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Things have been crazy with us as we were preparing for the holidays and for the move to Arkansas. We spent a few days at our families for the Christmas holiday bouncing from my Grandma’s house, to Neal’s Mom’s house, and ending at my Mom’s house. We spent about 24 hours at each place and so it was great to see everyone. We got back to Indianapolis on the 26th, movers came on the 27th, and we were on the road for Arkansas on the 28th! We made it on the 29th and have been unpacking and getting settled since. It’s starting to feel like home, and once I get a 2-foot extension cord so my coffee maker will reach the outlet, it will feel even more like home :)!
Anyways, I wanted to share the photos from Florence before the move, but didn’t have enough time. So without further ado, here are the photos from Florence!
After spending two nights in Venice (you can read about that at this post), we took the train to Florence and had three nights there.
Florence had so much more activity than Venice! We stayed in the Duomo neighborhood, and as we made our way there, people were bustling around, cars were zooming about, and shops and restaurants were busier than ever. We dropped our stuff off at the apartment before checking out the Duomo and grabbing a quick lunch.The Duomo is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen! I could stare at it for hours.There were military vehicles and soldiers with machine guns at the Duomo. We didn’t see anything like this while in Venice, so it caught me off-guard at first.There were artists selling their work all around the Duomo. On our second to last day, we bought a gorgeous watercolor from one of them. We try to buy one piece of art from every place we visit together, it is a fun way to remember the trip, and it helps our home feel a little more cozy!There were scooters EVERYWHERE in Florence (and later in Rome). We definitely had to double check as we crossed the street–they are fast and seemed to appear out of nowhere!
We were both getting hangry, so we needed something FAST. We stumbled upon Mesopotamia Kebab on yelp, and decided to give it a try (even though it wasn’t Italian and I had vowed to only eat Italian food for our trip). It was SO SO GOOD! I think we had lamb kebabs (not too sure, it smelled delicious and I didn’t question it), wrapped in a tortilla like a burrito, stuffed with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, the creamiest feta I’ve ever had, spicy pickled peppers, and a tzatziki-like sauce. It was one of our favorite stops in Florence, and a nice way to break up the meals of pizza and pasta.
With warm kebabs in hand, we made our way to the Pitti Palace in the Oltrano neighborhood. We had a great view of the Ponte Vecchio bridge as we crossed the Arno River!It was the first Sunday of the month and admission to state museums was free. We decided to skip out on the Uffizi and the Accademia Gallery as we figured those would be crazy busy and check out the Pitti Palace. I’m glad we did! The Pitti Palace was not very busy at all and we were able to appreciate all it had to offer!The rooms were so ornate. Almost every ceiling had beautiful carvings and intricate paintings.And so much color! Half the time I didn’t know if I should look up at the ceilings or at the art on the walls. There was art by some greats such as Raphael and Caravaggio, and a collection of modern art as well. I read somewhere the Michelangelo had a close relationship with Lorenzo de’ Medici and had a room in his household. Maybe a young Michelangelo walked the same halls we had! We wanted to see the Boboli Gardens; however, they were closed by the time we finished inside.
After the Pitti Palace, we made our way over the Ponte Vecchio bridge, grabbed some gelato from Edoardo (so good, we went there at least 4 once a day) and enjoyed the sunset over the Duomo.We walked around a bit more, stumbled upon an outdoor sculpture gallery by the Uffizi, and ended the evening with a light dinner of bruschetta and beans (both with plenty of olive oil–yum!), and a bottle of wine. The next day we didn’t have any plans, so we slept in and woke up to the Duomo bells ringing.The Duomo peeks around every corner. if you’re one to get lost easily, stay in the Duomo neighborhood and you’ll always be able to find your way back!We wandered around Florence, hoping to grab a panino from Semel; however, it was closed when we got there.
We made our way to the Oltrano neighborhood to see the Boboli Gardens that we missed out on the day before–however, it was also closed. We kept walking to find a pizza place recommended to me by a friend that use to live in Florence, and it was closed too! At this point we are are starving and frustrated with ourselves for not knowing what things were open, we stopped into the first pizzeria we saw that looked good and had wifi. The pizza was pretty good, but not great; though we were more than happy to rest our feet and relax.
