July 6, 2015 Italy – Day 3 and 4 – Florence!
Oh Florence, I love you more than I ever expected to. I was terrible when it came to planning this trip. I bought the Frommer’s Italy book, read that if you only have a week you should do 3 nights in Rome, 2 in Florence, 2 in Venice and basically booked just that. Minus one night from Rome and plus one for Venice. I figured I’d read up on the rest later. And then I got busy and later never came. I literally read the Florence chapter of the book on the way TO Florence. Whoops. The good news is that aside from the Uffizi and Michelangelo’s David, I had no idea what we’d see and what to expect. Which is honestly, in my opinion, one of the best ways to travel.
Six years ago, I went to Europe with my dad and my favorite city BY far was Luxembourg. I had NO expectations, and it was incredible. Florence is much the same way. I had no expectations, and it was so beautiful and so perfect and I couldn’t have loved it more. Okay, maybe if it wasn’t 100 degrees every day we were there I would have loved it a little bit more… but hey, it’s hard to get perfection ;)
We arrived by train the morning of July 2nd. We dropped our luggage at the hotel (NH Collection Porta Rossa – which btw was gorgeous and amazing) and explored for a bit before check in. Thanks to our friends Matt and Shannon we were tipped off to the TripAdvisor app for restaurant recommendations, and Katie Nesbitt, a photographer friend of mine posted previously about Tep Wireless, so we were set with unlimited data and the ability to look up reviews based on our location and pick places to eat accordingly! Our first meal was at Panini Toscani – which was incredible. They have 3 meats and cheeses to choose from each day. They make you sample everything before making your sandwich, and tell you the history behind the type of meat and cheeses and where they come from. Everything in from Tuscany or as they said “0 km” food. Such a cool experience. And then we were off to the #1 gelateria in Florence – Marco Ottaviano – a gelateria owned by the sweetest Italian couple. We went back three times, it was THAT good. They also had some unique Italian flavors like Pistachio, Ricotta and Fig, and Strawberry and Prosecco. I didn’t get the chance to try the latter but the other two were CRAZY good.
We had delicious meals left and right, and had an absolute blast exploring everything Florence had to offer. Our first night ended with a hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo – and even higher to San Miniato (not an easy hike by any means) to watch the sun set over Florence, and wow, it was so worth it. After what I pictured as a perfect day, we walked back through Piazza della Signoria, and there was an orchestra there, playing free music in the square – and it brought me to tears. Truly the perfect end to the perfect day.
One of my favorite things about Italy, which you’ll notice is shown in the photos above, is that there are water fountains all throughout the city with FREE FRESH DELICIOUS SPRING WATER. I can’t properly express how COOL this is. All water coming from the fountains is good to drink – and cold! DO it! We were filling up with all sorts of fountains in Rome, Florence and now in Venice too! SO so good. Clean water is something Italians have in abundance and it’s pretty incredible to witness. We still have water bottles we got on our second day of the trip with us (now on day 6 as I write this) that we just fill up any time we stumble across a water fountain. It honestly tastes better than tap!
Since I took so many great photos on day one, I made it a point to leave my camera behind on day two. We were also spending much of day two in museums, and something about photographing art seemed weird to me, so I figured my iPhone would suffice. We visited the Uffizi gallery and saw so much beautiful Italian art from the Renaissance period. Seeing The Birth of Venus by Botticelli was pretty incredible, and I love that there was a tactile version for the visually impaired. There were so many paintings here that I had seen before but never in person, and I had no idea how huge they were! It was crazy! We then went to the Accademia, where Michelangelo’s David stands. The original, that is. There are many replicas in Florence. Of which we saw two. My favorite part of this was that the Accademia has many unfinished statues by Michelangelo as well, in various stages of completion. It’s pretty incredible to see the rough figures barely coming to form in the marble, lining the corridor on the way to the David. Also, in the musical instrument exhibit, there was a Stradivarius. This former violinist and music nerd’s life is complete.
We finished our day pretty early in order to rest up for Venice. We were exhausted and wanted to make sure we’d have energy for the rest of our trip. A decision that most definitely paid off! Florence was truly incredible and I hope to go back some day.