Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Italy Trip: Florence and Cinque Terre

Florence was our next city and we all fell in love as soon as we arrived. Florence is romantic and charming and is home to some amazing gems of history. We spent a day and a half here but I would have loved to stay for much longer. We were able to hit the main attractions in Florence in one day but we could have just explored for a full day. Here is what we did:

On our way to Florence we drove an hour to Pisa to see the leaning tower. We ate lunch at a restaurant called Strittendfud. I would highly recommend it. It’s simple street food that you can take with you if you want, but it was super tasty. If you can, stop at Pisa the tower is definitely worth seeing. This was our Day 1 and when we arrived in Florence we just wondered the streets and enjoyed the view. 

 We stayed at the Hotel Berchielli. This was a pretty nice hotel and very central. The Ponte Vecchio bridge is two blocks away and the hotel overlooks the river. 

Day 2: 
Piazzalo Michelangelo- This is a big square that is located above the city giving you amazing views of Florence. Our guide took us here and she said in her opinion it’s a better view then if you climb the dome. We went both during the day and then again at sunset. It does tend to get pretty crowded at night. We sat on the side of the square though with lots of other people and watched the sunset. It was beautiful. It’s always cool to see a panoramic view of the city you are exploring. 

I love how you could see the lush green trees on one side and then the beautiful city on the other. 

Boboli gardens- (paid right at entrance) These gardens were stunning! It was also very big! You feel like you’re in the country and then you exit right into the heart of the city. You could easily spend a few hours there just walking around and exploring. We had a tour guide so we walked through everything and she gave us some quick information. You don’t have to go to the palace to see the gardens but tickets for the palace are separate if you want to do that as well. I love gardens so I would say this is something I would do again because it shows the beauty of Florence. 

Uffizi Gallery- (NEED TICKETS) This was my favorite art gallery we saw. This gallery has a ton to see! Our tour guide showed us the most popular pieces and we skipped lots of other installations. So if you aren’t doing a tour I would suggest figuring out what to see before you go. I really enjoyed this gallery because it had a lot of painting that I recognized my favorite being the Birth of Venus by Botttcelli. It also had works by Raphael, Michelangelo and some amazing art by Leonardo Da Vinci including one of his unfinished paintings.

Accademia- (NEED TICKETS) This was hands down my favorite thing in Florence! This is where Michelangelo’s David is. When you walk in there are a few painting but the only thing we looked at was the David statue. I wouldn’t consider myself a person who is moved by art too often and there was so much hype around this that I was nervous I wouldn’t think it was that great. But let me tell you, it is! The way he carved David from the marble and the detail he was able to achieve is astounding. He is so giant but you can feel the movement he has. One of my favorite parts though is his eyes. They are full of expression and if you look closely they are actually heart shaped. He did this to make the eyes look more 3-D and to make the viewer feel he is actually looking. I would definitely go back and see this again.

Santa Maria della Fiore- (Florence Cathedral)- This was a beautiful church. It has a dome that you can climb and get a view of all of Florence. This is the main church in Florence. One thing that I noticed (and I’m not sure why) was in Florence the outside of all the churches were exquisite with so much detail and the insides were simple and clean where as in Rome is was the opposite.  

Santa Croce church- This church has the graves of Galileo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Machiavelli, Marconi, and quite a few other famous Florentines are buried. It was very interesting to see these graves and explore the church.

Pointe Vecchio- the famous bridge that is lined with shops and different entertainers. It’s always very crowded, but we woke at 6, right as the sun was rising and the water was still, and we had the whole bridge to ourself.


Ristorante Buca Mario- This place was our favorite in Florence but a little on the expensive side. All of our food was great but Florence is known for their beef. We had the most delicious balsamic steak that literally melts in your mouth. It was probably one of the best steaks I have ever had.

Restaurant Toto- This place was good. It was recommended to us by the guy at the front desk of our hotel. 

La carraia- This had good gelato with lots of flavor options. I tried one called cookies and it was delicious. I feel like it was not super authentic though.  

La Strega Nocciola- THIS HAS THE BEST GELATO IN ALL OF ITALY (in my opinion)!!!! They have this flavor called Buontalenti and they only have it in Florence…it’s amazing. I think we went here 3 times in the day and a half we were there. I still crave this flavor and hope to find it in the U.S. one day. 

We woke up super early to take some pictures around the city when no one was out.

A yummy little bread and cheese shop!

 The reason we only stayed in Florence for one and a half days is because we spent a full day in Cinque Terre. That is one picturesque place.


 From Florence to Cinque Terre it is 2 hrs by bus and on the way home it only took 1 hr 45 min. 

We spent one full day and we booked a tour with a company. The company we used was called Walk About Tours. It was a tour with a lots of other people but they did a good job. They helped us see all the cities in a day and they hit all the main points which was nice. I probably would go back and spend a little more time here.

*You start in Manarola and do a small hike around the city. This place is very picturesque with all the colorful buildings spilling into the water. The city is also very quaint and you can walk/hike around and see the vineyards and beautiful houses.  

*Then you take the train to Corniglia and walk up a ton of stairs (like seriously, a lot of stairs) and look around the city. You eat lunch here at a place called Ristorante Pensione Cecio. It is a set menu for you but it’s all the food they are known for (you can also opt out of the set menu and restaurant and eat by yourself). It is the smallest city, but so beautiful. 

*Next you do a big hike to Vernazza. It a beautiful and, I would say, moderate hike. There is a place along the way called Bar Gabbiano and they have the most amazing orange/lemon juice and lemon slushies. When you arrive at Vernazza you have some time to explore. The streets and buildings are so pretty. There is a beach there where you can swim and enjoy all the views from the harbor. There is a castle called Castello Doria and I hear it’s so beautiful but we didn’t explore it.

*Then you take the train to Monterosso and we had an hour to explore. This city has the biggest beaches. A lot of the beaches have private areas so you just need to find the public part. The beaches are nice but there isn’t fine sand, it’ more like small gravel.

*Last, you take the train to Riomaggiore. It has a steep main street but when you get up to the city it’s very pretty. They are famous for their focaccia and it’s so good! Also the famous hike “Lover’s Way” is in this city and it takes you to Manarola. It is a good hike if you don’t want to hike too long but want a good view between cities. 

Cinque Terre is known for their sardines, seafood, olive oil, pesto. Riomaggiore is known for their focaccia and it is definitely a must try!

Ristorante Pensione Cecio (Corniglia)- really good! We got the seafood plate which had a stuffed fried sardine. I am not a fan of sardines but these were actually really tasty. It also had octopus, mussels,potatoes and squid. My family got pesto pasta (they are known for pesto) and they said it was delicious. It was made with peanuts though so I got tomato pasta and it was so simple but mouth-watering. 

I loved Florence and Cinque Terre so much! These places are astoundingly beautiful and will always be on my top travel list. Next we headed to Venice!