I visited Florence for four nights, smack dab in the middle of my trip. The birthplace of the Renaissance, with its rust-colored roofs, has so much art and history oozing from every corner of the city. 

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I was blown away by this painting of Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Cristofano Allori (1577-1621), at the Palazzo Pitti. It is based on the biblical story in which Judith, a Jewish widow, upon hearing that the Assyrian general Holofernes was going to attack and besiege her city, entered his tent late at night after he had passed out from too much wine, and decapitated him. Interestingly, Holofernes desired Judith, although power and violence were not exactly separate from desire in those times, or these, for that matter. An older maid assisted Judith in taking his head away in a basket.

Allori’s version of the painting is particularly interesting as he painted himself and his pain into the scene. Not taking heartbreak very well (to put it lightly) after things ended badly with his lover, he painted her as Judith, her mother as the maid, and himself as Holofernes. Ouch.

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This salad is what I want to eat every day. Puntarelle with pounded anchovy, burrata, and just one piece each of radicchio and kale. There was just a touch of olive oil on the bottom of the plate, and other than that, every ingredient was beautifully and simply presented without vinaigrette or extra oil. Italian simplicity at its best, unadorned perfection.

Thankful for this restaurant recommendation (4 Leoni) by my lovely friend Simone. On a side note, check out her site for beautiful photographs of her travels in Nepal, and her work in ceramics and textiles!

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Within the Palazzo Pitti, there was La Cucina Secreta, or the Secret Kitchen, which it was at one point called. You can only visit the kitchen while on a guided tour, so I joined in on the Italian-led tour that was available. I was only able to pick up on bits and pieces of the information given, since I can only minimally understand Italian. In the 1600s, the staff cooked meals for the Medici Dukes here, while another kitchen was used to cook for the staff. All of the copper pots hanging on the wall, pictured above, are numbered and hanging in the same place as they were hundreds of years ago. 

That charcoal-grilled steak was just as incredible as it looks. Trattoria Sostanza.

Florence is an incredibly beautiful city with so much to offer. It did feel, however, that it takes quite some time to find the little spots away from the throngs of tourists, which were very much present, even in February. I was surprised to find that it felt more touristy and busier than Rome; perhaps there are more sites to see in Rome, so the tourists are more spread out, but there was a shocking number of large tour groups and the selfie-stick obsessed in Florence. That did take some getting used to, and I felt vindicated in feeling that way when talking to a friend upon my return. 

I had amazing meals, saw priceless art, and explored beautiful streets in one of the most historic cities. I saw Botticelli, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Caravaggio and others at the Uffizi Gallery…I could’ve stared at Botticelli’s Spring all day. There are almost 200 species of flowers in that one painting, which is truly awe-inspiring.

I’m looking forward to returning one day and checking out some of the restaurants that were closed for a winter break while I was there, as well as seeing more art, and checking out little nooks I didn’t make it to while there. I also ate a lot of tripe, because Florence.

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