Blog Archive

Friday, October 1, 2010

Italy: Florence

Warning: The posts continue to get longer and longer the further along I get into the trip. I will not apologize for the specific reason that you do NOT have to read said post if you don't want to. These well documented and detailed posts are more for me to forever remember my amazing adventure than for your reading pleasure. But if you do read, please enjoy! 

The last thing I remember was getting on the train. I must have fallen asleep quickly because the next thing I knew, I was in Florence! It's a good thing I woke up or Rome would have had a surprise guest two days early!

I was still in a sleepy fog when I gathered up my belongings and headed out on the streets of Florence. I was a bit turned around for the first few minutes so I pulled out my life line, turned on the data roaming and let the iPhone lead me to Hotel Sampaoli

Hotel Sampaoli was recommended to me by my friend, Abbey. Abbey has been traveling the world for the past year or so and is now currently living the life in Spain riding amazing horses everyday. I am so jealous. Please check out her blog, A Chick With Baggage. When I started planning my trip I immediately thought of Abbey. She was a life saver! Thank you so much Abbey! It also just so happens to be Abbey's birthday today so HAPPY BIRTHDAY ABBEY! 

Hotel Sampaoli was amazing. After he checked me in, he gave me a free map of Florence and circled every monument, church, museum, and view I needed to see. I dropped off my bags, freshened up and hit the town starting down Via San Gallo towards Piazza Duomo. It was around 5:00pm by this time and the sun was slowly starting to set. 

Via San Gallo. 

I cut through a building and happened upon a car museum before heading back out onto Via Camillo Cavour. 

Via Camillo Cavour.

Via Camillo Cavour. 

Piazza del Duomo which houses Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, Brunelleschi's dome, Giotto's Bell Tower and Baptisery of San Giovanni.

Piazza del Duomo. Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedra.

Piazza del Duomo. Giotto's Bell Tower.

Piazza della Signoria.  Which houses Palazzo Vecchio which is the town hall in Florence and Loggia dei Lanzi which contains beautiful statues. The Uffizi Museum is adjacent to the Piazza. 

Piazza della Signoria. 

The Fountain of Neptune  is also located in Piazza della Signoria. 

Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, which is a covered outdoor flea market on Via Calimala.

Walking across Ponte Vecchio.

Ponte Vicchio was filled with jewelry store after jewelry store. 

Looking South from the Ponte Vicchio over the Fiume Arno

View looking East from Ponte Santa Trinita overlooking the Fiume Arno and Ponte alla Carraia

View looking West from Ponte Santa Trinita overlooking the Fiume Arno and Ponte Vicchio.

A view looking South towards Fiume Arno, while walking down Borgo Ognissanti, on the way to dinner.

After a long evening of walking all around, in which I pretty much saw all of Florence, I decided I would go straight to dinner rather than going back to the Hotel and freshing up. It's a good thing I did too because if I would have been five minutes later, I would not have gotten a table.  Dinner was another "Abbey Recommended" stop on my Florence to do list. She didn't have to convince me much after she wrote me this... 

 "If you are in the mood for a bit of a splurge, the best meal I have ever had In. My. Life. is at a restaurant called 13 Gobbi. I am not exaggerating. Best meal of my life. It was expensive, but amazing. And part of the reason it may have been so expensive is that I polished off 2 bottles of wine and possibly 5 courses. No biggie!"

So of course I had to splurge at Ristoranti Trattoria 13 Gobbi! I showed up on their doorstep around 7:00pm. The restaurant was almost already full. I opened the door, walked up to the host and said "per uno" and he responded "prenotazione" (reservation) I said "no" and he looked to the owner and looked back and me and said "no." I believe I must have expressed some intensely shocked look on my face because before I could say anything he said "ok, ok, here!" 

He sat me at a lovely four top, which is obviously all they had, and I said I promised I would be quick! He immediately asked "aqua"? To which I replied "naturale." After looking at the menu for a minute he was back to take my order. For my primi piatti, I tried the Insalata con pecorino e pere (salad with pecorino cheese and pears). It was one of those perfect moments because at the same time I was dreaming and craving a pear salad, he recommended one. 

