Saturday, January 9, 2016

Our Trip to Italy Part 1: Arriving in Florence

When Dave and I were planning our honeymoon, we pictured ourselves flying across the ocean and soaking up the sun on the coast of the Mediterranean.  And then we priced the flights.  We quickly adjusted our plans and stashed away the idea of a Euro trip for another time, you know... when we weren't planning a wedding.  At some point over the winter, the idea resurfaced and we agreed that we would explore Italy in the fall!  Soon enough our flights were booked.  Next I stalked TripAdvisor for unique hotels and B&Bs, must-see tours, and hidden gem restaurants.  I booked everything myself and I loved every minute of it!

The days ticked by and before we knew it, the big trip was here!  Coincidentally, the pope was coming into Philly the day after we were leaving.  We were concerned about the traffic interfering with our drive to the airport, but apparently everyone stayed home that Friday and the roads were empty.  We arrived at the airport nice and early and started our vacation off with some cocktails.

It was my first flight overseas and I was really dreading it.  I just kept thinking how in the world am I going to sit in one spot for almost 8 hours?  But it actually wasn't that bad.  We flew with Lufthansa and it was really nice.  The seats were plenty big, we had our pick of new movies (we watched Pitch Perfect 2 and Dope), and the food was surprisingly decent.  After dinner I did my best to sleep and soon enough we were landing in Frankfurt, Germany.

We had a 4 hour layover, so we did a little exploring in the airport before we committed to a breakfast spot.  I was on a mission to have some Germany sausage, but we kept striking out in our terminal (nobody told me that the little stands that were everywhere were the place to go).  We finally settled on a place and started our breakfast off with some delicious beers.

When we returned to our terminal, I tried to sleep a little more and our plane was delayed about an hour.  I was feeling pretty rough at this point.

The second flight was fairly quick and then we were landing in Florence!  The airport was small and it was super easy to find the taxi stand.  I showed the taxi driver the address to our hotel and we were on our way!  When we got into the center of the city, things got crazy.  There were pedestrians everywhere and they seemed to rule the street.  We were weaving in and out of mobs of people when finally our cab driver pulled over and informed us he couldn't go any further.  We dragged our luggage a short walk down the block and found Hotel Alessandra!

I didn't realize there was an elevator, so we dragged our luggage up quite a few flights of stairs in a dark concrete hallway.  We got to the top huffing and puffing, but soon all our cares washed away when we met Monti, the amazing concierge at the front desk!  He was over the top friendly and just so happy to show us our home for the next two nights.  When he showed us our room, I was overwhelmed!  It was huge and had so much character and when he threw open the huge shutters to a view of the Arno River and the bustling sounds of the street below, I knew TripAdvisor had not steered me wrong!

We took a minute to settle in but we were ready to explore Florence.  I'm so glad we decided to begin our trip in Florence.  It's a small city and it was easy to learn the layout.  Our hotel was in the perfect location, directly in the middle of everything, but on a small quiet street with a few shops and no traffic.  We immediately started wandering, hitting the Piazza della Signoria first.  The large square is the heart of the city and it was just breathtaking.

After taking it all in for a few minutes, we decided to get our first coffee and taste of gelato.  Everything still felt surreal, we couldn't believe we were actually there!

The gelato was excellent!  Next we headed into the Piazza della Repubblica, another beautiful square.

While we walked to our next destination we ran into a random parade!  They were literally selling wine off a cart at the end of it.

Next we wandered into the Piazza del Duomo and spent a good bit of time just staring up at all the intricate details of the church.

Our next stop was the San Lorenzo Market, where dozens of men were all telling me how fabulous I'd look with their purses on my arm.  It was slightly overwhelming, but I got used to being pretty firm with the word no.  Halfway through, a gorgeous burgundy bag caught my eye since it was the only one that color in the whole market.  I kept walking and got seriously close to purchasing another bag, but the original one was still in my mind.  We did a second loop (Dave was thrilled, obviously) and I spotted the bag and had to have it!

After, I had planned on checking out the Mercato Centrale, a huge market with tons of vendors and cafes, but when we poked our heads inside it seemed like it was closing and honestly it looked kind of sketchy.  I wanted to skip it all together, but Dave dragged me in.  We were there, we might as well take a look!  We found a place that was still open and had quite a few people gathered around it.  Dave gave his best Italian a go and we left with some amazing salami and fresh mozzarella.  Seriously it was the best mozzarella I've ever had!  We grabbed a bottle a wine and headed back to our hotel to relax a little before the picnic I had planned.

The really cool art installation on our street!

After a little relaxing, we packed up our picnic and headed across the river on the Ponte Vecchio (the oldest bridge in Florence, the only one the Nazis didn't bomb when they were leaving the city).  We weaved through the streets on the other side of the river, constantly wondering if we were on the right track, but the little signs kept popping up telling us we were.  The journey ended with an epic climb!  We climbed and climbed until I was sure I had never worked out a day in my life.  Those stairs were punishing!  But it was worth it.

I had read that the Piazza Michelangelo had the best views of the city and that it was a perfect spot for a picnic at sunset... and boy was it ever!

We sipped wine, enjoyed our meat & cheese, and just felt giddy in the moment!  We were here, in Italy, with the most amazing views, with our whole trip in front of us.


It just kept getting more beautiful.  When it started to get dark we headed down the hill to freshen up before our dinner reservations.

We were all ready for dinner and found ourselves with a little time to kill so we headed out to a bar near the restaurant.  When we went in, we were surprised to find that the bartender spoke English as a first language!  He was from the UK and we had a nice time hanging out with him and trying the local drink (an aperol spritz, which we both actually hated).

When I found Vini e Vecchi Sapori, I knew we weren't going to be able to eat there unless I made a reservation ahead of time.  It's a small but very popular restaurant and they're closed on Sundays, the only other night we were in town.  So I emailed our restaurant to make us a reservation before we arrived in Italy.  When we got there, we were sat immediately.  The restaurant was very homey, with tons of fun decorations and the staff preparing the food in the middle of the room.  The tables were very close together and we actually ended up chatting throughout the meal with a young Italian couple sitting next to us.

The food did not disappoint!  I think we both agreed that this was the best ravioli of the whole trip!

When the meal was over, we were beyond ready for bed.  We hit the hay right after dinner knowing that we needed to rest up for our only full day in Florence!

To be continued... Part 2


  1. So glad that you enjoyed your stay at our hotel, despite the one of two steps that you mentioned! We very much enjoyed reading this and will post to our Facebook page so that future guests might pick up a tip or two!

    Happy 2016!

    Andrea - Hotel Alessandra

    1. Thank you :) We loved our stay and I'd recommend your hotel to anyone! My next post will mention your breakfast and the time we spent enjoying some wine on your hidden terrace :)

  2. What a fantastic start to your vacation! Can't wait to read about the rest!


Every comment makes me smile, so keep 'em coming!

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