Thursday, April 30, 2015

Florence - Thursday - 4/30/15

Finally this morning I awoke feeling somewhat normal! The maid barged in at 7:30am and woke me up which sort of screwed up my sleep, but it was still probably my most peaceful night of sleep thus far. Not for poor Eric, he was still struggling. We set the alarm for 9am and I dragged him out of bed around 9:30am.

After many attempts on a very unreliable website, we booked our train passes to Florence, and headed to breakfast. I had my usual plate of sweets, yogurt, and fruit. Eric had his usual; my leftover sweets, eggs, and sausage. The cappuccinos and coffee were perfect as expected.

I can't get over the difference in customer service here in Italy vs. the US. Sometimes it's a good thing, like being left alone while shopping, but most of the time it is bad. For example, the Italians don't always go out of their way to extend themselves the way Americans do. I often sense attitude from employees and definitely a lack of friendly faces. There are also frequent displays of unprofessionalism that would be completely inappropriate anywhere back home. For example, the hostess at breakfast was visibly upset and started storming around the tables while her employee made a face behind her back. I am sitting here watching this and noticed others watching too. I couldn't understand a word she spoke but I knew it was bad. All I have to say is that I'll take the customer service in America (even when it's corny or fake at times) over the service in Italy any day! God bless America! Haha

The next few hours were quite boring. We freshened up and packed. We were both feeling a little nervous about the gypsies and pick pockets at the train station (mostly because Eric spent 2 hours researching these fascinating subjects last night). We both left ultra paranoid.

Although we spent most of the day traveling, it was nice to just relax and take our time. Today might be the only day in my life when I wake up in Rome and go to bed in Florence. Kind of cool!

Well, we made it on the train with no gypsies! You can't trust everything you read online... Eric and I faced each other sitting in aisle seats with a table in the middle. All of the window seats were taken when we booked the tickets. We didn't want to book too far in advance in case something unexpected came up.

I found the train station to be very non threatening but also very crowded and quite confusing! We had to ask a lady for help twice, as we tried to figure out which track our train was on (and by we, I mean Eric who did all our navigating).

Before boarding, I realized I was hungry and didn't want to pay for train station junk food, so I quickly opened our large suitcase on the floor and pulled out 4 granola bars while Eric kept a lookout. Mission accomplished, and after chowing on 2 bars I felt a little more relaxed.

This was Eric's first time on a high speed train. There were big windows everywhere and I couldn't wait for the views! I sat next to an Italian girl around my age and Eric sat next to an Italian man in his 40s. Both seemed friendly enough. I felt so relieved to be sitting next to a woman knowing I wouldn't have to worry about some oversized man invading my personal space!

I actually fell asleep for a few minutes on the train, so I must have under-slept last night because I never nap. I used the restroom once and it was so clean - I was shocked.

On the train writing this blog on my iPhone

I can't emphasize enough how absolutely gorgeous and picturesque the Italian countryside is. It's exactly like you're imagining except better. All the trees and grass are incredibly green and the mountain range is stunning. "Wow" is all I can say. It looks like a fairytale!

The train ride flew by in flash. I couldn't believe how quick we arrived in Florence. The train travels up to 150mph which I guess explains why. The Florence train station was just as packed and chaotic as Rome's.

It was a bit of a challenge to walk with our 4 suitcases and 2 bags all the way to the hotel. The distance was close but it was tough because of the cobblestone streets, traffic, and crowds.

My first impression of Florence wasn't much because I was too focused on getting my bags to the hotel. We were both so relieved when we walked into our lobby off this narrow little road.

Part of the lobby of our hotel, Number Nine

We were greeted by this pretty Italian woman with the sweetest personality. Right off the bat, I was so impressed with the personal 5-star service we received at the Number Nine hotel! She seated us in the lobby and we were served glasses of chilled water. She sat with us and reviewed everything we needed to know about our stay.

The concierge helped us choose an authentic restaurant for dinner that evening and even made us a reservation for 7:30pm. Our host escorted us to our room and we were so in love with the place! It's definitely more of a boutique hotel, and you feel it immediately with the high end service and chic decor. Our room was so nice, modern, and very clean. There was a beautiful bathroom, robes, slippers, and a comfortable bed. It was not nearly as big as our suite at the Westin in Rome, but completely fine for us.

Eric feeling excited about our Florence arrival

Beautiful bathroom

Quaint and cozy

The exterior of our room

We settled in and unpacked. One super neat perk was that the mini fridge was stocked with drinks/snacks and it's all free! Also, we could have breakfast delivered to our room for free, which is always nice. There is a spa and gym downstairs that I will have to check out tomorrow. I'd like to use the gym at least once while I'm here.

