Dates: July 2-6
Stayed at: La Locandiera (B&B?)
Thoughts: Close to train station but a bit farther from central town. I’m not sure if the elevator is broken but we definitely had to climb up some stairs. The doors have creepy handles. Nice owner, breakfast is custom-made and delivered to your room each morning, the beds and decor are beautiful, and the bathroom is very clean/pretty!
Florence was cooler (weather). We ate dinner at Trattoria Marione. We had a very nice waiter who explained what items were (it was an Italian-only menu). ES got beef, and I got chicken — both dishes were very good, not overcooked, and I liked the rosemary. Then we headed out to town to walk around. We saw the Duomo, which was very pretty. Since we arrived on a Monday (when most places are closed in Florence, and most of Italy), the square was surprisingly vacant so we got to take good pictures. We also walked to the river and around the Uffizi. Overall, Florence was a very charming town. I saw a ton of beautiful street art (watercolors, acrylics, etc.) that I wanted to take back, but I don’t have room/capabilities to do so. :(
First meal in Florence.
THE PRINCE himself! (outside the Uffizi)
I finished reading Incarceron by Catherine Fisher and coordinated with AB (UVA med student in my class) where to meet up tomorrow.
Great breakfast! I loved the caffe latte (best one I’ve had on the whole trip). We headed off to the Uffizi to “fake David” and found AB + his girlfriend K. We got our tickets from the reservation office and went into the Uffizi!
The Uffizi was slightly underwhelming, considering its comparisons to the Louvre. I learned that (later) this is probably because we didn’t realize there was this whole other section to the gallery that extends from the Uffizi across the bridge to the Pitti Palace. We saw a lot of “Madonna and Child” art, which got repetitive. And I’m tired of sculptures. It was cool to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and I also saw his The Calumny, which was my primary source for my Medici paper in MMW!
Afterward, we went to the San Lorenzo market and Mercado Centrale. We ate “fast” food for cheap and walked around the shops. Then we went to Grom for gelato (recommended by Rick Steves — possibly the best gelato on the trip!)
Then we went to the Accademia to see David. He was basically the only thing worth seeing there. I snuck a photo in — even though you aren’t supposed to take any, if you find a corner away from the guards, you can definitely take some (I saw lots of people doing this). He was very big and tall but also surprisingly beautiful. He’s praised to be the perfect sculpture/Renaissance man/etc., and since I don’t really care for nude male sculptures, I wasn’t expecting much, but being that close to him and seeing him under the dome, and in that lighting… I can’t explain it, but you can truly see the beauty in the art. The gallery also had some modern exhibits, including the famous “pink David”. You really only need about an hour in Accademia.
Pink David in his glory.
Next we headed across the river to the Pitti Palace. It was huge! We bought the ticket to see the Boboli Gardens, where I got bitten by more mosquitos (ugh). Also after a while, my right ankle really started hurting; perhaps I had stretched the tendon. I don’t know but it made it difficult to traverse the huge property. Being in the gardens, I thought most about what it would be like to live in a palace that big. What would you do with all that space? What would it be like to own a big garden where you could hide in corners and read and think and hope no one will find you?
View of the palace from the gardens. Yes, it’s on that weird tilt… that’s a ramp to get up to the garden.
For dinner we ate near the Uffizi at Trattoria Nella — *HIGHLY* recommend this place! We had the best meal on our entire trip there. Beautiful Chianti wine, ES got the specialty of walnut ravioli, and I got the special of the day of pesto penne. We also shared garlic broccoli. BEST MEAL EVER. Everything we tried was so delicious, and we were very full (but happy) afterward. Later when we went home we looked up “rucola” or “rocket” and discovered it’s arugula!
Best meal ever.
We woke up a little later, which felt good because it was nice to sleep in a little. We walked ot the Duomo, lined up, and realized we forgot to bring shoulder coverings, so we had to buy these blue paper sheets that were like hospital scrubs. It was very dark inside with not much to see; it’s definitely grander on the outside. We also decided against climbing the dome.
Inside the Duomo!
The dome itself.
Next we went to the Galileo Science Museum, which is right next to the Uffizi. It was a refreshingly different museum, which we appreciated (everything we had seen was art so far). I really liked the old clocks, watches, microscopes, and physics devices. There were also videos explaining how different contraptions were used. We had lunch at Mercado Centrale again, I bought gifts at San Lorenzo, and then we went back to rest at the B&B to wait out the heat.
Some Galileo and Medici.
