More Florence

Sep 27

Just a quick update today. Tuesday, we woke up a little late. We had talked about going to Cinque Terre that day, but on Monday four Canadian women were injured in a landslide on the trail we would have walked on. We decided it would be better to leave Cinque Terre hikes for better weather. We ended up just writing in our journals for part of the day. Amanda started feeling real bad at a cafe we were writing (and drinking multiple cappuccinos at 😀 ) so we headed home. Amanda started to feel worse and didn’t get much sleep that night 🙁

Wednesday, we didn’t do much of anything. Amanda was still feeling terrible so I brought her some medicine from the pharmacy on the corner (or the Farmacia as they’re known here). By the time we went to bed, she was starting to feel a little better.

Today, we woke up after getting a full night’s sleep.

At Noon.

We really need to get our sleep cycles back in order. Staying up with our new friends on Monday, Amanda being sick on Tuesday and a little more on Wednesday has shifted our sleep cycles. I’m planning on waking us up real early tomorrow to hopefully get us back on track.

Here are some cool photos from the past few days around Florence.

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Florence Day 7, then Day 8 – Tuscany!

Sep 24

Florence Day 7, then Day 8 – Tuscany!

So yesterday was Sunday and it was a really boring day. We walked around the streets of Florence for awhile looking for a nice cafe to sit at and write in our journals while drinking cappuccinos. The place we wanted to go was unfortunately closed (big surprise, it being Sunday and all). We wandered around our area then down to the Ponte Vecchio and over to the Duomo. The cafes near the tourist spots were crowded and expensive. We stopped at one spot for sandwiches and water then continued searching. By 4pm we gave up and headed back to the apartment to write. Well, at least we got some walking in…

Today ROCKED! Ryder surprised me with plans to go horseback riding in Tuscany through vineyards and olive groves as an early one year anniversary present!! We got up early and walked down to one of the piazza’s to get picked up for the tour. Our guide, Jacapo, was super friendly and talkative. He drove 8 of us in a van out into the country. We switched vans and continued on to the horse stables. The ride was a bit crazy and the road really curvy and rutty.

We burst out of the shaded, walled city scape into breathtaking Tuscany with rolling hills and valleys full of vineyards, orchards, and dotted with ancient stone villas. We stopped at the stables, looking out over acres and acres of vineyards, orchards, and forest. We met the other people in our tour – there was a couple from London who had come over just for the weekend, another couple from D.C. who had been traveling through Italy for 2 weeks, a gal from Florida who had been traveling for a month, and another gal from New York who was also visiting for 2 weeks! Everyone was super friendly and we all hit it off splendidly.

We were fitted with helmets and then introduced to our horses. Ryder got on the first horse named Naomi who lead the pack of tourists, next were the couple from London, then came me on Danny. The gal who set me up on my horse said, “If he stops, give him a hard kick.” Well, lucky me, I got the MOST lazy horse of the group. At every single hill, Mr. Danny decided to come to a dead stop and eat some grass or stare lazily ahead. All of my kicking and talking to him hardly made a dent! He would only move when the tour guide at the back of the line shouted, “Danny! Vai!” and the occasional, “Danny! Mamma mia, impossibile!” Silly horse. Well, he was very friendly and easy otherwise. We had such a grand time climbing up and down the hills along side the grape vines.

We finished the horse section of the tour at the Villa le Corti where we were served a three course Italian meal complete with two glasses of wine to taste. We sat with Lisa from New York, Daniela from Florida, and our tour guide Jacapo. The food was as excellent as the company and we all shared a bottle of our favorite wine. After the meal, we went on a tour of the wine production facility.

This winery is famous for its Chianti Classico, a type of Tuscan wine that can only be considered true Chianti if it is grown in this specific area of Tuscany; just like Champagne in France. The Chianti Classico is a blend of 85% Sauvignon and 15% Merlot grown from 49 hectares of vineyards. It is fermented and aged in the seventeenth century cellars located in the large rooms built beneath the villa garden. The house blend of the Chianti Classico is aged in large concrete vats, much to our surprise. The “good stuff” is aged in French and American oak.

