Italian Honeymoon Part I
When you think of Florence, Italy, I’m sure a few of the first things that come to mind are the incredible food, the amazing wine, and the most stunning art and architecture that you could ever imagine. The “David” sculpture by Michelangelo, “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli, and the terra-cotta-tiled Duomo engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi are must-sees. Of course the Duomo of the Florence Cathedral is more of a hard-not-see piece on that list. In fact when I think of Florence (or Firenze in Italian), I always imagine it’s distinguished skyline with the stunning Duomo and Gothic bell tower surrounded by the red roofs of the city and enveloped by the Tuscan hillside. I studied art and art history in college so I became very familiar with Florence and the photos of this skyline but to see it with your own eyes is undeniably breathtaking.
In all honesty, we didn’t choose Florence or Italy for our honeymoon for any specific reason. On Valentine’s Day of this year, just two months before we married in Costa Rica, Adam received one of his daily emails from Scott’s Cheap Flights but this one was different. This email had outrageous deals to many European cities leaving from a number of US cities, one of which was our small town of Wilmington, North Carolina. And when I say outrageous, I’m talking $500 round-trip from Wilmington to Florence. There were no extra baggage fees, no cheap-o airlines, and no insane seven-stop flight that makes you question how much of a deal it really was. We talked about it for five minutes and chose Italy because, well, it’s ITALY.
We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon in August and immediately hit the streets. There are a few things to note about Italy in August. First, we wouldn’t recommend visiting during that time if you don’t have to. The weather is hot and humid, sure, but it wasn’t any different than Wilmington. In fact I would say it was probably cooler there. What you want to stay away from is the over-whelming number of tourists in the city during this time. Europeans take holiday in August. For Italians, especially, the height of the summer is August 15th when they celebrate Ferragosto which coincides with the Assumption of Mary.
In years past, cities shut down in August as Italians closed shop and headed to the beach. Thankfully, that’s not the case any longer. Of course a few restaurants on our list closed. But there are so many incredible places to eat. We did not feel as though we missed out on an authentic Italian experience.
And speaking of incredible food and experiences, the San Lorenzo Market was the first place we went when we arrived. Seriously, we dropped our bags at the Airbnb, changed clothes, and made a bee line for the market. I knew more places would be closed the next day for Ferragosto and I wanted to make sure we had the essentials to nibble on by the Arno River. You know, cheese and bread mostly. It was a bit overwhelming at first as there are so many options and everything is beautifully displayed. We ate made-from-scratch pasta with a bottle of Rosé and bought our Buffalo mozzarella, fresh baked bread, and another bottle (or two) of vino on the way out. It was the perfect beginning to our Italian holiday.
After a good night’s sleep and a lazy, espresso filled morning we took to the streets once again. We never really planned out our daily adventures. It was more of an “I’d like to see this at some point” and we would stroll in that general direction taking in all the things between point A and point B. That morning the Piazzale Michelangelo was our destination by way of the Piazza del Duomo, the Basilica de Santa Croce, and a pre-lunch gelato. Hey, wine and gelato are acceptable all day, every day in Italy. That’s what we told ourselves anyway.
Here’s a little secret about the view from the Piazzale Michelangelo. It’s amazing but there’s an even better view just up the hill from San Miniato al Monte, or Palace of Bishops. And there was practically no one there. Our guess is that either most people don’t know about it OR they don’t want to trek further up the hill after the hike to the Piazzale Michelangelo. There are buses available if you need a breather because it’s completely worth it.
I really only have one regret from our first trip to Italy and it’s that I wish we would have visited more museums. Here’s the thing though, in August lines to get into museums, even if you bought your ticket in advance, are mercilessly long. The line for the Duomo wrapped around the Duomo. No thank you.
We did, however, make sure to see Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture at the Accademia Gallery. As you turn the corner into the Hall of Prisoners, you are immediately taken by David, in all his glory and perfect light, at the other end of the room. Everyone stares, open mouthed at the statue. Some are even crying. Seriously. Everyone is in awe. And you realize you are a prisoner of Michelangelo and his masterpiece. The room is aptly named the Hall of Prisoners.
A little-known, fun fact about that “perfect light” that envelopes David is that it was not a happy accident. In 1873, the architect Emilio de Fabris constructed a special tribune with a large skylight to shelter the statue.
My absolute favorite spot was the Gelateria della Passera. It’s a bit hidden away but totally worth the treasure hunt. Adam was often more adventurous with his flavors, choosing a different one each time. I, on the other hand, predictably chose lemon. Every. Time. And I had absolutely no regrets with that decision. The Gelateria Santa Trinita was another great spot we found.
When Adam and I travel, we often come home with a lot of photos of us individually. Someone has to take the photo after all. And you can’t just hand a film camera to a fellow tourist and expect to get what you want. So we get creative and find mirrored walls and reflection in a store window.
On our last day in Italy we strolled about the neighborhood around Santo Spirito. This little area was hands down our favorite area of Florence. There are really great restaurants for long lunches or a glass of vino or Aperol Spritz before dinner. It’s in this neighborhood where you can find Florence’s first speakeasy, Rasputin. Adam loves a good speakeasy. Between the delicious cocktails and candlelit, prohibition era ambiance it’s a must-do in Florence night life.
Near the end of the day we found ourselves at the Bardini Villa and Gardens which we would highly recommend over the Boboli Gardens if you are pressed for time or don’t want to deal with the tourists and long lines. We practically had the gardens to ourselves that afternoon. With the exception a cat we found napping on a wall. But seriously, there was no one here and it was gorgeous. I promise I did not edit any people out in these photos.
As Adam and I planned our honeymoon we quickly decided we did not want to travel the entire time. We wanted to stay in a couple of places and soak it all in. We wanted to visit as though we would be back and not feel the pressures of having to see everything. So that is exactly what we did. It would be amazing to visit Florence again. However, there is a great big world out there and we want to see it all.
If you are planning a trip to Florence Italy or Tuscany check out Georgette Jupe’s Instagram @girlinflorence. We found most of our favorite spots from following her and seeing Florence from a local’s perspective. Don’t miss my post on Cinque Terra!