Later we went to cross the river to go to the viewpoint on Piazza Michelangelo (supposed to be the best view of the city). It was quite a walk away, and the hike up the hill was annoyingly long and steep. BUT! It was worth every step, and if you know anything about me, you know I hate physical activity, so this is saying something! At first it was hard to take photos due to the sun setting and messing up all the exposures. We took some photos posing with “green David” (copper), and we met two guys LL and JL who first lied about their names (even though I caught one of them!). I took a ton of long exposure night images (my second ones ever!), and then we went to dinner with the two guys at Gusta Pizza. ES and i shared a pizza margherita, which the made into a heart for us! :) We sat at the same table with a Florentine native named Gianni, whom we talked to about the economy, real estate, etc. He told us a funny story about these Russians that got really drunk on one of his boats. The boatguy dropped them off at Florence, told them they were on an “island”, and left them there for the whole day. They had a ton of fun, and then when the boatguy went to pick them up later, they said that they had had the best day! And then he just drove out into the water, turned around, and dropped them right back at Florence, and they had no idea the whole time that they were at the same city. Gianni also gave us some tips on what to do in Florence.
Florence at sunset.
Heart pizza! :)
We took his suggestion to go to Santa Croce. We saw a few bars/clubs but we all felt underdressed, so we walked around, saw a church with lots of people sitting, drinking, relaxing on the steps, so we went to buy some beers and join them. We met two Florentine guys, one of whom looked like Alex, and two American girls from Maine who were doing a gap year. Next to us was a big Italian group who kept singing, dancing, and playing guitar. There was an especially funny couple that would always dance/sing American songs like “Wannabe” (Spice Girls) and “Barbie Girl” (Aqua). Overall, we had a good time and stayed out till 1:00! We all then walked back and agreed to meet up the next day for more adventures.
We woke up early to catch the train to Pisa, which was a smaller city without much going on. We walked to the leaning Tower, which was cool with surprisingly nice architecture all around (although everything else gets neglected, I guess). The Tower was smaller than I imagined. We took quite a few photos posing with the Tower, as everyone does, and we bought tickets to climb the Tower. While taking photos, we met two British guys from Bath who helped us take some pictures. We all went to lunch together, during which we discussed the Olympics and accents.
After lunch we headed back to the tower to climb it. It was surprisingly not that bad of a climb (~200 steps), although there were definitely some parts where you could feel the tilt, and the stairs were pretty slippery. There were some beautiful views from atop.
View from above. Yes it’s that tilted.
On the way back to the Termini, we got gelato from another supposedly famous place, and then boarded the train back to Florence. We rested in our B&B again to avoid the heat. I wrote postcards and finished reading Sapphique by Catherine Fisher. Then we headed out to meet LL and JL. They were running late, and at first we thought they might’ve stood us up, but then we saw them. They said that Gianni couldn’t join us for dinner, so we walked to a “local” part of town on the other side of the river to wander around. Eventually, we found a place to eat for dinner that was surprisingly good (we had just stumbled upon it). The waiter explained EVERY item to us in English, which was so nice of her, and the food was excellent (another possible contender for best meal). We had some wine and gelato afterward.
Mine and LL’s dinner.
We headed back to the bridge and sat and watched the sun set over the river. We met SH from Louisiana. With the lighting and the breeze and the company, it honestly felt “magical” — another one of those moments that I seemed to have encountered a lot in Europe. After, we walked with SH to this bar to get his free champagne, which he shared with us. Walking the street with the live music and the lights and the lack of people felt… magical. We talked a bit at the bar but ES and I were too tired from our day. We met these two Indian guys there from London, who seemed pretty cool, but we were too tired to stay long so we headed back.
My arm :P Waiting for sunset…
We woke up, packed, and went to the post office to attempt to deliver postcards. WELL! It was closed. :( So we just went to wait at the train station for quite some time before we boarded to go to VENEZIA (Venice).
Tips/Suggestions for Florence
(1) When reserving tickets for Uffizi (and Accademia?) — try asking your hotel if they’ll do it for you. We did it online in advance and had to pay extra; most places you stay at will call and do it for free (you still have to pay for the tickets but the reservation is free).
(2) Eat at least some meals at the markets. It’s a little hectic (very crowded) with little English and some interesting smells but you can get lots of cheap good Tuscan food.
(3) On food: YOU MUST GO TO TRATTORIA NELLA!!! And Gusta Pizza seems to be popular with Americans (so everyone says). And Grom gelato was the best!
(4) Go to the Piazza Michelangelo viewpoint (at sunset if possible).
(5) Florence was just a magical city. Several people I had talked to when we were planning this trip said to spend the most amount of time in Florence, and I would recommend the same. The city is beautiful, it’s easy to walk around, the food is the best in Italy, and the people are so nice.