Florence, Italy | Recap
What we did in Florence, Italy
As part of our European honeymoon, we stopped in Florence for 4 days. This was definitely one of the best stretches of the trip. If you want to know more about our culinary adventures in this city, check out the in-depth list of our favorite food and drink spots from Florence.
We arrived in Florence by train, from Venice. The ride was super smooth and we arrived right around breakfast time. The city was just starting to wake up, outside of the train station. We stepped out to the street and hailed a cab. Little did we know, we were in for a wild ride.
As soon as we told our driver where to go, he went in on some Crazy Taxi shit. This guy seriously had no abandon for our safety; or anyone outside of the cabs' safety. He was driving like he was about to drop off a pizza. 10 minutes or less. Other than the darting and weaving through tight alleyways, our driver would slam on the brakes at every stop and squeeze the wheel menacingly. We would have been scared, but the situation was so absurd that we just decided to give in to the spirits. Our lives were in his hands now.
At one point, an old lady was walking slowly across the street. We come to a halt just 1 inch short of hitting her, before the driver started to blast the horn. After that confrontation and 5 more minutes of tight b-hole, we finally arrived at our door. Other than the innocent pigeon that we're 99.9% sure that he killed; no one was harmed in the making of this ride.
We hopped out and checked into our air bnb, grateful for this new lease on life. Our apartment was situated in the heart of the San Niccolò neighborhood. This charming area is just on the outskirts of the main metropolitan area. A quick bridge walk across the Arno River and you'd be in the heart of things.
After we settled in, it was time to eat a meal. We Trip Advisor'd (can this be used as a verb liked Yelp'd?) the best spots in our immediate vicinity. We were hungry... but also lazy. Luckily, the Michelin Guide recommended spot Zeb was right down the block. We had the bombest cheese Tortellini with truffles, among other things. This place is definitely worth the trip if you're in Florence. The owner was a little bit snobby at us; but hey, keep feeding us those Tortellinis and you keep the sass comin'.
After lunch, we took a much needed nap. Feelin re-energized, we set out to get the lay of the land.
Florence is the quintessential mental image that most American have of Europe (or so i'd assume, since it was mine). The architecture was reminiscent of a medieval town, drawn from a romantic knight's tale. This city thrived during the renaissance, and sure looks the part. Famous museums lined the streets, sandwiched by bustling squares and lively chatter. Every we went, we saw the perfect balance of classical and modern flair. On one block is all historical structures and landmarks. The next, a line of cafes, bars and the occasional luxury fashion brand.
For dinner, we stopped into Club Culinario Toscanini. The food here was definitely tasty. However, the true highlight of the meal was when Ewa told a silly joke and we both laughed uncontrollably for 10 minutes. Every time that we thought we had it under control, we'd make eye contact and the laughter would flow again. At one point, I had to leave the restaurant because people were starting to stare. Once some semblance of normalcy returned to the table, we quickly paid our bill and left.
As we made our way back home; we saw a commotion on the opposite riverbank. We made our way across the bridge and down a path. As we approached, a full-on beach rave came into view. There was a live DJ, dance floor and several concession stands. It must have been a popular thing to do, judging by the big turnout (at least 500 people there). We kicked it in the sand a bit, taking in the vibes. Eventually, the fatigue took over and we needed to jet. On the way back, we popped into a wine bar for a night cap before heading home.
We woke up early and had some breakfast nearby. We had a long day of museum-hopping ahead of us. Florence is an amazing destination for art enthusiasts. Many of the worlds' most famous pieces are housed in the various galleries that line the city streets. The issue with that though, is that every tourist in town makes it a priority to visit; especially the most popular ones.
Before we got to Europe, we had researched ways to maximize our museum-hopping. This lead us to the FirenzeCard. What is the Firenze Card? Good shit. That's what that is. For just $75, this card gets you entry-access to 72 museums during a 72 hour window. Not only that; you get to skip the line at every stop. It's like buying bottle service at the clerb in Vegas (minus all the disappointment). So we scoop up the card and make our way to the first Museum -- The Uffizi.
One of the most visited museums in the world, the Uffizi definitely lived up to the reputation. It's tough for me to articulate the experience of walking through halls and halls of master works from the greatest Renaissance artists.... so I won't even try. I'll just say that seeing the 'Birth of Venus' up close and personal was an "Oh Sheeyit" moment for us. Oh, and the FirenzeCard worked. We skipped the entire line and were in and out of the museum in about an hour and half. Genius move fam.
