In Florence, I ate lots of meats. Not because I ordered them necessarily, but because they served them at every meal. Prosciutto, bresaola, capicola… My husband was in heaven. I was just trying to fit in. All meats aside, Florence was a remarkable city. My grandfather used to say I was a sight for sore eyes, Florence was that to me. The notable city held such beauty in every aspect – it’s architecture, art, and even it’s people. Everyone was so pleasant and now I understand why – because they live in the amazing city of Florence!
Every morning when we woke up, we would take a stroll down the adorable streets to a place called Eataly for double shots of espresso and croissants. Eataly is this awesome Italian market that reminded me a lot of DiBruno Brothers in Philadelphia. There are actually Eataly’s in New York and most recently, Chicago! We would then spend a little time getting to know the streets. Walking along the river was my favorite part – seeing all the local outdoor retail stands/artwork and just taking in the picturesque scenery I used to google image all the time before we got here. It felt like I was photo shopped into some perfect little city. And I loved every moment of it.
When we arrived in Florence on Wednesday, it was only a short walk from the train station to our hotel (PS. I am thanking my husband every travel day for making me pack light. I am not, however, thanking him when trying to find something to wear to dinner). In Florence, we stayed at another darling boutique hotel, which was very nice. The hotel was centrally located on a narrow cobblestone road just steps away from the Duomo and all the museums and sights we wanted to see. It was perfect. After throwing our bags in our comfy, yet quite noisy hotel room, we set off to explore the city. It was a beautiful day, so we tried to walk as many areas as we could to get a feel of the city’s vibe – which we both loved. We grabbed sandwiches and beers for lunch (after waiting in a rather long line… always annoying, but always a very good sign that the food is spectacular) at a little spot called Antico Noe – recommended by my friend Kate who studied abroad here a few years back. They were the best, freshest, most delicious sandwich ever! We then ate dinner at what we both agree has been the most delicious meal since we’ve been in Europe. It was at a place just over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge called Alla Vecchia Bettola. Mike had heard about it from a peer and we are so happy we went. The restaurant is known for the best homemade penne pasta served in a blush sauce, very similar to a penne alla vodka dish. Everything we ate there was fantastic. Two thumbs up! On our late night walk back to the hotel as we passed over the beautiful reflection of lights on the river, we happened upon a rather crowded local bar. So we stopped in for a drink. It was an extremely fun first day in Florence.
On Thursday morning we bought what are called Firenze Cards – these little red cards were 72 euro a person and got you 72 hours worth of full access tickets to all of the well known museums and sights. What was great about these passes was that they also got you access to skip all the lines (it is unbelievable how long these lines are… they can take up to 3 or even 4 hours to get into a museum depending) and on top of that, free wi-fi in all the large squares – which we mainly only used for google maps directions to restaurants, bars and other museums. Needless to say, these passes were worth every euro spent.
After we purchased our passes, we made our way to the Accademia Gallery, where Michelangelo’s David lives. We stared at David for a while, walked around the gallery a bit, and eventually made our way to the Uffizi Gallery, where we spent a lot of our day. The Uffizi Gallery is home to such important artwork from the renaissance and we had so much fun learning and looking at all of the masterpieces. After we felt like we had overstayed our welcome at the museum, we decided to get a late lunch at this local/organic restaurant close by called Moye. It was really cute and almost reminded me of a trendy New York cafe. After lunch and a few glasses of wine, we thought it would be a good idea to climb Giotto’s Bell Tower – 414 extremely narrow steps that lead you to the top of the tower overlooking the city of Florence. Why we felt like this was the perfect idea after pasta and wine was beyond me. But we did it. And I couldn’t feel my legs for days. But after seeing the beautiful city from such great heights, it was so worth it! That night, we ate dinner at the coolest Italian spot we heard about from our friend Matt, it was called Il Latini. There were no menus and the waiters were super intimidating, which made the experience even cooler. These big Italian men walked from table to table asking you what you felt like for dinner. Mike and I were so nervous and didn’t know what to do, so we ended up copying the Italian couple next to us. Emulating everything they ordered and everything they did. It was awesome. And the food = A+++! A little tip from me: when in doubt, just copy what the locals are doing. It has worked every time thus far!
