We started our last full day in Florence with a trip to the market.  My friend Meredith told me this was a must see.  So we headed over there in the morning.  We walked down streets lined with vendors, which we knew were selling knock-off products.  Sometimes it is just fun to watch the drama that goes on in this area.  In fact, at one point, we did see a lady almost get ripped off and then she was angry and making a huge scene in the road.  After we managed to push past all of this, we found a tent filled with produce, and headed inside.
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At this point, we were thinking that it was nice, but nothing special, and that it seemed like it was way too small for all the hype it has received.  We walked back outside and looked around a little, before stopping to use a water fountain and reviewing the information the map, which clearly shows a bigger market area.  It was about this time that we realized the big building behind us was actually the market.  See in Venice it was an outdoors market with little tents, so with a poorly labeled building, and the fact we were at the backside, almost resulted in us totally missing this amazing, amazing place. 
Welcome to the San Lorenzo Central Market.  No doubt I took pictures of just about everything I could, and then sampled things in between.
Look how huge these cheese wheels are:
We even bought some olives here as we sought out some goods for a picnic lunch.
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Look at the size of that Porcini mushroom!
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Lots of hanging pork.
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There was even an area of prepared foods that you could purchase and eat right there or take away for lunch.
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One of my favorite things there was the walk in cooler with the Melinda sign.  I guess they wanted me to enter here!
We spent some time looking over all the many, many cheeses.  Yes, we did pick some up for our little picnic.  The place was crazy and some places were hard to get things at.
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More mushrooms!  It seems dried porcini mushrooms are very big here.
After our stroll through the market, we headed to a nearby church and found a shaded area to enjoy our little lunch.  We made sure to pick up some bread to enjoy with our cheese.
However, we didn’t have a knife to cut the cheese, so we had to do some creative problem solving.
Thank heavens for extra cards in wallets that rarely get used.  Ryan did a fine job of slicing it up using a card.
This was cheese #2.  This was cow’s milk, but the one above was a sheep’s milk cheese.  The second cheese was harder and bit saltier.  In the end, I think we both liked #2 better, although #1 was the better one from a few we sampled at the stand.  It really depends on what else you are eating them with and what flavors work with others.
For dessert we tried panforte, which is like a fruit cake, and since it was covered in powdered sugar, it made a huge mess and attracted some birds.
It was really nice to get a few things to try at the market and then enjoy them sitting outside and watching what everyone else was doing.  Then we headed to the Duomo.  This church has a huge dome and very distinct architecture and decorations on the outside.
Here is the inside.  We were allowed to take pictures in here, so of course, I made sure to take a bunch.
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This is looking up into the dome.  Trust me, it is quite a dome.
More pictures inside the church.
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After we finished looking around, we checked out the underground area where some excavations were on display.
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This is an actual skull.
Then we left the inside area and headed to a separate entrance to climb the dome.  This was almost 500 steps up!  Part way up, as we took a very quick break to rest, we enjoyed the random statues.  This was a welcomed break because you get so dizzy walking up those tiny circular staircases.
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At this point we have made it to the first look out area.  You enter a narrow walkway that takes you along the outside of the dome, however it does not make a complete circle before you re-enter the inside area to complete your climb.
This is looking up into the dome from the ledge.
You can see me here, and get an idea of how high up we were at this point.
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Then, after the remaining climb up the dome, we were greeted with this breathtaking view, which is 360 degrees around the city.
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We are very high up at this point!
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After a short stay, and rest, on top of the dome, we headed inside for the rest of the “trip”.  If by any chance you are going to Florence and plan to climb the dome (which I highly recommend if you can), just be aware at that multiple points there is two way traffic of people through a very narrow, and really one way only, walkway.  Just be patient.

Once you exit the dome and climb back down a little (which is where it gets two way for a little bit), you end up in the dome part of the church interior, one level above where you were before.  Here I zoomed in to see the painting (the first picture is not zoomed).
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Before we exited for good, I took one last photo to show how tiny the people look down below.
This pretty much ended any sight seeing we were going to do.  So what do you do when it is late afternoon and you are done with the sights?  You head for desserts!
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I was not about to let my trip continue without a cannoli.  This is probably my favorite Italian dessert.
After a recharge from the the sugar, I was ready to move on.  Again, some shots of the city as we walked by.
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For a third night in a row we went with a restaurant we found in the Rick Steves book.  This is called Trattoria Lo Stracotto.  Interesting, people we met later on also ate there, just a few days before us, and the cast of the Jersey Shore passed by.  I know they were there filming, but we never saw them.
We started dinner, again, with bruschetta.  Can you tell we like bruschetta?
We actually split the pasta with tomato sauce for the first course.
I enjoyed some delicious mushroom risotto for the second course, while Ryan enjoyed a steak.
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We hoped for the chocolate soufflé we saw they had as listed in the Rick Steves book, but sadly they did not carry this anymore.  Oh well, I just enjoyed the rest of my wine and the atmosphere.
Overall the meal was good, but not exceptional.  The previous 2 nights were fantastic.  I would say that the best food we had throughout the whole trip was in Florence.

Walking home we stopped by the Santa Maria Novella church (or so I think this is what this is…right by the train station).
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And that concludes our last full day in Florence.

QUESTIONS:  Are you afraid of heights?  Do you like risotto?  Have you ever shopped at a market on vacation to pick up a picnic lunch?


Unknown said...

I love that it's totally normal to eat bread as an appetizer, pasta as a 1st course and risotto for a 2nd. GO CARBS! I love Italy...

Special K said...

Who wouldn't be smiling as big as you are with all that beauty surrounding you? WHen do you get the time to post?

No way am I afraid of heights. I am too short for that fear!

Gina; The Candid RD said...

I've definitely shopped at markets on vacation, but non like this one!! Wow, it's awesome, and I love the fact that you spotted a place that was called Melinda! That's great.
I do love risotto, and like the two of you, bruschetta. And cheese, and wine, and I want to go too!!

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