He took my secondi piatti order at the same time. Before I ordered my meal, he asked if I would like a glass of wine. Because I felt bad for consuming a four top I agreed to a glass, little did I know what I was in for! I was a little nervous drinking on antibiotics, in a foreign (in more than one way) country, where I knew no one,  with a solid twenty minute walk back to the hotel at night. But I thought, when in Florence! I asked my server for his recommendation of wine after expressing I would like a pasta with a red sauce. He recommended a glass of red and suggested I tried their famous Rigatoni Pasta, served in a soup-tureen, which I did. 

So, I ate my delicious and perfect pear salad and drank my "literally never ending glass of red wine." 

Then continued to drink my "literally never ending  glass of red wine" until my mouth watering Rigatoni arrived. 

After finishing my pasta I settled the bill and left with still a half a glass of my "literally never ending glass of red wine" left. If you see in the picture above, there is an adorable little blue and white ceramic mug which contained said "literally never ending glass of red wine." Halfway through my second glass of wine, I decided this mug had to have some sort of Marry Poppins Magic and picked it up to take a look. It was still half full! I knew at this point this said mug was not going to be empty when I left. 

I drunkenly, magically made it back to the hotel, shower, change into my pajamas and pass out all before 10:00pm. 

The next morning I felt great. I actually slept! For the first time in days I got more than three hours of sleep. I believe the wine had something to do with that. I had an early reservation, 8:10am, at the Galleria degli Uffizi. On my way there I stopped at a bar in Piazza della Signoria and ordered my breakfast completely in Italian. I mean, it was only croissant and aqua naturale but he did ask if I wanted a bicchiere, which I then replied "no" to because, I didn't want a glass. I felt proud. 

I spent exactly one hour at the Ufizzi Gallery. All the art looked pretty much the same. The "Madonna with Child" sure was a popular title. I thought I'd recognize more from the year of art history I took in college, but nope. I guess that was a waste of money. Sorry Mom and Dad. However, with that said, most of the paintings were absolutely beautiful. I loved the accents of gold within the pieces. 

After the Ufizzi, I had some time to walk around and I happened upon this beautiful courtyard which was attached to the Basilica of Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) which is situated in the Piazza di Santa Croce, but of course!

Basilica of Santa Croce.

Basilica of Santa Croce.

I had a little snack at Bar San Marco Srl in the Piazza di San Marco before heading to the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze. I decided I would take my time and walk around before googling at "David." It didn't last long, the place is small. As promised by a women from Phoenix who I met in line, I walked all the way around and even sat down at the bench behind him to catch in all of the views.  

After the short but sweet visit to the Accademia, I headed off across the Ponte Alle Grazie towards my favorite view of all time. On the Ponte Alle Grazie I captured this moment!

Then I climbed what seemed like 500 steps, which was probably only 100, to get this view from Piazzale Michelangelo. This view could have summed up my entire trip. If I only saw this view I would have been fine and dandy. It was that breathtakingly beautiful. I didn't have words to express how amazing I felt standing in Italy, on a hill that I just climbed, overlooking Florence. It was surreal. 

After my panoramic photo shoot (please see post A Wee Bit Jet Lagged for said photo) I decided I would sit down and take in the view. It was so spectacular I just needed a moment to really let it sink in. I headed towards the closest bench that was unoccupied, except for one other person, to sit down and relax. A few steps closer my jaw dropped. I realized I knew this person who was occupying the bench I was headed towards! 

It was my new found Australian friend I met in Venice, Aishleen! So, we spent the rest of the day together. Our crazy selves thought we needed to climb more hills and stairs to get to Basilica San Miniato al Monte. We walked around inside the basilica and outside in the cemetery. The views were remarkable.  

We walked back down the hill, over the Ponte Vicchio bridge and directly to the first gelato spot we laid our eyes on. 

A woman was drawing the Mona Lisa outside the gelato store. 

There was one final thing on my to do list that I really wanted to check off. That was climbing the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo Dome. Unfortunately for eight euros, my respiratory system couldn't handle it. I was still having remnants of the flu which consisted of intense coughing attacks when physical activity was pushed to the max. We did manage to take a peek inside the front portion of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral.

