So today, Jake will be writing this post. I wanted him to give his perspective on the Florence portion of our Italy trip. He was reluctant and accused me of being lazy. He said that I was only using him to get out having to write this post and that he will not be manipulated. I tried convincing him that he is a better writer and that readers will enjoy his perspective. He still didn’t buy it, but he agreed in exchange for some homemade cinnamon rolls. That’s a tough bargain because those suckers are not easy to make! Jake has become a pastry eater over the last year and Italy and Florence did not help suffocate those recent cravings. With that being said, I will now turn the post over to my wonderful husband, whom I love deeply, and appreciate immensely for taking time out of his busy schedule to write this post. I’ll just be over here on the couch eating chocolate and drinking soda. What??
Yep, Jake here, and I brokered a deal in exchange for writing this post. I refuse to admit that I can be manipulated. I also know without a doubt that Emily does not actually think I’m a better writer.(Emily here..I absolutely do think Jake is a better writer.) She just really wanted to get out of writing this blog and she knows that you attract more flies with honey! If I’m being honest, writing a post is not an easy task. By the end, you are tired of writing. You don’t care that your grammar stinks. And every time you reread it, you realize there is something you left out. In fact, its not much fun at all. Emily, get over here and finish this! Kidding, I really need you to actually go start making those cinnamon rolls.
Well, back to Florence. The most difficult part of the Florence trip was getting from the train station to our first hotel. I’ll get to that story in a moment. But Let me first say, the speed trains in Italy are awesome! I so enjoyed traveling by train. The Seats are comfortable, plus there is a food car. And you just sit back and enjoy the ride. It took about an hour and half to get from Rome to Florence. This was our first of many experiences on the train and they all went so smoothly. Florence is the birth place of the renaissance, and it was truly a city with an entirely different feel. It felt like we were in another ancient world. But then outside of the city, you have the beauty of the Tuscan horizon that is so famous in movies. It really is two different environments. Florence gave us a little bit of everything and was probably the most visually stimulating city we visited.
First, upon arrival into Florence, we exited the train station into a downstairs area that looked like a mall. Emily google mapped our hotel and found that it was located 0.03 kilometers away. In my head, that sounded like walking distance to me. I should tell you that we didn’t pack heavy, but we didn’t pack light either. Emily had a large suitcase on wheels. I had medium suitcase on wheels. I had a leather duffel bag and we both had a backpack, plus the baby stroller. My normal routine would be to roll the big suitcase with my duffel bag on top in one hand, while I pull my medium suitcase with the other hand. I would also wear both back packs while Emily either pushed Crew in the stroller or carried Crew in her arms. On this particular day, Crew was in her stroller and I was carrying everything else.
After walking several blocks in the underground mall, we finally came out on the street level. We get our navigation situated and we start heading toward the hotel. However, in Florence, her phone GPS would not always work and so we started heading in the wrong direction. We realize we are headed in the wrong direction and we re-navigate our GPS. Don’t forget, I’m carrying the entire set of luggage. I’m slightly warm by this point. Sweat is starting to drip from my forehead.
Florence sidewalks are extremely narrow and the streets are cobblestone making it impossible to pull the bags. We begin heading toward our hotel again. I can’t pull the bags; the sidewalks are so narrow that I can only pull one bag behind me, especially with oncoming people. So, I find myself having to carry the medium bag in the air by its handle in front of me while dragging the big suitcase behind me. Not a light item at all, while pulling the other bag behind me. I have a full sweat happening. And my shirt is soaked. I have to ask Emily to stop multiple times so I can readjust the bags and I’m not even sure we are heading in the right direction at this point! I cannot express the level of frustration I was feeling during that walk. At one point, I think Emily tells me, “I’m not hot at all.” (Emily again…I’m roaring reading this because I can remember innocently saying that and seeing the look of smoldering frustration deep in those baby blues) I seriously think I lost 5 lbs on that walk alone and all Emily could do is laugh during it. Not helpful.
