After waking up and participating in our new favourite past time of looking out the window to see if anyone gets run over (driving in Florence looks a bit scary), we set off for a spot of brunch and to visit the “Galleria dell’Accamedia”. We didn’t research anywhere to eat, but wanted to spend our last day in the city as near to the Duomo as possible; after a brief recon mission of the local cafés, we chose “Caffe Giotto” and sat right outside the church!
Although extremely busy, the food was fantastic; we both ordered wraps (at a very reasonable EUR. 5 each), but didn’t realise just how good they were going to be. Whoever decided to make a wrap out of pizza dough should win a Nobel prize or something. I had the ‘pollo e salsa’ and would recommend you do the same.
Just next door is the “Galleria dell’Accamedia”, which boasts the honour of exhibiting the works of Michelangelo, Giambologna, Pampaloni, and Bartolini, amongst other artists of legendary status. The queue was tiny compared to what it could have been, and after a fifteen minute wait we managed to get our tickets and get in (it’s only EUR. 4 for students). The first room holds the incredible “Rape of the Sabines” by Giambologna, a giant statue dating from 1582, depicting three figures in a serpentine fashion. One man towers as victor over a defeated and cowering adversary, whilst holding a nude woman up in celebration. The entire piece was crafted from a single piece of marble, and I was totally blown away.
I won’t spew about the other work there (as it would make this post horrendously long and boring for those not interested in sculpture), but I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t tell you guys that MICHELANGELO’S DAVID IS THERE. For those of you that don’t know, David is considered to be one of, if not the, greatest example of Renaissance sculpture. In the words of Giorgio Vasari: “When all was finished, it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; no other artwork is equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelagnolo finish it”.
It’s 14ft tall, was completed in 1504, and represents the Biblical figure of David. Towering above the tourists, it took a 26 year old Michelangelo (who was already the highest paid artist of his time) two years of constant work to craft this masterpiece; instead of following suit and sculpting David in battle, he chose to show him in a contrapposto pose, relaxed yet alert, calm yet tense. The detail is incredible; every vein on his hand and arm gleams through, and every muscle is defined as if you’re looking at a real life adonis. Breathtaking.
After taking about 800 photos of the piece and wishing that my Grandmother was still alive so I could ring her and tell her all about it (Italy was her favourite place on Earth, and her lively passion for art and literature was a tremendous part of my childhood), we decided that it would be a good time to visit “San Lorenzo Market”, the iconic market of Florence. There’s a plethora of wares sold here, but the leather is what we had gone for. After a lot of research and about 20 shops, Jacob and I walked away with new jackets; mine is the nicest piece of clothing I’ve ever owned: it’s a fitted leather bomber made from 100% lamb skin, hand tanned and hand coloured in Florence. I am a very, very happy boy.
Feeling chuffed, we went to get another fix of genius at the “Da Vinci Museum” . It was EUR 12 for both of us to enter, and although very small, it’s a really interesting visit. You don’t quite realise the breadth of his work and the sheer brilliance of his mind until faced with full scale replicas inside that room; there’s machines for everything. I don’t know if he even had time to sleep or visit the toilet; from ball bearings, cog wheels, flywheels and the world’s first robot, to flying bikes, tanks, mortars, the Mona Lisa, there’s literally nothing this man couldn’t do. He even made a Hygrometer, which measured atmospheric conditions using only wool and wax.
After a brief rest at the hotel, we recharged and set off for the only ‘fancy’ (expensive) meal of the trip, and were excited at the promise of Florence’s best steak. “Braciere Malatesta” is no ordinary restaurant; it’s sleek, modern, retains an air of Tuscan tradition, has a meat counter and a chef with the butchering skills of Edward Scissorhands on crystal meth, and has a fucking tree growing in the middle of the room (no, that’s not an exaggeration). Taking your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/family/self for the meal of a lifetime? Go here.
The menu is quite frankly ridiculous. If you left me your credit card and a full week, I’d come out obese and happier than anyone you’ve ever met; they have wood-fired pizzas, pasta made fresh every service, and fish/meat dishes to make even the fussiest eaters without anything to complain of. Jacob and I opt for “Le Polpettine Street” to start, which is essentially the single best meatball dish that exits upon the soil of this Earth. For EUR. 10 each, we got a huge bag of crispy fried meatballs packed with soft and flavourful pork, and three homemade dips of Florentine pesto (my favourite thing), a spicy tomato salsa, and vampire killing garlic mayonnaise. It was absolute perfection.
The waiter recommended a bottle of ‘Diaccio’ wine for EUR. 17, and we listened. It was the perfect accompaniment to our meal (although he jokingly hated us for not wanting red), and has been added to my collection of things to try and buy in England. Okay, now it’s time to talk about steak.
I thought, prior to this culinary adventure, that I had eaten a good steak. I’d even gone to the butchers myself before and picked out a good’un, but, my friends, I had not eaten steak. I had eaten lies. Braciere Malatesta serves steak. There are four different types on offer, all T-Bone, and all worth their weight in gold. We, out of budget reasons, had to opt for the EUR. 47 a kilo “Fiorentina Lombata Scottona”, the original Florentine cut. I was genuinely almost nervous when the waiter arrived with a knife the size of a machete and handed it to me as if he was crowning me a knight, and when that 1.3KG slab of heaven was plopped down upon the table cloth, I could have cried with happiness. I even rang my friend Joe, the biggest meat lover I know, as I had to tell someone about it.
It was, fellow bloggers and esteemed guests, hands down, without a shadow of a doubt, the best fucking thing that I’ve ever, ever, eaten. We ate in silence. In awe. In confusion as to what God had sprung up from the depths of Tuscany to grace us with this dish. The meat, bloody and rare, was so tender I literally pulled it apart with my hands. The depth of flavour was unfathomable; marbled fat fed each inch of glistening pink meat a well of never-ending smoky goodness, and with the addition of fresh herbs and careful seasoning, I don’t think I’ll ever eat something so glorious again.
The bill was EUR. 120 for both of us. Judge us if you will, but it’s the best 60 quid I’ve spent in my life.
I’m going to sleep now and dream of beef. Rome waits for us tomorrow, so if you know of any secret sights or treasured restaurants, please comment them below.