Since we’d already made the journey up into the Campanile tower the day before, we rounded up our adventures at the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral with an early Thursday morning stair hike up into the dome. I’m not at all a fan of heights, and this being an even higher climb than the Campanile, I was suffice to say a little nervous about the destination at the top.
However, the view was amazing:
Especially once those sun rays peeked out:
I even braved my fears and ventured to the edge for a photo op. But let me tell you, that didn’t last long. I spent most of the remainder of our time up there as close to the wall as possible! For me the Campanile tower felt much safer thanks to an enclosed gating around the whole area; the top of the dome was completely open except for a waist-high railing.
After the early morning exercise, we wandered around a bit until we came upon La Milkeria, a cute cafe where we ended up stopping for breakfast. I got a tomato, mozzarella, and tuna crepe. I love savory things for breakfast! I actually didn’t realize until after ordering my crepe that tuna was on it (this was one of the first places we’d been to where an English translation in addition to the Italian wasn’t included on the menu), but it was actually quite tasty! Crepes are another food I’d like to try making at some point soon.
After breakfast we visited the Galileo Museum, which was one of the more fun museums we walked through in Florence. In addition to being able to interact with several of Galileo’s inventions, we got to see a comprehensive overview of many scientific discoveries that happened throughout the city’s history.
Next we crossed over the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge lined with shops and galleries that connects across the Fiume Arno (the river that runs through Florence). Before we left on our trip, we’d made it our mission to leave a travel cache somewhere along our route through Spain and Italy. A fortress seemed like a pretty solid spot, so we climbed a (monstrous) hill to reach Forte Belvedere. The fort itself is currently closed to the public, but we found this geocache tucked away in a wall crevice nearby:
If you’ve never geocached before, I highly recommend giving it a try. It’s basically like going on a treasure hunt (but with GPS as your guide)!
What goes up, must come back down, so we followed the path along the wall down from the fort…
… over to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic view of the city.
More walking and climbing means the need to refuel! This slice was a tie with the Neapolitan pizza in Barcelona for my favorite pizza of the trip. The tomatoes and mozz were loaded on a super crunchy, almost pastry-like crust. Super yum.
Contemplating life while admiring the view (the Ponte Vecchio is the bridge in the background).
Next up was the Palazzo Pitti, a former palace that now houses several galleries and is surrounded by a huge, serene garden. I enjoyed the peaceful time to sit and stare at the beauty. Can you imagine living in a place like this??
I can’t pretend to be the greatest admirer of art, but we did wander through a few of the exhibits at the palace. My favorite part was actually the wall decor. The 3D effect of the paintings were so realistic, and it was hard to tell what was painting and what was actually protruding from the wall.
Can you tell what’s real and what isn’t?
One of my favorite parts of our time in Florence was just how much time we had to spend there. Instead of feeling like we needed to rush all over to see everything, we were able to also enjoy our down time (which was need to recover from all that walking). Of course some of that time was spent napping, but another favorite activity was chilling at home with a glass of wine and a puzzle. We purchased two during our time in Florence (one of the view from across the river, and another of a portrait of Venus that’s in a gallery at the Uffizi). Except for the sky in the Florence landscape (who has the patience to fit together almost identical pieces of blue sky? Not I!), we finished both of them before we left.
That’s good enough:
Artsy photo with a beer we picked up from a local market:
The final piece!
After the fun of putting those together, I feel like a bit of a puzzle nerd. I’d love to start a tradition of picking up a new puzzle from every new city I visit in the future!
On Friday morning we headed to La Milkeria again for breakfast. I ordered a Nutella waffle with gelato (I was too impatient to wait for the gelato to start eating it, but eventually a scoop of yogurt gelato showed up on my plate too). Talk about sugar overload! And a cappuccino on the side. Can I just say how much I love the coffee in Europe? I’m not much of a coffee drinker at home (I don’t find that I need the caffeine), but I was addicted to the foam that is piled on top. I could eat just the foam for days.
After breakfast, we headed to the Uffizi Gallery, which is one of the most famous art museums in Europe. Again, art isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I did enjoy wandering around through the collections anyway (and in lieu of that, there was always people watching). This is also where we got our Venus puzzle above.
The rest of the day was pretty low key. We did puzzle work, napped, and munched on leftover burrata. Later in the afternoon we visited the Palazzo Strozzi to see a Picasso exhibit, and for dinner we went out on a date night for our only “ponsy” dinner of the trip at Ristorante Mangiafuoco. Food included shared dishes of spinach ravioli in a tomato cream sauce and steak with rocket (i.e. arugula) salad. And wine, of course. To finish off the night, we headed back to Edoardo for gelato. This time I got scoops of pear and cinnamon, and we settled on the steps of the Duomo to people watch and enjoy our frozen dessert.
Our final full day in Florence (Saturday), we climbed one final tower (the Palazzo Vecchio) in the morning (I’m sensing a theme here). For lunch we headed back to the Mercato Centrale for sandwiches (I could not get enough of the mozz + anything combination!).
The afternoon was another relaxing one with wine, puzzles, and gelato (that final round was dark chocolate + cinnamon for me). I also made up a fun puzzle game where every time I got a piece in the right spot, I had to take a sip of wine. Very, very dangerous. :P
We took a break from puzzle time to visit the Leonardo di Vinci museum a few blocks from our apartment. Did you know that Leonardo got his last name because he was from the town of Vinci? So literally, “of Vinci”? He was the bastard child of his father, so wasn’t allowed to take his last name. The more you know! Other than the Galileo Museum, this was my favorite exhibit. There were a ton of models demonstrating all of di Vinci’s inventions, and we even got to try some of them hands-on. I actually had no idea that Leonardo di Vinci had created, invented, or thought up quite so many different things during his lifetime. He was truly a brilliant human being!
For our final meal in Florence, we ate at a restaurant settled right across from the Duomo. I ordered a pizza, and then we finished off the evening each with a glass of Limoncello, a lemon liquor appropriate for sipping. We’d been curious about this one since Barcelona, so obviously we had to try it!
I had an incredible time during our stay in Florence and would love to go back again. Because we stayed there for more than just a day or two, we had a chance to really get our bearings in the city, and even become regulars at a few local establishments. This was by far the longest vacation I’ve ever taken (outside of breaks while in school), and having the opportunity to relax and not have any worries besides what museum to visit or food to eat next was much needed.
Next stop Rome, then back to the States!