I found my new favorite city. Maybe Chicago is still at the top... actually, I'm sure it is. But Florence comes in a close second. The streets, the history, the food, the museums, the art, the people. If you've been there you know the magic I'm talking about.
Because of some lovely people's recommendations (thank you!!), we stayed pretty town center. This was by far the best decision. Once you're in Florence central you can pretty much walk everywhere. And boy did we walk!
We stayed at a quant BnB called Hotel Monica. The service was friendly, breakfast adequate, and location/price amazing. If you're traveling on a budget you couldn't ask for more. Highly recommend this place!
Few of our favorite things in Florence... FYI I saved the best for last.
1. The Architecture
Duomo is the center cathedral of Florence. It's quite hard to miss. The great thing about this master piece is it serves as a sign post for you no matter where you are in the city. Lost? Locate the Duomo peaking over the buildings and reorient yourself. Amazing.
You can visit the 4 major churches in Florence - San Lorenzo, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, and Basilica of Santo Spirito. Admittedly we didn't make it to all of them but definitely worth visiting a few.
Also, every street is met with more interesting buildings. It was so hard to not snap a picture in every street we walked.
Also, ALL the mopeds ^^ E v e r y w h e r e !
2. The Uffizi and Acadamia
We are so glad we took the time to visit these museums. So much history and art that influenced the world as we know it. You can enjoy the David, pieces from Rafael, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli and many more. If anything, make sure you see the David. It's in the Academia, which is a smaller museum but the David alone is worth every penny. Jake just stared at it. Eventually he said, "this may be the most amazing thing I have every seen." He gave me a hard time for the rest of the trip because I didn't have quite the same reaction, but it's certainly impressive. Make sure you see it.
Now, I'm not a history nor art buff. I don't consider myself astute in either of these fields. But wow -- there was so much I appreciated about learning from these art pieces. Completely worth a couple hours of our limited time to learn how art has influenced and reflects history.
You can purchase your tickets ahead of time so you can skip a majority of the lines. But be ware -- not all the lines. Also, as a friend informed me, you can simply wake up early and be one of the first in line to purchase your tickets. You should be safe either way.
3. Markets and LEATHER
Did you know Florence is the leather capital of the world? Did you even know there was such a thing as the leather capital of the world? Don't worry, I didn't either. But wow was there leather everywhere!
The open markets had such great trinkets. It was fun to walk between the markets and then pop into the store fronts. Take your time exploring the markets, but be sure you're getting the real stuff.
Because of another great recommendation (thanks Gina!) we made sure to visit the Florence School of Leather, Scuola del Cuoio. You MUST go there. If you didn't know to look for it, you'd miss it. Hidden behind Santa Croce is this amazing centuries old leather factory. Here thousands of leather artisans have come to hone their craft. To this day, you can see the leather students in the bottom floor of the building. In the store, artisans have space to work on their master pieces. This is the good stuff.
Since leather is for the third year anniversary, and we just hit three years (woot woot!), I bought a leather purse from the Scuola. You can see below where one of the top gilders embossed my initials on the purse. This is a keep sake I can have for many years. And enjoy right now! Make sure you stop by this place. You won't regret it.
4. Piti Palace and Giardino di Boboli
The Medici's. I still don't know much about them... but after visiting Florence and hearing all about their influence, for better or worse, I am excited to read up about their history. And man oh man did they have a flat!
The gardens were also so fun to explore. Probably better when everything is in bloom but it's a nice break frame the hustle and bustle of the city.
5. Ponte Vecchio
Who doesn't like pretty rivers and old rustic bridges? This is one of the staple tourist views in Florence. We couldn't help but indulge ourselves here. AND caffeine up with some espresso. ;)
6. Michelangelo's Plaza
I saved the best for last. So thankful that Natalia (thanks girl!) told us to watch the sun set from this location. We weren't quite ready for how steep the hike would be. But seriously. Put on your best walking shoes - big mistake on my part here - and walk up those steep stairs with the crowds to catch the beautiful views. Just take a look below.
If you can't tell by now, I love Florence. I couldn't post all 1000 pictures from our three days here but believe me, I wanted to. Do your due diligence to find local restaurants and gelato shops. It makes all the difference. Take in as much of this city as you can, for whatever amount of time you get. It's worth every turn down little nook and cranny.
After some work in Europe, our little socks were blessed off. I had always dreamed of going to Italy with Jake. Didn't actually think it would happen. But then we talked about it enough (or maybe I did?!) and after lots of planning we MET IN ITALY.
3 weeks later I'm finally going through pictures. We arrived in Florence and stayed at this adorable BnB - Hotel Monica. Highly recommended. We made Florence our home base for a few days. But more on Florence later.
I'll start by posting our first day trip. We took a 2 hour Trenitalia trip from Florence to Venice. So worth paying the money for the high speed train when you have limited time!
Venice was beautiful. The water ways. The winding streets -- where, yes, we got lost multiple times, even with google maps. St. Mark's square & basilica. CARNIVAL was going on, so that was special. Masks every where. We paid to go up in the clock tower. Definitely worth the wait -- you could see all the building tops in 360 degrees. It makes you realize just how crazy those people were stacking this city on 118 islands!
Unfortunately our day in Venice was about 36 degrees and rainy. Let's just say it was beautiful enough to make the trip worth it. Because it was c o l d. And w e t. But, worth it. Probably wouldn't stay there much longer than a day because it's so touristy -- meaning lots of high prices and gifts shops every where. But definitely glad we saw beautiful, romantic city. Even if our umbrella kept breaking -- you might catch the helpless umbrella below.
I like to talk.