Italy has to be to my all time favourite country to visit so in order to coax my man out of his adventure shell (the reluctant traveller that he is) for our first holiday I could think of nowhere more appropriate than here. I wanted him to see Rome like I had for the first time – after all it’s there that got me hooked for more, so we decided on a city break to Florence and Rome for July 2016.
Florence had always been on my list to see and as there are no direct flights to Florence from the UK we had to fly into Pisa, which of course, warranted a trip to see the Leaning Tower. Once landed and with our luggage we took the Lam Rossa (red line) bus from the airport to the Leaning Tower, it takes around 20 minutes, for a quick stop and we were both pleasantly surprised. We expected only the Tower (how little i actually knew of this place) but it was stunning; despite the hoards of crowds in the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), it was home to the Tower, Baptistery of St John and Pisa Cathedral.
I wanted to spend more time here, and perhaps when we visit again we will stay in the old town, but we had a train to catch to Florence. We caught the bus back to Pisa Centrale train station – Mr. RT already amazed at how easy it was to get around, and more so once we were on the train darting through the rolling Tuscany countryside. In around an hour we had reached Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence, it was really hot but luckily our hotel, Hotel Aurora, was literally a few minutes across from the station. The hotel was perfectly located for exploring the city and being directly opposite the station was easy for transferring to and from the station.
That evening and the next few days we walked all over Florence enjoying the charming Piazza’s, admiring the Romanesque and Renaissance buildings, Ponte Vecchio bridge but nothing beat Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – or the Duomo as we know it. At first glance, as we walked the corner of Borgo S. Lorenzo, we burst into goosebumps – this place was outstanding. From a distance the building looks monochrome but the marble panels of the outside are a khaki green and pink colour, for us the Duomo exterior is more spectacular than the Vatican. We took a tout tour inside the church but it is now vastly empty aside from a few art works, I would have preferred the tour to the top of the Basilica but being July summer holidays the queues were hours long. Outside in the Piazza del Duomo we enjoyed a beer which were desperately needed due to the unseasonably hot weather and watched the world go by enjoying a little longer to soak up our view.
Later that afternoon, after enjoying gelato in Piazza della Signoria, we crossed the Ponte Vecchio bridge and stumbled across a square dotted with some restaurants. The busiest of them was 4Leoni, there was a for a table of which there were none spare, a good sign of somewhere to try. We joined the queue for a good ten minutes to find there were no reservations available that evening or the next so we managed to book a table for our last nigh in Florence, and I couldn’t wait. We decided to eat in the square at one of the other restaurants, with a menu in pure Italian and us guessing our food choices it was pot luck to what would turn up. It was good homemade pasta but we were both unable to stop ogling the food coming out over the road at 4Leoni! Oh well, we would just have to wait our turn in a few nights.
The next day we explored the Santa Maria Novella and Piazza stopping for lunch down a quiet street at Trattoria Marione which was bursting with locals. The place was like a scene from a movie with typical red gingham table cloths, dark wood furniture and dried meats hanging over the counter. Again the menu was fully in Italian so we asked the waiters to bring whatever they recommended so after a few plates of gorgeous homemade pasta, prosciutto and a carafe of red wine we left the bustling restaurant and headed toward the Arno. We spent the afternoon at the Uffizi Gallery and Piazza della Signoria then made our way across the city to the Accademia Gallery where Michelangelo’s statue of David can be found. Unfortunately the queue for entry, even this late in the afternoon, stretched the length of the street the gallery was on so we decided very begrudgingly to skip this – meaning one day we will have to return 🙂 .
For our last evening, prior to dinner, we wanted to watch the sunset over the city from Piazzale Michelangelo so we took a cab up to the hill to join the crowd who had decided to do the same. The view from here was stunning and we managed to find a table at a café just across from the taxi rank to enjoy an Aperol spritz. We watched the sunlight fade down the Arno and the lights of the city come alive, the Duomo from here stood like a magnificent dark beast above the rooftops and spires, I only wish I had a better camera at this point to capture the Duomo from this vantage point in this fading light.
At dusk we took a taxi back down the winding hill from Piazzale Michelangelo, past the Ponte Vecchio and arrived just in time for our reservation at 4Leoni. The meal was classic rustic Italian greatness and the famous Bistecca alla Florentina (T-Bone steak) has my mouth watering just typing about it. Delicious, I thoroughly recommend a visit.
Afterwards we walked back toward the Arno and had late night gelato on the bridge Ponte Santa Trinita admiring the Ponte Vecchio before we trundled back to the hotel for a good nights kip ready for our next adventure in Rome. It was the best way to end a great trip in Florence.
Please see my next page on our adventures in Rome, I had to split them out for easier reading – I hope you enjoy!
Wanderlust Extraordinaire xxx