Aishleen and I walked around for a few more hours and sat in a park under some trees until she had to catch her train to Rome. During this park sitting, I noticed my right hand middle knuckle was itching. I really didn't think anything of it except it looked the the skin was red and raw. I said bye to Aishleen and we made plans to hang out one night in my final city.

I went back to the hotel to shower, relax and decide what I wanted to do for dinner. The decision came easy. My good friend Mary told me about her favorite and most delicious restaurant in Florence, Il Latini. So, after last nights ordeal, I decided to get there early figuring I wouldn't have a problem getting a table. 

I headed out around 6:30pm and found myself standing outside of Il Latini at 6:50pm. 

The chairs were piled on the tables and they were mopping the stone floors. Obviously, they weren't open, yet. I thought to myself, what to do? That was easy, let's take a little stroll down to the Fiume Arno and watch the sunset. Around 7:00pm I headed back towards the restaurant thinking, "7:00pm sounds like a good time to open". 

I returned to about ten people standing outside and the owners and staff sitting down to a nice meal on the inside. I was really starting to get hungry by this point and kept saying to myself, they can't take too long with all these people standing out here. Boy, was I wrong! Did they take their sweet time or what. 

Within the next thirty minutes, while I was impatiently standing outside and they were lusting over a hot deliciously cooked meal on the inside, the alley started to fill up with people and a line started to form. I couldn't believe it! 

Not being able to pick up my iPhone and call or text friends whenever I wanted was also starting to get to me. How could I tell? Well, I would start having random conversations with complete strangers. On a positive note, I met some wonderful people! 

I had an interesting conversation with a Scottish woman and her shy University bound son.  They had been trying to eat at Il Latini for three nights in a row now. I also met two fabulous women while taking bets on how long they were actually going to let us stand out here and drool.  When the time came for the doors to open, everyone rushed the door. He started calling reservations. By this time I was having last night flash backs. There was no way they were going to seat a single person in this Italian food crazed mob!

I looked over at one of my new friends and said, "There is no way I'm going to get seated. They won't seat me at a table by myself with this crowd!" By this time, the Scottish woman and her son had given up on night four and headed to a place closer to their hotel, where they had previously dined! Such a shame! My new friend said "Don't worry, you will join us! Table for three please!" Miraculously we somehow managed to get a table for the 7:30pm seating.  

Our server was wonderful and the three of us decided to share everything which was perfect. My two new friends happened to be sisters. One lives in Chicago, IL and one lives in Columbus, OH. They reminded me of my Mom and my Aunt Nancy. 

During our five course meal, I tasted some of the most wonderful flavors. We started with an antipasto which included a plate of bruschetta and a quarter of a sliced cantaloupe. Shortly after came ripe red tomatoes and fresh mozzarella along with small crisp slices of bread with a sort of pate covering the top. 

For our primi piatti, we all chose the feta and spinach stuffed ravioli in a red sauce. By this time I was stuffed. However, you have to save room for the secondi piatti. We had lamb, veal and chicken. To top it off, not only did we get dessert but the server brought us over two dessert liquors along with some almond biscotti. What a fantastic meal. I couldn't have asked for a more special and wonderful evening. 

I was so excited, on the walk home I had to call my parents to share.
I organized and packed my belongings because early the next morning I was headed on my final train to Rome. I got in bed, turned on the TV and fell asleep not only to be woken up in the middle of the night by this burning, throbbing, itching, tight feeling in my right hand. I turned on the light to see what was wrong. Wow was I in for a shock! My hand was the size (as my friend Jen would say) Cabbage Patch Doll! It was so swollen and red. I apparently was bitten by something evil! I tried to fall back asleep and managed to get a little shut eye. 

Ciao, until next time ROMA! My last and final stop on this amazing adventure!  


  1. AWESOME!! That brought back so many great memories of my trip!! So glad you enjoyed Il Latini!! I hope to get back some day!!

  2. OMG I just realized I hadn't commented on this yet! What a BAD FRIEND I am. But hey, better late than never, right? THANKS FOR THE BIRTHDAY wishes. I wish I could have been with you in Italy but I'm just so happy you got to do all of the wonderful things you did. I know our traveling adventures are not complete yet and can't wait to be a part of what comes for you in the future! Miss you and NY already! XX