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Florence, Italy!

Next Italia stop was the city of Florence!  We took the fast train over from Rome and it was really easy, efficient, and well, fast.  From the train station we took a cab to our hotel – Grand Hotel Cavour.  We were able to check in immediately and our room was small (what else is new lol) but comfortable and clean.  I can’t recommend this hotel more!  I truly loved it and we walked EVERYWHERE!  I mean Jamie and I are the type of people who like to walk and explore new cities on feet anyways, but this hotel was so central.  Every time we mapped where we were going from our hotel we were shocked at how close/easy it was to get there by feet.
Immediately upon checking in and putting our bags in our room we went to eat.  My sister had recommended this famous sandwich place, Osteria All'antico Vinaio, to us and honestly thinking of it now is making my mouth water.  Well, apparently, famous is an understatement.  The restaurant is a little hole in the wall (I honestly don’t even think they had one table in there) with two store fronts right across from each other and yet they both are packed with extremely long lines.  We decided to wait because it was the one place my sister told me I had to try over everything else and I’m glad we listened. The long lines went by pretty quickly, so don’t be scared away by them.  It’s definitely worth getting a sandwich and a beer here and then sitting on the steps of the street like a local and eating. 
After lunch we walked around and just took the city in.  We were in Florence for 5 days (with some excursions out of the city which I’ll get into below) and every day we walked around and saw different sites, monuments and museums and decided at each one whether it was enough to see it from the outside or whether we wanted to go in.  We did and saw all the things one must/should do when they are in Florence, for example, going to The Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze where Michelangelo’s sculpture of David is.  Note, definitely buy a VIP ticket for this museum.  I remember we bought ours across the street from the entrance and it saved us hours of waiting in line in the heat.  We spent so much time in Florence that we literally saw everything google pulls up when you search “famous buildings in Florence, Italy.” Literally.

We decided to spend 5 days in Florence because everyone we spoke to when we were planning our trip said, “Florence is their favorite city,” “five days won’t be enough,” etc etc.  And although we loved the city feel of Florence and as stunning as it was, I think we could have done away with 3 days.  Again, this is because Jamie and I don’t care to see every monument and go through every museum.  And although we literally did just that because we had so much time, we didn’t necessarily care to.  We both have our lists of must see’s and must do’s and luckily they typically align so I say all this to basically say figure out what you want to do and see and budget your time accordingly without feeling pressured to stay longer because you’re in a foreign city.  I think we forget that if we truly love a city and feel like we missed something we can always make changes to our itinerary and extend and/or go back to visit in the future.  

After sigh-seeing and relaxing a bit it was time for dinner. We went to dinner at Koto Ramen.  I know, I know, you’re thinking you’re in Italy and you’re having ramen?!  Well you know that saying too much of anything is not good?!  Or however it goes.  Well as weird as it sounds, 10 days into our Italy trip we needed a break from cheese, pasta, pizza and meat.  Plus, Aunt flow came to visit me that day and I needed some soup.  The veggie gyoza was so so good and the ramen (we both got the veggie miso ramen) was so good and so needed!  The veggie broth def needs a little more flavor (but it’s still amazing considering the broth itself was vegan) so I added the chili oil and that made it perfect. 

Gelato.  Every night we ended with gelato.  I can’t remember all the places we went to because we would literally try a new place every night.  But the gelato stores out here are like Starbucks to us - there’s one on every corner.  Just trip advisor or test out a flavor and decide whether or not to go there!

The next day we had lunch at Pizza Napoli.  They made my pizza heart shaped and it was as delicious as it was cute!  We spent the day walking around & sightseeing (duh) and did some shopping. The Gucci store in the center of the city is amazinggggg – its half museum (upstairs), half store (downstairs), and they have a restaurant.  We didn’t eat there, and I didn’t end up buying anything (spent too much money in Rome lol) but it was really cool to look around the store and see pieces from their collection that you can’t see or buy anywhere else.
I remember our dinner perfectly this night but for some reason I didn’t include it’s name in the notes I saved 🙈. I remember we didn’t have reservations for the restaurant we were recommended and weren’t able to get a table because of it.  I thought our night had been ruined but then Jamie found the cutest restaurant. There must have been only 8 tables in there with an old man taking the orders and giving the orders – he had to be the owner.  He was so sweet but didn’t speak a lick of English and yet he was able to recommend a bottle of wine and what we should eat and it was the cheapest and one of the most delicious meals we had in Florence!

