeses and Truffle Cream.

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Kh was doing that stupid kiam pa Ah Beng expression again. Can't stand it!

Btw, kh said that was the best pasta he had ever eaten. I thought that it was quite good too. Firstly, kh and I aren't ravioli people. We aren't Bella from Twilight, you see. Secondly, I could never ever finish a whole plate of pasta in cream sauce. No matter how hungry I am, I would get so sick of the rich, creamy taste to finish a creamy dish of pasta. This ravioli in truffle cream that kh had was delicious with obvious hint of truffle, not those artificial truffle oil taste but actual truffle. He finished all the cream sauce without feeling that it was too rich and oily.

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For dessert, we had dessert wine and creme brulee. I didn't like the dessert wine as it was too heavy. It tasted a little like sweet whiskey neat. The waiter recommended it but I'm not blaming the waiter as I liked his affable service.

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The restaurant's toilet was located downstairs. It felt like an art gallery there. The female sculpture indicated where the ladies was though there wasn't a male sculpture to indicate the gents. I was browsing the restaurant's official website and learnt that they have apartments too! I wonder if the little room at the bottom right of this collage is part of the showroom.

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After lunch, we set foot on Ponte Vecchio. It was just that kind of place where people would describe as a tourist trap. All I saw were rows and rows of goldsmith shops. There was a charming little shop selling exquisite trinkets but I wouldn't pay the price they were charging.

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We reached the arch and this view of the Arno was snapped from the arch. It looked so peaceful in front of the camera lens. It was a totally different story behind the lens.

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Most of the tourists were considerate in that they wouldn't hold up the space at the arch for a long time. Most just snapped a few pictures of the surrounding and of themselves before smiling at the next group in waiting and "let the space out". Of course there were also some who simply stood there and chatted and even sat on the ledge like they owned that space. No matter what, I wanted a shot of the Golden View Open Bar before we moved off.
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Could you spot where we were sitting for lunch?

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Finally making our mark at Ponte Vechhio.

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The picture below shows the Corridoio Vasariano (The Vasari Corridor) from Palazzo Vecchio to Uffizi. The whole corridor is an elevated enclosed passageway which connects the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti. The idea of an enclosed passageway was motivated by the Grand Duke's desire to move freely between his residence and the government palace, when, like most monarchs of the period, he felt insecure in public, in his case especially because he had replaced the Republic of Florence.

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Moving away from Ponte Vecchio, we reached a minor piazza which we could not even locate on the map. Piazza Santa Trinita is a triangular square taking its name after the church of Santa Trinita.

[Aside: My hubz looked like an uncouth Asian sitting and yawning with mouth uncovered.]

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"The church is famous for its Sassetti Chapel, containing notable frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio, ranked amongst 15th-century painting's masterworks, and the Bartolini Salimbeni Chapel, with frescoes by Lorenzo Monaco." -- Wikipedia

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We had wanted to visit the Florence Cathedral but once more, the timing was a little off after spending 1.5 h on lunch. I always made fun of kh's hunger getting in the way of sightseeing with our 1.5 to 2 hours meals. There he was sitting like an uncouth Asian once more and checking out some stuff on his iPad. He said that if anyone thought his whole outfit was mismatched, he would just say he was from ______________. (insert appropriate Asian country in the blank)

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Reflection shot of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and me through his LV. I LURVE this pair of aviators a lot. It's unisex but somehow I feel that it fits me a lot more than him. He refused to let me have it.

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The day before, we were at the area outside Palazzo Vecchio. This time, we were going to visit the museum --Museo di Palazzo Vecchio-- which would be open till midnight. That's quite cool. All museums should be like this as well so that tourists could visit outdoor locations in the day and museums at night. Museo di Palazzo Vecchio is ranked as #20 attraction in Florence with a 4.5-star rating.

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I enjoyed my time at this museum. The artwork and fresco in there were simply awe-inspiring. Every single room had beautiful and ornate paintings on the ceiling that after a while, I stopped snapping pictures and admired them with my eyes instead of through the camera. Some paintings told stories of long ago. Some paintings were renditions of famous paintings. Some paintings were simply intriguing. In addition, period pieces in some of the rooms gave a feel of how the rooms were really used in the past.

