From Venice, we took a two hour train ride to Florence. The ride was great; there was WiFi and they came around and gave us drinks and a snack. Make sure you know your stop because Florence is not the last stop, so we got off at the Stazione di Santa Maria Novella (or Firenza stop).
Then, we walked to our hotel, which was about a 15 minute walk again. We stayed at the The Westin Excelsior, which was absolutely beautiful. The hotel gave us an amazing view of the red roofs and the river. This also have an amazing rooftop bar.
The first thing we did in Florence was go get some food for lunch! Ken found a spot called Mangia Pizza, which had delicious flat bread pizza. We got a Caprese salad, Margarita pizza and salami and arugula pizza. It was absolutely delicious, and the pizzas were all made fresh.
Next, Ken and I had a 1:00pm reservation to climb to the top of the cupola (dome) of the Duomo, which is the huge cathedral in Florence. We bought tickets at the following link: Duomo Ticket Link. This ticket was only 20 euro, and gave us access to all the major parts of the Duomo, such as the cupola, bell tower, baptistery, and the cathedral museum.
Warning: We climbed the cupola, and it is about 500 very vertical and narrow steps to the top. If you are catastrophic, then I would skip climbing the dome and see some of the others parts of the Duomo.
On the other hand, the view at the top was absolutely amazing. You also get to walk along the inside of the dome, so you can see the art up close.
After the Duomo, Ken and I found the leather markets (Florence is known for their leather), so we were able to barter for some amazing Christmas presents. The leather markets are right by a pig statue called the Porcellino, which apparently if you rub his stout it’s good luck (we did not lol). The leather markets also have t-shirts, scarves, and so many other touristy gifts. (This is one of the better places to buy things from, especially because you can get things at a lower price).
Then, we found a cafe, and had our first cappuccino in Florence! A friend who studied abroad in Florence (Caroline), says they are known for the cappuccinos, and the secret is to put just a little sugar in them to sweeten them up.
I was also in Florence on a Saturday, where the Duomo has a 5:00pm Mass in English. It is at a nice side altar. (It was really cold in the Duomo since it was December, so bundle up!). The priest was great, and he offered confession in English after mass as well, which was a pleasant surprise!
Pro European Tip 1: So I learned pretty quickly from my sister and being in Italy, that Europeans eat dinner way later than we do in the States. A normal dinner time is around 8:00pm or later. There are pros and cons to this. If you want an earlier dinner around 5:00pm, then the restaurants will be completely empty. On the other hand, some restaurants in Italy do not open until after 7:30pm! Just something to keep in mind!
Pro European Tip 2: Service is also way slower than in the States, so make sure you budget around 2-2.5 hours for dinner, and sometime even lunches. Also, if you want the check, you have to flag down the server, or you will be waiting forever!
After mass, Ken and I headed out to a spot that Caroline also recommended, and I would have to agree it is a MUST GO. The restaurant is called La Bucetta, and you have to get the Angel and Demon Gnocchi. Even if you don’t like Gnocchi in the States, this was the best pasta I had in Italy and I will be dreaming about the day I will get to taste it again. The staff were very nice and were able to seat us right away. We both had the house wine (white and red). Ken had some really amazing spaghetti (which we found out the noodles are so good, because the inside of them are hollow, who would have known). We also then followed up with their cheesecake, which also is a must if you like sweets! They also gave a free shot of Limoncello!
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel, and stopped to watch a display that was playing on the beautiful stone Ponte Vecchio, which is the oldest bridge in Florence. They had a light show and music centered around the moon.
At this moment, if I had to leave the United States and move anywhere in the world, I would move to Florence. The city was beautiful. It was busy, but not overwhelming. Everyone was so kind. And everything was within a 15 minute walking radius.
The next day, we took a taxi to the airport. And we were headed to Roma!
LOVED FIRENZE ❤ I will be back!