Italy Vacation Part 4: Florence

The next day we took a taxi to the train station to head to Florence.  We probably could have walked to the train station, but after days of walking, site seeing, and a night at a concert, we just wanted someone to deliver us to the train. Once again, an easy and flawless experience on the train getting to Florence (Firenze).

Tip:  If you take the train to Florence, the train station there is called Firenze S. M. Novella.

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Florence is busy and crowded – much more so than I expected.  The train station is quite busy, but as we left, there was a kind gentleman who handed us a map and showed us how to find our hotel, the Residenza dei Pucci which was actually a bed & breakfast in very old building.  It was charming, and quintessential Florence, however we had to haul our suitcases up the stairs which, after walking from the train station, zapped the rest of my energy from me!  The rooms are on the 2nd and 3rd floors.  The check in process was easy and our host was very kind and accommodating, urging the housekeeper to quickly finish so we could get into our room. The room was small, with an older bathroom, but again we weren’t there to hang out in the room.

Wandering Around Town

The thing about Florence is it’s very compact so you can walk pretty much everywhere and see lots of beautiful sights.  What’s amazing is walking around a corner and encountering a huge, majestic and beautiful basilica among all of the shops and cafes.  Florence is known for its leather goods, so you’ll also see merchants everywhere with sandals, bags, belts, jackets, and other items.   The sidewalks are very narrow and crowded, so patience is a must.

On our walk from the train station to the hotel, our first encounter that made us pause to take pictures (even though we really wanted to get to our hotel, drop our bags, and find something to eat!) was the Piazza Duomo, which is the Florence Cathedral, the jewel of the city.    It is truly spectacular.  We did not do the tour, as tickets to climb up to the dome were sold out for that day and the next (buy your tickets in advance!).

We had a late lunch at Il Nutino Ristorante Pizzeria, just a short walk from our hotel and the Duomo.  Oh.  My. Goodness. This meal was outstanding. We sat outside and enjoyed our meal, starting with house wine and arugula with bresaola and parmigiana.  So simple, but so good.  My husband indulged in the T-bone steak which was so good. It was also quite expensive, at 60 euros, and entirely too much food to finish, but the flavor was out of this world. I had the pear and gorgonzola gnocchi. The sauce was super rich and creamy with little bits of pear over soft pillows of gnocchi.  Fabulous.  The other plus?  The waiters were so nice and friendly.

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From there we walked down toward Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio, and the Uffizi Gallery.  Piazza della Signoria is the main square in Florence full of beautiful sculptures including a replica of the David statue by Michelangelo (it was here originally before moving to the Galleria dell’Accademia) and the Fountain of Neptune as well as several others.  It really is a marvel to walk through this square and admire all of the statues, if you don’t mind dodging selfie stick wielding tourists. We were not able to get tickets or get in to the Uffizi or the Accademia on such short notice without waiting hours in lines, so unfortunately we had to skip seeing these since we were only there for 24 hours.   Take a lesson from us, and buy those tickets in advance!  From there we walked down to Ponte Vecchio, which is a bridge that was built in the 1300’s.  It was the only bridge across the Arno River that the Germans did not destroy during WWII. Apparently the original bridge was built around 966, but was destroyed by a flood in 1345 when it was rebuilt and still stands today.  It is lined with jewelry shops, providing a nice walk towards Pitti Palace, which was our next stop.  Palazzo De’Pitti just isn’t as spectacular as the other architecture in Florence, but it is a massive structure looking more like a fortress.

The next day we started with a light breakfast in our room at the hotel.  Breakfast of coffee, juice, pastries, bread, meats and cheese was served in a small room on the 3rdfloor with limited seating, but they provide trays so you can take your breakfast down to your room.  The same lady who checked us in the day before allowed us to store our suitcases and backpacks in a locked area so we could go do a little more site seeing before catching our train to Rome.

We headed out and tried to get into the Accademia to see David, but after 30 minutes in a line that didn’t move more than a few inches, we gave up and went exploring on foot again.  We walked to the Piazza SS Annunziata, then made our way south again towards the river.  We stopped and wandered through some courtyards and churches and stumbled upon a small shop run by some nuns.  They sold several local items including limoncello; when my husband asking about which brands were better they laughed and said they did not drink.  “Only the monks can drink.”  After some small talk and looking at the items in their shop, it was noon, and they were closing to go pray, so we left.  We went back across the Ponte Vecchio bridge and found a busy pizzeria where we grabbed a pizza and enjoyed it until the rain started to fall. We quickly made our way back to the hotel, ducking into shops and under walkways when the rain became heavy.  Of course, I left my raincoat and umbrella at the hotel that morning.

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I wish I had done a better job documenting the names of the places we visited in Florence.  It was really a whirlwind tour, with such a limited amount of time.  There were so many beautiful buildings and monuments that we took pictures of, but failed to note exactly what and where they were.  We flew through that town in less than 24 hours which was enough to experience its beauty, but not long enough to take it all in.

Tip:  You need at least 2-3 days to explore Florence, and book your tickets to attractions in advance before you arrive.

What we missed:  Going inside the main attractions, because tickets were sold out or the lines were too long.  Also, I never bought sandals, which I regret.  Next time, hand-made leather sandals will be a must!

Click here for Italy Part 5: Rome

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