Published: September 25th 2011September 24th 2011
Hi everyone, sorry for the delay in the blog but we had some internet issues over the past 2 days. We flew out of Calgary on Wednesday, the 21st, and landed in Amsterdam early on Thursday morning. We only had a few hours layover, but to our surprise, Air Italia was overbooked and we were on standby. Obviously we weren't too happy about that after an 8.5 hour flight! Ron & Lissa our traveling partners had seats and went ahead and boarded hoping that we would make the flight or at least catch up later. Just when we thought we weren't getting on the flight, they came up with 2 seats....phew!!! Off to Florence we go.
Upon arrival in Florence, we grabbed a taxi and went straight to the hotel, Hotel Torre Guelfa, in central Florence in the old part of town. It's a old rustic palace that's been around since 1160. Our room is quite large with a HUGE bathroom, well above European standards, however, beside the room being quite outdated, the bathroom only has a bath tub with hand shower. If you were a fatty, there would be no way you'd fit in that tub! The hotel itself
is fairly nice but for the money is not really up to snuff.
The other issues with this hotel is how loud the street is below. We only got about 3 hours worth of sleep that first night. There's a jazz bar down below and it was very festive well into the night. Regardless, the place is located close to the world famous Ponte Vecchio, which is a bridge that crosses over the Arno River and has gold shops on both sides of it. Also close by is the Piazza Signora and the Duomo. The area is full of high end shops like Chanel, Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo, as well as little wine bars, restaurants and gelato shops.
Once we were unpacked and cleaned up from our long travel, we ventured out for dinner. The hotel recommended a place down the street which was a local favorite. The place was small and packed with people. Our waiter was absolutely hilarious and made our evening more enjoyable. All of us wanted to have Florentine Steak, which is a grilled T-Bone steak which is twice the size of one of our normal sized steaks. Lissa wanted to have risotto with
it but the waiter shook his finger and laughed saying there is no way she would be able to eat all of it. He started calling Lissa risotto for the remainder of the night. With the steak, we order vegetables thinking we were being healthy except their veggies are all deep fried. Bad start for my diet!
Our first full day was spent outside Florence. We rented a car for the day and drove out to the Antinori vineyard, 26 kms south of Florence. I have to say that Ron did a fabulous job driving the crazy streets of Florence. We toured the little towns nearby and went back to the vineyard for a wonderful 5 course lunch. The wine was superb and the food divine. We left there and went to a little town called Grieve which had some neat shops to visit. That evening we decided to walk over to the Ponte Vecchio and listen to this musician who was playing his guitar and singing old Metallica songs. He was really good! After a brief stop, we walked to the Pitti Palace which is a palace that the Medici family built. The Medici family were a very
powerful family in Florence and influenced the way the government was ran and how society was suppose to follow. The palace was all lit up giving it an impressive scene. We found a small restaurant nearby and had a quick bite to eat and then continued our walk. After strolling around for a few blocks, we came across another piazza that was filled with people having dinner and drinking wine by the square's fountain. Musicians were milling about playing guitars and accordions in the old Italy fashion which gave the place a really authentic feeling. Teenagers were sitting on the steps of an old church talking and gossiping, making you realize that Italians are a very social society.
Day 2 of Florence started off with us hoping on the Red Bus. The Red Bus is a tour bus that has planned routes throughout Florence where tourists can hop on and off over a 24 hour period. It's a double decker bus with an open top and we were given headphones to listen to the cultural information about the city. Dan and I really enjoyed touring Florence this way, it gives you a great view of how everyday Florentines live.
The city is so chaotic with people everywhere and small cars and scooters whizzing up tiny streets and alleys. It's so different from our way of life. Our first stop of the day was Michelangelo Hill way above that city overlooking the Arno River. The hill offers impressive views of both the old town and newer areas of Florence. There you can see the Duomo and church steeples of the old town and in the distance the little town of Fiesole. We took our pictures and hopped back on the bus to head to Fiesole. Fiesole is a small town that contains old roman ruins and is full of rich history. We were ready for lunch and went to a place that Rick Steves recommended called Aurora. It's a patio restaurant with a view of Florence below. A really nice place but the food was so so and the service wasn't good at all. I would go somewhere else if you can. After lunch we went to roman ruins. It was an impressive museum with human remains of settlers, an old amphitheater and roman baths. We strolled around the place for quite awhile enjoying all the views and imagining what
it would be like during those times.
That evening we had a reservation at Frescobaldi restaurant which is a place run by the Frescobaldi vineyard. It is a very high end restaurant that was packed with the rich and beautiful. We stuck out a bit, but we tried to fit in. Our waiter wasn't too impress when we ordered a cheaper bottle of wine to start and he showed us by simply cracking open the screw top and pouring it like a cheap bottle of water. Our next bottle was a bit more to their liking as it was a bit more expensive. The food was fantastic! I had Salmon tartar and a caprese salad, very healthy, but very good. Dan had a steak again in fear that Sicily doesn't have a lot of beef. Sicily tends to be more Mediterranean fair with lots of seafood. After walking back towards our hotel, we stopped into a cute little wine bar for a night cap. We had a great glass of Nobile from Montipluciano and Dan had a nice Italian beer. We had to call it a night as tomorrow is when we are flying out to Sicily.
are counting how many bottles of wine we are drinking, so as of the end of day 3 of our Italian getaway, we are sitting at 8 bottles.
There are more photos below