Thursday, May 5, 2016

Florence...the Dream

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I think when I dreamed of Italy, Florence is what I pictured. The cute streets, the old architecture, the amazing artwork, the excellent shopping, being able to walk to everything, and of course, the delicious gelato.
We headed out from Manarola fairly early on the morning of April 17th so that we could get as much time in Florence as possible. Many of the major museums there are closed on Mondays and we knew we would be gone much of the next day anyway on a day trip to Pisa and Lucca.
So Sunday was our day devoted to Florence! Luckily we were getting better at the trains so we easily made it there and grabbed a taxi to our hotel.
Hotel Davanzati was one of my favorites of the trip. The location was perfect! Very close to the center of all the major sites we wanted to see but not on too crazy of a street (although they did provide a white noise machine that we used the 2nd night). To get to the hotel we walked up a narrow staircase in an old building that was right next to a huge old church. When you entered the lobby, though, it was full of so much charm and they had a little eating area where we could get drinks and snacks (for free) and also where the breakfast was served in the mornings. Based on the decor of the hotel itself it was a nice surprise when we opened the door to our room and found it very much a more modern design...I loved it.
The hotel staff was really helpful as well and found a walking tour of the city for us to join completely last minute (we had been so glad we did that in Venice we decided to do one here too but this one wasn't nearly as good...luck of the guide you get). It was a good introduction to the city and helped us get our bearings a bit, and we also went into the Duomo as part of the tour. As soon as the tour was over we booked it to get our Firenze card though and start checking off the major to-do's we had!
The smartest thing we did in Florence was invest in the Firenze card (thanks to Rick Steve's advice). It was a little pricey but we saved money since we were going to so many of the places that are included as part of it, plus we got to go in a virtual fast pass line. Many of the museums had long lines to enter and then a separate non-existent line for those with the card, so it would have been worth the price just for that access.
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view from our window
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These buildings are SO huge...and the amount of detail in each part is astounding
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The first stop was the Galileo Science museum, which was right up Mike's alley. I loved seeing all the old maps and globes, but they also have some of Galileo's telescopes and we read later a few of his fingers?!?! If they are really there we missed them. They also had other random scientific artifacts but we didn't spend tons of time inside.
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Galileo's telescopes
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The next stop was the Basilica of Santa Croce which is the largest Franciscan church in the world and on a really cute little square. The reason we made the walk over to it though was because Galileo, Dante and Michelangelo are all buried here. There is also some artwork by Donatello.
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From there we walked across the city to the Academia, mainly just to see Michelango's David. It is huge but we were more interested in having extra time at our last stop, the Uffizi Gallery. It was also ENORMOUS and full of sculptures and paintings by famous artists. We had mostly been in churches and seen sculpture up until this point and although the churches are amazing in both size and detail, and after reading The Agony and the Ecstasy to prepare for the trip I could appreciate the sculptures more, paintings are just so much more interesting to me. I really enjoyed walking through the museum and looking at them.
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some of these are just paintings I liked and some are artists I knew
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This is one of my favorites for some reason :-)
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We were sooo hungry at this point and decided to try the restaurant right around the corner from our hotel (which they had recommended to us), La Gortta Guelfa. We loved it! Everything we tried was delicious and after ordering we saw people at a table near us get the most giant calzone we had ever seen so we decided to go back the next night so Mike could get one :-). We ate lots of good gelato in Florence as well...every meal had to be followed by gelato!
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The next morning (the 18th) we were picked up from our hotel for a day trip to Pisa and Lucca (which I will blog next), but that evening our driver and guide Maffi drove us up to a great look out point over Florence before taking us back to our hotel. The view was amazing!!! We were thinking about trying to see some other sites that night but in the end decided to eat and shop, which ended up being a great choice :-)! Mike got the absolute coolest new church shoes from this crazy looking guy who makes them himself. He then stamped Mike's initials on one shoe and I was seriously jealous. He had some cool leather bags but none of them were really me, even though I was trying to make myself love them just so he could put my initials on something ;-)! I did find a cute purse I love though and it is just what I was looking for!
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some of the original city wall
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Our guide Maffi told us this was her favorite gelato in all of Florence so after dinner that is where we went. We had TEN scoops...and we had already had some earlier in the day. We started with 8, but loved the salted peanut so much and were afraid we may never have it again that we decided to get two more just in case 😬😂. The other unique flavor we loved here was passion fruit!
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We definitely need to go back to Florence though because there were some other places I was interested in going (the Medici Chapel being one) and there is definitely more shopping and gelato eating to do as well :-)!

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