The olive oil mill is also located below the gardens. We were able to get a tour of these facilities as well. The Chianti Classico DOP Extra Virgin olive oil is made from hand-picked olives grown from 13,000 trees. The olives are pressed within twelve hours of harvest and the olive oil is certified organic. They had only two jars left over from the 2011 harvest and are geared up to press the 2012 harvest beginning next month.

After the tour we were able to purchase a bottle of wine and then were taken back to Florence. The tour was really fantastic and lots of fun! Later in the evening, Lisa and Daniela came by for some pasta and salad dinner! We stayed up talking until midnight, drinking wine, and having such a fun time! We hope to have more adventures with them in the next few days.

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Florence Day 5 & 6

Sep 22

Florence Day 5 & 6

Yesterday we spent some time hanging around the flat. At around 2pm we decided to walk over to the Accademia delle Belle Arte where the famous David sculpture by Michelangelo resides. We hoped to purchase reserved tickets at the box office for the museum instead of going through a third party. When we arrived there were two queue lines, one for entrance with a ticket at a certain time and one without a ticket. We got into the without-a-ticket line as it looked rather short and thought, “We’ll we’re here, might as well try and check it out today.” A lady came down the line and informed us that for only € 20.00 each, she could help us by-pass the line we were in that could take 2 hours and bump us up to the with-a-ticket line. We declined, decided we didn’t want to wait 2 hours, and walked up to the ticket booth instead.

Much to our surprise, we were able to purchase tickets at € 15.00 each for the next entrance time at 2:45pm, yay! We stood in line for about 15 minutes and met a couple next to us who were from Melbourne, Australia. They had quit their jobs and were traveling just like us! They had flown west across Asia, stopping in Dubai, then on to Europe. It was really interesting to meet another couple doing the same thing as us! They plan to spend time in France over winter as the gal was able to land a job at one of the ski resorts. We wished them luck and headed into the museum.

Most of the paintings and sculptures in the Accademia delle Belle Arti are from the Renaissance period. Among them sits the original David by Michelangelo, a monumental sculpture, that has been housed in this museum since 1873. David was created between 1501 and 1504 and stands at 17 ft. tall. The statue represents the Biblical hero David after he’s defeated the Goliath. It truly is a masterpiece of high Renaissance work. We were both struck by the shear size of the sculpture and the delicate attention to detail. We weren’t too impressed with much else in the gallery, apart from a handful of unfinished sculptures also by Michelangelo, but that could be because we have seen SO MANY PAINTINGS on this trip.

We exited the gallery and headed back out into the streets towards our next destination, Santa Croce. Our main reason for visiting Santa Croce was to see the robes of Saint Francis of Assissi but we learned (thanks to Google) on the way there that the robes themselves were carbon dated at 100 years too early to be worn by St. Francis but the robe tie matched the correct time period. We were delighted to find out the basilica houses the crypts of Machiavelli, Galileo, and Michelangelo, among other famous Italian Glories. The church was about to close by the time we made our rounds so we headed home for some yummy Italian pasta.

This is Ryder now, for today’s post.

Well, there has been construction next door going on all week starting at 7am. Last night we rejoiced that in the morning, since it would be Saturday, we would be able to sleep in without being woken up to debris crashing through a make-shift three story garbage shaft at a consistent interval of 1 minute and 45 seconds.

Little did we know that Italians don’t stop construction just because it’s the weekend.

I severely hope they take Sunday off, just like all of the rest of Italy does, so we can get some good sleep in the morning. It didn’t help that “Italians” (ok, fine, fine, I’ll stop generalizing. “Italians in Florence that happen to walk by our street at 2am”) kept us up by yelling and partying on our street late into the night.

But we’re loving Florence, I promise.

We slept in, as much as we could, today before heading off to the Mercato Centrale to see what that was all about and get supplies for dinner and food tomorrow.

Four Euros and twenty cents. That’s all it took to buy:

  • One crown of broccoli
  • One head of butter lettuce
  • Two bunches of spinach
  • Three huge golden delicious apples
  • Three nectarines
  • A large yellow, and partly green, bell pepper
  • Two tomatoes
Definitely found where we’ll be buying all of our groceries for the rest of our time in Florence.

