I Want to Go with Oh to Florence
When I was a child I often daydreamed about being locked in a shopping mall overnight. There also was the reoccurring vision of Jake from Sixteen Candles whisking me away in his red Porsche. While neither of these has happened, I haven’t given up on my daydreaming habit.
These days, my daydreams have grown and matured. No longer do silly, teenaged fantasies fill my head. Instead, I am consumed with thoughts of stealing away to the medieval city of Prague, pouring over the Gothic architecture of Barcelona, and listening to tunes by Strauss in Vienna. I’m armed with a suitcase and an American Express Centurion card on a plane bound for Europe. In this most elaborate fantasy, I set off like Gulliver, trying to stave off my insatiable wanderlust by exploring the countryside and greatest European cities, before finally finding peace, strolling along the Arno River in Florence.
Walking along the Arno River in Florence is just one of my fantasies. Credit
Imagine my surprise when I read in Sherry Ott’s blog about a competition sponsored by Go with Oh that offers several great prizes, including a month’s accommodation in Europe! Sherry is the first Go with Oh blogger and is currently in the midst of her European adventure. Now, Go with Oh is searching for their next blogger.
Should I win the title of Luckiest Blogger in the Whole Wide World, I’ll get to choose four cities from a list of ten to visit: Berlin, London, Florence, Rome, Prague, Paris, Dublin, Vienna, Barcelona, and Venice. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better list. In order to enter the competition, I must choose one of the cities and list the five things I’d like to experience during my visit there. So, I’m supposed to pick a city and write about five things I’d like to do in that city? That assignment is a piece of cake for a daydreamer like me.
Here’s what I’m going to do if I get to Go with Oh to Florence.
Take a Tuscan cooking class and visit Dario Cecchini, aka the Crazy Butcher of Panzano:
Tuscan cuisine is simple food. It’s not smothered in heavy sauces that typify most Italian fare. I like the idea of cooking that’s simple, especially since the only Italian-inspired meals I cook come from a box and a bottle. When I’m in Florence, my mediocre culinary skills will be transformed intoTop Chef material. I’m going to take a cooking class where I’ll learn to whip up pappa al pomodoro, asparagi alla Fiorentina, and carciofi fritti. Flawlessly, I’ll pair Chianti with a perfectly-grilled bistecca Fiorentina. After one lesson, I’ll have increased my knowledge of Tuscan cooking by precisely 98.57%.
Giada De Lau-who?
I’ll be a master Tuscan chef after my cooking lesson. Credit
Equipped with that knowledge, I’ll take a short drive to Panzano. What’s in this tiny Tuscan town, you ask? Well, the most famous butcher in the world, of course. Dario Cecchini is affectionately known as the Crazy Butcher of Panzano. More than simply a butcher, Dario is a meat artist. As a Texan and former English teacher, I must meet the guy that offers the best cuts of beef and quotes Dante. I’ll let Dario choose my steak; he is the expert. Then with the sweetest of smiles and in my best Italian, I’ll thank Dario for the Dante lesson and the fine cut of beef. Back to the city I’ll go to make a home-cooked meal at my Oh-Florence apartment. After all, I’ll be the best half-day-trained-Tuscan-cook ever.
Dario Cecchini, the Dante-quoting butcher of Panzano, is the master of meat. Credit
Get dolled up Italian-style and head to Piazza della Repubblica for la passeggiata:
Much like folks in small-town America, Italian life revolves around the town square. These squares are the sites for festivals, religious events, and la passeggiata. Italians revel in a chance to see and be seen, and that’s what la passegiata is about. Equivalent to an evening stroll, it’s no wonder that Florentines see the sidewalks of la passagiata as catwalks.
I’ll experience la passegiata in Piazza della Repubblica. Credit
When I’m in Florence, I’ll want to see and be seen, too! Wearing my best Italian leather boots and around my neck, a stylishly-tied silk scarf, I’ll strut along the cobblestone sidewalks trying not to twist an ankle. I’ll take time to sip on an aperitivo, and from my café table, I’ll watch the time-honored, Italian tradition of la passeggiata unfold before me.
I’ll master the effortlessly-chic Italian style for la passeggiata. Credit
Peruse the Uffizi Gallery, Vasari Corridor, and Bobili Gardens with Flavio:
Luckily for me, Florence has an art-hoarding problem. The city has over one million pieces of Renaissance art, and that doesn’t include the architecture. To properly appreciate the artistic works in the famous Uffizi Gallery, I’ll find a handsome, starving-art student (let’s call him Flavio) to give me a tour. Flavio’s extensive knowledge will guide me through the gallery’s collection of masterpieces from the Middle Ages. I will be entranced by the works from the Renaissance Period. Creations by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and other great Italian artists will come to life before me through Flavio’s melodious, Italian accent.
