I hope everyone’s Tuesday is going well. It was actually sunny in Boston today!
Last week, I shared part one of the two-week vacation my boyfriend and I took to Europe this summer. This week, I thought I would share part two, which includes our final stops in Italy.
After leaving Rome, we got on the bus to travel onward to Florence. During the bus ride, we stopped for a couple hours in a small medieval town called San Gimignano. As we drove up the hill to the town center, we passed thousands upon thousands of acres of olive and grape fields. That day was literally the only day that it rained the entire trip and the countryside looked pretty spectacular in the mist, so I could only imagine what it looked like during the day. Of course, all of our jackets and rain stuff was packed in our suitcases under the bus, so we had to make do with what we had, which were two hoodies. No worries.
Walking through the town, we felt like we were walking back in time. The architecture was incredible! After getting meat sandwiches and eating them under an awning to get out of the rain, we walked around, and eventually made our way up towards the top of the town.
The views were spectacular! Too bad it was raining so much, as I’m sure on a clear day we could see much more. After a couple hours we met back up with the bus and made our way to Florence!
Upon arriving in Florence, we checked into our hotel. This was my FAVORITE hotel of the entire trip! It looked like it was an old apartment building or house made into a hotel; there were probably 20 different staircases, and we all got lost trying to find our rooms. Every floor had a sitting area with different magazines and books. There was period furniture and decor — so Italian! Our room was the cutest thing in the world, including the tiny bathroom that Bernie did NOT fit in. This became a theme of the trip.
The first night there, we did a little walking tour of the city center. We saw some statues, and walked around a bit before heading off to a group dinner. Bernie FINALLY got his steak at dinner — the balsamic steak. Apparently, we ate it wrong, but he enjoyed it all the same.
Florence Day 2
We began day two in Florence with a leather shop tour. Florence is the leather capital of Italy so we went to a leather shop to learn how they treat leather, how to recognize real leather, and how they make items out of leather. It was short and sweet. I was a little disappointed because I thought we would be walking through a factory, but instead, we sat in a room and the woman explained everything to us in about 15 minutes. Then it was time to shop. I picked up a bunch of souvenirs from the shop and even watched them emboss letters on one of the souvenir items.
Then it was tour time! Since we were spoiled with Pietre, our incredible and funny tour guide from Rome, we had high expectations. Our guide in Florence was very nice and she had A LOT to fit into an hour walking tour. We saw the copy of the Statue of David, Piazza della Repubblica, some really awesome bridges, (including the only one that Hitler didn’t bomb in WWII — apparently he liked it) the baptistery, Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, and the bell tower.
After walking around, we decided to climb the Duomo with Clinton and Holly, two Contiki friends. The tour guide said that it would take about half an hour to climb all 400ish steps to the top. We decided we were up for the challenge! As we climbed, we noticed how small the staircases were. Bernie could barely fit in a lot of them.
He must have hit his head about 4 times going up and down. If you were over my height (5’4″) you were going to have problems. At one point, the staircases go from two to just one staircase to go up and down. There were some traffic jams, but people were mostly friendly and courteous. Then we got to the dome section.
Holy cow! We didn’t realize that the inside of the duomo was painted with such detail. The fresco on the inside is called “The Last Judgement” which features the seven layers of hell. We were in awe! Talk about worth it!
Before we knew it, we made it to the top. The view from the top of the Duomo is worth every painful step and every bumped head. I just wanted to shout “I’m the king of the world!” at the top of my lungs. It was a gorgeous clear day and we could see for miles and miles. We took a million pictures and spent a good 20 minutes up there scouting out houses that looked cool. We found one with a pool on top!
After making our way carefully down, we worked up an appetite and found a tiny sandwich shop that our tour guide had suggested. When I say tiny, I mean TINY! It was literally maybe 50 square feet and had a counter and wall shelves with drinks and other items. It was also 200 feet away from the pizza place that the Jersey Shore kids worked in – go figure. I got a delicious meat, cheese, and arugula sandwich while Bernie went off with Clinton to go get one of Florence’s delicacies, Lampredotto, aka: the fourth stomach of the cow. Immediately upon hearing what it was, I was not interested. When he came back with it, it looked like meat in some sort of spicy broth. Sounds promising.
I will kid you not, it was good. There were some parts of it that were a little too gelatinized for my liking. But overall it was good. The tripe (that’s basically what it is) was tender and the broth was to DIE for! Spicy and full of flavor. Apparently it didn’t always look this good however. Bernie said to me, “If you saw what it looked like when they were making it, you wouldn’t be eating it.” I guess they pulled the lampredotto from a big vat and just slapped it on the flattop in it’s full glory before cutting it up and mixing it with the broth. Yum.
Once we were done, we headed back to the hotel for a clubbing night out in Florence. A summary of our drunken dinner and trip to “Space” is coming next week, kiddos!