Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our Italian Adventures Part Two: Florence

Our first train ride through Italy was a complete success. We arrived about 45 minutes before the train left, which left us just enough time to purchase tickets and line up to be one of the first ones on the train. We found out it can be complicated to find seats together when you purchase tickets last minute but somehow we lucked out after trying over and over again using one of the automated kiosks. 

The train ride itself was rather disappointing since there was a big wall that obstructed our view from seeing most of the countryside as we traveled. But it gave me an excuse to catch up on some zzzz’s before arriving in Florence. 

Our hotel was walking distance from the train station and just down the street from the Duomo which made Brian 2 for 2 on choosing great hotels. After a morning of train and rain, I freshened up for a minute before heading on our way to find some pizza. 

We stumbled upon Gusto Leo, which was my favorite pizza from the trip. I’m trying to forget that I ate twice as much as I should have which left me with quite a tummy ache, but that’s pretty much the same story from everywhere we ate. Portion control isn’t my strong suit.  

We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the Duomo, crossing the Ponte Vecchio, and making our way to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo (by taxi). The views were absolutely gorgeous and the rain storm that had cleared out created the most beautiful skies. We did walk back and it wasn't as far as it looked from the top of the Piazzale. There was so much to admire on the way back to the hotel that it went by quickly. 

Using my 50mm lens this is as much of the Duomo I could get in each picture which shows just how massive the structure is

Walking across the Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio from a distance

Looking out from Piazzale Michelangelo

A view of the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio from Piazzale Michelangelo

Breathtaking Views and Heavenly Skies; Our view from the Ponte Vecchio

One of the David statues in the city, but I love this picture for the sky

That night we ate dinner at Bucca de Mario, and all I can say is WOW! We wined and dined ourselves with an amazing linguine with truffles and steak florentine. Being from Texas, we were tough critiques on the steak, but overall it was prepared to perfection and a must do while in Florence.  Our waiter explained that the way it’s aged is what makes this steak so special to this region. After dinner our waiter introduced us to our first shot of limoncello and grappa, and I’ll just say it wasn’t our last. 

Linguine with Black Truffles; Bistecca Florentine

The Duomo as we walked back to our hotel after dinner

A great dinner led to a late night, and I’ll admit i was regretting it when my alarm went off early in the morning for our Tuscany tour that kicked off at 8:30am. 

Tuscany deserves a post of its own so I’m fast forwarding 10 hours to later that night. 

We were dropped off from Tuscany, took a power nap in our hotel, and then surprise, it was time for dinner! We went to 4 Leoni which I had read to order the white truffle ravioli, but unfortunately it wasn’t an option due to truffles not being in season. I hadn’t seen a vegetable in days (other than a tomato prepared in 20 different ways) so I started with an amazing pesto salad. I love how they serve their cheese in big chunks instead of shredded and can’t wait to recreate this salad using Brian’s homemade pesto recipe when we get home. This was just the refresher I needed to gear me up for the days and days of pasta ahead.

The next morning we slept in, hooray!! Checking out Michaelangelo’s famous statue of David at the Academia was first on our list for the morning. We preordered tickets for this museum and I can’t stress enough how important this is when going to museums in Italy. We skipped the line and went straight in to find what we were looking for. 

The Three David Statues found throughout the city of Florence

After staring at Michaelangelo’s perfectly chiseled sculpture for quite some time, we walked around the city some more before stopping at Trattoría Mario for one last Bistecca Florentine. Brian had seen this restaurant featured on one his favorite food shows. This was the original place we tried to eat dinner the first night, but we found out it is only open for lunch. It's very casual and tightly packed. We shared a table of six with a family of 4. 

Although there were no signs of rain in the sky, it was pouring when we left Trattoría Mario, but once again, thank goodness for my hat! We headed back to our hotel to grab our bags and walked in the pouring rain with luggage and all to the the train station. Next stop: Naples. 

Ciao Firenze!

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