This entry is a little longer than I intended so if you don't feel like reading all of it please flip through for at least the pictures of everywhere we went.
Leaving the station in Florence J and I immediately whipped out our map and found out that our hotel was basically around the corner. A short walk across the busy roadways (it was weird to see cars instead of boats!) and through a Piazza and we were at our hotel. Diagonally across the Piazza our hotel was in was the Santa Maria Novella, a beautiful church that’s exterior was different from any of the other churches we saw throughout our trip.
We put our luggage in our hotel room (the nicest place we stayed by far, but also the worst show situation because you would only get halfway through your shower before you had to turn the water off and let the tub drain so you didn’t flood the bathroom) and made our way to the Duomo (a really short walk!). For Florence we made a list of places we just had to see and since our first day was only a half-day we kept our list small. The Duomo was on the top of our list and when we got there we made the decision to make the long, cramped journey up to the top of the cupola (463 steps). It was so well worth it.
Exhausted from our long and cramped trip up and down the Duomo, whose only way down is the same way you went up! We grabbed some delicious pizza and drinks before heading over to the Uffizi or the statue gallery. It was getting dark outside and next to the Uffizi is a museum that is opened late called the Museo di Palazzo Vecchio. The museum, which is an old palace, is incredible. The Italians really love detailed and lavish décor. It was beautiful.
From the museum we made a brief trip over to the Arno River and caught a glance at the Ponte Vecchio at night. The purple lights that illuminated the whole bridge were very pretty, but I do wish they had been a little less colorful so you could see the fun colors in the bridge. We did some minor wandering around the city before settling on a place to eat dinner right across from our hotel called Il Grillo. The food was very good. We both helped ourselves to first and second plates here, Part II: Florence the appetizer was delicious: salame, prosciutto, fried brie and toasted bread. After dinner we grabbed gelato in the piazza and headed back to the hotel. We had sometime to Facetime our families and relax our tired feet before we both fell right asleep.
The next day was our full day in Florence and we wanted to take advantage of it. We had the concierge order us tickets to the Accademia the day before and we got the earliest visiting time (at the recommendation of J’s aunt) to beat the crowd to see David. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures of the huge and immaculate statue. From there we went to the Mercado Centrale, which if you’ve ever been to NYC it is kind of a more pleasant version of canal street, but the merchants were just putting up their things so instead we went into San Lorenzo (a really beautiful church).
From there we headed to Santa Croce, a church known for being the burial sight of Galileo, Dante, and Michelangelo.
Even though we were both a little hungry, we decided to go to the Palazzo Pitti. This building is an enormous building, with a more gigantic garden. I can’t even begin to explain how fantastic this entire site was. Walking through the palace I kept thinking to myself that people actually used to live there and how it reminded me of so many scenes from the movie Everafter. The gardens were just as impressive. I felt like I was in The Secret Garden because J and I were constantly finding different nooks and pathways. Even though much of the garden was bare due to the season, it was amazing and I can only imagine how beautiful the entire place is in the spring.
From there J and I grabbed some panini for lunch and dropped by a chocolate store to get some snacks for later. He got chocolate and almond bark while I got a chocolate covered meringue. Then we traveled across the Ponte Vecchio for the first time and wow…I mean just wow. The entire bridge is window after window of jewels. Diamonds, pearls…you name it.
We then walked down into what I would consider the shopping district in Florence. Since Italy’s Christmas celebrations are not over until January 7th, all of the streets were still decorated, as were many stores. We also came across a square with a carousel, which was also where we first experienced beggars that would approach you for money (could’ve been worse, you said no and they walked away).
We went back to the hotel for a quick breather before heading out to dinner. Unfortunately a restaurant J’s aunt recommended is actually closed all of December and January and since it was later in the even most restaurants were filling up fast. We found this little place and had a great dinner before heading back to the hotel and passing out from all the walking.
While we did a lot in Florence I think we could’ve used another full day in order to really see everything the city has to offer (or a whole week if we had the time). We said our farewell to Florence the next day as we made our short trip to the train station and hopped on a train headed towards Rome!