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Before we reached the top of the most impressive chamber --Salone dei Cinquecento-- we spotted a lift! Kh joked that these medieval people were so high-tech to have built a lift in the chamber way before modern people had lifts. -_-|||

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An interesting excerpt of Salone dei Cinquecento:
"Leonardo was commissioned in 1503 to paint one long wall with a battle scene celebrating a famous Florentine victory. He was always trying new methods and materials and decided to mix wax into his pigments. Leonardo had finished painting part of the wall, but it wasn't drying fast enough, so he brought in braziers stoked with hot coals to try to hurry the process. As others watched in horror, the wax in the fresco melted under the intense heat and the colors ran down the walls to puddle on the floor. Michelangelo never even got past making the preparatory drawings for the fresco he was supposed to paint on the opposite wall—Pope Julius II called him to Rome to paint the Sistine Chapel, and the master's sketches were destroyed by eager young artists who came to study them and took away scraps. The surviving decorations in this hall were made between 1555 and 1572 by Giorgio Vasari and his helpers, among them Livio Agresti from Forlì. They mark the culmination of mannerism and make this hall the showpiece of the palace." -- Wikipedia

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On the walls are large and expansive frescoes that depict battles and military victories by Florence over Pisa and Siena.

The ceiling consists of 39 panels representing Great Episodes from the life of Cosimo I, the quarters of the city and the city itself and towards the center is the apotheosis: Scene of His Glorification as Grand Duke of Florence and Tuscany

On the north side of the hall, illuminated by enormous windows, is the raised stage called the Udienza, built to receive citizens and ambassadors.

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From one of the windows, we saw where we were in the day time. Could you spot the church of San Miniato al Monte and the Statue of David at Piazzale Michelangelo? Of course you could. I've circled them for you.

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There was an exhibition by Zhang Huan titled Soul and Matter. We overheard a Chinese tourist guide explaining to a tour group how Zhang Huan used ash for many of his art work as it has metaphysical representation. Most of the ash artwork are busts of conservative size. Hence when we saw the immense ash sculptures of Buddha and Jesus Christ, we were amazed.

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Left: Judith Beheading Holofernes. I really love strong women.
Right: A chamber that reminds me of how a chamber in Laputa (a fictional place from the book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift) would look like.

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We finished touring the museum at 9 plus and caught night shots of Piazza della Signoria.

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Free water from the mountains flows out from taps and fountains all over the streets in Florence. While many people filled their bottles or drink directly from these taps and fountains, kh and I decided not to take the risk but to buy bottled water whenever necessary. I was actually a little disgusted by the dirt, moss, fungi and whatever green and brown stuff I see on the taps and fountains. This free water area looked pretty clean as somehow the poster lulled us into a sense of security that the water was indeed safe. There was even instructions on how many times to press the button for various sizes of bottles. So cool!

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We had dinner at Affe di Bacco which was a stone's throw away from our hotel. It was recommended by the hotel's receptionist. In her very own words with limited English vocabulary, she said , "There is this really cute place that you could try." I thought that was really cute. Ranked #337 with a 4-star rating on Trip Advisor, this is not your usual tourist restaurant. It had a neighbourhood feel, just the sort of place that the locals would go. There is a separate menu in English which wasn't updated as told by the waitress. She spent quite some time explaining to us the new dishes on the updated Italian menu in her halting English. Kudos for the effort! We really appreciated that.

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Somehow, Coca Cola in Italy seems flat and doesn't have a refreshing feel. You know how even people aware of how much sugar Coke has would occasionally drink Coke for that super refreshing feel? Well, the Coke in Italy totally didn't give that feeling. When I asked for ice cubes, the friendly waitress served a dish of ice cubes with 2 wedges of lemon. That certainly did the trick.

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Sadly, I didn't think that the dinner was to be raved about. The bread was hard, the cheese platter wasn't the kind of cheese platter we like-- there were only 2 slabs of hard cheese, the rest was mushy cheese. I had to glaze the mushy cheese with lots of honey as I didn't quite like the taste. Kh thought that his main course of Carbonara was not bad. I had risotto from the Italian menu which was done in a way that wasn't quite to my liking. All the ingredients in my dish had almost the same mushy texture except for the black seed-like stuff. It helped to break the overall mushy texture with little bursts of crunchiness. I can't remember the name of that black seed-like stuff as I'm typing right now though I knew its name that evening. (The waitress was having difficulty translating it into English so I keyed the Italian name onto my phone to look it up in the hotel when I had wifi.)

When the waitress cleared our table, she looked concerned that my risotto was 2/3 done. She enquired if there was anything not to my liking and that she could feedback to the chef. I answered with a smile that I was too full (which was true). It wasn't that the food was no good. It just didn't gel with my taste buds. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed ourselves feeling like a local in this casual restaurant. We were also pleased with the waitress's service.

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It could get quite boring having consecutive posts on my blog about my Italy trip. Hence, I would take a break from travel posts after this and continue catching up with other backdated posts for the year.

I've replied to your comments so do check back on the posts where you left yours. =) Happy work week/ school week to all of you!

