Sunday, November 3, 2013


Florence was probably the place I was most excited to visit. I had heard so many incredible things about Florence and about how you never have enough time there so we set aside more days for Florence than any other city. I should start by saying I thought Florence was really really awesome and definitely a place worth seeing. But I also want to note that I think it's a little over-hyped. I've heard many people say that Florence is even better than Rome. Let me just put that rumor to rest right now haha. Florence, in my opinion, is in no way better than Rome. It's not even a close competition. Florence has a few breathtaking sights: The Uffizi Gallery, Michaelangelo's David, the Duomo (outside) and the statues around Piazza Della Signoria. But if you just see these sights and walk around the Pont Vecchio (famous bridge with all the fancy jewelry shops on it) in the evening, you could be completely satisfied in your visit to Florence (though it's a different story if you intend to see anywhere in the Tuscan countryside). In light of this, I think you could see the best of Florence in two days if you hurried and three days if you moseyed about. Rome, on the other hand, has COUNTLESS amazing sights. You really could tour Rome for a month and still find new incredible things to see every day. So if you are planning a trip to Italy and are wondering where to spend your time, I recommend making Rome a priority over Florence. Okay I hope that wasn't too down on Florence haha. Like I said, it's still an awesome place to see.

Anyways... Now that I’ve told you all the best places to see, I’ll share some pictures and stories from when we visited these places. First up, Uffizi Gallery...

On our first day in Florence we did a guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery and it was absolutely the PERFECT way to start our Florence visit. Our tour guide was awesome, the art and her explanations were fascinating, and the tour gave us a great base of knowledge about Florence so that we could enjoy the rest of the city. The biggest downside of the Uffizi is that no pictures are allowed inside. But I still wanted to show a few of our favorite paintings from the Uffizi so here are some downloaded pictures:

This is possibly my favorite Madonna I've seen, even though I'm sure she is completely historically inaccurate cause of her blonde hair. But I just think she has such an angelic-looking face.

And, of course, the most famous painting at the Uffizi is the Birth of Venus by Botticelli...

 Next we spent some time just walking around the Piazza Della Signoria and enjoying the beautiful fountain and sculptures there:
 Below is a the "Rape of the Sabine Women" statue...But "rape" when it was named actually meant "abduction." This Sabine woman is being abducted by a Roman man to be made his wife. You can see as she tries to catch one last look at her husband below while she is carried away.
 The sculpture on the right (below) is a very popular scene to sculpt: when Hercules kills the centaur for kidnapping his wife. I'm not sure what the statue on the left is depicting. The picture below this is one I took of Reed when he was lost haha. I could tell he wasn't listening to me when I was trying to tell him where I was going so I just left. But I kept an eye on him, knowing eventually he would stop reading his map and realize his wife was gone. Don't worry, I didn't let him wander for too long...

 This is a little out of chronological order but here are a couple shots of this Piazza at night...

 Before spending the rest of the evening walking around the Pont Vecchio bridge and enjoying the night time entertainment, we had an awesome meal that started with this delicious appetizer (4 different kinds of sausage/salami, a bunch of cheeses and 4 different kinds pate’s on bruschetta- olive, artichoke, liver (not my favorite), and yellow pepper):

 Pont Vecchio:
 Nighttime entertainment on the Pont Vecchio.

 The next day we got a rare shopping bug and spent way more money than we should have on these extremely sexy leather jackets ☺ (don't mind the fact that this jacket absolutely does not work with Reed's shorts haha).

 Not very responsible spending but I don’t even regret it! What we DO regret, however, was wasting time and money on these terrible “gardens” (just a bunch of trees, weeds and wild grass with a few moss-covered or decaying statues). These gardens are called the Boboli Gardens…Definitely avoid them.

To cheer ourselves up after our unfortunate experience at Boboli we decided to go out for a nice dinner. We looked up a place on Trip Advisor (Il Fagioli) and ordered their famous Florentine Steak. I would highly recommend Il Fagioli to anyone but make sure to get a reservation! The menu is in Italian so our waiter literally went one by one through everything on the menu to describe it to us. The people there are SO sweet and the food was fantastic. Their bruschetta pomodorro was the best we had in all of Italy and the Florentine steak was awesome. You will definitely want to share the steak since 1 kilo is the smallest size they have haha. They won’t even ask you how you want it cooked (they want to cook it the way they believe is the absolute best) and as you can see, some of it was quite on the rare side haha. But it actually didn’t bother us. I ate the least rare parts though and Reed ate the rarer parts. But they didn’t have that gooey texture or bloody flavor that steaks often have when they are more rare. It was an awesome flavor and an awesome ambiance. Great people, great place, great food. What more can you ask for? ☺

