Hello travelers! I’ve been so busy, so I’m just now getting around to an Italy blog post. I’m doing it in 2 sections because it is a lot to cram into 1 post, so my first post will cover the first half of our trip. About a month and a half ago, my husband and I spent a week in Italy, and it was definitely a vacation we will never forget! I’m not going to lie, it was a little overwhelming to be experiencing a new culture and language. With that said, I personally think it’d be best to try a country like England, where they actually speak the same language, for a first European vacation. Nonetheless, I found Italy to be a very chill and beautiful place. Remember this is my review on what I experienced, so others may have different experiences or opinions. So I really encourage people to get out there and experience it for themselves.
Florence and Tuscany
The first 5 days of our trip was spent in the Renaissance city of Florence, or Firenze, which was my favorite of the two cities we stayed in. Florence was all about the beautiful architecture and traditional Italian culture. My husband learned how to navigate it in a day, and you could basically walk anywhere in 15 min or less. We stayed in a great family-run B&B named La Casa dei Tintori, (http://www.casadeitintori.it/en/) which I would recommend to anyone! Great location, just a block from the Arno River, and far enough away from the “tourist” center. The owners were natives of the city and the same age as me and my husband. They made dinner reservations almost every night for us and always had suggestions on what to do in the city. My husband and I aren’t really big on doing museums, so we looked for other things to do to enjoy our time, while also staying in our budget.
The first day we were in Florence, we left for a day trip to Tuscany, which was our favorite part of the entire week. The tour included visiting 3 cities and a 3 course lunch and wine tasting at a GOURGEOUS wine estate in the countryside. Our first stop was the Gothic city of Siena that had one of the most awesome cathedrals I’ve ever seen and a big open piazza at its center.
After Siena, we went to our lunch and wine tasting at this great little organic farm that was a B&B too. For lunch, they served us a pasta, salad, and various cold cuts and cheeses, and we tasted 2 reds wines and a white wine that were absolutely delicious! The farm sat on 200 acres and looked out on a landscape I swear was from a movie. This place was legit! If you look closely in the distance on the first pic you can see towers that belong to the medieval city of San Gimignano, our second city on the tour.
After San Gimignano, our last stop was Pisa to visit the leaning tower. Yes…it really leans!! If you can get there without security spoting you, the best leaning pics are in a little grassy area to the side of the tower. They have it roped off, so you’re not supposed to walk on it, but it’s where you can get that great cliche leaning pic. This really was a great tour and took up the entire day…about $250 for both of us, but totally worth it. Day tours are great to be able to see as much of Italy as you can because it can be overwhelming to try to see or navigate all of Italy in a week on your own (we still missed many cities). If you are looking to get away from everything and enjoy a peaceful vaca, stay in the Tuscan countryside; it is a very different vibe from the cities. If I ever go back, this is what I’ll do!
One of our favorite places to visit in Florence was the Boboli Gardens across the Arno River. It sits up on a hill and has some awesome views of Florence and the surrounding hills; you can literally see the entire city and a great view of the cathedral far away. About 10-15€/person, and you can exit and re-enter at any time during the day.
We also loved visiting and climbing to the tops of the Duomo and Belltower attached to the Florence Cathedral. WOW! One of the most beautiful things to do in the city. It took us a couple of hours to wait in line, climb, and hang out at the tops, so it took up about half a day. Only about 10€/person for 1 ticket that includes the Cathedral, Belltower, and Duomo.
Looking back, I would suggest spending only about 3 days in Florence because that is all I think you need to experience it. Be sure to relax too…I felt like we didn’t take enough time (which I regretted later) to take it all in and appreciate the “chillness” of the city. Bring a book and sit and relax by the river, or people watch in one of the many piazzas. Don’t just do a bunch of museums either…you’ll spend half your day waiting in line anyways. We actually didn’t even go see the David statue by Michelangelo at the Ulfitizi Gallery because there were a dozen replicas around in the city. Some of you will probably be shocked at this next one, but I didn’t have any amazing food there either; it was just ok or good. The pizza was good, but the pastas seemed to lack flavor. The best food I had the entire trip was from a sandwich shop by our B&B that had a 30 min line outisde every day for lunch and dinner. I mean come on, this is Italy…I wasn’t expecting to eat some food from Olive Garden, but I had way higher expectations for my taste buds! Gelato, of course, was great…didn’t think it tasted any different than ice cream, but still ate some every day. All in all, Florence was a beautiful, slow-paced Italian city, and I would definitely go back if I am in Italy again. Be on the look out for Rome and the last half of our vacation soon!
’till next time,