Being a bit more Banksy than Botticelli, I knew I had to do ‘the art thing’ during The Boy and I’s time in Florence but didn’t want to waste time or money on anything less than the best of the best.
Upon discovering the Uffizi Gallery & Corridoio Vasariano (or Vasari Corridor) Tour on Florence24 (the creme de la creme – or Italian equivalent – when it comes to city tours), the decision made itself.
Starting our three-hour tour at the Uffizi Gallery, our astute art historian tour guide talked us through the highlights of the museum’s collections – most of which were left by the Medici to the state of Tuscany so that they could “adorn the State, be of utility to the Public and attract the curiosity of Foreigners”.
They have more than succeeded, now housing one of the world’s most famous museums.
After an educational traipse past the Birth of Venus, Doni Tondo, Venus de’ Medici and many more, we reached the ironclad highlight – the Vasari Corridor.
The Corridor, you see, is a somewhat secret above-ground passageway and a space very rarely open to the public. It was designed to let Francesco I de’ Medici (the Grand Duke of Tuscany) and his wife (Joanna of Austria – the Grand Duchess) move freely between his residence and the government palace without having the monarch-chronic anxiety of being seen in public. With one entrance in the Uffizi and one in the Pitti Palace, it stretches across the Ponte Vecchio and loggiato of the church of Santa Felicita with privileged, panoramic views along the way. Both inside and outside (the Corridor now hosts the Uffizi’s unique and plentiful collection of self-portraits).
Altogether, I left the tour feeling Botticelli as ever.
After a handful of perfect days in Venice, I pre-emptively resigned Florence to a status of second-best. As well as being renowned for its high-brow art scene (which has never been my bag), The Boy couldn’t remember much of his post-teen trip to the city, leaving me with a scene set for lovely architecture. At best.
Quite the contrary, Lela from two weeks ago…quite the contrary…
The airport bus dropped me at the hem of Venice with a rude awaking: I had little more than hazy memories of Casino Royale and friends’ heavily-filtered Instagrams saved as ‘preparation’ for the trip.
Cards completely on the table: though I knew there were canals and boats abouding, I had no idea the city was car and road free…
After hearing some rather stupendous recommendations concerning the ramen selection at wagamama, I decided to return to the restaurant for the first time in literal years. As food trends go, ramen only seems to woo more and more street food-loving Londoners by the week (thanks in large part to my constant praise, no doubt).
As a chain and a company most don’t realise have been perfecting their ramen recipes for over 20 years (they even released a book on it in 1994!), there were a lot of expectations to exceed.
I do feel wrong calling wagamama a chain, though. The ramen-fuelled meal I ended up enjoyining was not only uber-fresh but uber-delicious. ‘Chain’ doesn’t quite cut the mustard.
Hopefully, the photography will. From the steamed hirata pork belly & panko apple bun (fluffy bao served with japanese mayonnaise and coriander) to the vegan Surendra’s curry (green curry made with tofu, jalapeño peppers, onions, sweet potato straws and ginger – vacuumed up by my dinner date), nothing could be faulted.
I, of course, went for the Daddy of All Ramens – the very tender short rib ramen – served on the bone atop noodles, chicken broth, carrots, mangetout, red onions, sweet potato and pea shoots. With kimchee for good measure.
With two fresh and health-conscious juices slurped to conclude our family-sized meals, I found myself very eager to return. After all, those buns and bowls won’t eat themselves.
After an abnormally last-minute booking (less than 48 hours before the departing flight!) in aid of New Years Eve shenanigans, the beautiful city of Bergen won out as my official introduction to Norway.
Be sure to keep reading for my dos, don’ts, and diarised debauchery…