When I was planning out what I wanted to do for this year’s Eid al Adha break, I decided to take another look at some bands and artists that I viewed attending their concert as a bucket list item. One such artist is Andrea Bocelli. For a long time now, he has held a spot in my heart as a timeless favorite. As I checked his website, I found that he was playing one concert in Italy this year. The timing lined up perfectly with my break. This is what led to my decision to book another trip to Italy so close to the previous trip.
I reviewed the maps and planned out a road trip that would hit some big spots across northern Italy. I also reached out to my friend Joelle to let her know about the concert. She was in. All I had to do now was plan the whole thing out.
Having an international airport and a central location made Florence (Firenze) an obvious starting point. After doing some research, I found out it would be better to wait to rent my car until I am leaving the city. The streets are all blocked as ZTL zones. The more I read about them, the less I wanted to deal with them.
There was one AC Hotel (Marriott) in the city, but it had a less-than-desirable location. I opted to stay at a smaller local spot, Hotel Sempione. It seemed to have a great strategic position in the city. Florence is full of ancient streets and limited automobile traffic. It seems very large, but it is actually very walkable.
When I landed, I grabbed a cab and made my way to the hotel. Once again, T- Mobile came through: my phone had service all around the city. The driver was pleasant. I was a little concerned because I had heard stories about communication difficulties in some cities in Italy. I found the opposite. The locals were very welcoming and honestly wanted to communicate efficiently. At the hotel, I was informed that my room would not be ready for several hours. Okay… well I guess I will just wander around.
I was pointed to the Central Market (Mercato Centrale), and I am so happy I went. This is a two story building with the first floor filled with vendors of fresh fruits and meats and wines. The second floor is all restaurants, bars, and juice shops. This place was amazing. I devoured my first focaccio bread sandwich with truffle oil.
After a fulfilling meal, I took a stroll outside through the street merchants. They were selling multiple leather goods. I am not a fan of haggling, so this isn’t my scene. But it was fascinating to see the array of goods… and the smell? It was divine.
Next in my schedule was my tattoo appointment. I will go into further detail with this in a subsequent post. But finally, my hotel room was ready. I was able to change out of my travel clothes and relax for a bit. Down the street from the hotel, there was a local microbrewery, Birrificio artiginiale Mostodolce, so I walked on over. This place had a very inviting layout and the bartender seemed friendly. I told him about my history with beer and my current living situation, so he quickly set me up with my first pint. I also decided I should eat a pizza full of delicious pork meats.
My next stop was a new spot, BrewDog Firenze. BrewDog is a Scottish brewery that is famous for pushing the envelope of normal beers. I knew I needed to try at least a flight while I was in town. As I ordered, I noticed the guy next to me checking in on Untappd, so I figured I would strike up a conversation. We ended up sharing some good times and stories late into the night… or maybe I was just exhausted from traveling all morning. Either way, it was time to go.
I woke up in a panic. I had forgotten to put on my CPAP mask. This meant the day would be full of a rolling headache. I couldn’t find my phone. There was no clock in the room. The window was fully concealed with shutters. I had no clue what time it was. Apparently, it was 8:42 AM. I had spent hours researching the best tour for the money in Florence. I had booked it months ago. And here I was, 18 minutes from missing it completely. Quick splash of soapy water, clean shirt… oh there’s my phone… dead of course… and I am out the door. I am pretty sure with all the ONE WAY redirections, the cab took longer than walking would have. But whatever… I made the tour. I had a bad headache from the night before, but it was nothing several bottles of water and Powerade couldn’t overcome. We start off to Accademia Gallery. I am glad that I got my tour through City Wonders with the Skip-the-Line options because the line was seemingly endless.
Once inside, we saw masterful works of art and learned all about the genius of Michelangelo. Then we saw it, The David.
Growing up with my mother, I came to appreciate good art, and my parents took me to see some great galleries all over the world. But seeing this in person on my own meant the world to me.
From there we headed to the Cathedral area to experience the Duomo. If you have ever seen a picture of Florence, you will recognize this building. It is visible from nearly everywhere in the city. In middle school at MUS, my friend Russell, made a scale model of this building for his World History project. To this day, I think of that every time I think of Florence. Weird, I know. The building’s exterior is truly breath-taking. The Baptistery and the whole piazza area is fantastic.
We then headed by Il Porcellino market, to rub the boar for good luck… Or whatever people do there.
And finally the the outside of Uffizi Gallery. From here we were greeted with great views of Ponte Vecchio.
I had made friends with an Irish man living in Egypt, so we headed to lunch at La Prosciutteria. We realize we had to pass by All’Antico, but honestly, I am glad we did. I can’t deal with a 50 minute line full of annoying tourists. Yes, I know I am tourist. But I like to think I am a good tourist. After some delicious ham and local beers, we headed back for the last leg of the tour.
We got to enter the Uffizi Gallery. Everything was beautiful inside. But my favourite was the Birth of Venus for personal reasons. It was cool to see the famous painting after I had visited the actual spot shortly before.
I was beat. No sleep. Not enough water. Sunshine. Walking… I needed a nap. I passed by the Central Market for a quick slice of prosciutto and a beer to prepare me for a solid nap.
I forgot again… no clock… Woke up in a panic. Did I miss my last night in Florence?! No. It was only 8:30 PM. I got changed and called a cab to head out to Piazzale Michelangelo. My friend Whitney had recommended this place because of the view of the city. She was correct. There is limited selection for food up there, so I just opted to try La Loggia. After some quasi-annoying questions about the fact that I was dining alone, I was seated and selected the Florentine Steak that I had heard so much about and a nice local wine. I don’t really do wine, so it might have been a bad one. No clue. The meal made my heart happy. The view, the atmosphere, the gentle open air music: it was perfect.
After I wrapped up the meal, I saw that Archea Brewery was on the way home. I mean, I can’t miss that, right? I would just pop in for a quick pint then be on my way… WRONG. I mean, to my defense, they had a lot of amazing artiginiale beers.
I think if I had left early, it might have been insulting. So I didn’t want that. I tried what I could before closing. Wow, yep. I was there until closing. It was time for bed. I had to wake up the next day at 7:30 AM to go pick up my rental car and drive to Siena.
Florence is outstanding. There are tourists, but it isn’t whelming. The roads are easy to navigate. There are activities for all ages and stages. The food is fantastic. You need to visit this city… Now.