We began our Italy trip by exploring Florence (aka Firenze) which is a very old city made up of cobblestone streets, famous art, and medieval bridges. And delicious food, of course. Unfortunately, I lost many photos from our first day in Florence which was when we visited the beautifully ornate Duomo. Thankfully, Vicki took some on her iPhone and they’re posted below. The line to enter the Duomo stretched for at least half a mile, and it was drizzling rain so we didn’t enter but the exterior was incredible.
We saw some opera singers at a cathedral called St. Croce and that was wonderful but we were also extremely jet-lagged on that day, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as my non-jetlagged self would have. I lost my pictures from this, but I do have a blurry screenshot from a video I posted on Snapchat so that will have to suffice, though I recommend traveling to Florence yourself for the full experience.
I really enjoyed the old-time feel of Florence. The city has so much history and everywhere you look is just beautiful. Florence is definitely a walking city (we walked most places and never took a taxi or Uber/Lyft in Italy), however, the cobblestone could be tricky if you’re in heels or have a mobility impairment. The narrow roads and abundance of Vespas were all new to me, but it’s interesting to see how transportation is so different in other countries.
Side note: the train system in Italy is top notch. It’s the easiest, quickest way to get around and the trains are clean, modern, and on time. I highly recommend taking trains around the country for both their convenience and low cost. You can purchase a ticket online or at a kiosk at the nearest station, look at the schedule on the wall to see which platform your train will be at, validate your ticket in the station or outside at the platform by putting it in a blue/green machine which stamps it with the time and date, and then you get on the train. Apparently, there’s a fine if you don’t validate your ticket. If you purchased tickets online, you don’t need to validate them because they already have a specific date and time, hence you couldn’t get away with riding around on the train for free all day whereas the tickets that you buy in person do not have a set date or time on them. Sometimes a conductor comes by and asks to see your ticket and sometimes they don’t. We never quite figured out the protocol with that.
The Uffizi was a magnificently stunning museum. There were so many statues and compelling works of art, including pieces by Botticelli and Leonard Da Vinci. The ceilings were so beautifully intricate, and it’s difficult to comprehend how people can be such exquisitely talented artists. The Uffizi was extremely crowded, especially around the famous artist’s work, but I understand why it’s so popular. The Uffizi also has nice views of Ponte Vecchio and the Florence skyline.
Ponte Vecchio is an ancient bridge in Florence, and its the epitome of old, picturesque Italy. Once again, super crowded here but a wonderful to spot to walk around with some gelato and take in the views while soaking in the history of the area.
Another one of our visits was to Palazzo Pitti and the nearby Boboli Gardens. Palazzo Pitti is a gallery with lots of famous artwork and some super elaborately decorated rooms that look like places kings and queens would reside. In fact, a photo of Napoleon’s bathtub/bathroom is below–never did I imagine I would be in the presence of Napoleon’s bathtub, but I guess dreams do come true (ha).
I really loved the natural lighting here from the windows that overlooked the Boboli Gardens. The statues were bathing in light in front of the windows, and I had a great time trying to capture it on film.
My favorite spot there was this mint and white colored room with some benches and a sparkly chandelier. We sat there for a long time. It was refreshing after being surrounded by such opulence.
I enjoyed exploring the Boboli Gardens, it wasn’t a typical botanical garden with lots of different species of flora. Instead, it was more focused on landscaping and structural elements like stairwells and archways. The gardens were expansive and had some great spots for lounging and picnicking. We walked a lot and climbed many stairs here and then ended up sitting because it was the end of the day and we were exhausted.
My favorite section of the gardens was this fountain/pond area (see below). It had lemon trees on all sides and there was a rogue crane on the inner walkways by the statue. I also really liked the goats on the gate, it reminded me of the movie called “The Zookeeper’s Wife” for some reason–maybe there was a similar gate in that movie that my subconscious remembers. Either way, I recommend this spot in the gardens.
I was persuaded by Vicki to go to the Piazzale Michelangelo which overlooks Florence. There were a lot of stairs climbed in order to reach this spot but there weren’t any signs leading the way. In the end, it was beautiful and I’m glad I went but I was definitely taking very hesitant, terrified steps (hello, fear of heights) because we were so high up and there were so many people up there. Some brave (read: reckless) souls were standing on the edge of the overlook and it made my heart go haywire. I’m smiling in the pictures but I was hanging on to the edge for dear life, honestly. Like I said, though, there were breathtaking views of the city–especially around sunset.
We ate lunch one day at Osteria II Buongustai and I had a wonderful saffron pasta that was one of the specials of the day. The noodles in this dish were a different shape than any I’d seen before, and I didn’t see any more dishes with it in while in Italy. At this restaurant, we learned that tap water is not commonly served to guests–if you want drinking water, you order a liter of still or sparkling water for 1 or 2 euros, and they’ll bring you a bottle of it with glasses. They also had a very informal seating situation which we weren’t accustomed to. The picture below is brought to you by Vicki–she had carbonara which is the plate at the bottom of the photo.
When I think of my favorite food from this trip to Italy, I remember this truffle pasta among a few other things (stay tuned for future Italy posts). This was at Trattoria Za Za, and it was divinely creamy + cheesy and the truffle was an extra special touch.
We ate sandwiches at this famous sandwich place but were very confused about what to order (imagine being at Subway but not speaking the same language as the sandwich artist-yes they are artists). I had no idea what the menu said, so I asked if they had anything that’s vegetarian and the employee’s response was a simple “yes” before turning his head to help the next person. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know if they were going to make me a sandwich but alas I was given one full of unknown ingredients. It was an interesting experience.
At 4 Leoni, we tried the pear ravioli which is one of their specialties. I’d never had pears in a pasta dish before so that was cool. The waitress here was very pleased that we said “grazie” instead of “thank you.” It’s the little things.
Lastly, we ate gelato. I don’t remember the names of the places we went but here’s some photographic evidence. I recently learned that quality gelato melts super fast because it doesn’t have stabilizers in it which makes sense because everytime we stepped outside our gelato would start dripping all over our hands, wrists, shirts, and shoes–it was a mess. So, please appreciate my attempts at gelato photography.