Italy Day 6, 7: Firenze for a Day… Or Two

Friday, December 28th

We caught the high-speed train at 8-something that morning. I was glad were were not staying in that Venice hostel another night. It had been the most expensive and the least comfortable. We weren’t on the train long and arrived in Firenze around 10-something. (Note: I am going to use the Italian name “Firenze” instead of “Florence” because Firenze sounds much cooler than Florence.)

The hostel, Archi Rossi, was easy to find and the staff were very nice. They even had a Korean on staff (apparently the place was famous in Korean and among Koreans, which we would realize later). It was actually the first day they were open after the December holidays, so I considered us lucky that we got beds there. A great find, really. They let us check in early and we were the first ones in our 8-bed dormitory room. It didn’t take us long to put our stuff away and venture out in search of breakfast/lunch. There didn’t seem to be any grocery stores nearby, so we gave up and decided to wait for a certain restaurant to open.

We found a Jewish synagogue while waiting. It was a nice departure from all of the Catholic churches.

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At 12:10pm, the restaurant opened! I had been getting nervous that it was really just closed for the day, but then we saw lights on and signs of life, so it was okay!

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Kimberly obliged me as we decided to eat at Dolce Vegan, a vegan restaurant that was pretty well-known in Italy. I was dying to eat there. The service and rules of the restaurant (order at the counter, pick up your food from the counter when called, bus your own table…) took getting used to. The woman working there (maybe she was the owner) spoke Italian to us and the menu was entirely in Italian as well. We muddled through ordering and enjoyed some delicious food. And actually, my limited knowledge of Spanish helped with reading the menu. It was our first meal of the day and we were really hungry.

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That up there is my falafel, veggies and hummus.

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And this is Kimberly’s olive gnocchi pasta.

After we were no longer starving, we started to explore.

Walking around Firenze, my first impression was that it was a lot cleaner than Rome. It felt more like living art. Or like, walking around in art. It was hard not to be enchanted by the city.

…Love at first sight?

We had a few goals of things to accomplish in Firenze. Two of these goals were to get into the Accademia and Uffizi art galleries. We swung by the Accademia gallery and saw that the line for non-reserved tickets wasn’t too long at all. Next to the gallery there was a shop selling “no-wait”/”skip the line” tickets for more than twice the price of a regular ticket. Highway robbery. Kimberly and I opted to save the money and wait. It only took an hour to get in.

And we saw the David!

We weren’t supposed to take pictures, but everyone else was too so I couldn’t resist just one from afar. The detail on this hunk of marble was incredible… You could even see David’s veins on his hands and arms.

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One gallery down, one to go.

After that, it was off to find gelato! We found the place, Gelateria dei Neri (named after the street it was on) and Kimberly had the best caramel gelato of her life. She said it was so caramel-y and so creamy that she thought she might die of happiness. In other ice creams/gelato she had eaten, the caramel was kind of chunky… But in this gelato, the caramel was completely and smoothly blended with the cream. Dare I say this was her favorite food of the trip?

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It was beginning to turn into dusk and the cloudless sky was an amazing blue.

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Even more amazing was how the Duomo cathedral looked against that blue sky. I fell in love with this building.

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We stayed inside until closing and the sun was just about gone. Off we walked, down the shopping streets, and down to the Arno river.

Ponte Vecchio was beautiful at night, a scene which I was unable to capture properly on camera.

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We walked along the river and further down to the next bridge crossing. We crossed and were able to get the full view of Ponte Vecchio straight-on.

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We crossed that far bridge and walked on the other side this time, coming once again back to Ponte Vecchio and actually crossing it. The bridge was almost entirely comprised of jewelry shops! We looked at shiny things. What girl doesn’t like shiny things?

We were just meandering around at that point and decided to go ahead and get dinner… at the Hard Rock Café Firenze.

I know you’re probably thinking, “But they just ate there last night in Venice!”

Yes, that is true. But we were two Americans who lived in Japan, depraved of American restaurant food.

The Hard Rock Firenze was really swanky. And there was hardly anyone there because it was 6-ish and people eat late in Italy. We got our own booth. There was an actual stage where bands could (and did) play and a huge screen behind it.

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Life-size music videos ahoy! This one seemed to play more rock videos that I recognized. I wasn’t clear enough with the waitress and she didn’t bother to write my order down anyway, so there were a few things wrong with my order. I asked for no cheese or mayo on my burger, but got mayo on my burger and cheese on my salad… and then got served bacon on my salad with my veggie burger… But I eventually ate! And it was yummy.