38 comments:

  1. So beautiful and interesting--the history and the modern-day things (like art galleries and apartments in restaurants and shops ON a bridge--never heard that before). I like kh's relaxed approach to being a stranger in a strange land. No need to worry about how they do things, better to let them learn new ways from us tourists. :)

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    1. It sure sounds like beauty in mismatch stuff. When you are walking along Ponte Vecchio, you would feel like it is just an ordinary street with sidewalk. Only when you are away from it do you see it as a bridge. Yeah, whenever we feel like our dressing is totally way off in a foreign land, we would convince ourselves that we are tourists and it doesn't matter. =D

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  2. Ah, loving your Italy trip posts! Lovely pictures, you and your husband are so wonderfully photogenic together <33 I love pastas and the salad you had looked very delicious! I would love the visit Italy someday as well! Looking forward to your future posts.

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    1. Thank you for your sweet comment Anna. I hope I won't bore my readers with continual write-ups of travel posts.

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  3. Beautiful, beautiful pictures! You look gorgeous, and the food looks absolutely mouthwatering! This is bringing back memories of my own honeymoon in Italy over a decade ago; Florence was one of our stops :)

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    1. Thank you for your sweet comment, dear. I haven't seen you around for a while. I'm sure your honeymoon in Italy was fabulous!

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  4. OMG! ITALYYY!!!! :) AHHH! You're so lucky to spend your time there and I am so jealous. :( hahaha. eeep! really wanted to see their beautiful architectures and arts personally! :D

    xoxo,
    rae
    http://raellarina.blogspot.com/

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    1. Italy is such a beautiful country and each city is so unique. I would like to save up to visit other parts of Italy in future. You could do it too! If you love architecture and art, you would definitely love Europe.

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  5. Wow, sweetie, how amazing. Wonderful pictures start to finish. I especially like the bathroom art gallery :) and all that FOOD!!! Those ravioli are beautiful in particular. And, yes, the shot of your husband yawning will probably not make it into the next Florence Travel Guide but, on the plus side, I thought his outfit looked great. Not sure how much of a compliment that is coming from me however :) And you, dear, so adorable and so easy to see what an amazing time you were having. So happy that you got to take this trip.

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    1. I always look forward to reading what you have to say, Rick, coz your feedback are great summary of comments for a post and also, you are always so sweet. My other Rick blogger friend above (Ricademus) always have lovely things to say too. Are all Ricks always so sweet with their words? lol... Thanx for complimenting kh too. I shall tell him that somebody appreciates his dressing.

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  6. Oh and I forgot, yes, you have a VERY important item you must not put off blogging about....pinky pink pig/bat must be allowed to roam wild on the jardinière :)

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    1. I will! Hahaha... But I've not blogged about another craft work I did with the same group of friends last year. Maybe I shall do a consolidated craft post.

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    2. If it is as furry and cute as PPP/B then let's see it :)

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    3. It is furry and quirky looking. Not really cute cute kinda cute. Haha

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  7. Wonderful photos doll, looks like you enjoyed yourself. Have a super week xx

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  8. Mmmm Jo, your food pictures are always so delectable looking! A restaurant by the river sounds so lovely--just look at those shots! And I had fun scrolling through this post for the pictures. I really adore those shots of the architecture especially. Isn't that just gorgeous? Works of art! Especially the interiors, like that ceiling. Ugh. I always get all mushy gushy obsessed over things like that ;)

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    1. I would reckon that you are quite an arty person based on your writing style and your drawings. And so I guess you must have liked all the beauty in Florence as well. =)

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  9. hi jo! wow, that car is super small. hahaha they're cute, but i'm sure it looks awkward for a tall or larger size person. i love the ceilings and walls in that museum. it is absolutely gorgeous. i'm surprised they didn't give you a separate dish to pour the oil for the bread. they do that here in the States. maybe they want you to use the same plate. very interesting. great post and lovely time. can't wait to see the next parts.
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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    1. There are many tall and large-sized people driving those mini cars. It amuses me to see who drive those car. I would love such an energy-saving car for myself too. The oil issue is simply too weird. The plate is too large and flat for oil to be poured. Thank you, Kim. I hope I won't bore my readers with continual write-ups of travel posts.

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  10. I was supposed to comment on your last post, but I forgot, but what I really wanted to say was I think you and your husband are absolutely ridiculously cute together!

    But I agree with your husband--medieval architecture is impressive, and I sometimes have a difficult time grasping how they even managed to construct such buildings ._.

    (Sucks that the cheese platter was a mess! But least the waiter there was nice about the food and such!)