After stopping into some leather shops, we made our way back to our apartment for a quick nap and to change shoes (note to self: must break-in shoes before a trip with excessive walking).
We had heard so much about the views from Piazza Michelangelo and decided to make the hike up the hill to enjoy the sunset. On our way, we passed the Christmas Market held in the Piazza Santa Croce. There were so many markets with handmade goods, ornaments, hot wine and other noms. It was fun to browse through! One stall had bags and bags of spices. Many of which I hadn’t heard of, but the colors and smells were making our stomachs grumble a bit.After about a 20 minute hike, mostly uphill with some very steep stairs at the end, we made it to Piazza Michelangelo! The views were incredible and totally worth the hike! We could see the sun setting over all the Firenze rooftops with the rolling Tuscan hills in the background. There was some live music being played and people were sitting around chatting–it was a truly enjoyable experience and one of my favorite things we did in Florence.There was a replicated statue of David in the middle of the Piazza. It was like a little teaser of what we would be seeing the next day!The sunset was beautiful!As we made our way back down, we stopped by the Giardino delle rose (rose garden). While I’m sure it is gorgeous most of the year, unfortunately most of the flowers were dead. But it was a great place to take a break and enjoy the gorgeous views in a more secluded environment.
We made our way back across the bridge. I loved seeing the lights twinkle along the Arno River and on the Ponte Vecchio bridge!We did some shopping, and found this cute shop called Bartolucci filled with handmade wooden goods. We bought a Pinocchio memory game for my little nephew. We grabbed an aperitif at this meat and cheese shop called La Prosciutteria Firenze. While reviews were raving, we weren’t huge fans. The wine was fine, but the bread tasted stale. However, it was really affordable and had good sized servings. We still wanted something light for dinner, so we made our way to the Mercado Centrale to check out some of the food stalls upstairs. We had the most amazing fresh mozzarella as part of a caprese salad! Seriously, I can’t describe how good it was. We also split a salad and pasta and bought a bottle of local wine to drink at home. We had an early morning in front of us!
Tuesday was our museum day. We had reservations for 8:15 am at Galleria dell’Accademia–most known for Michelangelo’s David statue. There was only one couple in front of us, so walking in we had David mostly to ourselves for a few minutes. Though it feels cliché to say, being in front of the David statue is truly breathtaking. He is so magnificent!The detail on David is crazy. I can’t believe one man sculpted him from a single piece of marble over 500 years ago.The museum had more to offer than just the David. There were some other sculptures by Michelangelo, some renaissance paintings, a very interesting exhibit about fabric and clothing during the renaissance, and an exhibit on the evolution of musical instruments.This sculpture, Pieta, was at one point attributed to Michelangelo, but more recently has been thought to be done by Niccolò Menghini or Gian Lorenzo Bernini. According to Wikipedia it is still controversial.Besides the David, my favorite piece in the museum was Rape of the Sabines by Jean de Boulogne based on the story from the early history of Rome. The word “rape” more aligns with abduction than sexual violence and they were abducting women to create their own families.. The original sculpture is carved from one piece of marble and moving around the sculpture gives a different viewpoint. It truly looks like it was created from three separate pieces and stacked on one another. The Galleria has a plaster cast of the original.We’re glad we came early! We were only here for about an hour, but by the time we left, it was packed. If you plan to go, reserve tickets for the earliest time and be sure to arrive about 15 minutes early to redeem your ticket and get a good place in line. After the Galleria we made our way to Semel! You can read about it here and here. It was AMAZINGLY GOOD!!! We both grabbed a panino and a small glass of wine. My panino had pecorino cheese, pear, and truffles. Neal had one with roast pork and spicy peppers. We washed them down with a glass of wine. They were so good, we both got seconds! For our second, we both had the panino with wild boar, polenta, and mushrooms and a second glass of wine. The second panino was better than the first, which I didn’t think would be possible. This was our FAVORITE place in Florence. And it was super cheap. Our lunch all together was 20 euro! I can’t wait to make some Semel inspired panino’s at home. Stay tuned for a copy cat recipe! Don’t go for the ambiance though, it was so small and the only places to sit were on a bench and a few stools. I imagine this place gets very crowded, but still would be worth it! I only wish we had found it the day before so we could have gone twice! Our only regret is not going before the tripe sandwich sold out, we failed to try the delicacy while in Florence!We had reservations for the Uffizi Gallery at 1:00ish. After lunch, we still had a little time so we went to check out the Firenze Scuola del Cuoio (School of Leather) which was on the way to the Uffizi. It is located behind the Basilica di Santa Croce, which is where the Christmas Market was also located. Like the Duomo, the detailing is amazing and the marble is gorgeous.It was so picturesque walking behind into the leather school!Little did we know, we would be seeing some gorgeous handmade leather goods!Neal found something he was interested in, but wanted to think about it, so we made our way to the Uffizi.
