Saturday, May 2, 2015

Florence - Saturday - 5/2/15

I actually slept last night! I never imagined that sleep alone could be such an enormous challenge. I took Benadryl before bed and I think that helped a lot. I still feel sick but definitely better because the lymph nodes in my neck are no longer sore and swollen. However, I have extreme tenderness around my eyes, my nose is draining, and my muscles feel sore like after a really a hard workout. But I don't care because I actually slept! Yay! 

We got up and went to breakfast. I'm not sure what happened to Eric's cappuccino yesterday because they were excellent today. I knew for sure I was sick because I was craving juice and I never, ever drink juice (what a waste of calories and excess sugar, no thanks). Before we left breakfast I grabbed a tasty snack for later from the buffet.

Nutella and Toast - Never gets old!

Soon enough, off we went to the Duomo. O M G is all we could think when we got there. I have never in my life seen crowds like this! The lines for everything at the Duomo were 2 hours minimum. May 1st is Labor Day here in Europe. Therefore, every single European is on vacation this weekend which is why Florence is so unusually packed. How would we have known this when we booked our trip last fall? I had never heard of this holiday in Europe and we don't know anyone who would have known (except Eric's parents but they didn't tell us). 

Do you see how many people were everywhere? Crazy

We tried to get a refund on our tickets but as expected, they had no mercy and would do absolutely nothing to help. Eric was upset and I was a bit disappointed because I knew this experience was a now-or-never situation. I don't think I'll be coming back to Italy for an extremely long time, unless I fall in love with wine country. 

While we were in line trying to exchange our tickets, there was an old man behind us who was a tad anxious and kept bumping into me and Eric. Eric finally turned around and threw his arms up and said "can you please back up?" I felt bad for the guy because he was old, but he was also young enough to feel so anxious that he was willing to bump up against complete strangers. In America, there seems to be great respect when it comes to personal space. Is that not the case in Italy? 

After that whole spectacle, we decided to stop at the pharmacia and pick up some Sudafed.  Luckily, this experience was relatively painless, although it was a little difficult to communicate with the pharmacist who was a bit dismissive. All he cared about was rushing through the line as fast as possible. Rude!

Italian Sudafed

We made the super short walk back to our hotel and regrouped. We decided to hit the market which was also very close by. I wasn't sure what to expect of this market, but to say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. I think the market might be the coolest and most authentic establishment I've seen on this trip thus far! 

Browsing through the outdoor section of the Market

You remember I talked about Eataly? Well, this was the real version and it was so awesome! Outside, there were endless tents with merchants selling all types of items. There was clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, tons of leather goods, and scarves. I don't think I have ever seen so many scarves in my life, and they were all good quality and came in every color and print you can imagine. Of course I bought a few. 

Fun bracelets I purchased for 1 euro each

Eric purchased a really nice leather wallet in a unique gray color for 15€! There is an indoor part of the market as well, which is 2 floors full of amazing Italian delicacies. The first floor contained endless little stores selling fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, wine, chocolate, olive oil, spices, dried fruits, cookies, flowers and everything else you can think of. I was so pumped!  I started snapping some pics and shopping around.  

One of many deli stands

Wish I could have bought some veggies to cook dinner

Pasta and Wine - the ultimate decadence

Colorful and fresh

Nuts and spices

Olive Oils

So many spices

Is that enough salami for you?

We sampled a piece of bread with truffle oil and ended up buying truffle cream. I had heard of truffle oil in the USA. I've seen it on menus and it's always really expensive. I didn't even know I liked truffle oil but it's very good! The cream was even better. It's basically a luscious spread that you can eat with a fresh slice of Italian bread (or crackers or whatever) and we both loved it. The clerk even bubble wrapped it for us. 

I also bought 2 bags of the BEST BISCOTTI I have ever had! They said it was homemade that morning and I could tell. I can't even describe in words how perfect it tasted. I buy biscotti all the time back at home and it doesn't even remotely compare to this! The name of the company is Cantuccilory in case you care to know. 

This was THE MOST amazingly fresh and delicious biscotti I have EVER HAD

My new favorite biscotti

I ate all this biscotti within 5 days of being home. I think Eric managed to sneak 1 or 2...

