Attempting Italy in a week – Florence

My parents came to Italy for a visit last week…they were in the country a grand total of 11 days (two of which were spent in the airport, en route and headed home). Since it was their first visit, we packed in a lot…the list of things to see was long and we didn’t even scratch the surface! Frankly, I’m not even sure how to encapsulate everything in the blog, so I’m breaking the city visits up a bit.

We knew that we wanted to see Venice, Florence and Rome and anything else would be an added bonus. Luckily, we live in Udine, where there isn’t much to see, so a day of adjustment/visiting Udine would be just that— a day.

If you ever get a chance to visit Italy, make sure to spend more than 9 days there. But if you can’t, and you want to see as much as possible, here’s what we did, but fair warning: if you do choose to roughly following this same agenda, you’ll probably be exhausted by the end of it and for the love of all things holy, bring/wear comfortable shoes. Throw style to the wind. Trust me.

But onward to Florence!

Tuesday (arrival day).
Wait at airport for London fog to clear so my parents could get here. Have pizza for dinner/announce we’re engaged. Cheers!

Wednesday (adjustment/lounge day).
This day was basically for seeing Udine and to allow my parents to sleep in. We ate delicious pastries from the bakery around the corner, grabbed lunch out and saw some of what the city has to offer (comparatively speaking, it isn’t much). We have a castle and some pretty gardens, so there’s that. We capped it off with a nice dinner out and then straight to bed because we had an early train to catch.

Thursday (travel to Florence and really start the trip).
We actually spent only one full day in Florence, but luckily from a travel perspective, we had the half day when we got in and then another half day on the way out to Rome, too. The only agenda item I had planned for the first day in Florence was a visit to the Duomo. I had purchased tickets in advance, but if I had to do it over again, I probably would opt for the Firenze Card, which not only is like buying tickets in advance, but card holders also get to move to the front of the line. Huge bonus.

The Duomo was pretty magnificent. But we worked for it (climbing the Duomo, that is). There are a lot of tiny, narrow stairs in that bad boy. It was abundantly clear when climbing that people were much shorter in the old days. At 5’4", I might have been considered the Yao Ming of their time. But the view was pretty spectacular. We actually didn’t go into the Cathedral itself, because the lines were long and it closed earlier than the rest of the Duomo “sister-properties” (the Dome, the Baptistry, Giotto’s Bell Tower, Crypt of Santa Reparata, and the museum). Side note, the Cathedral itself is free. It’s the other parts for which they charge. Still, we had an idea of the inside because we saw it en route to the Cupola (dome) and since our schedule was packed, we figured that view would suffice.

Since we were staying in an airbnb apartment, we had a kitchen at our disposal and so we opted for lunch to be our big meal of the day. We stopped at our neighborhood grocery store on our way home at night for a dinner of antipasti: prosciutto, olives, baguette, fruit, salami, cheese…the usual spread. This was a solid way to go, not only from a budget standpoint, but most importantly, it could be eaten in our pajamas, as we were feeling exhausted already.

Friday (full-on Florence).
This was our only full day in Florence (and it rained) so we tried to make the most of it. We were up and at ’em early with coffee, of course, the first stop. Our apartment was overlooking a traditional farmer’s market that was nestled next to a building that housed all the permanent market stalls. We wandered in for coffee and pastries and cruised through the market before heading to Basilica of Santa Croce. This basilica was huge and a lot of famous Italians are buried here, so we were wise to carve out two hours or so.

Following Santa Croce, there was more cappuccino and then it was off to Ponte Vecchio. We actually had some big plans on this day (Piazzale Michelangelo, Boboli Gardens/Pitti Palace, Ponte Vecchio then the Bargello…all before lunch!) but we quickly realized that was lofty. So after wandering up and down Ponte Vecchio, we walked by the Pitti Palace to see it from the outside, before stopping for lunch. Our spot of choice was where Dave used to go when he studied in Florence; it was also the same place that my cousin, who also studied there more recently, listed as her “I-can-only-have-one-meal-in-Florence” restaurant choice. Quattro Leoni was definitely delicious (they have cinghiale and I love cinghiale) and the perfect stop on our route before heading to see Piazza Signorina, which was right near the Uffizi, for which we had 3pm tickets. The Uffizi is huge, with some of the most beautiful works of the Renaissance (bonus: I saw works from three of four ninja turtle namesakes). The rest of the afternoon was spent there, which wasn’t too far off from our original plan of seeing both the Uffizi and Cappella Brancacci. Sadly though, it was a photo-free zone so the documenting was limited. Then it was our in-house dinner and bed for our final day in Florence and travel day to Rome.

Saturday (a morning in Firenze with some rest travel in the PM)
Saturday morning in Florence was again an early one. We decided to make coffee at our apartment since we had 9:00am tickets to the Gallery of the Academy. On our agenda was also the Galileo Museum afterwards, before having to check out at 2pm. A tall order, indeed. The Gallery is most known for The David, which is incredibly huge in real life. By this time in the trip, my dad had taken to Netflix and begun watching documentaries on each of the places we’d be going to the next day, so he was fully prepared to brief us on The David. The theory is that The David illustrates the man right as he spies his nemesis Goliath and he is about ready to strike; a theory I believe, given the look of determination carved into his face. The other part of the gallery I found fascinating was the partial sculptures Michelangelo was working on…they are large marble pillars with only partial sculptures carved. I thought it was incredibly interesting to see the “half-way” point because in no way did I see the vision that these artists had just by looking at a marble pillar. And the detail they used is incredible. It’s a really interested perspective.

After the Gallery, we opted for lunch and seeing about an earlier train to Rome. Honestly, by this point in the trip, we were exhausted and were looking forward to just sitting on a train for an hour or two and by our Saturday evening arrival into Rome, that rest would prove incredibly beneficial to our feet.

More to follow, but for a (small) peek at our Florence trip:

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