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Firenze, at first blush

PHOTO: Ponte Vecchio after Sunday's thunderstorms (c) Sery Kim

Sunday after the thunderstorms turned Firenze into an even more beautiful city. I don't know what it is about the smell of fresh rain permeating the air which fills me with such happiness, but I think there is no greater sign of blessing than rain. Thus, whenever I am somewhere new or my mind is thinking about making a change and then it starts to rain, my entire being just radiates with surety in knowing that what is to come will be even better than any of my doubts of fears.

Pretty powerful stuff for a weather condition! ;-)

For me, yesterday's rain was particularly poignant, as I am essentially starting yet another fresh chapter of my life. I came to Italy with a bit of a "last hoorah" before I start a new job -- I feel I am always writing about "the next, best chapter" of my life. This year has already been filled with incredible memories and experiences so I can only sense that everything yet to come this year will be magical. I can't wait to experience it all and, of course, being able to celebrate my birthday in Firenze makes everything even more meaningful.

PHOTO: Mercato Centrale (c) Sery Kim

So yes, yesterday was my first glimpse of Firenze. After many years of attempting to get to Firenze, I can say that at first blush I really love it. Maybe I love it more than Rome although, having not been to any of the museums, I can't really say. The architecture seems very similar to me, as does the shops and general feel of history, but I think it is the Arno River cutting through the city which I prefer. After all, as I have mentioned before, all of my favorite cities around the world (London, Istanbul, D.C., and my number one Paris) have rivers cutting through the city.

Yesterday, I walked around 8 miles of Firenze before I settled into Mercato Centrale for dinner and drinks. This is a recently refurbished food market, very small but very accessible. After walking around the dozen-or-so shops, I settled for pizza because, after four days in Italy, I had yet to have any pizza.

PHOTO: Margherita pizza (c) Sery Kim

I inhaled my Margherita pizza and four euro glass of white wine in record time. I hadn't eaten all day except for a cappuccino and a few scoops of fresh yogurt -- the yogurt in Europe is so divine it literally tastes like ice cream. After eight miles, my body was dying for more food or, quite frankly, ANY food.

Nothing special to report on the margherita pizza. It was hot and serviceable. Naturally, the pizza was vastly superior to any pizza currently offered in the U.S. which I have eaten, but that's Italy for you!

PHOTO: Stracciatella and caramel gelato (c) Sery Kim

Of course, I had to finish my meal with some gelato because, again, I had spent four days in Italy without any gelato. Sounds pretty sacreligious! The gelato was very fresh and light, a surprising feature of this gelato at Mercato Centrale. The gelato I had today, five scoops mind you (haha!), was quite heavy. I am not sure one is better than the other but it was certainly a great treat!

PHOTO: Fresh proscuitto at Mercato Centrale (c) Sery Kim

Other options at the market include wine tasting, cooking classes, proscuitto, cheese and even an EATALY shop. You could probably spend half-a-day being there and not miss-a-beat. Also, be advised the entire perimeter of the Mercato Centrale is filled with very aggressive salesmen in their market shops. The smell of fresh, genuine leather permeates even past the smell of rain and the quality is actually really good. I was surprised to find myself stopping to take a glimpse at a gorgeous yellow leather bag which was a spot-on Bottega Venetta imitation. I didn't buy it because I have already done too much shopping but I was quite tempted!

After all that walking and not sleeping for three days in Tuscany I was pretty beat. I came back to the St. Regis and stayed up until 2:00 am working -- so boring! But I definitely do regret that I didn't go to the museums on Sunday. I won't get a chance to go to either Uffizi or Academia before I leave Firenze tomorrow. Ah well! Next time!

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