We finally arrived at our hotel. I was a sweaty mess walking into very nice and clean hotel. I chose two hotels for our stay in Florence. The first was a hotel and spa named Palazzo Castri 1874. I made my decisions based on Trip Advisor and it had a traveler ranking of #5 or #6 out 421 hotels in Florence. I really do depend on Trip Advisor and Expedia when I choose my hotels. They have yet to let me down. And Palazzo Castri 1874 lived up the ranking. It’s funny because I met a British couple at the hotel, and they said they chose Palazzo based on Trip Advisor as well. During our entire Italy trip, we stayed at two hotels with spas. And the spa at Palazzo Castri was amazing. The pool was half indoor and half outdoor. There was a lounge area in the pool where you push a button and jets massage your body while you lay in a lawn chair position. Emily also booked a massage at this hotel, and returned very happy! She loves her massages, so I was happy to pay for one if it meant I was free from providing it.
The Rooms were very clean and we had a wonderful view from our window on the 4th floor. I love that almost every hotel we stayed at in Italy had huge open windows. Palazzo Castri also had a wonderful breakfast every morning. Why didn’t we take pictures of the breakfast?? Italy was the first time in all my travels with Emily, that she made a serious effort to get out of bed in the mornings so she wouldn’t miss breakfast. The Palazzo also had a wonderful patio area. It was very green and the perfect place to enjoy a cappuccino. The pictures of me drinking a cappuccino above are from the hotel patio area. If Emily didn’t tell you, I’ve become a cappuccino addict since Italy. Italians drink them regularly and everywhere. It’s a different experience than in the United States. In Italy you drink them at an espresso bar while you stand and eat your pastry. Nobody sits down. And they are so much smoother and richer. When I got back to New Mexico, I ordered one from Starbucks. Complete disappointment!!
The city center of Florence has an old beautiful church that was decorated with green, white, and red marble on the entire outside. It’s different from any other church I have ever seen and made Florence even more unique. Florence is also known for its leather goods and huge outdoor markets attempting to sell leather goods. My goal was to find a leather messenger bag for work, but I was unsuccessful. It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s fake. I regret not making a more concentrated effort to find a bag. I also regret not finding a pair of leather made shoes. I had determined I was coming home with one or the other and I returned with neither. We also found an open food market with tons of vendors on the second floor of an old building. We ate there twice. I had fried rabbit the second time. I can now say I’m not a huge fan of rabbit. Emily ate two pizzas by herself and a bowl of pasta. She ate and ate and ate her weight in pizza. I’m not even joking a little bit. (Mrs. Piggy here to tell you that the pizzas are a lot smaller in Italy than in America. Just in case you were thinking I stuffed two larges down my gullet.)
From the Palazzo Castri 1874, we moved to a villa in Tuscany outside the city. Florence is one of the primary cities that makes up the Tuscan country side. I chose the Art Hotel Villa Agape for the view. Yep, that was my only criteria (along with a high rank on trip advisor). And did it ever! It was beautiful and old and well preserved. I wasn’t sure if Emily would appreciate me making us switch hotels (it tends to frustrate her that I like to book multiple hotels in the same city), but when we arrived, she loved it. You couldn’t help but love it. If you look at the pictures above that show the hills and beautiful scenery from the garden, they were all taken at the Art Hotel. The staff was also very friendly. They went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed. I wish we would have been able to stay a second night just to enjoy the view.
Overall, Florence is a must see city. If you have an opportunity to visit, I would recommend both hotels at which we stayed. I really can’t describe to you the beauty of the Tuscany, nor can I describe the atmosphere of the amazing streets of Florence. It’s just something you have to see in person. What I can describe to you is the frustration of carrying my bags to the hotel while my wife laughs and the tremendous amount of food my wife consumed. I love you. You are welcome. Where are my cinnamon rolls?