Chocolates I brought home in my suitcase - very good

We went upstairs and it was filled with vendors that offered a variety of take out options. All the tables were taken...shocker (or not). I saw one spot open up and this guy bum-rushed the crowd to claim it. He literally stood there with his hands around the table protecting it. We circled the whole upper level. There were so many delicious looking options it was hard to choose. 

Crazy busy market

They were hosting cooking classes - Neat!

Platter of deli meats - looks like something my Dad would scarf down in a second

The Italians are so on trend with offering vegetarian options

We finally ordered an arancini ball. Those always hit the spot. 

These things are so good!!

Arancini ball close up

We also ate a large bag of mixed dried fruit that we chose from one of the shops downstairs. Our favorite was the dried orange including the peel, which I've never seen before.  

We bought a baggie of unique dried fruits to snack on

We shopped a bit longer and I purchased a leather purse for 30€. It was a versatile two tone shoulder bag that I am sure I will carry often. 

Stand where I purchased my leather shoulder bag

After the market, we stopped at our room, dropped our bags off, and took a break. 

Market aftermath

We then headed out to explore the rest of the afternoon. 

Maybe if Danny knows there is a Hard Rock Cafe in Florence he'll want to visit

Exploring Florence

We knew we wouldn't be able to visit any of the historical sites due to unbearable long waits, so we headed towards the Ponte Santa Trinita bridge which faces the Ponte Vecchio (the most famous bridge in Florence). The Arno is the name of the river and it's very scenic to walk along. We stopped and simply hung out on the bridge, which is a very common activity here. We took a few great photos. The sun came out and it felt very warm and pleasant. 

Modeling in front of the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge

Couple getting frisky on the bridge

Natalie's new car

After a bit we continued our walk on the other side of the bridge. The shopping in Florence is so tempting. Every time I turn a corner there is a cool store. They have these adorable paper shops that sell stationary, stamps, ink and feather pens, etc. I browsed inside one of them but it was just too pricey. Several major designers here have a separate storefront for kids! For example, there is a Dolce & Gobana kids store. How goofy and pretentious is that? Lol. Personally, I think 100% of their proceeds should go towards something productive, like cancer research. 

D&G Kids - Really?

In general, I noticed there is a large quantity of adorable kids stores everywhere which is good to note if you have little kiddies at home. I didn't feel tempted to shop in Rome at all. In Florence, the shopping district is located on wider streets and is a much more appealing environment. We passed several clothing stores that had cool clothes and shoes on display, but held back because there is only so much we can pack in a suitcase. The one Italian designer I've been obsessed with for years is Tods. When I saw the enormous store here I shrieked with excitement! Yay! It was closed so we'll try again tomorrow. In case you're wondering, I have been longing for a pair of their loafers since my early twenties. 

I was so excited to see a Tods storefront

After walking a bit we arrived to the entrance of the Boboli Gardens, which is a famous attraction here in Florence. There was a good hour long line to get in. This is one thing we absolutely want to see before we leave and are now strategizing how/when we'll go tomorrow to avoid waiting forever. 

We headed back and Eric picked up 2 beers for 2€ at a little grocery store. He then stopped at a bar that wasn't busy and asked a bartender to lend a bottle opener. Eric said the bartender gave him a death stare. Since when is doing a good samaritan a favor such a bad thing? Are all bartenders this pissy or just Italian bartenders who choose to work in the touristy areas? 

On the way back we passed the front of the Pitti Palace

We sat in a plaza with a famous church (I can't keep them all straight. We've visited about 100 in the last week). I looked for somewhere to sit. This wasn't easy because of course, the plaza was packed. When you finally find a place to sit, you need to look cautiously around to ensure there are no chain smokers nearby. Now that, my friend, is nearly impossible. 

Plaza where we chilled and Eric enjoyed a few beers

We finally settled on the steps in front of the church. Believe it or not, we actually got 20 min of peace before someone lit up and starting blowing second hand smoke in our faces. Time to move. 

