“Occasionally she dreams of Italy. She dreams of cheese shops,
persnickety Fiats and very fine leather goods.”
– Kate Spade –
Our purpose for this leg of the trip was mainly to see Florence, but our accommodations were at an Agriturismo in Tuscany right outside of the city, so I’m incredibly glad we got to taste a little of the quiet and blissful beauty of Tuscany, and that we also got to see it with our dear friends who got to journey with us.
Our Tuscany experience was incredible, and I would highly recommend it to anyone going into the region for Florence. Our hosts were the friendliest people ever, and they served a breakfast that will probably never compare to any I will ever have again.
So, before we jump into exploring Florence, here is a look at the little piece of heaven where we stayed for two magical nights. I loved seeing the warmth of Tuscan decorating, also their giftedness with landscaping and letting natural beauty shine through everything was so inspiring.
My love for the Italian cappuccino is undying.
Florence: Day One
It was rainy and cloudy pretty much our whole first day in Florence, but honestly it was a nice reprieve from all the sun and totally added to the charm. We quickly bought umbrellas from a street merchant as soon as we stepped off the tram and not a moment too soon because the clouds burst and it poured.
Out of all of the destinations of our trip, Florence was the biggest for our “tourist” mistakes.
Our first stop from the tram was to find the Duomo, Florence’s impressive cathedral with the iconic Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. We had been told lines were excessively long and to get there first thing to try to avoid them, so off we trudged through the puddle strewn streets.
We soon found out we were either too late, or everyone had the same idea since it was a messy day, because the lines were insane! We soon learned the admission to the main cathedral was free, but we knew you had to purchase tickets to climb the famous dome, which was definitely on our list. Before long we just joined the longest line, assuming we would follow everyone else and see where it led. About after 45min of waiting in the cold rain, we decided we probably should confirm that this was the correct line for what we were wanting to do. I stayed put in line while Luke rain ahead to ask someone… only to learn when he returned that we had to purchase passes and an entry time for the dome at the museum, which was the OTHER line across the street going in the opposite direction.
So we quickly hopped over to the other line, which wasn’t as long, but waited another 30min. only to be told that the cupola entry passes were sold out until the next week!! Bummed does not do our feelings justice. We quickly tried to decipher what our best plan of action was, after spending almost 1.5 hours in line with no sightseeing under our belt… we were discouraged, and hungry. We finally decided we would join the free admission line to at least see inside of the cathedral, we had waited this long already we didn’t want to leave completely empty handed. So back in line we went, dodging the intermittent showers and taking in the beauty of the outside of the incredible building. The design was incredible, and the colors and patterns were so tastefully done.
Finally we neared the entrance, passed through security, and then entered the blissful quiet and warmth of the incredible church. The size on the outside was deceiving, for inside you truly felt just how majestic it was.
Giorgio Vasari’s The Last Judgement.
After touring the cathedral, we were throughly starving and chilled to the bone. We made it our mission to find the closest restaurant possible and slipped inside. It turns out, this little place was one of our favorites!
Their pizza was incredible, and the bruschetta I’ve missed every day since, something I don’t think I will ever be able to recreate.
After lunch we headed to the Piazza della Repubblica where so many of the amazing leather markets are at! Luke negotiated with a merchant and bought a little leather satchel so I didn’t have to keep stuffing my own Florentine leather backpack with all our finds. The carousel and live music were so endearing.
I only realized later, after seeing so many handcrafted Pinocchio’s, that Florence wasn’t far from the city where Pinocchio’s story originated, the the town of Collodi in the Tuscany region.
Our second biggest tourist mistake of the day. : ) We slipped into an adorable fancy gelateria again after lunch and ordered what we THOUGHT was exactly what we had been ordering with our friends the other times, the cheap 2 euro gelato cones. Turns out the waffle cones were not only bigger, but they filled them to the brim with three SPADES full of gelato… and then charged accordingly. So when we initially thought we were buying 4 euro worth of gelato, turned out to be almost 20 euro. We were shocked but pulled our composure together as we walked out, only to find it had started pouring rain again. So trying to eat huge waffle cones of expensive gelato, while holding an umbrella, in the pouring rain, under a tiny awning… was an adventure and we laughed so hard at how we were the gullible Americans in Florence.
We had taken the bait hook, line, and sinker. Incredibly yummy gelato… but we agreed not quite worth the price.
With a little bit of brain freeze from the massive amounts of gelato, we decided to cross the Arno river and see what the other side of the city had to offer.
We researched that Piazzale Michelangelo was square on a hill that gave a panoramic view of Florence. So we climbed the hundreds of steps, but the view from the top was unforgettable and so worth it. One of the highlights for me here was seeing the whole city beneath my feet, a musician providing classical ambiance and the storm clouds rolling in.
There was also a replica of the famous David here in the square, so we caught of glimpse of that since we had decided to forgo the long lines of the art museums, classical art not really being our thing.
It was one more view of city before heading back down through the streets and the long walk back to the city center.
Our feet, once again, were pretty toast at this point.
It was time for dinner and calling it a night by the time we found another amazing restaurant not far from the station. Spaghetti aglio e olio was my choice, and my favorite ever. True Italian olive oil is no joke, it makes even the simplest dishes heavenly.
Florence: Day Two
Throughly rested and recharged after a good nights sleep and a filling breakfast, we stepped off the tram again the next day ready to take on the city again, with hopefully not as many time-wasting mistakes.
We had learned from the day before, and already felt a little more sure of our footing.
Loving the high view of the city we had the day before, we decided we wanted at least to climb Giotto’s Bell Tower, since the Dome wasn’t an option. Having 414 steps to the Dome’s 463, it was a great second choice. We waited in line again for an hour, but at the end we definitely agreed it was worth every bit. The pictures I grabbed of the Dome are my favorite Florence photos, the color and texture is incredible, and it amazes me how long it’s endured.
Our bell tower pass also got us into the Baptistry, with scenes of The Last Judgement on the ceiling, scenes from Genesis on the walls, and the golden Gates of Paradise.
We explored more of the piazzas on our way to the Galileo Museum, I love watching all the artists demonstrate their crafts for all to see.
And I should’ve packed a whole extra suitcase for all the Florentine stationery I dreamed to take home with me! It was beautiful, and I know I’ll regret not buying more. This shop was a dream.
Since we had seen most of the big touristy stuff we wanted to, the rest of the day was devoted to exploring the nooks and crannies. More cathedrals, the Jewish Synagogue and the cutest pottery shop where they created and hand-painted all the pottery right behind the store.
Then it was back to the center of town, where we ate at a little restaurant in the shadow of the Duomo, with
the best dinner views we’ve ever had.
Though Florence was a learning curve and came with a few hiccups, it was more than a memorable experience.
And it gave me what is probably one of the most exquisite city skyline views I have ever or will ever see.
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