Adventures in Italy: Florence

During my two-week Italian adventure, I dedicated three days to exploring Florence (Firenze). On the final day of the Serious Writers Retreat, we took an early morning train to spend the day in the city. Then, in between my Letters to Juliet tour and adventure in Rome, I explored the birthplace of the Renaissance, visiting museums and marveling at the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore). I’ve never been a city girl, but my time in Florence changed that.

Florence Day One – Last Day of the Serious Writers Retreat

The last day of the Serious Writers Retreat was bittersweet. We had become a close-knit group, so spending the day separately felt strange. Thankfully, there was always someone to bump into, so I wasn’t alone. At the Uffizi Gallery, I met up with Cyle Young, organizer and co-founder of Serious Writer, and his family, turning what would have been a quick browse into a fun exploration. Although Uffizi’s artwork was stunning, I didn’t like all the naked statues and images. I was also surprised by the amount of Greek mythology displayed in the exhibits. As we perused the gallery’s multiple floors, the Youngs and I searched for flowers and monsters within the artwork in a scavenger hunt Cyle’s wife, Patty, printed off the gallery’s website. I’m glad I went to the Uffizi, but you won’t see me hurrying back.

Lunch took us to the renowned deli, All’Antico Vinato. The deli was established in 1989 by the Mazzanti family and is one of the top ten restaurants in the WORLD! However, unless you eat pork (which I don’t) or do your research ahead of time (which I didn’t), it’s difficult to find something you really like to eat and not feel rushed to make a decision as you are cramped into the small shop. Throughout the day, the line to All’Antico Vinato stretches down the street, but the wait time isn’t too long since the deli has two shops on the same street. Like Uffizi, it’s definitely a place worth experiencing.

As I ate my massive vegetarian sandwich, I met up with Sally, Nicole, and Sharyn, my main group throughout the retreat, to do a scavenger hunt through the app Questo. While the details were more graphic than we’d anticipated, we had a blast solving the riddles and scouring the streets for each clue as we uncovered the history of one of Florence’s infamous serial killers.

Rescheduling My Trip Days Before Leaving!

Before my trip, I’d originally planned to spend my second week between Verona and Siena; however, as I got closer to my departure date, I realized how illogical it was to move from one hotel to the next. So, I canceled my reservations and booked an Airbnb in Florence as it was the central point to everywhere I wanted to go. This was a great decision! Not only did it give me a base to return to each night, but it gave me the chance to fall in love with Florence, explore its beautiful landmarks, and meet people.

Seeing the Duomo multiple times during the week was a gift in itself. I could stare at it for hours! The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is every bit as incredible as the pictures — if not more. The moment I turned the corner and beheld it for the first time, my breath hitched, and I had to take a step back (careful not to step on the artwork strewn on the floor — a classic scam) to admire its splendor!! My one regret is not going inside. I’m not interested in climbing to the top — I climbed enough stairs at the Tuscan villa during the retreat — but it would’ve been amazing to enter the majestic structure and see what treasures lay inside.

Florence Day Two – Mosaico Church

After rescheduling my trip to include Florence and Rome, I left a Sunday open to attend an English-speaking church. Incredibly, just before my trip, I found out that one of the women from my Bible study would be in Florence the same weekend! Joy met me at Mosaico Church, an evangelical congregation that attracts many visitors and international students. After being in Israel for over a decade, it was refreshing to go to a church where I didn’t need translation and could understand the worship songs. Italian time is a real thing, though, so don’t stress about getting to places on time. I rushed to get to the church, arriving a sweaty mess, only to be the first one there — awkward! (I had to walk around the block to cool down, haha!)

After the service, Joy and I had lunch at Osteria dell’Orcagna in the Piazza della Signoria. Surrounded by history, it was truly incredible to sit outside and take in the Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery, and Loggia deli Lanzi (the world’s first open-air gallery). While most restaurants near famous monuments and squares are often tourist traps, our meal was absolutely delicious! Their pappa al pomodoro was authentic, while their spaghetti al ragu bolognese was packed with flavor. I returned on my last day in Florence and hoped to take a few dishes home, but unfortunately, they refused to do takeaway.

