Big Trip 2010: Florence

Monday, August 23, 2010

[Warning: This one’s a doozie… Any ADHD-ers, just scroll through and check out the pictures. You’ll get the idea.]

Be still my heart. Firenze.

My favorite Italian city by far. Upon first glance, Florence is a very brown city. The color palette is primarily shades of brown, yellow, and tan which I didn’t think I’d find very attractive. (This city had really been pumped up by friends and family who’d visited, so I had high expectations.) But as you walk around, you just fall in love. Or at least I did. THIS is what I’d imagined an old Italian city would look like. Narrow streets and alleys, cobblestones, bricks, and terra cotta roofs. Bridges everywhere across the Arno. Everyone walks in the middle of the streets and just hops out of the way if a car or scooter happens by.

Everything looks so well preserved here. Like everything I see looks just the same as when Dante and Michaelangelo walked the streets. It’s old, but preserved and very clean (where Venice was just old, dirty, and falling apart.) But it’s also a very modern city—a metro system (that we never used because everything’s so walkable), museums, hotels, and yes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Armani...

Florence was our first city to spend multiple days in, which we were so excited about. Being our first trip to Europe, we crammed in a ton because I just couldn’t scratch anything off the list. I don’t regret it because now I know what I want to see more of and less of on the next trip. But man, we were ready to unpack our bags and chill. out.

Florence is all about art. And we’re just not art people. So we took the obligatory tours and saw the highlights (The David was amazing, as were Michelangelo’s other unfinished sculptures in whatever the name of that museum was…). But for the most part, we just walked around, shopped, and ate a lot of food. (A lot of food.) We climbed the stairs to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo for an amazing view of the city, we toured the Palazzo Pitti (home to the Medici’s and the successive rulers), we bought pastas and seasonings and olive oils and sun dried vegetables from the Mercato Centrale (a two story food market in the middle of the city), checked out the Duomo (beautiful), took in the views of the Ponte Vecchio from our hotel room (we stayed in a beautiful hotel in an amazing location—if you need a hotel recommendation in Florence, email me), saw the Gates to Paradise panels (or at least their copies…) at the Battistero San Giovanni, and squeezed through rows and rows of leather goods along the streets. The weather was gorgeous and the city was not crowded. Every guidebook had been telling us “Don’t go to Italy in August! It’s hot and humid and crowded and…” But the temperature was never over 80 or 85 and the crowds were minimal and only in the most popular places (Beans compared to Rome, we would soon find out…). It was, I realized, what I had really imagined Italy would be like…

So without further adieu… The pictures:

088 - Copy044(Just because I think he’s cute…)107 - CopyThis is a popular fine jewelry store, but all I saw was “Free Willy” and I chuckled every time…113 - CopyPistachio + Cafe (coffee) = Heaven.142 - CopyThe view from our room.158 - Copy157b - CopyPerhaps my favorite picture from the entire trip… Ain’t love grand?169 - Copy 178 - Copy Some of the views from Piazzale Michelangelo.188 - Copy197236From the Mercato Centrale.242 250If cheese were a man and I weren’t married… 303265Ghiberti’s “The Gates of Paradise”291The ceiling of the Duomo. Gorgeous.313(Just to prove we actually took pictures of ourselves…)

And then there was the Chianti wine tour. Beautiful scenery, got a bit out of hand, but was a whole lot of fun.

318 323 325 326 “Green gold,” they refer to olives in Tuscany…336 350 352 362 373 Our first of four stops… Four bottles of wine for eight people in a very short period of time. And they were truly offended if there was any food or wine left behind… Turns out, I’ve been drinking the wrong reds. I have been converted to Chianti Classico—nothing less.045Fast friends. Collin & Crystal from Wisconsin, Sara & Mateyos from Sweden, and the Grassmeyers from DC. [It was like a bad joke: a Swede, a Wisconsian, and a lobbyist all walk into a winery…]

And it was also at this exact moment that I left my make-up bag sitting on the chair next to me (having taken it out to find my camera), the realization of which didn’t occur until we were back on the bus and on our way to the next village. It would turn out to be a humbling first day in Rome…And a very expensive 15 minutes in Sephora.389 Stop #2. Greve in Chianti.432 Taken through a bus window, but still… Bellisimo!458 Our crazy tour guide… The instigator of the insanity. 486Stop #4. It started as a nice, (sort of) quiet dinner.511But then it got weird.542493527We really liked our Swedes. The six of us have agreed to all meet up in Sweden next trip. We’ll see if that really happens…564 566And then the flag was confiscated by a civilian, Crystal got separated from the group, Collin hugged some strangers on the street, and we all made it home safely. The end.594 Ciao Firenze, salve Roma!

Real time status: It is our last day in Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast… The most beautiful place in the world. Tomorrow morning we drive back to Rome and board our train to Paris… :(

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