European Vacation ’16: Day 3 — Florence, Italy

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Day 3: September 28, 2016

Erin and I slept in and enjoyed a day to ourselves. We leisurely readied ourselves and headed out over the river (our apartment was just a few meters south of it) to once again conquer the popular offerings of Florence. Quick Fun Fact – did you know that when (all of) Italy finally unified to its familiar form in the 1860s, Florence was its first Capitol? (Not Rome) It’s true. Believe me… I’ve been hearing it from many people, and “on the shows.” Ok – I’m sorry, quick personal glitch. Actually, a trained tour guide said so. In fact, this tour guide happened to provide us, upon our arrival there, the opening introductory lecture about The Great Synagogue, a true treasure of Florence and one of the most deeply spiritual and beautiful places I’ve witnessed in my 45 years.

According to the Synagogue historian, treatment of Jews was mixed (at best) in Italy in the first centuries following the Renaissance, and certainly here in Florence. They were often thrown out of the city, only to be allowed to return to strict Ghetto living and with limits to certain jobs and possessions. It was only with the conquest of Northern Italy by Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 1800s that they were made to feel “free,” allowed to leave the Ghetto and take certain positions in society and the economic being of Florence / Northern Italy. The reason for this is that despite Napoleon’s despotic and totalitarian nature, France’s laws were progressive-leaning toward the equality of all of mankind.

The Synagogue itself is one of the largest in Europe. Its design is a mix of light clay and pimma (Pink), reminiscent of Moorish influence. It was capped with a glorious copper dome, now oxidized blue/green (hopefully both of these images are clear on facebook). The indoors (where no photos were aloud), we were witness to ornate, richly painted walls (EVERY WALL was printed in rich, Sephardic shapes and deep reds, oranges, and blues), stained glass, a prominent Bimah, and a raised Cantor’s turret off to the left of the congregation (a sport we Christians clearly borrowed the style of for priests and pastors to deliver their sermons “on high”). The Temple museum boasts some very impressive Torah, and old, very priceless looking Torah adornments sure to be the purest of silver.

We continued to walk the streets of Florence, where the crowds continued to swell; happy crowds, full of a diverse array of tourists from all reaches of the planet. Plenty of Americans were about, still surprisingly unwilling to hide their college brands and pro sports logos. Easy to spot for those inclined to be less than friendly to U.S. tourists. But it doesn’t seem to be an issue here, as clearly the strong English spoken by Italians in hospitality and restaurant businesses are clearly accustomed to seeing us in droves.

Erin and I spent the latter half of the afternoon resting and awaiting the remainder of our family to return from their destination. This evening, we dined at “Ristorante Trattoria Angiolino aI 13 Arrosi.” Try saying that 3 times fast!!  It was cozy though somewhat bustling. The bar seemed to be a popular first stop for couples and other parties who later made their way into the restaurant. This was more reminiscent of home than we’ve seen from other restaurants here – though we must confess our sampling has been very small. The food was excellent. I enjoyed one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten – a thin cut seared and placed over raw fennel and radicchio. With a small cappuccino and almost unbelievable raspberry cheesecake (this raspberry dressing would KILL most mortals) to close the night, I was most pleased.

This is probably the part where I should inform you all that I’m no real foody. It’s just that I’m in Italy, and I kind of figure that these restaurant and meal descriptions “come with the service” here at “Todd Flora’s America.” Ciao for now!!

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