FLORENCE: THE CITY OF THE HEART

Ponte Vecchio in Florence with Gelato over the Arno River

*I was not financially compensated for this post. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.*

Cain and I share a traveling tradition with my grandparents, and this year our tradition continues with a trip to Northern and Central Italy. Our first stop, Florence!

Our grand entrance

We flew into Milan the day before we came to Florence, and stayed just long enough to rest and grab our first cappuccino. Our driver, Giovanni, met us early the next morning, and we were Florence-bound! My first vocabulary lesson of the trip was the fact that Florence is the American version of Firenze. Looking at it today, I still think it looks like a Pokémon name, but at least it sounds pretty. I’m making it a personal goal to learn Italian by the next trip; it would have come in handy this time, and grocery shopping would have gone a little faster.

When we arrived in Florence, we hadn’t reached the city center yet; we were still on the outside of the wall. It looked like a regular city, people living their lives and nothing too fancy. Then, the gates appeared! We approached a round-about, and Cain exclaimed, “Oh my God! The original city gates! I used to play this video game, Assassin’s Creed, and it was based here. I’ve seen this gate before! This is so cool to see it in real life!”

I stared at him like, “OK, you just admitted that,” and then looked back out the window. The gates towered over pedestrians and the wall still stood, ancient and powerful. We drove through the gates, yes, through the gates, and proceeded towards the city center.

The ancient gates of Florence from the original wall in the city center

Accomodations

My husband is a master at finding Airbnb’s in perfect locations, and we were headed towards all the action. We passed over a beautiful bridge and saw the famous Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”) spanning across the Arno River.

Giovanni came to a stop next to a narrow, cobblestone road, and we were home. The entrance to the apartment had a cute, green door and an elevator. Since my grandmother needs assistance, an elevator was a Godsend.

Airbnb in City Center Florence

The apartment was called Palchetti Palace Apartment 5, and it was affordably fabulous! It was renovated and modern, chic and clean. You could hear the city life outside of the windows, and smell the garlic and tomato sauce permeate the air from restaurants below. We didn’t do any cooking in Florence, the restaurants were too tempting. Our little pad was walking distance to all the main sites and the shopping lined the streets.

Unbeknownst to us, restaurants open late, and Italians eat late. Therefore, dinner is at 7:30pm or later, and people stay up way past midnight. Rule of thumb, make sure your walls are thick, because the city is alive all night long.

Food for days

Florence was on the agenda for 4 days/3 nights and by the last night, we couldn’t make it to the final restaurant because no one had recovered from their previous food coma. However, we did make it to two restaurants, Trattoria 13 Gobbi and L’Osteria Di Giovanni.

13 Gobbi had fantastic food, but the service was non-existent. I enjoyed a light tagliatelle with asparagus and a glass of their table wine. The atmosphere felt cluttered and tight, however, they had interesting decor on the walls and a solid menu.

Now, L’Osteria Di Giovanni was an experience. The food was incredible, the server was very aware, and the atmosphere was relaxed and inviting. The owner came to the table multiple times for conversation, and I’m still thinking about the ravioli I devoured that night.  We finished everything off with tiramisu and cappuccinos for the table; such bliss.

Walking to nowhere

We planned many day trips while in Florence: Sienna, Pisa, a winery tour that was out of this world, the list goes on. Therefore, we had very little time to explore the city itself. On our last night, we crossed the Arno River in search of the best gelato. We searched for Gelateria, which Giovanni had mentioned was one of the best. We had noticed a line wrapping around the building earlier in the day, so we figured he was correct. I went in with Cain contemplating which flavor I really wanted and settled on some kind of multi-flavor. Then the lady asked, “What else?”

“Excuse me?” I asked confused.

“What else?” She asked again. “You get three flavors.”

“WHAT?! Three?!”

I seriously felt my jaw hit the ground. Now I knew. I needed some mint chocolate chip and chocolate, please!

Gelato Flavors in Florence

After we had our photoshoot with gelato, we walked aimlessly around the city. It was simply beautiful. We walked across the old bridge (Ponte Vecchio) and listened to musicians fill the air with music and love. I knew I recognized some of the music, and of course I did, they were playing Beatles and Coldplay covers!

In addition to artists and musicians along the streets, we saw SO.MANY.DOGS!! I tried to take pictures with some of the pups, and the owners looked at me like I was a crazy American. Others smiled as I kept saying, “Bellissimo! Bellissimo!” I’m fascinated with how dog-friendly Italy is for animal lovers. I’ve seen dogs in the grocery store, shopping in clothing stores and walking along the road like they are citizens. I LOVE it. I absolutely love it! Dogs are everywhere, and even the hotels and restaurants love them. There were dogs at Pisa looking at the leaning tower, and I’m thinking, “Those are some well-traveled pups!”

It was getting dark as we continued on, so we didn’t realize what we were walking by, but we strolled by museums and statues, fountains and markets. I’m pretty sure we covered a vast majority of the city in two hours.

It was our best night in Florence; we wandered through the heart of the city, hand in hand, with nothing on the agenda but to follow our hearts. We’ll be back Florence, we’ll be back.

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