Florence Day One (26/12)
*Warning this blog may contain nudity*
Arrival (approx. 7:00pm)
After a long day on 3 different trains, travelling across 2 countries we were buggered and very happy to finally see Florence train station. Our hotel was just around the corner from the train station and very easy to find, which was a welcome surprise in our exhausted state.
Hotel Sempione Florence
Check in was quick and easy. As soon as we had our keys we were up the lift and getting settled into the room. We showered and got dressed for dinner. Jess could have quite easily just gone to bed but I was starving and not going to pass up the opportunity for my first authentic Italian meal. We didn’t bother rugging up too much, 4 degrees felt positively warm compared to Zermatt’s efforts with minus 6 and below.
Dinner at Trattoria da Guido
Trip advisor had given Trattoria da Guido Restaurant a good review and it was only 1 street from our hotel so I was keen to check it out and it was close enough that Jess agreed dinner probably wasn’t too big an ask. We walked down a cobble stone alley, decorated with Christmas lights to find the restaurant. From the street the it looked really small and not all that great but once we walked inside we noticed it was actually quite big (long and skinny) and packed with locals (a good sign) we were greeted with ‘bonasera’ and seated at a table for ‘duê’
Trip advisor hadn’t steered us wrong. The food at this place was amazing. I had a spaghetti arrabiata and Jess had eggplant parmigiana, along with red and white vino. Both were simple dishes but really well made and full of flavour. We also couldn’t believe how good the bill was…so cheap after our Zermatt meals. With entree, mains, 2 glasses of wine each and a shared dessert it came to 52 euro!!!
We decided to call it a night after dinner too exhausted to explore further. Needed to rest up for the day ahead.
Florence Day Two (27/12)
Breakfast this morning was included in our room price so we hunted the hotel and eventually found the breakfast suite, hidden in a maze of corridors on the first floor rather than the ground floor??
We used this time to plan our walking route for the day and which sites we aimed to hit before lunch.
Jessica: The Accademia Gallery is most famous for Renaissance artist Michelangelo’s statue of David. And this was exactly what adam and I were there to see. We arrived spot on 9:00am as the gallery was opening as we hadn’t bothered getting a skip the line pass and instead were relying on beating the crowd. We were in luck, only a small line and it moved reasonably fast, we were inside within 20 minutes. And saved ourselves almost 40 euro each by getting up early and not worrying about a pass!
The Accademia also displays works by Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, to name just a few of the painters. But it’s obvious that the vast majority of the crowd are there solely to see David as the crowds disperse pretty quickly once you pass the initial room that houses the David statue.
David is impressive. The sheer size of the block of marble he is carved from is awe inspiring. The detail of his form such as muscle structure, veins and movement in the hair is perfect. However I couldn’t help but note some inaccuracies in the proportions of the figure. David’s hands are enormous (approximately the same size as his head) and his feet are incredibly wide in comparison to his calves and thighs. Minor imperfections on an otherwise stunning sculpture but once I had pointed them out to Adam he couldn’t “not see them” either.
Who posed better: Me or David?
Duomo – Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore
Jessica: The basilica Is the main church of Florence, and referred to by locals as duomo Di Firenze. The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches and It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.
Being completely honest though, it a church so neither adam or I were going to spend too long at this stop. A quick pause outside to snap some photographs of the Gothic architecture and we were happy to move on. The line to get inside was beyond ridiculous (tour groups) so we felt the outside was enough for our church viewing needs to be satisfied.
The cathedral is located in the main square (Piazza del Duomo) which was handy as this was close to our next stop, the Uffizi gallery.
