Okay, now that I’ve gotten the most exciting part of the trip documented and shared, I’d love to go back and chronicle the rest of the journey. I’m taking the travel blog back to its roots!
The day we left for our trip to Italy, I had no idea where we were going. Matt kept this secret locked up so tightly, that he was the only person (that I know of) with any clue as to our destination. I’d spent the last month trying to coerce him into telling me, but as the travel date neared, I backed off quite a bit, because I realized just how excited I was to be surprised. When Matt and I arrived at the Malaga airport, I didn’t even look at the screens to figure it out – I knew the time we were leaving, so that probably would have given it away. It wasn’t until we stepped up to the Swiss Air desk that it all started to reveal itself. Matt still made me stand back away from the desk, which I would find out later, was a good thing. When he finally handed over the tickets and let me look, Zurich was the destination staring back at me. We’d been to Zurich before, but only for a few hours, so I was thrilled to do more exploring of Switzerland!
Halfway through the flight, though, Matt pulled something out of his bag and handed it to me. At this point, I was sure Zurich was our final destination, but when I realized he’d handed me more flight tickets, I couldn’t believe it. The sneaky guy purposely booked us a connecting flight to further his subterfuge! I pulled out the ticket, read Florence, and started half squealing (silently, for the sake of the other passengers), half thanking him profusely. It’s been a dream to explore Italy since I was in college and had no idea I’d ever be living abroad, and here Matt was helping make it come true!
We landed in Florence in the early evening and hopped in a cab to the hotel. We stayed at the Golden Tower Hotel, a charming hotel in the heart of the city. For anyone travelling abroad, I highly recommend trying to stay in the heart of the city. It makes everything easier – you can walk to anything, you avoid paying for cabs, and if you want to venture out, you can usually hop on a train. Oh, and the huge plus is there is great food everywhere and just seconds away! We dropped off our bags and immediately went in search of great food. Thus began the week-long gorge on pizza and pasta…needless to say, I’m not proud of it today (my waistline reprimanded me).
We found a great spot just around the corner from our hotel on a small square. It was then that I realized we were in Chianti country, my favorite kind of red wine (thanks Dad, for putting me onto it). Some red wine and three-quarters of a pizza later, I was full, happy, and overwhelmed at the thought of ten days in Italy with Matt.
Following dinner, Matt and I did some night time exploring – we stumbled across a beautiful leather shop full of journals, walked along the river, and listened to some live music on the Ponte Vecchio overlooking the Arno River. The Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence, once built by the ruling family of Florence to aid their movement throughout the city. It’s an extremely unique bridge in the sense that there shops built on its edges held up by stilts. The Ponte Vecchio was the last stop on our night time tour, though, as it was time to turn in for the night.
We spent the next day in true tourist fashion – walking, walking, walking. Unfortunately, on Mondays in Florence (and many places in Italy for that matter), most attractions are closed. We couldn’t go into the Uffizi Gallery or to see Michaelangelo’s real David statue, in the Accademia dell’Arte del Disegno. Therefore, we took in the sights available to us from the streets. We went to the Loggia dei Lanzi, which is basically like an open-air sculpture museum, we checked out the Piazza della Repubblica (we later enjoyed a glass of champagne in this piazza), and we visited the Duomo, both inside and out. The architectural artistry I find interesting about Florence’s Cathedral is the marbling, especially the faded color of green. It’s very different from other cathedrals I’ve seen in Europe. The inside was much less impressive than others like the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur or Notre Dame in Paris, or the Duomo in Milan. However, I did find it interesting that churches in Italy ask that you adhere to a “dress code,” i.e. shoulders covered and a “shadow on the knee.” I didn’t know that before going, but luckily enough, even though it was scorching outside, I’d worn an outfit that fit the dress code.
That evening we dined at a restaurant that I felt was one of the best we had over the entire trip. I’d heard somewhere that if you have to wait in line for a restaurant in Italy, chances are that the food is worth the wait. As we were searching for dinner, we noticed a line outside of a quaint restaurant and took our chances waiting. Boy was I happy that we did. My pasta was SO GOOD!!! Wide noodles, perfectly flavored sausage, diced red pepper, and of course, big chunks of parmesan cheese. Funny enough, Matt wasn’t as impressed as I was, stating that the seating was uncomfortable and his pizza the night before was better, but we don’t have to agree on everything. ;)
As our evening came to a close, so did our time in Florence. Yet, I was still in the dark as to where we’d be travelling next. With one surprise revealed, it looked as though I’d have many more to come!