Monday, November 12, 2012

Florence, Italy - Europe Trip 2012

After bidding farewell to beautiful Venice, we began the trek inland to Florence, Italy. On our way I was hoping to watch some of the beautiful Tuscan countryside go by, but I totally fell asleep instead. Trains just have a way of rocking me straight to sleep, especially when I’m listening to music or audio tours.

When Rob and I were in Florence 3 years ago, neither of us had a strong connection to the city, and I can't remember why. The only thing I can think of is that maybe we were tired and still adjusting to the time change (plus, we remember our shower not having a door and making the rest of our room extremely humid). Being back, I was struck by how beautiful Florence is and just how much life is throughout the city.

Once we arrived, we headed out to do some exploring, combed through some of the markets (I forgot just how many there were) and visited the Duomo. Since there is no nearby body of water to offer a wonderful sea breeze, the weather was super hot, and we were all sweating like crazy. In an effort to stay cool, Sarah wore shorts and a tank top, but wouldn’t be allowed into the Duomo because of modesty. Luckily, the church was gracious enough to offer her a covering. :)

For dinner, Ian really wanted to find a restaurant recommended by a friend of his called 4 Leoni. Somehow we were able to find the address and headed across the river for dinner. The place was pretty packed and Ian was actually trying to make reservations for the next night when they had a table open up. We settled in and let Ian order for the table. It was seriously once of the best meals of the trip. First, the server explained the entire menu to us in English so that we would know what we were ordering. I ordered a tortellini stuffed with pears, served with a creamy cheese sauce. It was SO good and I would love to be able to have it again. Then each one of us ordered dessert and they brought out complementary champagne (I’m telling you, there is something about young Americans that make people want to give free alcohol).  

After dinner, we walked home with full bellies and the city lights. 

By the second day, we were kicking ourselves for not having another day in this incredible city. We hiked to the top of the Duomo Tower and took in 360 degree views of the city. After the tower, we decided to take the Rick Steves audio walking tour! All of us. I love having insight into the city as we are walking around. We would probably be walking in the same areas, but having additional information and history is so much cooler. We grabbed some lunch outside of the Palace Plaza and did a little shopping through the streets. I picked up a couple of leather bags; a small brown carrier and a medium, deep red over the shoulder. I absolutely love them and hope they last me a long time. Once lunch and shopping were done, we headed back home for a mid-afternoon siesta. 

After our siesta, Ian, Sarah, Rob, and I went to visit the statue of David at the Academia while the LeClairs headed out for a date night. David looks so enormous in his custom archway, it’s very captivating. What’s even crazier to think about is that Michaelango carved him out of marble completely free hand! There is some serious detail in that sculpture. The Rick Steves audio guide was pretty good, but the rest of the museum was pretty underwhelming. It’s actually pretty small and there is an odd room with mirror floors (I had a dress on, so I decided to stay out).  

Since we weren’t quite ready for dinner, the others headed back home while I explored our neighborhood solo. I don’t think I would be one to take a long, far-away trip on my own, but I did enjoy some time alone. I like being able to go where I wanted and wander were I felt, but I would definitely miss sharing that with someone else. 

Ian (our Florence food finder) found a couple of good places for dinner, so we headed over the river. Our first choice needed a reservation to be seated, but was all booked up for the evening. So we headed back to our side of the river to a place called, “Il Latini”. It was quite the dining experience! One of the things they are known for is seating people family style. For example, if there is a couple, they would seat them at a four-top with another couple, whether they knew them or not. We didn’t end up with any new friends because they placed us at our own four-top. 

As soon as we sat down, we could tell that there was some major hustle and bustle happening around us. A server came up to us and asked if we wanted to start with some appetizers, mumbled through an explanation, and then we said yes! The first course of prosciutto, melon, and meats was huge and delicious (it set the tone for the rest of the meal). We said yes to everything the server offered, let him take the lead, and the food just kept coming. We had a full four-course Italian meal (appetizer, first course, second course, and dessert) practically needed to be rolled out of the restaurant. Overall, the food was really good and the service was excellent. The entire meal was a bit pricey ($40 each), but it was well worth it for the experience! We were so excited to be able to take part in such a fun local tradition.

We ended up leaving for Rome pretty early the next morning. Florence, we did not get enough time with you!

Click below for more photos! 


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