The Birthday Tour – Florence


Full disclosure, we didn’t do justice to Florence. We did not do much advance research into all of the things to see and do, and we did not give ourselves enough time to fully embrace it. And now we will have to return.

Florence is known for its art and museums and we skipped the whole thing. After the Vatican crowds and a big academic tour of the coliseum and Palatine Hill, we had reached saturation. Simply no more room. What we did do, is wander and explore and soaked in the environment.

Florence has 400 000 people compared to Rome’s 4 000 000. Much nicer to navigate.

Our first walking tour was immediately after we left the train station. It was raining, it was dark and our hotel was only 200 meters away, so why take a taxi? Google maps showed the hotel ahead after crossing the street, then it said go right, then left, then two rights, then back the way we came, no, straight this way. By this time we were clueless (or maybe we had been the whole time), and tried both Uber and Mytaxi apps to call for a ride except they are not available in Florence. We found our way back to the train station, rebooted the map and tried again. Hotel was literally across the street and around the corner. Two minute walk took 45.

Our next walk was dinner after we dumped our luggage at the Bates hotel. It actually wasn’t that bad but it wasn’t the Ritz either. If you want to be close to the old parts of the city then you have to accept that “luxury bathroom” might mean a full roll of bathroom tissue. Again, it wasn’t that bad, we got two rolls.

Dinner, dinner made us forget the rain and the hotel Jason Bourne would stay at to hide from Interpol. Florence is known for steak and we had grilled steak served with a Chianti sauce and three pieces of potato. Not vegetarian friendly, but absolutely delicious.

Steak in Chianti sauce.

Next day, we had breakfast across the street where they easily bought my loyalty by making a heart in my cappuccino, and started to walk towards the sites. The Duomo took my breath away. I thought I had seen all the awesome things in Rome, but I did not by far. White and green marble with its terracotta roof, how can mere men build such beautiful things with their hands?

I 💜 cappuccino

It was a cloudy day so the photo isn’t doing it justice.

After that we wandered towards the Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio and ultimately Piazzale Michelangelo which almost killed me. Piazzale Michelangelo is located, I have since learned on the top of a very large hill where you get the best views of the city. Because we hadn’t done any research, I was a little surprised see these steps going to the top, and subsequently died a little on the inside.

So many stairs

Fortunately, there is a spot halfway up to catch your breath/regret your decision and then go to the top.

Imagine my delight when at the top I found this reward:

And even more stairs.

Another whole set of stairs! I said a bad word. Or three.

But then we got to the top and once my sight returned we saw this:

Ponte Vecchio, those buildings are all jewellery shops.

Gorgeous. Next was lunch and we went over to the restaurant on top of the hill. Entirely fancy and they weren’t thrilled that we cheaped out and didn’t buy wine (they were kind of snooty about it actually) but it was the only gig in town. Also I used their men’s room when the ladies room was busy for too long and I think I broke their hand dryer, so I’d say we came out even.

Next was the much anticipated highlight – a sunset tour of Tuscany with a visit to a winery. We had to walk about 1.5 km back down the hill to meet the tour, and guess what? Our first stop in the way out of town was the top of the hill we had just climbed up and down.

Next stop was for photos in the Tuscan countryside.

Late day sunshine in December.

Just down the road and around the corner was the winery where the winemaker took us into his vineyard and olive grove and talked about his work. Winemaking is his family tradition plus he went to school for five years, his passion was obvious and his wines, we tried four, were all delicious. As was the olive oil.


Aging in French oak

Everything about the place was beautiful and I could have stayed forever, except it was time to visit the next place, a small town called Greve where the butcher also had a room that dated back to the 1300s is still used to age cheese. There were tried cheese and cured meats along with more wine which was in a sampling automatic vending machine. Put money on your card, select samples from three different machines and keep dispensing until the card balance is gone.

Can I have one of these for home?

Back in Florence we went to dinner at the same restaurant because it was just that good. This time I ordered pappardelle with a wild boar ragu. It’s a Florentine dish and it was delicious.

Wild boar ragu

Next morning it was just a bit of shopping and strolling around and off to the train station. It really is a beautiful city and I’d go back in a heartbeat. I haven’t done the city justice in my photos or my explanations.

A copy of the original David.

Next stop Milan.

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