Firenze (Florence)

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Following Venezia (Venice), our next up on our Italia trip: Our first European train ride! Sure, we had all been on a train of some sort before, but the trains there go about 300 km/h (190 MPH) so we arrived at our destination in what seems like no time. Bonus: We sat across from a couple that was doing a similar tour of Italy as us, and it turns out they live in Plano, TX, an area we know well 🙂

Our second stop in Italia found us at Firenze, or Florence as we say in English. As soon as we arrived, we quickly realized how different the transportation experience would be from Venice.

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It may seem the opposite of what you’d expect, but we found transportation in Florence to be much more confusing and difficult than in Venice. First, you have to find a shop (Tobacchi shops usually) that carry the pictured tickets shown above. They last for up to 90 minutes from the time they’re punched (inside the bus). Apparently there are 3-day passes and other options as well, but none of the shops carry them, all they have are these 90 minute passes.

Oh, and by the way, don’t you dare misplace your bus ticket while riding the bus. The ataf police will come by to check your ticket, and you will receive a fine if you’ve misplaced it or purposely not punched your ticket. My mom and I both temporarily misplaced our tickets during the two days we were in Florence, but luckily we both found ours at the last second while frantically searching our purses. Talk about a panic attack!

We also had some trouble with finding active bus stops in Florence… more on that later though!

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After the bus trouble, we located our hotel and checked in – the view was alright but the room was not quite as nice as our digs in Venice. Florence is much more noisy and busy but it we were excited and ready to explore!

Anthony and my mom decided not to partake in this next activity… climbing the Duomo! For weeks prior to our trip I mentally prepared myself for the 463 step adventure I was about to go on. Although I went alone, I made the trip up with about 20 strangers of all different nationalities.

I can’t really describe climbing the Duomo other than it was very cramped and repetitious. If you want to get a taste for it, check out this YouTube video done by someone else.

All the way up, I was in front of an Italian girl about my age. Although we didn’t speak the same language apparently “ugggggh” is a universal word for “not another flight of stairs!!” because we kept saying it back and forth to each other.

About 3/4 of the way up I began contemplating whether I have a heart problem or if I’m just that out of shape. When we arrived at the top I look to my right and there’s an ~70 year old man relaxing and taking in the view… not even out of breath at all. So clearly I was just that out of shape.

But wow it was worth it times a million once I reached the top and could look out on this view of the city.

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I remained up there for about 30 minutes (surprisingly great mobile phone service so I could send a few photos to friends and family), then began the trip back down on the other side of the Duomo. Again I was behind the Italian girl about my age and we grunted and groaned together again because guess what? It also hurts to walk DOWN 463 steps, it just hurts a different part of your legs.

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Exiting the Duomo after my excursion

After all that climbing, I of course decided we should EAT, so here we are enjoying our next meal at “Il Grande Nuti” Firenze:

Anthony learned in Italy that he has a love of Bruschetta, so of course he wanted to sample theirs! We spent the rest of the evening walking around town and while exploring we spotted a bookstore (IBS+Libraccio) and just had to stop in. I found my favorite Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella in Italian! I didn’t purchase that though. But Anthony couldn’t resist this Flash book and I snagged a Duomo pop-up greeting card!

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By the time we exited the bookstore, it was already evening and I was ready to pass out after such a long and exhausting day. So we took a bus home and called a day. Or so I thought, mom went out for a little bit on her own to explore the city. In hindsight that wasn’t very safe but she enjoyed herself.

The next morning after breakfast (not as amazing as the breakfasts we enjoyed in Venice but still delicious), we bussed over to Il Museo di Palazzo Vecchio (a museum containing The Hall of Five Hundred). Since museums aren’t really his thing, Anthony opted to relax outside of the museum and take in all of the excitement of the plaza.

Mom and I continued inside and were astonished at all there was to see. Aside from the several naked and suggestive statues, Il Museo di Palazzo Vecchio continued many official rooms, official tables, artwork of the Medici family, TONS of historical maps, and of course the Hall of Five Hundred in all it’s gloriousness.

I think we spent about 2-3 hours in there on our self-guided tour, there were so many rooms we could check out and lots to see in each room. Just outside the museum, mom flirted with a street performer, then we were on our way to (you guessed it!) dinner.

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Lunch was at La Petite Firenze, I had a delicious glass of wine and I remember Anthony had another order of bruschetta!

At this point it was almost time for our cooking lesson (oh my, more food!) so we hung out for a while in Piazza della Repubblica, where there is an Apple store and tons of doggies!

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We of course checked out the Apple store, but I don’t think we purchased anything. Probably wouldn’t have had the right cords 😉 After a bit of leisurely strolling around the plaza, we met our chef and followed him back to the kitchen where we worked up an appetite preparing our pizzas and gelato!

Mom made a smiley-face with spices and black olives, Anthony made a pretty goofy looking pizza, and I was told by the chef that I was a natural (though I had never made pizza before, I chalk this up to just being good at following visual directions). The pizza and gelato tasted great, but I don’t think I’ll attempt this at home.

Following our culinary experience, I was ready for a Caffe Macchiato. So on our last night in Firenze we headed back to the area surrounding the Duomo of course.

L’ Opera Caffè is a cute little coffee shop with a pristine view of the Duomo, don’t you think? With a long day of travel head of us the next day, so all 3 of us went back to our hotel rooms and hit the hay.

The next morning we hit the train station and were off to Rome!

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