We arrived in Florence in the afternoon, & after finding & checking into our hotel, we headed out to check out the city a little before dinner. (Tuesday was our two-year anniversary so we had planned on going to dinner on our own that night to celebrate.) Florence definitely felt different than Venice – cars on the still-narrow streets, less people, less touristy really. I immediately liked it.
We were walking & turned a corner & saw it – the Duomo (or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore). I had studied this building & knew it was huge, but my jaw dropped seeing it in person. AMAZING!! Huge & gorgeous & so ornate. My favorite building we saw in Italy, by far.
That night Josh & I went out to dinner at Harry’s Bar. Sounds American, but so not. Lots of locals gathered there, meeting friends for a 2-hour long dinner. The food was so good. Josh had a lobster fettucini, & I had veal with pasta & asparagus, & flambed crepe for dessert. YUM! Afterwards we walked around & stumbled upon another building I had studied, the Santa Maria Novella (architecturally famous for its façade). We ended the night with a cappuccino for me & gelato for Josh. Florence was THE best city to celebrate our anniversary!!
Wednesday morning we had a tour that took us through Florence, up to this spot of the best panoramic view of Florence, then to the museum that holds the David (& other Michelangelo pieces). After the tour we went inside the Duomo, then Josh & my dad decided to walk up almost 500 steps to the bell tower of the Duomo. I passed because of my knees, so my mom & I did some walking around & I bought a painting of Florence (that we just got framed, it looks great!) – I haggled the guy down from 20 Euros to 12; I was so proud of myself. J The rest of the day included walking around town, buying scarves at the market, hanging out in the Piazza della Repubblica, & going into the Basilica di Santa Croce.
Thursday, we headed out into the Tuscan countryside for a tour of two wineries! (I made Josh get up extra early that morning so I could go get one last look at the Duomo. Sigh.) Florence is a city within the region of Tuscany, & the two wineries we visited are in the Chianti zone, which is the only place Chianti can be made. Our tour guide was an American who had married a Tuscan woman in the US, but they ended up in Florence, so it was a great chance for us to ask him questions about the differences between Americans & Italians, since he knew both so well (this is when we found out about the whole no-line thing!).
(If you ever go to Tuscany, check out www.tuscantrails.com for the winery tours. We recommend it!)
The Tuscan countryside was AMAZINGLY beautiful. We loved it. We learned a lot about wine & olive oil, & bought some olive oil to bring back with us. We learned that to test if olive oil is of high quality, you drink some, then suck air into your mouth, & the good stuff will make your mouth get real hot & peppery. Not really something you’d want to do often, but it was fun to learn! After the tour, we headed back to grab our stuff & catch the train to Rome.
Summary of Florence: We absolutely loved it. It is a beautiful city, amongst beautiful rolling hills filled with lines of grapevines & olive trees. So many amazing buildings to see, lots of art, the best gelato in Italy (& therefore the WORLD)… what a great city. We really, really want to go back someday.
Side view of the Duomo - it's so big it's impossible to get it all in one picture from the ground