I'll admit that Florence took a little bit of getting used to when we first arrived. Venice had been so quiet and uncrowded. Not to mention the magical feeling of being automobile-free.
When we arrived in Florence, a much bigger city, on Christmas day, it felt like a bit of culture shock. The last time I was in Florence was when I was seven years old, so I have virtually no memory of it. On Christmas day, there were throngs of people for as far as the eye could see not to mention tried to walk (in the street, on the narrow sidewalks, in the piazzas, and on the tiny side streets). Think of the most crowded day at Disneyland and you'll get the idea. It was bordering on claustrophobic. Interestingly, the crowds were not made up of foreign tourists (although there were a fair number of visitors from Asia), but rather mostly Italians, many of whom have time off during the Christmas holiday. So, Florence was overrun with Italians, for lack of a better way to explain it.
Thankfully things started to thin out just a bit as the days passed. We also fled one day to Arezzo, on a day trip, which helped.
During our five and a half days in Florence, we managed to pack in all the major sights, which is no small feat, given how jam-packed Florence is, with treasures. We did lots of shopping (mostly window shopping) because how can you not? And, of course, we ate our way through the city. The food was superb!
By our last day, we grew so fond of Florence that Miles declared he wanted to move there. I think more specifically, he wanted to move directly into the Marcato Central (just a convenient 3-minute walk from our Airbnb), where we spent a disproportionate amount of time, eating.
Dare I say, by our last day, we even grew rather accustomed to the crowds.
We took the train from Venice to Florence, arriving at our Airbnb in the late afternoon. Tired from traveling, we kept it simple with pizza and pasta for dinner at a nearby trattoria.
On our first full day, we packed in the sights, starting with the famed Uffizi Gallery, seeing some of the most iconic art pieces (along with what felt like the entire world who had the same idea that day). We then headed to the Ponte Vecchio (bridge), which crosses over the Arno River, where we admired the jaw-dropping jewelry stores that line the bridge. Finally, we visited the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, once home to the dynastic Medici family. We saw the most fabulous and ornate ceilings; breathtaking chandeliers; and an expansive fashion exhibit spanning the entire 19th Century. We ended our day with another delicious and hearty dinner of local favorites.
On our second day, we started at the Bardini Gardens, with one of the most magnificent views of the city. From there we wandered around a bit, had some delicious pizza for lunch, and then spent the afternoon at the Galileo Museum, which was a favorite of Garin and Graham. We then wandered around some more before heading back to our Airbnb for the evening, where the boys stayed in, while Catherine and I dined out at a delicious trattoria close by, followed by gelato. It's never too cold for gelato!
On our third day, we headed on a day trip to Arezzo. The train ride was relaxing and took about an hour or so. It was nice to escape to a smaller and quieter town for the day. The various open-air Christmas markets were still open with a variety of lovely local goods, and yummy foods and treats to try. The cheese was out of this world. We took some to go and brought it back to snack on at our apartment in Florence.
On our fourth day, we were back to a fully packed day of sightseeing in Florence. We began our day at the iconic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. We arrived at 8:15 to ascend the 414 stairs of Campanile Bell Tower, where we were met with the most glorious views of Florence. After finishing at the cathedral complex, we headed to Mercardo Central for an early and delicious lunch. We nourished ourselves in anticipation of the long lines and crowds at the Accademia Gallery, where we saw, none other than, David. After admiring David for an exorbitant amount of time (really, how can one help but stare at this perfect specimen of a man), we walked over to the Palazzo Vecchio, where we visited the museum, and climbed yet another tower, the Arnolfo Tower, which provided us with a different, but equally magical view of Florence.
We headed to the Mercardo Central for lunch (as mentioned above) and almost didn't make it out of there, we were so enraptured. We thought we had died and ended up in food heaven.
On our final day, we started at the Medici Chapels, which happened to be conveniently located right next door to our apartment. Afterward, we headed back to none other than the Mercardo Central, for breakfast. We spent so much time there perusing and shopping that before we knew it, it was lunchtime. How convenient! We fortified ourselves with more local specialties before heading out for the afternoon to enjoy the city and do some more shopping.
After shopping, guess where headed? Yes, you guessed it, the Mercardo Central, where we picked up supplies for dinner. We bought three types of fresh pasta, garlic, aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and butter lettuce for a simple salad. Although our kitchen was a somewhat challenging place to cook (with limited tools, pans, etc., and absolutely no counter space), we managed to make a lovely meal to celebrate our last night in Florence.
After dinner, we returned to Mercardo Central again (our fourth time that day) to have the most delicious gelato. Perhaps it might have been best if we had just set up cots there so that we wouldn't have to make the long 3-minute trek back and forth to our apartment.
We headed to Rome this morning and arrived at our next Airbnb this afternoon. We are so excited to explore Rome.
We will be staying in again tonight and cooking more scrumptious Italian food. We look forward to ringing in the New Year quietly, from this breathtaking city. We wish all of you a Buon Ano from Rome and a wonderful 2024!