Our second stop after the wondrous Barcelona, Spain was Firenze or Florence, Italy. I had been to Italy 10 years before this trip, but never specifically to Florence. We took a really early flight from Barcelona to Florence so as to get the most out of our less than 2 days there. Upon arriving, we went around in a few circles trying to figure out how to get from the station to the general area of our Airbnb. We finally figured out there was a bus we could take. This bus took us to another station, Santa Maria Novella, from where we had to walk. Although in reality it wasn’t a long walk, there was no sidewalk and these were narrow cobblestone streets. And of course, I had a pretty large heavy suitcase. Fun.
Even though I was sweaty and tired, I was really excited to be there.
Our Airbnb wouldn’t be ready until about 2pm, but it was still like 9 or 10 am. The host said her aunt, also a tenant in the building, would be able to keep our luggage safe in the meantime. This little old lady reminded me of my maternal grandmother, except she only spoke Italian. Somehow we managed to communicate to her that we needed a place to quickly change clothes and possibly use the restroom.
At this point, we had been up for several hours and were pretty hungry. So we started on the hunt for some place to eat. Problem was, most places were closed at this time and didn’t open up until mid afternoon. Thankfully, a few locals pointed us to the direction of a small café, Oz Firenze. Not only was this place open, but they offered delicious coffee drinks, pastries, and a view of the neighborhood. I am not exaggerating when I say that we hung out there for hours. And while we were there, a really nice man, we later learned his name was Amir, would strike up conversation with us. He didn’t speak English and we certainly did not speak Italian, and so we communicated by speaking in Spanish while he spoke slowly in Italian and, of course, made all the hand gestures.
After a while, Amir told us that he would be off of work soon and could guide us toward San Niccolo where we could see the most beautiful view of Florence. He took us there and it was as spectacular as he said it would be. He also told us about the houses in that area and how they were basically for the rich and famous. Once we parted ways with Amir, Diana and I roamed around, grabbed our first gelato in Italy, and managed to find our way back to the Airbnb.
Our Airbnb was a room in an apartment shared with the host and her teenage son, as well as their fluffy cat. Our room was simple, but beautiful. We had a balcony and lots of room for our luggage to just spill out everywhere. We decided it would probably be best to take a nap after an already long day of traveling.
We woke up just in time for dinner. So we got a bit dressed up and headed out to find some authentic Italian cuisine, and there it was just down the street, Affe Di Bacco. If you’re ever in Florence, please check this place out! It’s family friendly and there were more locals than tourists so we had a good feeling about this place immediately. I ordered a delicious freshly made spaghetti with pork and mushrooms. It was pretty spectacular, especially accompanied with a red wine. For dessert, we had something that almost looked like flan, except it was served with fire, literal fire atop. It was very sweet and very good.
After an epic dinner, we headed back to our home for the next two nights, to rest for our busy day ahead.
The next day, we were up and out early to be able to explore as much of Florence as possible! But first, we stopped at Oz Firenze for another quick breakfast pastry and coffee. Unfortunately, Amir was not working so we didn’t see him again, but the owner was a younger man who was really nice (and why lie, he was handsome), although he did spill my first drink when he brought it over to me! But all in all, it was a great morning.
We then were in search of a bus that could take us closer to Il Duomo di Firenze, the main attraction in Florence. We caught a bus and pretty much just rode until we saw something interesting, which was the Church of Santa Croce. Like most of the art we saw in Florence, this church’s exterior was intricate, clean, and simply mesmerizing. We sat there for a little while to admire the scenery.
But, we had to keep moving! As we walked through the city streets, there was graffiti art throughout that was more art than anything. I love admiring the street art wherever I go because it really speaks volumes about the place you’re in and kind of gives it a personality.
On our stroll, it would rain, then the humidity would take over, and then it would rain again. It was awesome actually.
Just before getting to Piazza Della Signoria (Amir told us he thought this was the most beautiful place in all of Florence), we saw a store that looked just like Geppetto’s workshop, lots of restaurants, flower shops, designer stores, a carousel, among so many other things.
Piazza Della Signoria is the place to go to see some really cool sculptures. Some we saw included Perseus with the Head of Medusa, the Fountain of Neptune, and a copy of Michelangelo’s David. Here you’ll also find the Museo di Palazzo Vecchio. There were swarms of people gathering around each and every statue, just fascinated with the skill and workmanship it must have taken to create them. After some time here, we stopped at a small restaurant for a bite. I went with a calzone that was basically like a pizza folded in half. You already know, it was delicious.
Finally, we arrived at Il Duomo. Il Duomo, (or the Dome Cathedral) is actually formally called Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower). The cathedral is, simply put, amazing. It’s huge and quite majestic. What I loved about it most was that there was something to see on every inch of the structure. We walked around the building a bit and were just stunned with how grand it was and that we were in front of something we’d only seen in photos.
Il Duomo di Firenze broke ground in the year 1296, but it wasn’t actually completed until 1436. What an amazing thing to see a structure that is several hundred years old right in front of you! Definitely an unforgettable moment.
After that little walk through a historic side of Florence, we figured we’d just go do what we do best: shop (I mean it was raining again and we didn’t have an umbrella so it only made sense)! We pretty much just went to Zara, but you guys know how dangerous Zara can be. I bought a pair of pleated black culottes (I’ve posted pics in them) that every time I wear I say, “oh these old things? I picked them up in Florence.” (Obviously kidding).
After shopping for a quick minute, we came across the Mercato Nuovo where there are lots of leather goods for sale. Here you’ll also find the famous Porcellino (piglet) statue (there were lots of people touching and kissing the statue so we decided not to get to close to it).
Last but not least, we walked to Ponte Vecchio. Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) was originally populated with butcher shops, but now it is a great place to shop for art, jewelry, and gold. The river flowing below the bridge is known as the Arno River, which is the second most important river in central Italy (the first being the Tiber River).
Diana and I grabbed another gelato (I chose a yummy strawberry and lemon flavor), and sat on the adjacent bridge, Ponte Santa Trinita, to watch the sunset and the lights flicker on along the river and Ponte Vecchio.
At this point, we were pretty hungry, so we circled back around to a restaurant we had spotted across from the Pinocchio store. There we ordered wine (may or may not have spilled it all over our table), bread and some handmade pasta. I ordered the Gorgonzola and Pear Gnocchi. You guys, this was heavenly! It was so good! I was half way through my plate, as full as can be, and still kept eating!
Beyond full from dinner, we decided to walk and try to figure out the best way to go home. We ended up walking the entire way, which wasn’t a bad or terribly long walk, just dark. Also, the previous night, mosquitoes had pretty much eaten me alive, so my entire body and face were covered in red bites. I was on a mission to find a pharmacy where I could buy some bug spray (and yay there was one right near our Airbnb).
That night, upon arriving to our room, we showered, threw on our pjs and got to packing because early the next morning we’d be off on our next adventure.
Have you been to Firenze? What was your favorite part? Any places I didn’t see that you recommend?
-The B of V