It truly feels like our Italy trip was all just a dream. Almost as if I was just planning it sitting at my computer and here I am, back again, but with a head full of memories and a heart full of gratitude. I mentioned before (link) that this was Dane’s first trip to Italy and I was super eager to show him one of my very favorite places on Earth, not to mention introduce him to authentic Italian cuisine. We knew before we even left that we were going to be hitting the ground running, with not a ton of time for dilly-dallying. Our itinerary was pretty intense for a single trip (Venice, Florence, Chianti region, Rome), but we are pretty adventurous people and were feeling up to the challenge. If you missed the first part of our trip, start with my 3 Days In Venice post and then head over to 3 Days In Tuscany. From Venice, we took the train into Florence for a quick stopover before renting a car and driving through Tuscany. We spent 3 days in Tuscany before looping back and staying in Florence for two nights. Kind of confusing – I know! But having a rental car in any major Italian city can be costly, not to mention city laws against driving in certain areas, so we wanted to make sure to avoid any car headaches if possible. So today I’m sharing all parts of our Florence adventure, which includes a ton of exploring (we clocked over 30 miles of walking in that city alone!), history, shopping, meeting up with friends from North Carolina and the most delicious gelato I’ve ever eaten.
3 Days In Florence
We got back to Florence and returned our rental car just in time for some late afternoon traffic in the city, but thankfully returning the car was a heck of a lot easier than picking it up! Free from the car, we checked into the cutest little apartment we were staying in right in the heart of Santo Spirito. This is probably a good time to mention that we would have probably never gotten to see this side of Florence had I not been working with the amazing HomeAway team. Our apartment was right beside a beautiful church and adjacent to a square with some of the most delicious food options, not to mention plenty of local artisanal shops and gelaterias…all the things that make me smile in life! As soon as we dropped our bags, we ventured into the square and grabbed a table for dinner and listened to one of the many local musicians who perform each night there. You really haven’t lived until you’ve heard ‘Despacito’ on the accordion 400 times 😉 But really – I’m always so impressed with musicians and it was nice listening to their music while also inhaling delicious gnocchi in a butter sage sauce!
3 Days In Florence
It was delicious, but obviously I needed some dessert from the gelato place I spied on our way in. It didn’t disappoint! In fact, we wound up going there every day we were in Florence, because it was just that good. The name is La Carraia for anyone with plans to visit! We even took friends there later in the week and they agreed – fantastic and delicious. Sadly, I have no photos of this yummy experience any of the times we visited (whoops), so you’re just going to have to take my word on it.
We were pretty tired, so we called it a night around 9PM. We had a full day of plans for the following day, so I didn’t feel entirely bad about closing in early. Plus – my normal bedtime is between 8 and 8:30, so this was late for me 😉 We woke up super duper early the following day to see the Ponte Vecchio and Duomo square before the crowds hit them and I can 100% say that this is the time to get all the good photos and really take in the beautiful historic places without being jostled by fellow tourists. It was majestic and breathtaking and I really just wanted to standstill in time!
We had the first reservation of the day to climb the Duomo (make reservations here if you’re interested), so we grabbed a quick breakfast at a café close by and got our place in line. It should be noted that I absolutely recommend procuring a reservation to climb the Duomo, because as soon as it opens, the line is snaked through the square and becomes hours-long. In fact, we witnessed it selling out daily while we were there, so if this is at the top of your list, make a time slot reservation so you don’t have to worry with lines.
Florence Travel Guide
I think Dane and I were both a little bit shocked by how winded we were climbing up! There aren’t a ton of steps, but the passageways are very narrow and definitely require a good bit of maneuvering to get up and down. I would absolutely not recommend this climb for people who are claustrophobic, as many people are going up and down all at once and the top got pretty crowded. Either way – we both loved it and the panoramic views of Florence were beautiful! As you can see, it was really cloudy, so we didn’t get that truly “golden Florence” view that people always rave about, but it was beautiful all the same.
When we got to the bottom, Dane told me he wanted to go to the pharmacy for some medicine. He had been battling a sinus infection for a few days and just needed something to take the edge off of the annoying symptoms. I felt so badly for him – sinus infections are truly the worst and I have no idea how he mustered the energy to bop all around town like we were doing. We spent the next few hours strolling through the Central Market, across the Ponte Vecchio and shops several times and through various squares and palazzos. We also rubbed the nose of the bronze pig for good luck (you can read the why behind that here) 🙂
I think one of the truly magical things about Florence is discovering new places at every turn….like this beautiful carousel that seemed to pop up out of nowhere as we rounded a corner. How fun, right? Dane prodded me to ride it, but I let this photo suffice 😉 I had a ton of questions about my shoes + jeans (both total all-stars of this trip) and I cannot say enough good things about both. Those slip-ons were my lifesavers and got some serious mileage between Venice, Florence + Rome!