On our third day we went to see Michelangelo’s David. You aren’t allowed to take pictures of the David but he was just as impressive as everybody says. One detail we really liked was how his brow is furrowed as he contemplates the difficult task ahead of him (this statue is right before he kills Goliath). It’s little details in sculptures like furrowed brows, wrinkly skin, bulging veins in the muscles working hardest, or indentations in skin and muscles where pressure is being applied that really set amazing sculptures apart from good sculptures. The most impressive thing about David of course is just his sheer size. He is truly gigantic. Seeing him was definitely a highlight of our trip. What was NOT a highlight though was waiting in line to go see him :-/.
 We actually didn’t wait that long because the long line the day before encouraged us to wake up really early so we could be in line when it opened and that was smart. Florence attractions all have really long lines though so I definitely would recommend making reservations (it costs a bit extra but it would be worth it…we didn’t find out about the possibility for that until too late). After seeing the David we went over to the Duomo. The Duomo is really indescribable and pictures can’t even give you an idea for why it’s so amazing because it’s just SO massive. You can’t even capture more than a fourth of it in a photo unless you go up to a view farther away. While I think you absolutely have to see the outside of the Duomo in Florence (and you will, you can’t even miss it), you do NOT have to see the inside. So if there is no line, go on in but if there is, it’s really not worth it. Unlike the outside, the inside of the Duomo is EXTREMELY boring (no décor, just plain blocks) except for the paintings of the final judgment in the actual dome. And while these paintings are very beautiful, they are certainly not worth waiting in a line for since many cathedrals/basilicas in Italy will have equally impressive artwork. Also I’m adding a picture of the paintings right here so now you don’t even need to go in at all ☺. Note that these pics may have been taken on different days and at different times because we saw the Duomo like everyday while walking around in Florence and I just chose a few of my favorite photos.

 The final judgment in the Duomo.

 At the end of the day we went up to Piazza Del Michelangelo to watch the sunset over Florence. We also walked around to look at paintings a bit as we always enjoy doing in European cities.


Oh and this should have been placed on the day we went to the gardens but we had fantastic gelato at this place called “Café Pont Vecchio” (on the Pont Vecchio, obviously). It was a little on the pricey side but really delicious (so good I finished it before we could even take a picture!). However, I think this place called "Serafino" close to our apartment was even slightly better and much cheaper (though a little out of the way). If you go there, Reed and I highly recommend getting strawberry and kiwi gelato together. Another great place for gelato is Eduardo’s right by the Duomo. They pride themselves in producing all natural gelato and it’s really yummy.

Oh and we also got a pass to ride the tourist bus around during our days in Florence..which was nice to see the Florence countryside but I actually wouldn't recommend it for the high price because the buses aren't allowed on the streets near most of the main Florence attractions (in Rome, however, I would definitely recommend getting a pass to use the red tourist buses).

On our last day in Florence we actually decided to leave Florence and go out to Siena (about 40 minutes out) because we had felt like we had seen everything we wanted to in Florence. We really loved Siena. The Siena cathedral was particularly amazing. This cathedral is famous for all of it's very unique and beautiful floor artwork. We had never seen anything like it. It keeps surprising us that we are still able to find things in so many cathedrals and basilicas that we have never seen before. Here are some photos from Siena and the Siena Cathedral...

 Inside the baptistry of the cathedral...
Interesting artwork on the side of some building that looks like a woman peeking out of a window...
 We are always eating gelato in Italy...

 These strange bird light things were everywhere along the streets through Siena. They are kinda cool...but mostly weird haha.

Well that's all for Florence!

Venice day 3- Burano

We didn't have a full third day in Venice because we had an afternoon train to Florence. But we felt like we had seen everything we wanted to in Venice itself so we decided to follow the advice of one of my friends and take a little boat out to see the island of Burano. We are SO glad we did. The houses in Burano are all painted the most vibrant colors and made for some fabulous picture. Burano was historically a fishing town so the story behind the bright houses is that fishermen wanted to be able to see their homes from far away at sea so they painted them extremely bright colors that would stand out against the blues and greys of the ocean. Who knows if that is true but it seems to make sense :-). We'll let the pictures do the talking in this post.

 Trying to match the buildings...I was more successful than Reed obviously.