Friday, September 18, 2009


Taking vacation 5 days after taking a previous vacation isn't very good for my blog:) I have been so busy trying to catch up on work that I haven't had any time for writing - geez! So sorry! So before I leave for Germany/Austria I am going to get the rest of our Italy vacation on this blog if it kills me! Here goes......

I love Florence! And not just because of the amazing shopping, either:)! I love the easy of the city (being able to walk to everything was a nice change after Rome), the people, and the quaint feeling of a small "big city". No metros or buses to figure out - we even walked to our hotel from the main train station (in less than 5 minutes!) We had a great time just roaming the streets in Firenze!

We stayed at the Hotel Atlantic Palace which was about 1 1/2 blocks from the main train station! We loved the location and the staff was very friendly and helpful! I would definitely recommend it to anyone traveling to Florence! FYI - the breakfast was very nice and even included scrambled eggs and bacom- yum!:)

We arrived in Florence arround 6 pm and asked the front desk to recommend a place to eat. I was a little scared when they suggested Osteria All'antico Mercato - the place "right next store" -as I thought they might have some type of business relationship as opposed to it being really good, but much to our surprise this was the home of Luigi (see my previous post about Luigi here)! This was my favorite meal while in Italy. What can I say - I'm a sucker for good service. Even if Luigi was already hitting on other girls after he gave ME a kiss - I didn't care - I felt special and that's all that counted - (besides I'm sure he liked our table best anyway:))!

I know I already posted this pic but I just love it:)

And it wasn't just about the service - the food was really good too! If you go - you must get the pecornio cheese and proscuitto as an appetizer so goooooood! (This region is known for their pecorino!) We all loved our pasta and Bob's veal at this restaurant was one of my faves (yes we all shared at each meal!) But truthfully - I think a vacation is about the experience and I loved the experience - Luigi knew how to make everyone feel welcome in his restaurant!

That night we just walked around town to see what was going on - our hotel had suggested to visit the Piazza Della Repubblica - so we made our way in that direction. It wasn't very far till we got to the Duomo. Wow! What a beautiful church! The green and pink marble design (as well as the sheer massiveness) is breathtaking!

This picture is from the next day (obviously) but you can see the colors better than at night!

From here it got a little shady.... Bonnie and I were just in awe of all our surroundings and what we could see. There was a door open to a place (that looked like it could be of some meaning) so we walked in. Actually, the two women out front waved us in. But after getting inside it didn't look that impressive so I decided to walk to the back of the room - there was a door there and I thought maybe that was where the good sightseeing stuff was located. But as soon as I crossed the threshold this man came out of nowhere and started yelling! Bonnie was like "Mandy - you better get back here!" At the same time, I noticed that the "back room" was just a TV room and lots of EMTs were sitting around watching TV and playing cards. We had stumbled into an ambulance station! We were rushed out of there and we all started laughing! I will never look at an ambulance the same way again! I guess I should have known... the place didn't look that great from the moment we walked in but those two women did basically tell us to go in AND we had had a lot of wine with dinner - okaaaaaaaaaay!:)

Onwards! From here we went to the Piazza Della Repubblica and saw the street performers. This is where Bob found the 55 Euros (again see other post). Go Bob! This was a fun little square, but I have to see the "illegal" street vendors were a bit annoying - I mean who comes to Italy to buy a fake Louis Vuitton anyway?!!!

We kept walking past the Uffizzi and onto the Ponte Vecchio (had to walk off dessert:))! Everything looked so majestic at night!

Ponte Vecchio at Night

The next morning we woke up and headed out to see the Duomo in daylight. After checking out the inside we split up - Nathan and I climbed Giotto's Bell Tower (another 400+ stairs) to see the view and Bonnie and Bob went to the Duomo Museum. We both took pictures so we could show each other:

Our view from the Top

Bob's favorite picture from the museum - he said it expressed how he felt walking around Rome:)

From here we decided to go to the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens. On the way we had to cross over the Ponte Vecchio and I must say it is REALLY fabulous in the day time! I think every shop on the bridge sold jewelry! I wish I could have gotten a picture of Nathan dragging me off of it!:)

Once getting to the Palace we decided to just vist the Gardens and part of the museums (I think Nathan had had enough culture by then). Bob did climb the first couple stairs/slope to the "bottom" of the gardens, but once he looked up I knew there was no way he was going to visit the rest of the place! However, right from there we did coax Bob into the Costume Museum to see the fabulous clothes they wore back in the day (boy did they have tiny waists!). Not sure what happened (basically we got lost) but we ended up descending many levels of stairs and ended up back at the slope UP to the gardens! At this point we knew it was a lost cause so we left Bob to "cruise chicks" while the rest of us toured the gardens. I wish Bob would have joined us, because I think from the top level of the gardens had the most amazing view of the Tuscan Countryside!

View of Pitti Palace from the "top" of the Gardens

View of Tuscany - so amazing! I felt like we in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun!

Now which museum do we go see - the one without David (Uffizi) or the one with David? Hmmmmm. Let's take a vote... the one with David - of course!!! The one "with David" is the Galleria dell'Accademia. And just so you guys know - it was about 4 pm, we didn't have reservations, and the line only took 15 minutes! We had heard the line was unbearable but again probably just in the morning because everyone is trying to "beat the crowd" and then they "become the crowd". The museum was okay - but I'm pretty sure if they didn't have David no one would even know the place existed - well that might be a little harsh but obviously he's the main attraction. You weren't "allowed" to take pictures but "someone" snuck one for us!:)

Back to the hotel for a nap before dinner - I think all the walking from Rome finally caught up with us! Again we asked the hotel for a suggestion since they did such a great job the night before! This time they sent us to Trattoria Antichi Cancelli off Via Faenza - the food was very good but it was no Luigi!:)

By the next morning I think we were all church, palace, and museumed out, so we decided to just roam the street markets before our train at 4 pm. Before breakfast Nathan had already gone out and wheeled and dealed for a beautiful leather briefcase he had eyed the day before. "Special price for you" - so how could he resist - right?:) It was a lot of fun to walk around to all the street vendors - what a great relaxing day! I ended up getting a kickass leather jacket (thank you Bonnie and Bob for my Christmas/Birthday gift:))! Bonnie and Bob got some stuff for their friends and family and we all got our shopping fix out of our system.:)

The street vendors - shopping bliss!

While shopping we came across this coffee place - love it!

One thing that I had been looking for for two days was the Mercato Centrale - it looked big on our map and it was supposed to be 1 block from our hotel but I couldn't seem to locate it. I even took everyone on a wild goose chase looking for it and finally gave up. But during our leather shopping I saw someone with a bag of fruit and walked in the direction they came from. And AHHHH - there it was! Bob realized this was the building he was looking at from the window of his hotel room the whole time! And I thought I was really good with directions.... But in my defense all the street carts blocked the view of the doors - whatever -don't judge me.

Anyway, I'm so glad we found it - I think we spent the better part of an hour just exploring. The vendors carried wine, balsamic vinegar, all kinds of meat, fish, cheese, and the list goes on! We got some great pics in here! You should definitely check it out if you are in Florence!

One of my favorite pics from the Mercato - do you still see the tail and the hoof still attached to this meat for sale?

We decided to catch an earlier train to Cinque Terre and ended up rushing to the train station! Fantastic 2 days in Firenze! If I could change one thing, I would have loved to stay one extra day to take an excursion into the wine country. We just didn't have time as all the tours were at least 8 hours - but I guess that means we just have to go back:)

Next post the Italian Riviera!

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