After walking around for a bit, we decided to climb the Bell Tower since it was included in the tickets we bought for the Duomo. Again, for those interested book here. In retrospect, we should have done this one first since it was a huge workout in comparison to the Duomo. I was completely winded by the top, LOL! But it offered picturesque views of the Duomo and let’s be honest – that exercise was probably good for me. It’s built in levels, so you are able to stop at each one, catch your breath, walk around and snap photos before heading up the next flight of steps. Again, I might not do this climb if you are claustrophobic as the stairwells can get pretty tight. We were body-to-body with fellow patrons at a few points.
Dane wasn’t feeling great at this point and was all but begging me to be able to go lay down, so I agreed and we started back toward the apartment. On the way, I couldn’t help but be drawn into some shoe shops I kept seeing. Florence is known for the most beautiful leather goods and I had it in my mind that I wanted a pair of shoes before we left. I could tell Dane was becoming restless with me, but our rule on vacation is “when you see something you love – buy it, because you’ll never see it again”.
So when I kept seeing shoes that grabbed my eye, I would stop and Dane would follow me in and out and in and out. At the very last stop, I noticed that beside the shoe shop I was visiting (in Piazza San Lorenze, 22/R for anyone visiting!), there was a small alleyway where no one was going, but there was a light shining out.
Turns out, it was a hidden shoe gem! I tried on multiple samples before landing on this custom pair and I couldn’t be happier. The prices were reasonable and they are so dang comfortable! I know I’m going to get a ton of wear out of them for years to come!
After all of this, Dane deserved to do whatever he wanted for the rest of the day, so his choice was to get in bed and sleep off whatever crud was hanging around in his body. I took the time to sort of regroup, recharge, answer a couple emails, scout out local shops that had been recommended and pick a place for dinner.
One of the places that had been recommended to me was the Leather School in Florence and while it had some beautiful pieces, I wasn’t bowled over with quality or price. Just my opinion! When Dane woke up, we were both pretty hungry and had been wanting to try another spot in Santo Spirito, so we grabbed a table and ate some dinner. I don’t even remember what we had, because Dane was still feeling pretty lousy and I was feeling pretty tired. I do remember that we were sitting beside a couple where the man was reading a travel guide out loud for the entire meal, so we ate as quickly as we could and headed home, because WHAT THE F – that is so annoying!
I was so excited for the next day, because we happened to be meeting up with friends of ours who you might remember from this trip to Scottsdale. Casey + Eric had been vacationing in Europe and we had one day of crossover in Italy, so we decided to meet up!
They took the train up from Rome bright and early (I think they left around 5AM – that’s love, people!) and we met them for cappuccinos and croissants before rocking and rolling for the day. Casey took the lead and was able to get us reservations to see David at Accademia Gallery. This is a feat that deserves a blog post all it’s own, but just know that if you want to see The David, then use this site, say a prayer and hope that it goes through.
There is so much more within Accademia Gallery than Michaelangelo’s David, so we spent a good amount of time walking around, chatting over centuries old art + artifacts and enjoying one another’s company. There was one full room dedicated to busts and Dane decided to tell me that as a child, he always dreamed of having a huge, long hallway in his home lined with busts. Umm..HARD PASS. Creepy?! The rest of the day was spent eating, shopping, drinking, exploring and just generally laughing. It felt so good to catch up and explore this beautiful city with friends. It’s kind of mind blowing to me that this little blog is how I met Casey so many years ago. Our husbands being friends is just a pretty freaking cool byproduct! 🙂
Our next stop of the trip was Rome and since that’s where Casey and Eric were flying out of, we decided to all take the late train back that night. Our train wasn’t until 9 (or maybe even 10?), so it gave us plenty of time to roam about the city, stop for food + drinks when we wanted and enjoy one last dinner in Florence.
By the time we were sitting in our seats on the train, I looked at my step tracker and realized we had hit almost 40,000 steps in just that day alone!! Holy crap – we all kind of laughed about it, but I don’t think we left a single stone unturned in that city. From the historic sites to the shops, gelaterias, bars, Aperol spritzs and markets – we hit as many as we could! Be sure to tune in tomorrow for our adventures in Rome and shop what you might have liked from this post below 🙂