Supposedly 9/9/09 was the most auspcious day this year, but for us it was all about 9/19/09. It was one of those picture-perfect days that started out great and kept getting better.
Thanks to @italylogue's fantastic tip, we found the last-minute ticket window to get our Uffizi tickets. True to the article's description, it was a bit tricky to find, and so nondescript that the uninformed would likely pass right by. But we had the inside scoop! It's located on the busy Via dei Calzaiuoli, embedded in the Orsanmichele church. We got same-day tickets to the Uffizi, no waiting in line, no fuss. It is cash-only, though, so be prepared for that. And there's a €4 fee. Totally worth it!
We had plenty of time before our 3:30 museum reservations to check out the Duomo complex. The outside of the church is spectacular, although the inside wasn't all that impressive. We debated whether to climb to the top of the dome or the belltower. At €6,50 each, not to mention all those stairs, it was an either/or scenario. Both afford awesome views, but if you go up the Campanile di Giotto, you also get the iconic dome in your pics. So that's what we did. The reward for hoofing it up all those steps, in increasingly tighter spaces, is a stunning view of Florence's red tile rooftops, Tuscan hills in the distance, and an impossibly blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Che bella!
After a few scoops of gelato to undo any good we'd just done by climbing all those stairs, we headed to the Uffizi. Neither of us is really a museum person, but we spent almost three hours viewing a staggering array of art (and dodging huge Asian tour groups). We finished up on the outdoor patio with yet more gorgeous views of the Palazzo and Duomo.
Our first real Moment of Zen that day came when we bought the Italian version of Two-buck Chuck at a tiny snack stand outside the Uffizi. I LOVE this country! We sat on the edge of the Loggia, sipped our €2,20 bottle of wine, ate some snacks, and watched the world go by. Students sketched the marble statues, a nearby busker performed on guitar, and tourists streamed past this historic corner en route to or from the Piazza della Signoria. Life did not suck.
Moment of Zen #2 happened shortly thereafter, as we strolled across the Ponte Vecchio into the Oltrarno neighborhood and found the most perfect wine bar. Il Santino Gastronomia, which is next door to Il Santino Ristorante, is a tiny little shop with gorgeous lighting and exposed brick. The cheese dude behind the counter sliced up paper-thin strips of lardo on crostini to start us off, while an adorable waitress brought a fabulous bottle of wine (which was only slightly pricier than the last one, at a whopping €9) and delectable piatto di formaggio. The whole scene was so magical that we got another round, and sat mulling over plans to open up a place like this in DC. It was perfection. And they invited us to come back the next night for their anniversary celebration. Sold!
Moment of Zen #3: just when the day couldn't get any more fabulous, we got back to our locanda to find that our bags had arrived! And we didn't even have to schlep to the airport to get them; someone had delivered them right to our room. It was a poetic ending to a perfect day. We may never come home.
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