6.26.2014

Florence Free Day

Our last day in Florence was a "free day". Traditionally "free days" mean you are free to do what you want. On those days, sometimes you happen to do things other people also want to do, and sometimes you don't. On our free day we ended up doing most things together. Jay, A, and I tried to climb the Duomo dome twice, but the line was too long for us to waste our free day there. We started the day out at the Central Market with some coffee and a little shopping....

(photo by Jay)


We found what we were calling the "Subway of Italy" and got some amazing sandwiches. It was called All'Antico Vinaio. We took them and a bottle of wine to Boboli Garden and had a picnic.
(photo by Little Sister)

(photo by Little Sister)
(photo by Jay)
That evening we had reservations for dinner but were not hungry after our huge sandwiches! We ended up getting 'take away' pizza and salad at about 9pm and had dinner at the apartment. The next morning we were on a train to Varenna in Lake Como and picked up T in Milan!







6.21.2014

Tuscany Vespa Tour

Day three in Italy was the whole reason we decided to go to Florence. For a Tuscany Vespa Tour! Well we liked the idea of the Tuscany Vespa tour and that is why we went to Florence. We liked Florence too. I found the tour by googling "Tuscany Vespa Wine Tour" and then liked the reviews I saw on TripAdvisor for Tuscany Vespa Tours. For our tour there were four drivers and one passenger. I booked online and crossed my fingers...

We walked over and arrived at 9:30 to sign in and pay. Chris and Fillipo greeted us and explained how everything was going to work. We waited for the rest of our group to show up (there was a Vespa group and a bike group) and then were on our way.

Our group took two vans into the Tuscan Hills and started our day with a tour of a castle and some wine and olive oil tasting. Chris (the Scottish Italian) led the tour and Fillipo set up all the wine and olive oil for tasting.




After the wine tasting we were off on a Vespa! I know. Drink wine then drive.... but it was not very much wine and there was lots of bread and olive oil. We were fitted with helmets and then drove to a car park to practice driving the scooters. If you didn't feel comfortable, you could ride with the guide (only one person) or not get to go.... I was a little nervous but Fillipo (our guide) explained everything really well and soon we were scooting along the car park.

(photo by one of the sisters)


The scooters we had were not Vespas, except for Jay. Apparently Vespas are a little hard to drive. It seems that all Italians call any scooter a Vespa, but the rest of us drove a scooter that was easier to drive. Totally fine with me.
(photo by Fillipo)

Fillipo was really good at explaining the road conditions and keeping us all safe and confident through our day. He would stop at vista points and we would take some pictures and then when we all got back on our bikes he would explain the next section of road until we would stop again for the next beautiful view to take more photos.
(photo by Fillipo)

(Photo by A)



(Photo by A)



(Photo by Fillipo.  Jay was up to no good in this photo)

We met up with the bike tour for lunch and we were the less sweaty of the bunch. We then continued zipping around Tuscany on the scooters. Our group was fun and Fillipo was great.
(Photo by Jay)

I asked Fillipo to drop us off at Piazza Michelangelo on the way back and we had aperativo overlooking the city.



(Photo by Jay)

And after a fate influenced mix up with our dinner reservations, we had our best meal in Florence at La Buchetta. It was fabulous and Angelo our waiter was charming as was everyone. We felt very welcome there and really enjoyed the meal.
(Photo by Jay)


This is Pici La Buchetta. So AMAZING! A hint of heat at the end. The ingredients were typical of a caprese salad, kind of, but the flavor was nothing like it. I am not a fan of tomatoes, but I am the one who ordered this and it was my favorite of our pastas, but barely. We also had a spinach- ricotta ravioli with eggplant and capers in a caponata style sauce. It was served in a foil packet because the sauce was like a stew. It was almost like it had been baked. Also very good. No photo of that one. Sorry.

This is the carbonata after we had attacked it. Angelo explained that what we thought of as carbonara was not really carbonara and this was true carbonara. It was so good. I think we are going to see if we can find the recipes for these pasta dishes.

Next we had the signature dish of Florence the Bistecca alle Fiorentina. It was huge, cooked perfectly and suggested that we eat it with a little salt and pepper, olive oil, and lemon. Three of us split it and we still took home about half the steak. We finished this excellent meal with some digestif and then walking home came to one of Vespa Tour Fillipo's favorite gelato places, Gellateria dei Neri (on Neri street) and seemed to find a little room for gelato. It was an unforgettable day.

6.19.2014

Florence in a day

Day two in Italy was basically Florence in a day. If you are going to do the tourist things, these are what you will probably end up doing, or at least some of them. We decided to try to see a few museums this day and managed to get in a lot of the sights. It ended up being A LOT of walking, but a great day. We had reservations at the Academia and Uffizzi Gallery and the rest of the day we took it as it came.

Jay and I were up early and got some coffee at a local place called Shake. It was a happening little coffee bar and even had items to go. We got coffee for the girls as well as fruit and some chocolate croissants.

When everyone was ready we made our way to the Duomo. Our first museum reservation (Accadamia) wasn't until 1:45pm so we had some time. Here are the fashions for the first day.
(photo by Jay)

We had originally thought we might just go into the Duomo (church) because it was free, but the line was pretty long and we ended up climbing the bell tower instead when we found out the Duomo Museum was closed. (Italian language side note: I asked a police officer about the Duomo Museum in Italian and was able to understand it was closed and then got directions to buy tickets for climbing the bell tower almost all in Italian!)


There are multiple places to stop on the way up the tower to take photos, but the top offers amazing views of the city. Plus you get the famous dome of the Duomo in your photos! It looked a little stormy when we were up there but I loved it. I had never done it before and it was an item on my list.

Check that one off!

Next we ping ponged our way over to il Mercato Centrale.

I am a fan of "farmer's markets" and this was close enough for me. Multiple little stalls set up under one roof. Meat, cheese, bread, fruits and vegetables. Plus some shops to eat. Very cool. We are planning to go there again to get some food for a picnic. On this day, Jay and I had a snack!
(photo by the Little Sister)


I had my snack outside San Lozenzo church with the Little Sister while A shopped for a leather jacket and Jay and the Middle Sister checked out the Medici Chapel.

Next it was time for our reservation at the Accadamia to see "David". If you go, make a reservation. We waited in line for about 15 minutes. People without a reservation were waiting for three hours. I am not sure if David is worth a three hour wait..... but we got to see him. Check that one off.

Our next reservation for the Uffitzzi was at 4:30pm so we had a little time and stopped by the inside of the Duomo....

And then went to the free day at the Gucci Museum. No photos allowed in that one, but it was cool. Then we made our way the Uffitzi Gallery (reservations again). Jay, A, and the Little Sister all listened to the Rick Steve's audio tour. You can download it for free, while I listened to music and the Middle Sister enjoyed the museum without music or the tour. It was fairly crowded and the Middle Sister and I finished before the other three.
From here we crossed the Ponte Vecchio and took a few pictures.

We then found a great wine bar for aperativo named il Santino and had a good bottle of wine. It was tiny and at first there were a few Americans in it but soon it was packed with Italians. We ended up each having a glass of different wines and then liking the Middle Sister's so much we got a bottle. We had a few snacks and then got a bottle of wine to go. When I was paying the bill the owner asked us to stay for a bit and brought us out some biscotti before we left. Great little place.

On the way back to the apartment we took a few pictures on one of the bridges. Jay took the ones below. They make me laugh!

Here is one of the selfies I took from this photo shoot. I'm liking the photos Jay took more.

We then went home and had a bottle of wine and looked at all our photos. It had been a really full day!