First stop of the day was the Museo della Casa Fiorentina Antica. The historic home is being restored and transformed into a museum. For now, only two floors are open...but its free...no complaints :) The heavy stone architecture and wall mosaics are notable.
Walked past a who's who of Italian designers on our way to our next stop...the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella. The bulding's facade was done in iconic white and green marble, like the nearby Duomo. The interior was impressive but restrained...with some very beautiful frescoes. Around the corner, visited the Farmacia di S.Maria Novella..."the oldest pharmacy in Florence" (maybe in all of Italy? I can't remember). The pharmacy had its roots from 1381 when Dominican friars made rose-scented water (supposedly to ward off the plague). The pharmacy itself opened in 1612 in its current location. The rooms smelled of roses.
Time for lunch. Tattoria Anita (another Suzanne recommendation) hit the spot with hearty Tuscan cuisine at reasonable prices. Our pasta dishes were simple and delicious. Jeff enjoyed his breaded chicken cutlet. My "mixed meat" platter was a bit more...adventurous? Tuscan style roasted potatoes on the side of both dishes. Due cappuccini, per favore.
Visted an underwhelming museum highlighting Leonardo Da Vinci"s scentific inventions. A couple of the video presentations were very well done, but the overall "museum" was poor...definitely overpriced at 5€.
In striking comparison, our next two stops cost nothing and were rich and captivating...two lesser known churches full of history.
First, the (relatively) small Basilica di San Lorezo, situated on a busy public square towards the Mercate Centrale. The church is in mid-renovation...more like early-renovation...so interior scaffolding obscured much of the ceiling. But the front altar and visible ceiling were colorful and grand. A gentle, elderly priest dressed in white greeted us, asked us where we were from, and told us about his travels to the U.S. before he was so gray (as he tugged on his short gray hair to accentuate the point). He said goodbye with a heartfelt "Viva America!". We gave a few euros towards the renovations.
Wandered next to the tucked-away Basilica della Santos Annunziata behind the Accademia. Entered through a glass-covered inner courtyard and then into an unexpectedly enormous church. In addition to the usual elaborate main altar, this church had more than a dozen side chapels...each one crammed full of shiny and/or colorful and/or chiseled object d'art. A secondary altar at the rear, was decked out in towering silver pillars and candles. Breathtaking.
Finished the daylight hours with a stroll along the Arno with the sun setting. Skullers practiced on the calm river. Sidewalks were full of fellow sun-worshipers.
Dinner was at yet another Suzanne recommendation...and a third winner in a row. The Coquinarius wine bar served up mouth-wathering, creative fare. Our pastas were our best yet: a rich tagliatelli with a meaty rabbit sauce; large raviolli pillows of cheese and spinach topped with a ham sauce and stringed zuccinni. Two fresh salads followed for the entrees. A bottle of Chianti Classico. Deserts of warm chocolate souffle and creamy cheesecake. Best meal so far.
Finished the evening with late drinks and music in the Santa Croce area which seems to be the young, hip place to be. Overall, Florence has a lot of late night energy to soak in.