Afterwards, we needed to get some food to fuel up for the upcoming stops. By this point, we'd been in Europe for like 10 days already. We were seriously craving some Asian food. So what did we do? We went to get some all-you-eat sushi. Fuck yeah! We popped into a place called Sushi Aurora. Now, this being Italy, we definitely expected a dip in quality for any non local cuisine. However, we were pleasantly surprised. Well done, Sushi Aurora.
Our next stop was Giotto's Belltower at the Piazza del Duomo. When we got there, the front attendant told us that all of the daily timeslots were filled. We ended up making a reservation for 2 days out. Pro tip -- Be sure to make your Belltower reservation well in advance. That shit is poppin.
We headed over to the Galleria Dell'Accademia a bit early. The trusty FirenzeCard got us past the line (of suckas) once again. Inside the Galleria, it's pretty hard to miss the main attraction. Smack dab in the middle of the main hall is our homie David. I knew that the statue was big, but holy shit! It was way huger in person than I had anticipated. Truly impressive.
After enough ogling, we hopped out and walked around the city for a while. At one point, we passed by a gelato shop and decided to stop in. I generally don't eat dessert, but it was hot out, so I decided to get a coconut flavored popsicle which was half dipped in chocolate. Oh. My. Zahhhhhhh. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. This thing was so delicious, it made me re-think my entire stance on frozen treats. Ewa was telling me about something or other, but it just sounded like the adults from Peanuts to me. I was too busy having my mind blown by this dessert. After we were done eating and some semblance of normalcy returned to my life, we headed back home to chill for a bit. The shop is called La Bottega del Gelato by the way. Enjoy that.
There was a small restaurant called Bastion di San Niccolo next to our apartment where we had dinner. To end the night, we decided to walk around the Arno Bridge area. There was a band playing on the street, and the atmosphere was dope. We sat down and took in the nightlife. After an hour or so, we went home to crash... and dream about those popsicles.
Today was our adventure day. We planned to ride a Vespa up into the Tuscan Hills. We ate a few snacks at the bodega down the street and made our way to the Vespa rental office. The walk ended up being much longer than expected, so we were a bit sweaty by the time we got there.
As soon as we stepped in to Mela Vespa, the attendant there greeted us very enthusiastically. This dude seriously loved what he did, which excited us more for the ride. As he took down our information and walked us through the process, he couldn't contain himself at the beauty of the adventure ahead. The power of the Vespa was "beautiful". The Tuscan hills were "beautiful". When his girlfriend arrived at the shop, she was "beautiful". This dude was hilarious. Shout out to Mela Vespa guy.
We ended up signing up for the 4 hour rental. The Vespa comes equipped with a GPS, with several pre-planned routes. You select the one that interests you the most (and fits your time frame) and the GPS guides you from there. Once you're done, you return the Vespa and that's that. Simple enough.
We chose the Mulino path. This route was about an hour ride uphill, ending at a nice cafe, followed by the ride back down. Okay, easy enough. When it came time to take off, MVGuy asked me if I had ever driven a Vespa before. I confidently said that "yes, I sure have" (total lie). He handed off the Vespa to me, at which point I proceed to shoot off too quickly and almost sideswiped a row of parked cars. Something like this. Seeing through my bullshit, he gave me a quick tutorial on how to operate the machinery.
After the lesson, Ewa hopped on and I drove slowly around the block a few times to get the hang of things. Then, we were off. The ride is almost completely uphill for the entire hour. We couldn't help but feel pretty exposed, what with my subpar Vespa-ing skills, and the never-ending line of cars swerving around us because we were going too slow. After a bit though, we got used to it and the ride was much smoother. We stopped several times along the way to admire the visuals. It was a beautiful vibe.
Views from the Mu
When we got the the end of the route, there was Bottega del Mulino. We hopped in and got some wine and a charcuterie board. Everything was super cheap there. Surprising, since the lack of competition in the area would usually lead to price hikes. When went out to the porch to take in the scenery, there was another couple doing the same thing. While Ewa was taking photos of the spread, I started up a convo with the couple. Turns out, they were visiting from San Francisco and were also going to Sorrento/Amalfi after Florence (same as us). We chatted with them for a while and had a good time. When it was time to go, we made plans to meet up with them at a local bar in the city. After they left, we realized that we didn't have their numbers or info, so we'd just have to show up at the bar at the agreed upon time.
The ride back down was super easy. I was more comfortable with the Vespa (plus I had a glass of wine in me). The booze definitely helped ease the constant possibility of vehicular aggression. We returned the Vespa about an hour late, totally expecting to pay a late fee (they were pretty adamant about the 4 hour limit when we were filling out forms). However, when we dropped the keys off, they just wished us a happy evening and we were off. Fuck yeah Mela Vespa!