We found a bench which turned out to be a safe spot for another 20 minutes or so. As I people-watched, I noticed these ladies selling scarves walking around the plaza. The ladies draped the scarves on each arm and they cost 10€ each, which I knew was expensive since you could get 3 for 12€ at the market. 

I saw one of the ladies approach a tourist in a very aggressive manner. The tourist looked a bit taken aback, but politely entertained the lady by touching a scarf. Big mistake! This lady nearly chased the tourist through the plaza in utter desperation in an effort to force her to buy a scarf. It was a sad scene, and one that made me very happy to have my cozy desk job back in Boston.  

We stopped at the hotel again before dinner. I love how centrally located our hotel is. The restaurant wasn't too far and we were both very hungry. The last thing we had eaten were snacks at the market. Do you ever wonder how skinny people stay skinny? They skip lunch. JK! 

We entered yet another ultra quaint restaurant called Trattoria Gargani. 

Exterior of Trattoria Gargani

It was loaded with character and all the walls were painted with cool art. It was separated into 4 different dining areas and was completely packed by the time we left. 

The entire restaurant was painted with different murals

Another unique mural

The food was excellent! My only complaint was the tourist rip off prices, even though this place is apparently authentic. Like I said, the food was awesome, but we paid 6€ for water!!! What the...?? You better believe I made that waitress cork our unfinished glass water bottle to take home! 

This was the second night I didn't drink wine because of my cold, so Eric was on his own again. We ordered bruschetta which had to be some of the freshest and tastiest bruschetta I have ever had. It was loaded with flavorful tomatoes. 

Fresh Bruschetta

We also ordered a salad that consisted of raw artichoke with cheese shavings. My description probably isn't doing it any justice, but I promise it was great and definitely not anything you'd find in The North End (Boston's Little Italy). I then had risotto with asparagus for my entree. It came out steaming hot and was creamy and hearty. Eric ordered ravioli with potato filling and meat sauce. The ravioli was definitely one of my favorite dishes so far on this trip. 

My risotto

Eric's meat ravioli

I've noticed that the ravioli here always has a potato filling, and at home, there is usually meat or cheese. Interesting huh? After dinner we took a nice little stroll. There was a brief moment when we were arm in arm walking by the beautiful river that I felt romance in the air...

Not for long! The moment was ruined when a dozen cars/motos sped by, engines blaring, nearly running us over. Moment over!    

Stunning view during our evening stroll

It cooled down and was a bit windy out, but still pleasant for a stroll. We walked to the Duomo and took a few nighttime shots. I'm sure I've already mentioned this, but the Duomo is truly a spectacular structure and never gets old! 

Hi Eric!

Nighttime view of the incredible Duomo

Shortly after entering our room, there was a knock at the door. It was our finished dry cleaning. We made a huge mistake and didn't pack enough socks or underwear. It was intentional though, because for some reason I thought it would be easy to do a quick load somewhere along the way.

Well, I felt quite foolish because I was so SO wrong on that one! Hotels generally won't do a load of laundry, even for a hefty fee. They only offer dry cleaning. The other option is to spend 2 hours at a laundromat. Now I think we all know THAT just wasn't happening! We chose to suck it up and dry clean 11 items to get us through the trip. Oh well, just another lesson learned!  

Considering it cost 2€ for one pair of underwear, I though everything would be pressed and hung on hangers like our dry cleaning at home. As I'm sure you guessed, that wasn't the case. It came back in a simply wrapped plastic bag. Whatever, at least it was folded and clean. 

What wasn't okay was that a pair of Eric's brand new undies were missing! Eric called the front desk but the company they outsource the dry cleaning to was closed. We were told to talk to them the next morning. Sometimes you just have to laugh, and this was one of those times. I didn't care though, because if they actually lost it, we'll be sure to get the whole service comped. 

I ended my evening with a steaming hot rain shower. Ugh it felt so good! Another thing I like about this hotel is that all the toilette products they offer are organic. How chic! Tomorrow our goal is a successful trip to the Boboli Gardens. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!

1 comment:

  1. Well this was a good day. you really came across a lot of great shopping and the restaurant looks awesome. Ravioli looked good too.