    Gorgeous photos though; sounds like you both had a fantastic trip! C:
    Vanessa | Citron and Guavaberry ʘ‿ʘ | Makeup & Silly things

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Vanessa. I agree. I'm often awed and wonder about construction of buildings with the technology available during those days.

      I'm so glad that the service staff in Italy are all really very courteous and friendly. They made our meals and experience even more pleasant. I can't believe that they didn't have tipping culture like in the States for such great service.

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  11. Hi Jo! Youn made me want to come back to Florence. Love this city, have visited that city many times and always amazed me!:) Seems you had a really great time over there, you both look utterly sweet, what an adorable couple you are!:) Btw, the reviews about the both restaurants is really useful, the first one inspires me, I actually love ravioli ai 4 formaggi, yum yum!:) While the second restaurant must be little disappointing though the service was nice. Kisses and have a nice evening! xo

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    1. You are so sweet, Lilli. Thank you for your lovely words. This is the first time I have an Italian native blogger commenting on my Italy post and it is refreshing to hear how even Italians love Florence. I wonder if you've explored most parts of Italy. It was the first time we ate formaggi. I love cheese but I can't eat too much of them and the one we had was just right. Have a lovely Sunday!

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  12. Pictures are stunning!

    Followed :)

    Xo, Michelle

    mash-elle.blogspot.com

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  13. i really loved florenze! great place!

    http://differentcands.blogspot.kr/2013/08/seoul-girl-gone-international-sujis.html

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  14. I haven't been to Florence in years, but I remember really enjoying it. The scenery was so beautiful and Italy always has great food.

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    1. I totally agree with you, Audrey. Thanx for leaving me a note.

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  15. Hello,
    how beautiful vacation, these days are the most happy!!
    I love Florence!
    Hugs and Love.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and leaving me a note, Carolina. =)

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  16. Beautiful photos and post! thanks for his interesting comment! I love your blog! would you like to follow each other? let me know...
    Besos, desde España, Marcela♥

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    1. I love seeing newcomers here. Thanx for leaving me a comment. I will check out your blog soon. =)

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  17. I really enjoyed this post as all your other Italy posts so far! I think that's cute you switched sides with your hubs to get the better background for photos and that piece of history about Hitler and the bridge was really interesting! I always google the restaurants I go to too if I can remember their names =P The ravioli looks delicious and that is a really big creme brulee!!! The restroom are is huge and super pretty!

    I think it's very thoughtful and sweet of the tourists that would not linger in small cramped spaces that everyone is trying to get a photo of. Just like when I visit museums and most people leave a considerable amount of room in front of a piece of art work. Of course there's always that person or group that just act like they own the place lol

    Omg Leonardo ruined his own painting! If you're interesting in art history there's a book written buy Giorgio Vasari called Lives of the Artists that highlights many artists during the Italian renaissance, it's quite a good book and full of interesting gossip hahaha Also speaking of strong women you'll be a fan of Artemisi Gentileschi! She was an artist during the renaissance when it was rare for women to have a career of such and she also had many paintings of Judith decapitating Holofernes! Her personal life history is really interesting and sad =(

    Oh that's so cool there are water taps that look like that! The bf and I are really paranoid when we go to foreign places too, even NYC LOL If I ever go to places in Asia I'll probably need to take travelers diarrhea or something as I'm for sure to get something, darn you weak stomach! This comment got so long once again hahaha

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    1. I think I've since become too reliant on online reviews of places. I recently discovered that there are some eateries that serve pretty decent food and after having dined there, I googled those eateries and was puzzled at their lacklustre ratings/reviews.

      I realised that the part I've extracted from Wikipedia about Leonardo has got some error. I went to check the Wiki page again just to make sure it's not my oversight. Did you notice that halfway, it was stated as Michelangelo instead? It's a typo right? You are such a history and art buff! I would go read up on Artemisi Gentilesch soon!

      It's no good to spend your holidays suffering from food poisoning and diarrhoea and it's always better to be safe. You have to be careful with bottled waters if you are travelling in certain developing countries as they tend to recycle their water and bottles in the most unhygienic ways.

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  18. Definitely not bored with your travel. I am just enjoying it and taking notes as I really want to visit these places soon. I dont know how soon but hopefully next year or year after.
    Italian bread is known to be hard. Once I had a French friend and an Italian friend arguing about their breads. The French friend proved it later on to the Italian friend when they visited together to Paris. Lol
    I remembered this when you told the bread is hard.
    www.thoughtsofpaps.com

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    1. So happy to hear that, PAPS. I'm always encouraged by such sweet words like yours. I hope you managed to plan a trip to Italy in time to come.

      So is French bread the soft one?

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