Becoming a Museum Girl

Believe me when I say that I’m not a museum person. Normally, I am in and out in under an hour; however, that Sunday, I discovered that I love museums; I’d just been going to the wrong ones. I’d initially planned to spend the rest of the afternoon strolling through the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace) and Boboli Gardens, but Joy had already seen them and wanted to do something new. When I mentioned the Leonardo Interactive Museum (not to be confused with the Museo Leonardo da Vinci, which is located next door), she grew excited. Full of replicas of da Vinci’s inventions, the museum is completely interactive, with levels to pull and miniature models to build. Joy and I had so much fun learning about da Vinci’s life and playing with his inventions. We acted like little kids and spent two hours in the small museum, only leaving when Joy had to get back to her family.

A day in Italy should never end without gelato, so after saying goodbye to Joy, I followed Google Maps’ directions to a gelateria someone at the church had recommended. Gelateria La Carraia is a GREAT place for authentic, delicious Italian gelato. Their cheesecake e frutti di bosco (mixed berry cheesecake) and caramello al burro salato (salted butterscotch) were to die for!! As I stood on the Ponte Santa Trinita, opposite the Ponte Vecchio, I stared in wonder at my surroundings as I enjoyed each lick of my gelato.

The Ticket Miracle!

Despite walking at least 14,000 steps that day, I took my chances at visiting the Palazzo Pitti since it wasn’t closing for another ninety minutes. But, there was a problem… My ticket to the Uffizi Gallery was a bundle, and the ticket master had warned me not to lose it since it was my only entry into the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens. Unfortunately, I forgot to put the ticket in my backpack and dropped it during our scavenger hunt through the city. My only hope was the picture I’d taken of it.

As I prayed for God’s favor, something on the ground caught my eye. Backing up three steps, I picked up the object and was stunned to find that it was the ticket I needed! It wasn’t the one I’d lost, but it was an unused ticket into the palace and gardens!! Trotting through the last two streets, I arrived at the Palazzo (which was just as overwhelming to see in person as the Duomo) and entered with little idea of what I’d find.

If you speak to anyone who has visited Florence, they’d undoubtedly rave about the Uffizi Gallery and Academia. I don’t doubt they enjoyed these places, but for me, the galleries are overrated. The Palazzo Pitti, however, is a wonder! I’m surprised it doesn’t get more attention. I expected to find the same style of art as the Uffizi and figured an hour would be enough time to explore, but I actually RAN OUT OF TIME!!

The Palazzo Pitti, the home of renowned historical figures like the Medicis, is a true spectacle! Its artwork and rooms were wonderful to explore. I loved the nature captured in each room — and the lack of naked people, lol. I was also astonished to find an exhibit about Rudolf Levy, a German artist who lived in Italy until the Nazis arrested him on December 12, 1943, for being a Jew. I’m still not sure why his work was displayed in the Palazzo, but it was moving to admire his art and read about his life. His final painting, Woman Playing the Guitar, remains unfinished and gave me chills because it personified how all of us will ultimately die with unfinished symphonies (shout out to Jordan Raynor).

Florence Day Three – Final Day to Explore and Sightsee

My final day in Florence was a mad rush of shopping for gifts and visiting the final places on my list. After walking more than 140km in two weeks, I was worn out, but I pushed myself to complete the trip.

Strolling through the various markets, I breathed in the strong leather aroma as I picked out souvenirs for my family before crossing the Ponte Vecchio to return to the Pitti Palace. This time, however, I visited the Boboli Gardens, which were a lot larger than I anticipated. By the time I arrived, the thought of climbing more stairs was as appealing to me as eating a plate of mushrooms, so after resting on a grassy hill (which activated my allergies), I decided to call it a day and follow my Airbnb host’s recommendation to go to the Piazzale Michelangelo for my final sunset. Had I known about the steep ascent to the Piazzale, I wouldn’t have done it. Nevertheless, I persevered, appreciating my determined stubbornness upon reaching the summit. As the sun set over Florence, the sky turned the city red, highlighting its beauty and magnificence. The Piazzale thrummed with people as they arrived with picnics and drinks to celebrate the end of the day. I found a space on the stairs of the Viale Giuseppe Poggi, which gave me the perfect view of the Duomo in the distance as a band parked at the bottom of the stairs to serenade us with their music. It was truly a beautiful grand finale to my epic two-week Italian adventure!

