Day 1: “Not all who wander are lost”
The moment I walked out of the Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station, Florence began to wrap its enchanting tentacles around me. The red tiled roofs of the buildings with walls that ranged from shades of white to pink, welcomed me to a world that I’ve dreamt of since childhood. Florence has always been on my bucket list. I’m not sure why. Nevertheless here I was in the city of my dreams after an hour and a half train ride from Rome. I had three days and three nights to eat and wander in a city that could tell stories of over 2000 years of humanity.
Before the romanticism of the city completely captured my soul, an angry ping in my stomach reminded me that breakfast had been skipped to catch the train from Rome; so we went on a hunt for sustenance. The short lived search ended at Bar Pasticceria Deanna, a café positioned a few steps from the train station entrance. Here I gobbled down a tasty prosciutto croissant sandwich and washed it down with an Americano. Once I quelled the hanger beast and regained clarity, I noticed the array of pastries laying behind the glass. I simply couldn’t resist ordering a chocolate croissant paired with a cappuccino and neither disappointed. Satisfied and happy we headed to our Airbnb.
Less than a ten minute walk from the Santa Maria Novella Station, our Airbnb accommodation described as the Scala Garden left little to desire. All our site seeing locations were steps away, allowing us to tour Florence easily on foot. After we settled in our abode, we discussed the plans for the afternoon and settled on wandering. The saying “not all those who wander are lost” is particularly true for the narrow streets of Florence – for walking the streets of Florence is an experience in itself. As you walk on the cobbled pathways, between the cement walls, stop to stare at one old cathedral after another, linger at a piazza, you get the surreal feeling of being on a movie set. Some of my memorable moments are seeing the Duomo for the first time (astonishing beyond belief), playing with bubbles on a piazza and admiring the Chanel windows on the corner of Piazza della Signoria.
Our stroll left us famished and Trattoria Marione hit the right spot. The wine was cheaper than the water, pasta al dente and the meat sauce perfectly spiced; my taste buds still tingle from the memory. On the way back to our rental from dinner we admired the windows of Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana and other endeared brands; obviously any fashionista’s dream. Once at home, the restlessness associated with #fomo got the best of us and we just had to go out. We found a cute little bar Slowly Café with great service and amazing cocktails; the cherry on top was old school rap and r ‘n’ b blasting through the speakers.
Day 2: The land of David and Gucci
A word to the wise, if you wish to evade the time sucking lines please purchase your tickets to the Accademia Gallery Museum and the Ufizi Gallery Museum beforehand. We started the day off early knowing that most of it would be spent waiting in line as we did not heed this warning. On our way to the Accademia Gallery Museum we armed ourselves with americanos and chocolate croissants in anticipation of the long wait. After approximately an hour in queue, we stood before David, the main draw for the museum and a Florence must-see.
After David, it was time for the Gucci Museo because when you visit Gucci’s birth place it seems like an insult to snob a building filled with the brand’s history. Another perk of the Gucci Museo: no line. It is three stories of Gucci’s history from its nascence in Florence to its current iconic status. Here you will find everything Gucci, from game sets to a car. After a Gucci history lesson we stopped at the expansive bookstore/library where multiple fashion coffee table books and Gucci products are for sale. I was tempted to enjoy an espresso and pastry as I leafed through the pages of Vivienne Westwood’s work but fought the urge once I calculated the price of my treat.
As we walked out of the Gucci Museum, I felt the hunger creeping but I chose to stifle it with espresso as we were meeting the rest of the family for lunch later. The caffeine fueled us for more exploring; we peeked through gates to see amazing verandas and took selfies. Finally we met our family at Sant’Ambrogio Market where we dined at Trattoria da Rocco. In order to seat our party of seven, the waiter relocated a seated party of four. Usually I would squirm at such an act but my hunger got the best of me and I gleefully sat at the table as soon as the former party was shushed away. I thoroughly enjoyed the meatballs and house red wine from Trattoria da Rocco and would recommend the place to anyone who wants a no fuss, delicious, inexpensive dining experience. Contented and slightly overfilled we picked a longer route to the Ufizi which gave us a great view of the buildings across the Arno River.
The queue at the Ufizi stretched far beyond the eye’s view of the entrance; shocking but should have been expected. Two hours passed and we eventually climbed the stairs to commence our tour. Personally I found the museum to be redundant and boring; after the fifth picture of naked babies I was done. I would only recommend this gallery to those who love religious art; otherwise skip it.
Fast forward to our late night search for a bar; we initially landed at art bar renowned for its cocktails. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to enjoy said cocktails as the waiter refused to serve us drinks. It took us about twenty minutes to translate “our credit card machine is broken” to leave. So we departed and spent the rest of the evening at Slowly Café; no disappointment here.
Day 3: A tale of a cathedral and leather store
With a 10am checkout and more of Florence to see, we dropped off our luggage at our Airbnb host’s office across the Arno River. Another piece of advice; if your plans include touring six Italian cities in two weeks please leave your large heavy suitcase at home, unless you love the idea of an upper body workout every time you lug that monstrosity on narrow Italian sidewalks. Anyway, I digress. Following the safe-keeping of our luggage we ate a quick breakfast at Pasticceria Marino to prepare us for the 400+ step hike to the top of the Duomo.
Once in line for the Duomo’s roof access without tickets, a couple of nice strangers informed us that while the cathedral is free, we needed tickets to make the climb. Hence our group split up; some to get the tickets, others to maintain our spot in line. Luckily, our ticket group returned before we reached the front of the line. The ascent to the top was claustrophobic but not grueling. Perk: lots of people ahead stopped to catch their breath giving those behind them who would are otherwise embarrassed to show their unfitness the desired reprieve. At the end of the steps, the best view of Florence greeted me. From here we could see the prominent Duomo tower and the entire city.
Once we got our fill, we descended and stood in a rather short line to enter the Duomo cathedral. Tip for the ladies: be sure anything above your knee and shoulders are covered. I witnessed two guards preventing entry to a woman wearing shorts and a tank top. The cathedral’s 2000 years of existence ever present on all the walls transported me to another time; the frescas, columns and painted ceilings are clearly not of our time. Furthermore the mere thought of the the high columns, cemented walls and marble structures built without modern technology blew my mind.
With the obligated list crossed off it was time for fashion because, well I’m obsessed. We started our saunter from Piazza San Giovanni and proceeded down Via Roma. Here I discovered Pinko one of my new favorite brands (especially when I saw this), reacquainted myself with Sisley whose doors were shuttered in Georgetown DC a while back and admired the windows of the small boutiques. Our strolling was halted by the smell of leather permeating through Benheart’s storefront. Benheart, a Florentine artisan, makes gorgeous leather products at a reasonable price and I am thrilled that we were able to find a great timeless piece for the hubby. The shopping had to come to an end as we had to catch our train to Cinque Terre. So we once again crossed the Arno River and enjoyed our last moments in Florence enjoying a chocolate hazelnut gelato from Gelateria La Carraia.
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