After a long day of driving, I felt that I deserved another gelato popsicle (addictive personality), so we went and got some. Then we got dinner at Casa del Vin Santo. The restaurant was right near the Piazza della Signoria, so the people-watching would be premium. They also had outdoor seating, and the front was decorated with mass shrubberies (Ewa is all about that shrub life).
We were the first ones to sit down outside; so they were still converting the area for the evening. As we drank our wine, we watched a squad of restaurant staff prep and set the tables, place the plants and decorations and roll out the bussing cart. We were very impressed by the efficiency of it all. Except, there was one guy who didn't do anything during the whole affair; he just sat back and watched. Then, once everything was complete, he went to put the olive oil server onto our table... and spilled it all over. You had one job bro! The head of staff came out and berated him. Lucky for the oil bandit, we thought it was hilarious and didn't get mad.
The sun slowly set while we enjoyed the meal among the busy street life. After dinner, we walked around the city center for a while. Somehow, this was enough to digest the entire meal. On the way home, we stopped in the Arno Bridge area and had a late night snack and drink at Verrazzano Spumantino al Pontevecchio before heading home.
We woke up late and had to run all the way to the Duomo Belltower (like 1.5 miles) to make our timeslot. We were breathing hard by the time we got there, and still had 400+ stairs to look forward to.
We started the climb, taking periodical breaks to catch our breathe. We cut those out once a group of old ladies passed us up without even breaking a sweat. When we finally got to the top, it was all worth it. Outside of the top landing, there is a roof that offers a panoramic view of the city. It's all fenced in of course, because they don't believe in natural selection out there. You can see the entire city from this vantage point, as well as all the outlying hills and valleys. Super dope.
After climbing back down, we went to All'Antico Vinaio for lunch. We'd passed by everyday, and there was always a long time. We ordered 2 sandwiches and ate them right outside. The results were... underwhelming. I mean, they were decent sandwiches, but not stand-in-line-for-50-minutes-waiting-for-one good. We fed the leftovers to the pigeons in an alley, and got yelled at by a guy who was apparently a pigeon hater.
Next, we went to see the Medici Chapel which featured an amazing ceiling fresco. After this, we headed back to the Piazza del Duomo to try and see the Chapel. When we got there, we were told that we couldn't skip the line. Apparently, this is one of the only spots that the FirenzeCard doesn't provide front-of-line privileges to. They also told us that we probably wouldn't get in anyway, because we didn't pass the dress code. Being a holy place, they did not allow visitors to have shoulders or knees showing. We failed on both accounts (since we were dressed like peasants). Dejected, we left and went to eat noodle soup at a random Chinese restaurant. Saddest couple eating noodle soup ever.
After we recovered a bit, we headed to an area known as Borgo Pinti. This road was supposed to be full of palaces, monasteries and other notable buildings. But when we got there, it seemed that nothing was open to the public for viewing. We didn't see any signs of life around. Disheartened, we decided to go home and get some rest. As we started back, we saw a bakery called Panificio Brunori. We went in an got a giant salt cracker. This thing was delicious and almost made up for our back-to-back failures.
Once sufficiently rested at home, we went up to the Boboli Garden to walk around. As fate would have it, we missed the last call to go in. 3 strikes and we're out. Ewa was super disappointed because this was the #1 thing she wanted to see in Florence. As a consolation, I took us into the Palazzo Pitti, which housed numerous pieces of art. As we made our way through the sprawling palace, I took in the architecture and exhibits. Ewa slithered behind me, trying to crush me under the weight of her saltiness.
Severely dehydrated from the salt intake, we decided to head into town for dinner. We hopped over to Agricola Toscana and sat at a table outside. While eating here, we made friends with the table next to us. It was a husband and wife, and the wife's friend from childhood. They were already pretty sloshed and feeling generous. They bought us a bottle of rosé to share. We ordered another bottle of wine to match.
After the 2nd bottle (and with a nice buzz), we invited our new friends to come with us to Mayday club, to rendezvous with our Mulino friends. When we got to the bar, the Mulino couple was actually there! Our group was rollin deep now. The next few hours are pretty hazy, but I do remember doing several shots of absinthe (the proper way with flame, sugar and water) and that the wife from Agricola Toscana smashed a bunch of glasses to the floor. Several cheers and several hugs later, we made our way into the night.
We finally got home around 2am, where we packed and cleaned for an hour. The next morning was very rough, when we woke up at 7am for our train to Naples. The absinthe did not sit well....