Friday was sensational. My husband got us a private driver to take us into the Tuscany region and drive us around while we drank magnificent wines – it was glorious! I highly recommend doing this. Having your own driver who also acts as a tour guide is really beneficial and so much more personal. Our driver was awesome and took us to some of the neatest vineyards where he knew the owners and made our experiences unforgettable. My friend Erin had mentioned that her and her family had spent the day in the Chianti region and really enjoyed it, so we decided that’s where we wanted to go too. We made a pit stop in the little city of Grieve in Chianti. We spent some time walking around and exploring the area. It was so old and charming and I loved it there. Our first wine tasting stop was a vineyard called Castello di Verrazzano. We went on a tour of the winery with one of the owners who also happened to be one of the best story tellers I have ever met. He spoke a lot about the importance of happiness and sharing your own happiness with others. He had the most incredible views on life. And he also drank a ton of wine. Every single day. So he was just amazing.
At Castello di Verrazzano, after touring the winery, we ate lunch in the kitchen area where we sat with some of the most interesting people. One couple from Berlin and one family of four from London/Kenya (the family of four spent half their time in London and half their time in Kenya – how cool!). We ate a ton of meats and cheeses with these fascinating people and conversed over multiple bottles of wine about travel, stories and life. Mike and I learned so much about where to go and what to see on our trip thanks to these awesome people. I think it was fate that we were paired to sit with such amazing humans! We got lucky. We are actually planning on meeting up with the couple from Berlin when we are in Berlin and the family of four when we are in London! I can’t wait.
Because we met these people, we ended up staying at the first vineyard a lot longer than we had anticipated. Leaving us only enough time for one more vineyard. The second vineyard we stopped at was called Casa Emma, where we got a private tour of the winery and got to spend some alone time wine tasting together on a terrace overlooking the beautiful vineyard. The views were stunning – everything I had imagined from my pins on Pinterest and so much more! It was very romantic. When we got back to the city of Florence, my husband and I went down to the spa at our hotel, relaxed a bit, and ordered room service for dinner where we drank another bottle of wine from the Chianti region (where we had just visited). After all the running around we had been doing, a night spent solely in our hotel relaxing is just what we needed!
Saturday was sadly our last day in Florence. We woke up to a rather gloomy sky with scattered rain showers. Not ideal, but because there were still museums to see, we had to slush through the puddles. Because of the rain, we thought the crowds would be better. We were incorrect. For those who didn’t have the fabulous Firenze Card, the lines were just as long and people were standing in ponchos waiting for hours in the rain. We, luckily, skipped the lines and started our day off at the Duomo Museum where we saw another amazing Michelangelo sculpture along with the infamous Bronze Gates of Paradise. We then slushed our way to the Palazzo Vecchio – which used to be home to the Medici’s (a very wealthy family who helped fund the renaissance). It was spectacular in there. Maybe it was because of the rain, or maybe it was because there was just so much to look at in this captivating museum, but we spent a lot of our day soaking in its history. With ceilings draped in detailed paintings, I started to get dizzy from looking up the entire time! The museum held a ton of Vasari’s artwork along with an amazing Jackson Pollock exhibit. It was remarkable. At night, we tried going to a restaurant my good friend Kelsey had suggested, but it was closed. She also suggested a second restaurant, but it was completely booked. We did end up stopping for gelato at her favorite gelato spot though, Grom. It was amazing! Kelsey and her husband honeymooned around Italy, so she knew of some great places to go! We ended up dining at a trendy new restaurant our hotel concierge highly recommended – Zibibbo II. It was a little fancier than I had wanted… White tablecloth, completely candlelit, roses everywhere, staff dressed to the nines. So I was a little crabby about the situation, however, the food was really good. And Mike and I had an excellent time reminiscing over stories of our pup we miss so much, Calvin. So that’s really all that matters 🙂
Overall, Florence was really spectacular. Another very important reason my husband and I completely fell head over heels for the city was because it was so, so, so dog friendly!! You could literally bring your dog everywhere with you, besides the museums, of course. All restaurants = dog friendly. All shops = dog friendly. All groceries and coffee shops = dog friendly. We were joking around saying that if we were to ever live in Florence, we would never have any alone time!! Because we would bring our dog, Calvin, everywhere (Calvin is an adorable Shizu-Yorkie. To see 100 photos of his muppet-life features, please visit my Instagram: jackieklein12)!!
On Easter Sunday, we shall board the train to Cinque Terrre – 5 breathtaking towns right on the water.
Until tales from Cinque Terre, ciao!