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Tuesday

Two Nights In Firenze

When we left Switzerland, we boarded the train to head down south to Italy.  Just a note about our train travel: this point is where I was extremely glad that we used backpacks rather than large luggage.  Ian helped several women hoist their heavy, bulky suitcases on the upper racks of the train.  Having backpacks only was a true lifesaver.

We were really excited about this trip as it took us through the Swiss Alps.  Gorgeous!




We arrived to Florence in the evening and checked into our hotel, the Orto de Medici Hotel (here).  The room rate was good and it was in a very nice location, easy walking distance to everything we wanted to see.  And oh my goodness, the breakfast was the best -- freshly squeezed orange juice and a VAT of Nutella for their croissants were the standouts.



For dinner that night, we were pointed to Pepo (here) by a fellow American couple who had dined there the night before and loved it.  It truly was the perfect spot -- small, cozy, good service, and amazing pasta dishes.
  

The next day we hit the ground running, taking in all of the big sites -- the Accademia that houses David and the Duomo.  We didn't enter either ... amateur moves on our part by not booking a tour for the Accademia (and not wanting to wait in the massive line), and not having any Euros with us to enter the Duomo.  When we returned later to the Duomo with Euros in hand, we were met by another massive line.  We decided to skip both as our time in Florence was limited and we wanted to spend it taking in the culture.  Part of me felt really guilty for coming to Florence and missing some of the big sites, but after the let-down that was the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, I figured there was a chance that this could be a similar experience with huge crowds all vying for one good iPhone shot.

So ... our trek continued!
  


I received some awesome advice from a college friend (hi AC!) who told me that we absolutely had to visit the Scuola del Cuoio (here) which is a leather school.  This was a definite highlight of our time in Florence.  You can stroll through the building and see true leather artisans at work, learning the ins and outs of the trade.  The leather they work with is the best of the best, and you really feel like you are in the presence of artists.  There are photos on the wall of celebrities who have been there.  And, it's completely free to enter, which is refreshing when you are on a two week trip where everything, everything, costs money.









After that adventure, we spent the rest of the day popping in and out of other shops.  Some normal, some .... creepy.


We walked past the Duomo again and then walked across Ponte Vecchio, a very old and beautiful bridge that is lined with shops.




From there we made our way up the 26742 steps (or maybe it just seemed that way) to Piazzale Michaelangelo (here).  There was a cathedral up at the very top where we stopped to sit on a bench and just take the glorious view in.  If I had it to do again, you better believe I'd go armed with a book and a bottle of red.






The trek up there was seriously no joke, and with every step I took I was reciting this little mantra in my head: "pizza. gelato. pizza. gelato. pizza. gelato".  So what did we do upon our return to the city center?  We treated ourselves to that hard-earned gelato!

Before we left the States, my Aunt Karen had forwarded me an article about the top ten places to get gelato in the world, and right on that list was Perche No! in Florence (here).  And let me tell you, I see why it made the list!  I had a scoop of lemon and a scoop of canteloupe, and it was every bit delicious as you'd expect.  From a place that has been around since 1939, you know they've got something good going on.


That evening we sort of hit a wall.  We were feeling a bit drained -- physically and financially.  We found a supermarket and headed straight to the back of the store and picked up salami, prosciutto, two cheeses, a loaf of salted bread, pesto and olives.  We ate our picnic dinner right on the bed and watched a movie on the iPad.  It was exactly what we needed to recharge.


Our time in Florence was really nice, but for one reason or another we just didn't go head over heels for it like we were expecting to.  Maybe we just put too much pressure on it.  We had some awesome adventures there, but I feel pretty confident that I've checked it off my life list.  Now, Tuscany is another story -- bring on the relaxed atmosphere, the vineyards, the smaller crowds, the slower pace.  That's a place I'd love to go next.

If you've been to Florence, I'd love to hear your two cents.
Up next ... Rome!