I’ll explore the Uffizi Gallery for its Italian masterpieces. Credit
We’ll escape the crowds of the gallery through a door that opens to the Vasari Corridor. Many don’t know about this enclosed and elevated, kilometer-long passageway that connects Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti. But Flavio and I do. He’ll tell me about how Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici had the corridor built in 1565 in order to move freely between his home and the government palace. Flavio will brag about how it only took Italians five months to build and how innovative its design is. We’ll continue walking in the footsteps of the Grand Duke. As we contemplate the meaning of the art, Flavio will tell me about the fundamental role of the family in the birth of the Renaissance, their genius in banking, and their part in history.
After reaching the end of the Vasari Corridor, we’ll step foot into the glorious Boboli Gardens. Flavio and I will say our goodbyes after he’s pointed me to the most spectacular spot in the gardens. There I’ll bask in the Italian sun, update my Facebook page, post photos on Instagram, and tweet out a tiny taste of my art-filled afternoon.
Traverse the Florentine streets on a gluttonous gelato crawl:
Pub crawls are so yesterday. Getting bombed on beer and vodka sodas just don’t have the appeal it used to for me. Besides, I want to remember every single detail about Florence, and a brain swimming in alcohol will certainly impair my memory. But a brain swimming in gelato? That won’t cause any physical damage other than to my waistline. Hey! When in
Finding the finest Nutella gelato in Florence is my mission. Credit
Part of my time in Florence will be spent searching for the important “produzione artiginale” and “produzione propria” signs hanging in gelaterias. Those will tell me that I’m about to partake in hand-crafted gelato and not something mass produced. I’m not wasting my time or taste buds on that. Yes, my search for the perfect Nutella gelato will be something akin to the hunt for the Holy Grail. Places like Vivoli, Festival del Gelato, Grom, and Gelateria Carabe are already on my radar.
Only hand-crafted gelato is for me. Credit
Just as Marco Polo explored the Silk Road of Asia, I will scour the streets of Florence for the finest gelato. By the week’s end, I will be the definitive expert on Nutella-flavored gelato in all of Florence.
Heaven in a cone Credit
Learn the art of leather craftsmanship from a master at Scuola del Cuoio:
Shopping is legendary in Florence. Some of the most famous fashion houses originated there, so it would only make sense that I’d shop. Maybe I will pick up a luxurious souvenir from Gucci. Perhaps custom-made shoes from Ferragamo, a pop-art patterned scarf from Pucci, or an animal-print dress from Cavalli would satisfy my shopping hunger.
Ferragamo is the ultimate in Italian luxury, but I’ll make my own souvenir. Credit
Those all sound wonderful, but why would I want to pay a premium price for hand-crafted Italian items when I have the opportunity to make my own? That’s right, make my own! When I’m in Florence I’m going to take a leather craftsmanship class from the world-renowned Scuola del Cuoio. This school, located in Monastery of Santa Croce, was founded by Franciscan friars and the Gori and Casini families. Their purpose was to teach the orphans of World War II a trade, but has morphed into a leather laboratory that attracts world leaders, Hollywood stars, and royalty.
I’ll study at Scuola del Cuoio, housed in Monastery of Santa Croce. Credit
I will proudly put on my smock and study under a master leather craftsman. He’ll give me a glimpse into the world of fine leather and the art of design. As I breathe in the luxurious leather scent, I’ll soak up all the knowledge the master will offer. I’ll be the teacher’s pet by volunteering and asking questions. And when it’s time to create our own leather goods, I’ll choose the hand-stitched, cowhide belt, complete with a brass buckle and an embossed monogram. It will not only be beautiful, but also practical. After my gluttonous gelato crawl, I’m going to need a new belt. Two birds. One Stone. Perfecto!
These are just some of the leather tools I’ll use at Scuola del Cuoio. Credit
Perhaps this blog post is my American Express Centurion card. Maybe my daydreams of Florence and the rest of Europe will become reality. Lest you be concerned about me wandering the continent alone, Go with Oh is letting me bring along a friend in this month-long odyssey. How awesome is that? I’ve already decided, should I win, that fellow travel blogger and friend, Lauren Di Marco of Lola Travels, will join me. You know what that means, Go with Oh judges? TWO travel bloggers for the price of ONE. (wink-wink) Now, that’s a great deal.
I’ll see the Ponte Veccho as I meander along the Arno River. Credit
But that’s not all!
I should let you know that I’m not the only one that can win in the Go with Oh competition. Although there’s only one Luckiest Blogger in the Whole Wide World, there are several prizes to be had in the Go with Oh Facebook contest. It’s super easy. You could win some snazzy Samsonite luggage, a Panasonic Lumix camera, an iPad 2, or 500 Euros in holiday accommodation. Check it out and best of luck.
The Florentine sunset of my dreams. Credit