On my walk to the train station, I savored my final glimpse of Florence, surprised by how much I’d miss it. As I reminisced on the trip, my ears perked at the sound of water ahead. In what felt like a random place on the road back to the city’s center, I discovered the most beautiful fountain I’ve ever seen. After it was abandoned over 100 years ago, the Sistema della Rampe del Poggo was recently restored to a stunning landmark. If you want to know more about this incredible water system, Architectural Digest describes it perfectly in their article: A 19th-Century Florentine Landmark is Painstakingly Restored to Its Former Glory.

The Biggest Takeaway from My Italian Adventure

My time in Italy was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While I wouldn’t recommend squeezing as many places into the schedule as I did, I understand the temptation to absorb it all in one trip. Italy deserves more, though. From its food, wine, cities, history, and culture, everything demands to be savored and enjoyed rather than rushed. I think that was the biggest takeaway from my trip. At its core, Italy is about community and family. Whether you’re traveling solo or with a group, I highly recommend experiencing at least one authentic Italian meal that savors the tradition of sitting around the table and spending hours talking while you enjoy many courses of delicious food. We’re always looking at what’s next, but the present is here, and it’s asking us to enjoy it!

I’m counting down the days until I can return to Italy. (2025?) It is a remarkable country that stole a piece of my heart. However, it’s time to prepare for the next adventure that’s calling my name. Can you guess where I’m heading? 😉

Follow My Footsteps and Discover the Places I Went

Pictures From My Adventure:

IMG_1733
IMG_0142 2
IMG_0151 2
IMG_0154
IMG_0160
IMG_0167
IMG_0172
IMG_0176
IMG_0192
IMG_0241
IMG_0278
28E73690-6D56-48C4-8DD9-6B4752095921
IMG_0298
IMG_0302
IMG_0326
IMG_0311
IMG_0387
IMG_0738
IMG_0753
IMG_0758
504714b3-772e-4630-8817-7dd31af4d3bc
IMG_0760
IMG_0765
IMG_0771
eb607ef2-cedd-4d45-ad2b-66ab142c789c 2
IMG_0848
IMG_0834
IMG_0847
IMG_0860
IMG_1674
IMG_0859
IMG_0862
IMG_0867
IMG_0876
IMG_0881
IMG_0898
IMG_0899
IMG_0907
IMG_0916
IMG_0920
IMG_0930
IMG_0926
IMG_0942
IMG_0947
IMG_0957
IMG_0971
IMG_0972
IMG_1618
IMG_1622
IMG_1631
IMG_1634
IMG_1638
IMG_1656
IMG_1677
IMG_1681
IMG_1689
IMG_1696
IMG_1697
IMG_1710
IMG_1722
IMG_1725
IMG_1748
IMG_1759
IMG_1772
IMG_1796
IMG_1819
IMG_1822
IMG_1826
IMG_1881
IMG_1884
PlayPause
previous arrow
next arrow
 
IMG_1733
IMG_0142 2
IMG_0151 2
IMG_0154
IMG_0160
IMG_0167
IMG_0172
IMG_0176
IMG_0192
IMG_0241
IMG_0278
28E73690-6D56-48C4-8DD9-6B4752095921
IMG_0298
IMG_0302
IMG_0326
IMG_0311
IMG_0387
IMG_0738
IMG_0753
IMG_0758
504714b3-772e-4630-8817-7dd31af4d3bc
IMG_0760
IMG_0765
IMG_0771
eb607ef2-cedd-4d45-ad2b-66ab142c789c 2
IMG_0848
IMG_0834
IMG_0847
IMG_0860
IMG_1674
IMG_0859
IMG_0862
IMG_0867
IMG_0876
IMG_0881
IMG_0898
IMG_0899
IMG_0907
IMG_0916
IMG_0920
IMG_0930
IMG_0926
IMG_0942
IMG_0947
IMG_0957
IMG_0971
IMG_0972
IMG_1618
IMG_1622
IMG_1631
IMG_1634
IMG_1638
IMG_1656
IMG_1677
IMG_1681
IMG_1689
IMG_1696
IMG_1697
IMG_1710
IMG_1722
IMG_1725
IMG_1748
IMG_1759
IMG_1772
IMG_1796
IMG_1819
IMG_1822
IMG_1826
IMG_1881
IMG_1884
previous arrow
next arrow

Spread the word. Share this post!

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

* indicates required
Name *
Email Address *