26 comments:

  1. I didn't love Florence either...It was also halfway through my month long trip so I was exhausted. I think I would go back if I had the chance, but would prefer to see somewhere else first!

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  2. I also didn't love Florence. It was the Summer of 2003 and I was backpacking Europe alone and my best friend was studying abroad in Paris- we met up in FLorence- we both were just "eh" about it. It was a great time together but not because of Florence!

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  3. I spent six weeks in Italy and Florence was actually my favorite. Of the other places I went to (Venice, Milan, Rome) it was the least touristy and the most laid back. We did some of the same stuff as you-- hiked up to Piazzale Michaelangelo (with wine, though!)-- but also saw the David, climbed up the Duomo, went to the Santa Croce cathedral, and went to Boboli (the huge gardens). We were there for 4 days, though, so we had a good amount of time.

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  4. i'm definitely biased because I studied in florence in college, but i absolutely love it there. it's not a huge city but very well known for its food (if you know where to go) and more laid back atmosphere. we're heading to italy in october and i'm really looking forward to our stay in florence. next time spend an extra day and rent a car to drive through tuscany, so worth it!

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  5. I haven't been to Italy yet but everyone I know that has been says that Florence is very dirty - would you agree? I think Rome, Tuscany, Lake Como area and the Amalfi Coast will be my first choices to visit when we finally "do Italy." Love seeing your pictures and I'm jealous of that gorgeous train ride!

    I know what you mean about feeling exhausted half way through your trip. I love visiting Europe but it's not like a relaxing beach vacation. It's a "go,go,go" trip with so much to see, lots of moving around, language barrier stress and a long flight so it can wear on you. Not to mention the punch to the wallet. We always pick one day mid-way to have a "down day" where we limit our activity, do a picnic in a park and just chill so we can regroup.

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  6. I got to do a Maymester in Italy in college, and we used our one free day to go to Florence. It actually doesn't stick out in my mind as being good or bad, just there. I really LOVED Milan and I really did not like Venice, but Florence was just ok. We went to the Uffizi which was not overrated at all, just huge and exhausting. And we actually stumbled onto that same gelato place on a recommendation from a local, which was delicious. Maybe we just didn't spend enough time there to relax and appreciate it.

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  7. Tuscany is on my bucket list for sure!
    When we lived in Europe we travled all around and my Mom still says to this day that Italy was her least favorite.
    Granted she never did the Southern portion!

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  8. My mom loves Florence. Me? Not so much. The mo-peds drive me CRAZY. Seriously crazy. I like it and always have to go for at least one day, but it's not somewhere I'm dying to go. We like Rome much better!! And I was surprised about that.
    Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast are my all time favorties...hands down!

    So glad y'all got to experience it though. And I'm with you...I'd rather experience the culture and people watch then stand in a 2 hour line to see something I've seen photos of all my life. :)

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  9. I couldn't agree more - Florence was my least favorite but most people love it. I hates our hotel so I think that had a lot to do with if. Tuscany by far is my favorite!!!

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  10. I have to say it breaks my heart a little you didn't get to see the statue of David! Because it truly is a site to see - I don't know if I've ever seen anything so beautifully hand carved in my life. Florence holds a special spot too because we were in front of Duomo when Italy advanced to the World Cup! So the streets were going crazy! It was really fun to be apart of all the mayhem!! Love reading your recaps - it takes me back in time!

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  11. Florence is by far my favorite city in Italy (thus far - not been to Venice or Milan...yet) and I (coincidentally) just got out of a meeting with a vendor from Florence! We planned out the few days I will have there in October and I am SO excited. Treating myself to a few nights at the Four Seasons which I hear is beyond. Your post made me even more excited!