Jessica: We arrived to the steps of the gallery and saw an enormous line of people waiting to get in, luckily we had skip the line passes and managed to get in and through security within 15 minutes. The Uffizi Gallery is one of the oldest and most famous art museums of Europe and displays many of the paintings and sculpture collected by the House of Medici (a wealthy family from the Renaissance) Some of my favourite works from thus gallery were produced by Sandro Botticelli, an early Renaissance master. Notably his ‘Birth of Venus’ and ‘La Primevera’ paintings were highlights – though after the spectacle of the Louvre in Paris it’s hard for the Uffizi gallery to match up. All of the works housed in the Uffizi gallery have a distinctly religious subject matter and I sensed this wore thin with Adam after the first 6 rooms of ‘Jebus’ paintings as he put it. I must admit even I was getting a bit over the Madonna’s and their chubby babies after the 7th or 8th room. It becomes a little repetitive to take in all in one hit.
Ponte Vecchio Bridge
The Ponte vecchio bridge is a medieval stone bridge over the Arno river. The thing that stands out about this bridge, compared to the others along the river, is that this one has shops built into it, this was apparently once common for Italian bridges. Can’t say Jess and I we’re overly impressed by this bridge. It’s old and that’s about it but hey we can say “been there, done that”
Lunch at Ristorante Pizzeria & a litre of wine
By this point in the afternoon our feet were tired and we needed to sit. On the main square, back near the Duamo & Uffizi gallery, Jess spotted a pizzeria that looked appealing. I had a calabrese (spicy salami) pizza and Jess stuck to a margarita. Verdict: excellent, traditional wood fired pizza. The sauce reminded me of the sauce we used to make at Nonna and Nonno’s.
We ended up sitting for just over an hour as we had each ordered a half bottle of wine (Jess = White, me = Red) it was nice to sit back and relax knowing we had essentially crossed off our ‘to do list’ of places to see within one day. The rest of the Florence leg can now be at a slower pace.
Having walked a big section of Florence in half a day we were both ready for a nap. The curtains in our room worked a little too well (complete blackout) so we slept for an hour and a half
Dinner & more wine
We decided to revisit our dinner restaurant from the night before (it was so good we couldn’t even contemplate going somewhere else) Jess refused to order anything different, claiming she could live on this eggplant parmigiana for the rest of her life. I decided to be more adventurous and tried the cheese and black pepper spaghetti. Both meals as to be expected were really good. We decided we had done enough eating during the day and didn’t order dessert. I did have my first (non-peroni) Italian beer though, Costello. I accidentally ordered a long neck but wasn’t complaining. Jess ordered house wine but it was a bit strong for her liking (she referred to it as rocket fuel) so I think from now on she will be ordering ‘brand’ wine that comes from a commercial bottle, rather than the restaurants home brew pour from a giant unmarked flagon.
Florence Day Three (28/12)
Sleep In & Breakfast
Knowing we had a late-ish check out of 11am we decided to sleep in past 8:00am for the first time on this trip. We then began organising and re-packing our bags in preparation for check out. When the room was in some sort of order we headed off to breakfast.
After breakfast we had the morning to relax in out hotel which we haven’t really had a chance to do properly on our whole trip yet. We decided to finish off the Zermatt blog and start the Florence blog so that we could get up to date and enjoy our time in Venice without having to do both Florence and Venice blogs.
Back at our local again when you’re onto a good thing why mess with the system? Jess decided to be a little more adventurous this time and ordered a Tomato and basil gnocchi and I had the traditional spaghetti Bolognese. This was definitely a fitting way to spend our last hour in Florence before boarding the train to Venice.
Train to Venice
After collecting our bags from the hotel, we made our way back to the Florence train station. Located our platform and first class seats for our trek to Venice (a much shorter train ride today only two hours.) We will be kicking back and watching some TV on the iPads during this trip, hopefully arriving well rested and ready to see Venice.
We didn’t really have any expectations about Florence when planning our trip, but we considered it a must given the art museums and of course the good food. As mentioned above, after seeing the Louvre, it would have been hard for Florence’s galleries to match the variety and sheer volume of work of the Paris gallery. However seeing David was definitely one to cross off the bucket list. The food lived up to its reputation and we definitely enjoyed our first tastes of Italy.
Next stop Venice…