Coming out of the restaurant, I couldn’t resist a view of the Duomo at night.

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We decided to call it a night after that, since we were both needing showers and had to get up early the next morning. When we got back to the hostel, we found that we shared our room with more Korean girls. Us two Americans and 6 Koreans. It was nice to be in an all-female dormitory room, our first of the trip.

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Our beds!

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The beds were comfortable, the blankets were thick, the showers were warm, and we even each got our own huge storage lockers for luggage/valuables. I had no complaints and fell asleep easily. Oh, and there were no snorers among the Korean girls. Thank goodness.

 

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

I was up early (like 5am), so I headed down to the public computer area to check email, Facebook, etc. I went up later to wake Kimberly up and wait for her so we could eat breakfast. Oh, breakfast! Breakfast was buffet-style and delicious. There were a variety of dishes and we were both satisfied. Plus, breakfast was free! Can’t argue with free.

And then like a flash, we were off. We had to double back because I forgot the map in the hostel, but then we were really on our way. Can’t go anywhere without the map. We arrived at the Uffizi Gallery at 8:30am because we, again, refused to pay 2 or 3 times the price of regular admission just to skip the line. We were inside by 9:20am, only a 50 minute wait. No big deal. Again, I thanked my lucky stars that we were doing Italy in the winter and not the summer when it would be full of tourists.

We were inside the gallery for three hours. Three hours, I tell you. The Uffizi Gallery is humongous. It took three hours just to get through everything…

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We weren’t allowed to take pics of the art, but here are a couple pics of views from the gallery building. The above is the same bridge from last night.

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And even when we got to the end, I said to Kimberly, “Wait, did we miss Boticelli’s Venus?” Sure enough, we had. It had been my fault because Kimberly is huge art gallery fan and likes to get a good look at most everything. Because of my error, we had to walk all the way back up to the top floor to see that collection. That was the painting I had been looking forward to the most and I was not disappointed upon seeing it. I even stopped to listen to a tour guide explain the paintings, which was really interesting. We also saw a large Japanese tour group.

The exit of the gallery put us right on Dei Neri street… Otherwise known as Gelato Street to the both of us. It was finally time for me to get some gelato too! I got two flavors, soy vanilla and hazelnut, and Kimberly got caramel again. I was in heaven… It was the best vegan ice cream I had ever had.

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After that, we got pizza from this little place off of the main drag.

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I was in luck, because they had cheese-less pizza! I got a pizza with sauce and Italian herbs/spices. Kimberly’s had cheese and potatoes.

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One of my dreams was to eat pizza in Italy, so I happy to get that done! I can now say that I have eaten pizza in Italy!

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Now that our stomachs were satisfied, I had to go see the Duomo again in the proper daylight. I was not disappointed… It just looks good in all light!

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The rest of the day was not all that exciting. We went to see Ponte Vecchio again in the daytime.

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We walked around some more and bought our tickets back to Rome for the next day. We stopped in United Colors of Benetton, where I found some work shirts… that actually fit my long arms! They were even on sale! So I bought two.

We went back to the hostel around 3pm because we had been out and about all day and were tired.

After a siesta, we started walking. And walking. And walking. We walked into the night and around the city. Literally, around the city. We walked for so long that I had to take out my map and make sure we were going the right way… But we were off the map. We kept on going and some nice Italian woman on a bicycle stopped to help us because we looked lost. People in Firenze were pretty friendly!

We eventually got back to the main area of town (and we had been going the right way the whole time). We had to wait a little bit longer for the restaurant to be open. When we arrived back at Dolce Vegan, there was already a little line outside the place of people waiting for it to open.

I went all-out. I got a slice of lasagna plus this polenta dish with stir-fried veggies. And dessert.

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(Sorry for the poor quality of the pictures… It was dark.)

And then we were done! The meal was lovely and I am already pining for that lasagna. That concluded our second night in Firenze and we went back to the hostel to pack and shower. What an amazing two days.

With the Firenze part of the trip finished, I felt like our adventure was slowly coming to an end… But first, we still had a couple days in Rome. I was excited to ring in the new year at the Colosseum!

2 Responses to “Italy Day 6, 7: Firenze for a Day… Or Two”

  1. What a beautiful place Firenze is! You are so fortunate to have seen such works of art! I am envious!

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