I did not realize just how close Florence was to Innsbruck until we started to think more seriously about going on a spring trip. By car it only takes 5.5 hours! That’s less than it used to take me to drive to Elon from Marietta! Pretty awesome. So we loaded up the Skoda (Reini got us an automatic car sort of as a wedding gift because y’all know I can’t do the manual thing…) and headed south to Italy! The drive through the Dolomites was gorgeous – rocky mountains jutting out from terraced greenery. The drive through Tuscany was supposed to be gorgeous too, but we were unfortunately greeted with nasty storms, hiding the view of the rolling hills.
I really had fun planning this trip, reading through old posts on here from my school study abroad times, picking out the must dos, sees, and eats. I knew Reinhard would be starving when we arrived so our first must eat stop was at the Mercato Centrale. It definitely got remodeled since 2011 and the 1st (or 2nd, for the Americans) floor was really modern and a cool place for locals and tourists to have a nice sit-down lunch. I got an excellent meat and cheese platter, and Reinhard was served some excellent ravioli. We then scurried (very quickly as it was pouring) over to get our first glimpses of the Duomo. Reini was afraid that I was totally overhyping the Piazzo del Duomo, but even with the nasty weather, he agreed that it was stunning.
Both totally soaked despite having umbrellas/rain jackets, we made a detour to go back to the hotel to seek a little shelter. We stayed at the Hotel Tornabuoni Beach directly above the Burberry shop and Florence’s high fashion street. We used the excuse of drying off in order to spend time at the bar with some glasses of wine and explored the rooftop terrace.
Our next stop was over to the Palazzo Vecchio. We had been watching a series about the Medici family on Netflix, so naturally we walked around pretending like we were Cosimo and Contessina. Then the saddest thing happened. On our way over to Santa Croce, I planned to stop by Gelateria dei Neri, my absolute favorite gelateria ever. But, it looked like they moved locations. It was further down the street than I remembered.. and IT WAS CLOSED!! Aww man I was so sad when I saw the little sign that said something about being closed until the following day. I was really looking forward to my caramella mou with panna. Totally defeated, I settled for Grom near the Duomo later that night.
We then went over to Santa Croce, touring the insides and outsides before making the trek to the Oltrarno where my old apartment was. I’m proud to report that we were able to find it, and it still has the same little restaurant underneath and bakery just next-door. On our walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo, we made a detour through the rose garden before heading up the stairs. Also on the must see list was San Miniato al Monte where we sat for a little bit and observed a church service. The Priests’ voices really echoed through the building. The weather was not so cooperative so we decided to head to dinner at Il Gatto e la Volpe to relive my study abroad days. We had penne alla vodka, gnocchi, and an abundance of wine and focaccia with balsamic vinaigrette.
The next day was a little less rainy so we started just as the Piazza del Duomo attractions were opening. We climbed the bell tower and gazed at the roof of the baptistry. Back in the olden days, people were not allowed into the church unless they had been baptized. So in the baptistry building (separate from but adjacent to the main cathedral), the roof depicts the entire bible. Literacy was not a high priority back then (hey, they were combatting multiple plagues and attacks from neighbors), so the visual representation was key. And the gold tiles are sparkly and cool to look at, too. 🙂 We did not reserve a time to clime the actual Duomo and that was a total mistake – I definitely recommend to book in advance because it a really awesome experience and sells out thanks to the scalpers.. Go figure… So we ended up just waiting in the line to go into the cathedral. We got there about 15 minutes before it opened and ended up waiting an hour total to get in. The dome was definitely the coolest part of the cathedral, but the rest of the church was just not as impressive inside as we had hoped for. We were really wowed by the baptistry but we felt like the the hour long wait for the cathedral wasn’t worth it. But not to worry! We still had many more fun things planned for this trip!