Sunday, January 15, 2012

In preparation for my visit to Florence, I watched "A Room with a View" with Helena Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith.  I thought, "two great British actresses that are also in Harry Potter, multiple Oscars and a movie about can you go wrong?"  Well, I fell asleep halfway through and then retired to my room because it was too cold in the living room.  LUCKILY, my actual trip to Florence was a lot more enjoyable than the movie.

Womp, wommmppp....

I went with the other auxiliar in Arevalo, a Brit named Ben.  Instead of staying at a sketchy hostel, he actually found an apartment available for weekend rentals.  The owner of the apartment, Paulo, met us at the train station and took us to the place while giving us a mini tour on the way.  His family has been in Florence for 700 years and he was such a lovely guy.  He owns 4 apartments around Florence and if you are planning a trip there then I would definitely recommend his places! Here!

Our place was just over the Ponte Vecchio, right in the heart of the Old City.  A 5 minute walk to the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Pitti and the Uffizi Gallery.

The first night we checked out the Palazzo Vecchio which has been many things during the years...including a home of the Medici family.  Let me tell you, those people didn't do anything in a small way.  Everything in that place was decked out with the most expensive, luxurious items.  I spent most of my time looking up at the ceilings which were intricately painted and designed..similar to the Sistine Chapel.  Here are some pictures of the different rooms.

the palace

The next morning we went to the Uffizi Gallery.  I was hardcore excited about going to this museum so I pre-booked tickets online for the first available time slot (8:15am) as to avoid the long lines.  Turns out that not too many tourists are clamboring to line up at 8 oclock in the morning in December anyway and we basically had the museum to ourselves. (Except for a huge group of Asians that seemed to be following us wherever we went).  The Uffizi has pretty much the best collection of Renaissance art in the entire world.  Pictures inside the museum were not allowed unfortunately.  I was totally ready to ninja some photos but since there was NOBODY there, the guards had no choice but to keep their eyes on us.  Lame.  The Uffizi is the real deal.  It was not uncommon for a painting to say, "Donated to the Uffizi in 1650."  This museum was collecting art 100 years before my country even had a constitution.  My favorite was when a painting by a totally famous artist would say, "re-discovered in the Uffizi storeroom in the 1800s".  Can you imagine?:

Employee: Hey boss, I was messing around in the basement today and found this Caravaggio that you might want to look at.
Curator: Oh yeah thanks, forgot that was down there.

The Birth of Venus...spectacular!!
My wonderful AP Art History teacher in high school, Gloria Jackson, instilled in me a deep respect for artists like Botticelli, Raphael, Holbein and Titian.  Therefore, seeing all of these works of art in person was definitely a bucket list moment for me.  Especially "The Birth of Venus" by Botticelli. Talk about beautiful.  I could drone on about how amazing the art was, probably even summon up some tears, but I'll spare you.  Needless to say, the giftshop at the end was a dangerous place for me.

Next on the to-do list was visiting the Duomo.  The Duomo is, by law, the tallest building in the city.  From most places in the city you can see the huge dome rising above the rooftops.  It is a massive building and extremely impressive on the outside.  It is so large that you can't actually take a picture of the whole thing.  The inside is not very interesting (but it is free to enter!), leading me to believe that they spent most of their money on the outside and decorating the dome.  Something that does cost money is climbing up to the dome.  However, the view from the top is definitely worth it.  It is like the Empire State Building of Florence.  (Except with no elevators!)  It was an intense Medieval workout!  I don't think I've ever climbed that many stairs before in my life.  It was fun pretending like I was a character from Pillars of the Earth.
view from the top!

the dome from the inside

beautiful Florence!

After the Duomo we ate some pasta for lunch, duhhh. Delish!

Stumbled upon this precious Christmas market as well!:

the market with Santa Croce in the background

suits of armor for wine bottles!

got a yummy chai tea from this booth


Then we made our way to the Santa Croce church.  The Duomo is the more famous of the two, but the Santa Croce is where all the action is.  You have to be a real Italian high roller to be buried here.  Here are some examples:


me and dante!!!





On our way to another overlook point of the city we found a truly authentic little gelato place.  Paulo told us his rule of thumb about the quality of gelato was "the less they give you, the better the quality".  I got pistachio and, man, was it good!  Then the views of the city from this overlook just made it taste better.

nom nom nom gelato!

BEAUTIFUL italian countryside!

Afterward, I took a solo stroll on the Ponte Vecchio.  This famous Italian bridge is filled exclusively with outrageous jewelry shops.  Some shops have affordable items but most of the merchandise costs thousands of euros.  With the glittering jewelry and the shop lights reflecting on the water, it is the ultimate window shopping experience.

view of the Ponte Vecchio from another bridge

For dinner we decided to have a true Italian dining experience.  Pretty pricey, but hey it's just money, right??  This restaurant (the Golden View) was right on the river overlooking the Ponte Vecchio and I recommend it for anyone traveling to Florence with their sweetie because it is pretty stinking romantic.  But, what I was more concerned with, is that the food was SOOOO GOOD!! They brought out prosecco to start and then I ordered a great glass of Tuscan red wine.  For the main course I got gnocci with pancetta in a truffle cream sauce. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

my dinner!

view of the Ponte Vecchio from the restaurant
A great end to a trip to a beautiful city!

As I do not have internet and have been traveling like crazy I am trying my hardest to keep you updated!!! Love and miss you all!