The next day we had a pre-planned wine and cheese tour!  When it came to everything we did in Italy, not just Florence, we winged it – in the sense that we knew what we wanted to do and budgeted our time accordingly but didn’t buy tickets or plan a specific itinerary ahead of time.  But there were two exceptions, both took place in Florence, and the first one was this wine and cheese tour
Jamie and I met our guide and a few others at a place near our hotel and then headed to Tuscany.  It was such a beautiful day as we visited 3 different vineyards, tried local wines and cheese, ate lunch and learned so much about the process of making wine! The tour we did was Grape Tours. We knew we wanted to do a wine tour in Tuscany because who goes to Italy without doing a wine tour, amirite?! This tour group/site had the best reviews of the bunch we saw and it was relatively affordable (155 euros a person). I know that sounds pricey but considering it included transportation, wine and cheese at a few vineyards and lunch, it didn’t seem like an expensive way to spend the day.

The tour took up about 8 hours and by the time we got back we were tired, hot and hungry.  But we were dropped off at the top of San Niccolò with the most insane view.  So once we took our pictures, duh, we decided to sit at the café on the top and take in the view.  Jamie ordered a beer.  I had a frappuccino.  And just like that we soaked up another beautiful late afternoon in Florence.
I honestly think after this we walked back to our hotel and took a nap. We were both so exhausted from having woken up early for the tour and drinking all day in the sun that we decided to take it easy the rest of the day and night.  We still went out for dinner and went to Yellow Bar which was right next door to our hotel so it was easy, convenient and delicious!

By the fourth day in Florence we woke up with the need to see a beach and feel like we were on vacation and not traveling – do you remember the difference between the two that I spoke about in THIS POST?!  So we went online, researched the closest and nicest beach to us which ended up being in the city ‘Viareggio.’  And just like that we bought train tickets and put on some swimsuits and got ready for a beach day!  We had some time to kill before we needed to be at the train station, which you guessed it, is totally walking distance from our hotel when you don’t have all your luggage with you, so we headed to Florence’s version of the Grand Central Market.  It’s basically the real and original Eataly, but not actually an Eataly.  Once we had brunch and looked around we headed to the train station and spent the day lounging on the beach.

That night we went to another restaurant that was recommended to us. This time we made a reservation because it was a steakhouse and knew it was going to be delicious and a little more boujie than the rest of the places.  But don’t think boujie steakhouse like in the states.  Even the high-end restaurants have this comfortable, rustic feel like you’re going to your Italian grandma’s house for one of the most delicious steaks you’ve ever had.

And just like that it was our last day in Florence.

We had lunch at La Giostra.  This was again another restaurant recommendation that turned out to be as amazing as the person explained it!  We actually waited outside the restaurant for them to open.  We figured it would have been open because it was prime lunch time but I remember them looking at us weird like typical Americans waiting outside a restaurant until they felt like opening – LOL.

After lunch we spent a few hours walking around and enjoying Florence. Even though we basically saw everything we wanted to see in Florence in the first 48 hours and were ready to leave, when it came to our last day in the city, it was bittersweet.But our last night in Florence was our favorite!

So the second excursion we planned ahead of time was this pizza and gelato class. I knew going to Italy I wanted to, basically needed to, take a cooking class.  It was all I could think about when we were planning Italy and once I did some research and showed Jamie the options of what we could do he was all in! I narrowed it down to 3 different cooking classes and then Jamie and I together picked this Pizza and Gelato Cooking Class in Tuscan Farmhouse.

If you’re going to do just one thing out of everything you’ve read in this post it should be this!  Not only is Tuscany beautiful but this farm house was everything you could dream of. The staff and people teaching our specific class were so kind, knowledgeable and beyond hilarious.  The best part wasn’t just making and eating your own pizza and drinking wine the entire time or even the affordable $80 price tag. But it was the fact that we got to do it all outside, in open kitchens, with the most spectacular view behind us, right after picking all the ingredients we wanted to use for the pizza and gelato right from the garden.  I mean if that’s not farm to table, I don’t know what is!  It was hands down, the best part of our Florence trip for me.  I could not recommend this more!!

And just like that Florence was a wrap!  The Florence vlog will be up on my YouTube channel tomorrow!!

See you next in Positano…

xx, Neghin 

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