Everything FREE in the mini fridge

I didn't even bother changing out of my yoga pants and we headed out to explore. Our hotel is situated on a narrow little street with several restaurants and shops right next door. I was falling for Florence already! We walked to the end of the street, looked left, and whoa! There before our eyes was the Duomo. As Eric had told me, it truly is a spectacular church. It's tough to describe, but the exterior of the structure is magical. It almost doesn't seem real. Again I felt like I was in a Disney movie or something. I'm happy we stayed so close to the Duomo because we'll get to see it everyday.

Incredible detail on the exterior of the Duomo

Another view of the Duomo. It's huge

We continued our walk towards the Duomo. There is such a noticeable difference between Rome and Florence. They are barely comparable and sort of different the way Boston and NYC are different (with Florence being Boston and Rome being NYC). Eric told me there are tons of study abroad programs and universities in Florence, which explains all the young vibrant students everywhere. This city feels so lively, positive, and fun. The streets are quainter and cleaner. The people in general seem happier. These were all things I noticed almost immediately and Eric agreed. I for one, was so excited I couldn't stop smiling!

Bell Tower next to the Duomo

Eric has been to Florence before, back in 2006. He said it feels like nothing has changed and he's excited to be back with me :) One fun thing I came across is the Magnum shop. Magnum the brand of ice cream bars you buy at our grocery stores! There is this large shop that sells different kinds of Magnum bars and you can customize your ice cream bar by adding toppings to it! I will definitely try this while I am here.

Customize your own Magnum Ice Cream Bar - YUM

When I realized we still had over an hour until our dinner reservation, I grabbed a cup of gelato. I couldn't resist the elaborate display of fluffy flavors, even though I knew it was "fake." Regardless, it tasted creamy and delicious and came with free pieces of waffle cone, my favorite!

Fluffy Display of Delicious Gelato

It was a beautiful night with clear skies but very chilly. Unfortunately the smoking habits here are just as awful as Rome. Gross!

We stopped and took pictures at a few different plazas. One notable plaza we frequented during our stay is named "Piazza della Signoria." There was a cool museum, large fountains, and tons of historic statues. 

Piazza della Signoria

Historic statues in the plaza

Our favorite statue - Perseus with the head of Medusa

After the plaza we walked to the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. It was packed with people and full of shops. The view from the bridge was gorgeous! I loved seeing the Tuscan mountains in the background.

View from the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge

Great shot of Eric on the Ponte Vecchio bridge

As we toured around the city I took advantage of a cool photo-op and asked Eric to pose.

Eric modelling on the streets of Florence

Another adorable kids clothing store! 

After walking around a few sites, we arrived at our restaurant (Club Culinario Toscano Da Osvaldo). The interior was small and homey and we were greeted by a very friendly server. It's funny how serious they take dinner reservations in Italy. We were the first people to arrive for dinner (at 7:20pm) and every table had a place card on it with the name of the reservation. I noticed a board that listed all the specials and in the corner it said "love is free." How sweet is that? It certainly set the tone for what turned out to be such an enjoyable meal. 

On our first night in Florence, we ate here

I love the interior of the restaurant. So much character I could have taken dozens of photos!

We sat down excitedly to examine the menu and ordered house wine with many different dishes. My favorites are in the following order - artichoke appetizer, roasted green peppers, Ravioli with a hearty potato filling and light sauce, meatballs (much different from your standard meatball and very tasty) and last but not least, turnips.

My favorite - artichoke appetizer

These were breaded meatballs - I have never eaten anything like this before.  The sauces complimented the meat very well

Eric's ravioli was scrumptous!

Obviously Dessert was great as well. We split tiramisu and homemade limoncello. I didn't even realize I liked limoncello but this was excellent.

Does this even need a caption? I think not....

You don't have to tip in Italy but we left 4€ because I was so pleased with the service. I felt like the waiter really loved his job, and described the menu items with sincere passion. I loved my experience at this restaurant and would highly recommend it to others.

By the time we left dinner, the city was hopping! There were bands playing all over and people swarming everywhere. This city almost feels like an adult playground, especially since you can drink in the streets. I saw many students walking in packs drinking openly.

We realized this is a holiday weekend in Florence. I guess May 1st is their Labor Day, which probably explains all the festivities. We walked by a shoe shop and the employees were blasting music and dancing around. It was so funny and so something you'd only see in Europe. We almost felt tempted to stay out and enjoy the fun, but we weren't dressed properly and felt too tired. I would rather start fresh tomorrow and I can tell this party will last all weekend anyway.


  1. I am having more and more fun on this trip! :)

  2. Florence looks like a place a beautiful place. The church the buildings the restaurants look very inviting. enjoying the story.