I can’t give justice to how amazing the Uffizi is, so instead I’ll just talk about my two favorite pieces, which I’m sure are very cliche!
I loved La Primavera (or the Allegory of Spring) by Botticelli. There were a few rooms in the Uffizi dedicated to Botticelli. His work was amazing and you could see how the style changed throughout his career.The Uffizi had some work by Michelangelo including the only painting by Michelangelo that is in Florence–the Doni Tondo (Holy Family)! This painting was commissioned by a wealthy banker back in the day and is one of the only examples of Michelangelo’s paintings besides the Sistine Chapel. Everything about the painting is gorgeous, and there are some similarities between this and the Sistine Chapel. We saw some great works by Leonardo Da Vinci, but those rooms were so crowded we weren’t able to get too close. However, they were impressive even from a distance!
After the Uffizi, we made our way back to the School of Leather as Neal had made his decision and wanted to get the briefcase he had his eye on. It is a gorgeous briefcase and we got to see them emboss his initials! Such a cool experience!We walked around and explored some random shops before having dinner at Osteria De’ Pazzi. We split a bottle of wine and bruschetta. I had mushroom ravioli with truffle cream sauce and Neal had gnocchi with a creamy gorgonzola sauce–both were divine! My ravioli’s were like delicious pillows of mushroomy goodness. I’ve never had such fluffy pasta before in my life and now I’m kinda obsessed. I must learn how to make gluten-free homemade pasta! The waiter was so nice too, though the menu was in Italian, he explained everything very thoroughly. He even gave us some of his mother’s homemade limoncello as a digestif! Yum!
We made our way home for our last night in Florence. I loved walking around at night, it was a little calmer and the twinkling lights strung for the holiday season provided some great ambiance.
The next day we didn’t have to pick up our rental car till about noon. We were so full from dinner the night before, so skipped breakfast. We wanted to check out the vendor stalls downstairs at Mercado Centrale that were closed when we went the other day, so off we went! There were shops with spices, wine, cheese, meats, fresh seafood, fresh veggies, and basically everything you could imagine! We picked up some fresh mozzarella cheese and some veggies for a snack later.
We hadn’t yet been inside the Duomo so we headed that way. The Duomo is free to enter, but you have to pay to visit the Duomo museum. Unfortunately tickets for the Duomo museum were sold out for a few days, so we could only go inside the Duomo–poor planning on our part. While we were in Florence, they had been setting up for Christmas. By the time we left, there was this sweet nativity scene set up right in front of the Duomo! I wish we could have seen the nativity and the Christmas scene all lit up.Remember how I said I could look at the Duomo for hours? Waiting in line was a great opportunity to do just that! Even though the line was just like a 30 minute wait.The carvings are so intricate. This was right as you enter the Duomo.
Unfortunately I couldn’t take any pictures inside, because lighting was not good. However, there wasn’t too much to see. We think all the original art is in the Duomo museum. It was definitely cool to be inside such a massive structure though.
After the Duomo, we picked up our bags, hopped in a taxi, and made our way to pick up the rental car from the airport. We were on our way to Monticchiello in the Val d’Orcia region!