Ashley + Dan’s European Vacation: Part III – Florence

Hope everyone had fantastic Thanksgiving weekends!   I enjoyed a relaxing few days with Dan’s family in Philadelphia.  Good company, lots of yummy food and baked goodies and a little nephew to play with.  Fun!

Now back to reality, and back to Ashley + Dan’s European Vacation!

When our time in Nice was up, Dan and I headed over to la gare to catch our train to FLORENCE!

The ride took us along the scenic Mediterranean coast and up to Milan where we were to board our connecting train to Firenze! However, there was a slight complication when our first train was late, causing us to miss the second, and the cranky man behind the ticket service counter did not speak English.  We do not speak Italian.

Never one to be foiled, I held up my ticket from Nice, declared “retardo” – which was a wild guess for the Italian translation of “late” based on my fading high school knowledge of French – and waved my hands around a bit.  Somehow, I was miraculously understood – and for future reference, “retardo” actually does mean “late”!  We got switched to the next train out and all was well.  Patience and perseverance, my friends.

Let me just say that arriving in cities at sunset is the only way to go.

View of the Pont Vecchio, a quick hop, skip and a jump away from our bed and breakfast.

Speaking of our bed and breakfast, it was the coolest EVER.  Typically, B + B’s make me think cozy and quaint, but this one was super modern and high-tech.  Touch pad locks let us into the building and our room and contemporary black and white design elements decorated the space.  Check out our temporary home.

The B + B was comprised of four bedrooms and a living space on the third floor of an old building tucked down an alley behind a small piazza. It was like a little secret hideaway.  The owners, Giacomo and Francesca, were ridiculously gracious and made our dinner and musuem reservations each day.  And a very nice young man served us breakfast every morning.  We were well taken care of.  If I am every lucky enough to return to Florence, I will most definitely be staying here.  You should too!

Before I continue, I must tell you up front that Florence is superbly enchanting.  I am officially and obsessively in LOVE.  I mean, it was the birthplace of the Renaissance!  How could it not be alluring?!  There is character in every building and piazza.  There is fantastic art to be seen.  And the food – GAH! – the FOOD!  Totally incredible.  It’s like the city was built on romance.

Let’s take a tour!

Since I already brought it up with the sunset pic above, we’ll start with the Pont Vecchio.  It’s a little bridge that connects the left and right banks of Florence and offers visitors insanely beautiful views down the Arno River throughout the day…

…and into the night.

Had to show another one of those.  Too beautiful!  And here’s what the Pont Vecchio looks like when you’re not standing on it.

All those things jutting out are tiny jewelry and souvenir shops.  Not my thing, but I did find this adorable.

There’s a little gate thing on the Pont Vecchio and tons of locks are fixed to it.  Each lock has a couple’s name on it.  You know, like “Amanda + Zach 4 Ever.”  Awwwww.  I’m a sucker for love!

Ok, can we talk art history for a bit?

Now I’m not typically one to swoon over old cathedrals, but the Duomo had me at buongiorno.

The Duomo, also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or the Florence Cathedral, is one of the largest cathedrals in Italy and took nearly two centuries to construct – beginning in 1296!  It was designed primarily by Arnolfo di Cambio, an Italian architect and sculptor.

I got a little trigger happy snapping pics of it’s awesome green and red marble façade.  SO.  COOL.

The Duomo dome is the largest brick dome ever constructed and was completely groundbreaking at the time it was built – it was the first ever to not have support from the ground!

Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi after he won a competition for the commission – they held a lot of those back then.

Dan and I also took on the feat of climbing 463 stairs – in cramped, hot conditions – to get to the top of that dome.  But it was well worth the effort.

That tall structure is the Bell Tower, or Giotto‘s Campanile.

So high up!  I am scared of heights.  But I acted brave for the sake of obtaining approximately 248 photos of Florence rooftops.

And across from the entrance to the Duomo is the Baptistry, which is older than the Duomo itself!

I just realized that Dan is in that picture.  He looks like a GIANT, no?!

The Baptistry is most famous for its bronze doors that are comprised of relief sculptures of biblical scenes designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti.  He also competed to get that commission.

Not too far away from the Duomo is the Piazza della Signoria, the historically political center of Florence.

That alcove on the left under the arches is the Loggia dei Lanzi – a bunch of Renaissance sculptures in there.

My favorite to see was The Rape of the Sabine Woman – I love being up close and personal to pieces that I learned about back in the day!

Just behind the Loggia dei Lanzi is the Uffizi, one of the oldest art museums in the world.

Renaissance art as far as the eye can see in there!  Love it.

We also saw the very famous David by Michaelangelo – it is HUGE!  Seventeen feet tall!  I mean, how many times did I study that sculpture in college and I never once bothered to look at the dimensions?  Blown away.

Of course, after seeing food markets in Barcelona and Nice, we made it a point to seek one out in Florence.  Enter Mercato Centrale.

Fresh pasta!

Mini wine bottles!  I LOVE mini things.

See blurry Dan in the background?  He was buying beer.

And the Excessive Gelato Consumption continued, most notably at Vivoli.

Best gelato in Florence.  Mmm – hazelnut creaminess.

I don’t have pics of any of the meals I ate, but it is worth noting that my goal in Florence was to eat as much pasta as possible!  I had lasagna – which was interestingly tomato-sauce-less, but absolutely delicious – and flat, long noodles and twisty ones and melt-in-your-mouth-amazingly-yummy gnocchi with pesto.  All the pastas were homemade and SO crazy tasty.

Last, but certainly not least, we have The Dogs of Florence.

And that was the end of our unforgettable European vacation.  It was the best trip of my life and I am so grateful to have been able to share it with Dan.  He’s a super fun travel buddy!

Hope you all had fun coming along for the ride!  Adiós, au revoir and arrivederci!


10 Responses to “Ashley + Dan’s European Vacation: Part III – Florence”

  1. 1 VeggieGirl November 30, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I miss Florence!! So beautiful – you truly captured the essence of the city in these photos.

  2. 2 Melissa November 30, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    fabulous gorgeous photos!

  3. 3 Lauren November 30, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Can I hire you as my travel agent when I plan my next trip to Europe?!

    I love these posts… all of the photos are gorgeous. I especially enjoy all of the dog pics!

  4. 4 Foodie (Fab and Delicious Food) November 30, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    What a fun recap! Love all the pictures!

  5. 5 Foodie (Fab and Delicious Food) November 30, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    P.S. Wanted to let you and your readers know about a spa-themed giveaway on my blog! Just leave a comment with your favorite way to relax or de-stress and you’ll be entered for a chance to win!


  6. 6 candice November 30, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Oh my gosh… that sunset is absolutely stunning. I need to see one like that at least once in my life! I never thought about going to Florence before, but after seeing this gorgeous photos… I’m putting it on my wish list! 😀

  7. 7 sweetandnatural December 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Lauren – Haha – if you go to any of these cities, let me know! I would be happy to give you more details on what we did. 🙂

  8. 8 Angela (Oh She Glows) December 11, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    ahhhh I loved Florence. Your posts r bringing back so many amazing memories. Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures!!!!

  9. 9 Gena December 22, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    OMG I know I’m behind, but what a WONDERFUL post! I stayed right near the Duomo in Florence, too, and loved it.

  10. 10 Jenn (eating bender) December 23, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Super cute!!! Agree with Gena – super behind but wow, this made me happy 🙂 We definitely need to chat more offline about your amazing trip. I would love to get tips from you!

    Happy Holidays, Ashley!

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