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  12. Hi April, your pictures and adventures sound wonderful. I have been to Florence, went to that same gelato place and WOW it does not disappoint. Even though it was chilly and raining outside, I still enjoyed. We went to some great places in Florence, have the same picture of me on the bridge overlooking the water. Tuscany is amazing! You and Ian must go! I went with a group from college and we had a private tour and luncheon at one of the vineyards and WOW amazing. It was so interesting and the pictures do not do justice to how beautiful the scenary was! I hope to return someday!

    Cheers! Looking forward to your post about Rome; another place I loved!!!

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  13. We felt the EXACT same way about Florence! We saw 7 places on our two week Europe trip and Florence was the only place I didn't fall in love with. We missed the two big tourists places too due to a mix up with our tickets, so maybe that was why we didn't like it? I don't know!

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  14. I felt very similar about Florence. It was great to see and spend time in, but I don't think I would ever go back.

    However, Sorrento BLEW MY MIND. I would love to take Joel there someday, it's just stunning - and I think we could probably figure out a way to get to Tuscany too!

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  15. That picnic dinner looks SO good! I really liked Florence, our favorite was definitely Lake Como. But we had some of the best meals of our trip in Florence. Can't wait to hear about Tuscany, we didn't make it there, maybe our next trip back.

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  16. It is just not fair! No girl should look that cute with traveling with only what her backpack could hold!!!

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  17. By the time Dave and I hit Florence we were at the end of our trip and we were, admittedly, pretty worn out. We were only there about a day and a half before our flight. We did stand in that line--for three hours baking against a brick wall--to see the David. And yes, it was impressive, but a looooong wait only to find a second David in a square nearby. I am holding my breath that Rome didn't disappoint you, as well, being even bigger and more congested. We deliberately didn't go there, but spent most of our time in Tuscany and Umbria, delighting in the hill towns. So the post I'm most looking forward is when you hit the Amalfi coast where you will truly see Italy at its best in the little towns. Love you...AK

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  18. You must go back to Tuscany. I would highly recommend the village of Sienna and taking a bike ride. We booked a one day ride that took us through the hills and to two different wineries to drink Chianti. It was gorgeous...and bike riding is even more enjoyable with a wine buzz :) Plus it works off that gelato!!

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  19. I loved Florence but maybe because I toured the Uffizi, went to the top of the Duomo and inside the Academia. I planned ahead of time and ordered the tickets for those things and that's why we we saw all of those. I loved the bridge and St. Catherine's Piazza. Compared to Venice and Milan it's my favorite Italian city. I also agree that a trip to Sienna is a must! Glad that y'all had fun. That picnic looks delish!

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  20. Oh how I love these pics. I think I took all the same ones in Florence last spring. I want to go back so bad now! And I'm dying to get to Switzerland. Lucky girl!

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  21. For those of you planning a return trip to Italy and the Tuscany region, I absolutely recommend the areas of Perugia, Deruta, Sansepolcro, and Anghiari. Beautiful hill towns! Deruta known for its unique pottery style, history that just seeps from every inch of these walled cities. Tiny churches that have incredible frescos. No crowds, little crime, and the true feel of Italian daily life. I want to go back so badly!

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  22. Oooh, that pasta and gelato is calling my name!

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  23. I had gelato at that place when I was in Florence too! I actually loved Florence- I will say that we got lucky and had skip the line tickets from AMEX for all the big must sees like the Accademia and that made a huge difference. The David really is incredible but the line for that and the Duomo are out of control. I also didn't stay in Florence we stayed at a villa in Tuscany in the middle of no where so that may be why I loved Florence since it was a change of scenery for us.

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  24. We took a Mediterranean cruise for our honeymoon and only spent one day in Florence. We loved it and have it on our list to go back to spend more time there. Now I am second guessing that! :) It's pretty far down on our list so we have plenty of time before making that decision.

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  25. I know I'm a little late but I just found all of your Europe posts! My hubby and I are planning our first trip to Paris and Italy for our 1 year anniversary and I'm LOVING all of your posts, so many from the same locations we're going to!! And so helpful! It looks like you had an amazing time! :)

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