Friday Feature: Florence, Italy

ann-ueno-florence-italyFlorence.  One of the most touristy cities of Italy, but completely warranted and understandably so.  Holding the capital title in Tuscany and considered the birthplace of The Renaissance,  Florence is rich in history and is deemed one of the most beautiful cities in the world by Forbes.  I wholeheartedly agree.  And you will too if you go or if you have been.  Many people asked me what day trips I would take from Florence.  None.  I actually think there is so much to see and do in Florence that I would wonder why anyone would want to leave the city for the day.

Tiny, cobblestone streets that barely fit a Mini Cooper yet are jammed with people, bikes, outdoor cafes and Vespas zipping by.  Food that is what you imagine and hope Italian food to be.  Fresh pastas covered lightly in olive oil, tomatoes and basil.  Steak Florentine that would potentially convert a vegetarian.  Creamy, dark chocolate and pistachio flavored gelato that you dream about over and over again.  A city you can walk and walk and bump into leather markets and farmers markets and piazzas and pizzerias.  Shoe boutiques, paperies, clothing stores. Florence is one of the reasons I love Italy so much and when I come back, Florence will be one of my stops.  Until then, let me take you through a few highlights of our time in Firenze!

The hotel.  We had booked three nights at the Hotel Brunellleschi and upon arrival, they were oversold and had to send us to The Grand Hotel Villa Cora, a five-star resort about 10 minutes from the city center of Florence by car.  Disappointed we were.  Until we arrived.  It was a beautiful oasis you only see in the movies.  Seriously.  The design of this mansion had me running around shooting every possible 19th century chair and landscape I possibly could.  If you are looking for an upscale hotel stay, want to splurge and be a bit away from the hustle and bustle of Florence (especially during peak season where there are so many tourists everywhere!), I would highly recommend this hotel.

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The food.  Yes, I know, really surprising that I blog about the Italian food from our travel.s

  1.   Le Pool Bistrot at The Grand Hotel Villa Cora.  The first night we were there, we didn’t want to leave the property as it was so wonderful.  And the menu here looked creative and unique so we went for it.  I wouldn’t recommend making a trip to this restaurant, but, if you are staying at the hotel, definitely experience it.  It was worth it!
  2. We had a quick drink and aperitif at The Golden View Open Bar which overlooks The Ponte Vecchio bridge and offers really nice views, especially at sunset.  Slightly touristy, but I would recommend it for a drink before dinner.
  3. We experienced two really traditional Osteria’s of which both I would recommend.  Boccanegra and Osteria Cipolla Rossa.  Go and go.
  4. For lunches, we honestly stumbled into places and of course, every single place was amazing.  Do the same.
  5. Last, I LOVED the gelato at a gelateria called Bellamia.  But, I won’t say it was the best that Italy has to offer.  Why?  Because in my experience, every single serving of the ice-cold creamed yuminess was amazing.  This one just stood out for me.

Shopping.  I did the most damage here.  The shoe outlet store by Hotel Brunelleschi (we ended up there for our last night). The leather market where I became friends with Lorenzo and plunged into love for a black, form-fitting leather jacket.  The jewelry store near the train station.  The paperies.  The markets on the Piazza Repubblica.  The list goes on.  As does my credit card bill.

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The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the main church of Florence.  You will most often hear it be called Il Duomo.  Seeing this amazing church 15 years ago was breathtaking.  And it was as breathtaking, if not more, today.  It’s one of the main tourist attractions in Florence and you honestly see it from almost every single place you are walking, eating, sitting, shopping.  I personally think the outside is more beautiful than the inside.  However, I still recommend doing the tour inside.  And this time, inside, I lit a candle.  I lit a candle and stopped and released all thoughts into a few quiet moments in this beautiful church.  I stopped to pray for the women in my bible study.  That they would all experience becoming mothers to healthy babies.  And I prayed for all women out there that have struggled with loss and confusion and pain while trying to have a baby.  I will always remember Il Duomo in Florence for that very moment.

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Duomo in Florence

Last, I just am in love with the beauty of Florence.  At every single turn, there is a moment, a plate of food, a historical element that must be captured with the lens.  It’s filled with the lovely sound of Italian voices and the smells of the most delicious pizza and pasta you will eat.  Ahhh, Florence.  Thank you for your hospitality, for making my jeans a bit tighter and my smile a little wider.

{Photography Credit: All images in this post are my own.  Please give credit where credit is deserved 🙂  Grazie!}

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