In the market, we found a place that sold freshly made pasta. We were stoked on finding that place and picked up way too much tortellini for two people to eat in one night for 4.65 euro.
Again, the market was just about to close as we finished our shopping (or was it we finished our shopping just as the market was about to close?). Getting to places just in time seems to be happening to us more often these days as our sleeping schedule has shifted a little thanks to Mr. Noisy Construction Company two doors down. We ate pizza slices we purchased from the market, I grabbed a cappuccino and Amanda had some water, and we headed back home to rest and do some work. We made a huge salad with our market spoils and cooked half of the tasty tortellini for dinner. Sleepytime!
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Florence Day 4

Sep 20

Florence Day 4

We booked tickets to tour the Duomo for today, requiring us to be up and at the church by 9:45am. Ryder rolled me out of bed at 8:45am, we had breakfast, and walked down to the Duomo. The cathedral was built over a 170 year span beginning in the 13th century. Made to rival the cathedrals of Pisa and Siena, the Duomo is quite a site to behold.


The famous dome was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and completed in just 16 years. When we arrived about a thousand people were already milling about in the Piazza del Doumo at the entrance as the cathedral did not open until 10am. We discovered, after talking to a cathedral guard, that entrance to the church is free…

Side note: In Italy, well at least in Florence, most tourist destinations do not have their own online websites and if they do, you cannot purchase tickets in advance through them. All tickets for touring sites have to be purchased through third parties if you want to avoid the lines or through the Italian government website which, according to Rick Steves, is a waste of time.

…. so we got in line at the dome, hoping the tickets we purchased weren’t a waste of good money! Luckily, the tickets were for the dome so we entered the side of the cathedral and immediately up steep flights of stairs, some winding and some flat, to the absolute top of the dome!

We couldn’t believe it! Along the way, we walked along a very narrow catwalk that ran along the base of the great dome on the inside, giving us an up close view of the amazing painting on the inside of the dome. The fresco was created by Giorgio Vasari and Frederico Zuccari between 1572 and 1579, and depicts the Last Judgement. It was entirely restored between 1978 and 1994 and covers 3,600 square meters of space.

After a few claustrophobic moments (well for me at least) we climbed the last bit of steps and up to the top! We could see all of Florence from our view and even into the hills of Tuscany. Everything was red roofs and green hills set against a deep blue sky. I couldn’t believe how high we were! We took some photos and walked the circumference. On the way down there was lots of crowding and a bit of a bottle neck, as those coming down had to go the same route as those going up! Not the most comfortable. When we reached the bottom, we exited the church to get some lunch and our daily gelato before touring the Baptistry of San Giovanni.

We made our way to the Baptistry just as it was opening and were able to get in with the first group. The baptistry is the oldest building in the square, the original thought to have been erected in the 5th or early 6th century AD. Interestingly enough, tradition holds that the baptistry was once a Roman temple because the spacial arrangement recalls the Pantheon and it is enriched with pillars and carvings taken from ancient monuments. The floor, however, looks Islamic while the mosaics of the dome reveal Byzantine art influence. We wandered around the interior, taking photos, and then made our way out.

We could see a large open air market from the top of the dome and decided to head that way. The market was full of stall selling everything leather, scarves, and some odds and ends. We poked around a bit, bought a few things, then went back to the apartment for a bit.

We went out again to another cafe around 2pm. We stopped at a market to purchase food for dinner, walked back to home base, made a good meal of pasta and are now relaxing for the night!

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Florence Day 3

Sep 19

Florence Day 3

It rained all day today. We woke to the soft sound of rain outside the window and the loud screech of construction two apartments down. Because of the rain, we stayed in and watched a show, read, worked, and lounged about.

In the mid-afternoon we ventured out to a cafe a few blocks down for some cappuccinos. While we sat talking and drinking the warm beverages on the second floor of the cafe, the sweet sounds of an accordion drifted through the open window along with the soft patter of rain. It was very magical and romantic 🙂

It started to pour as we made our way back, but became a slight drizzle by the time the sun set. We hadn’t gotten in our daily gelato fix, so after dinner we made our way back toward the Duomo for dessert!

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