After 14 hours, 3 different planes and a total of 22 hours of travel, we finally landed at our Northern Italy destination, the Florence airport. This airport was smaller than most, but the bags came out quickly and it was easy to navigate to Budget Car Rental where I rented the tiniest, 4-door Clio. The women at the counter gave me a lot of crap about the fact that I accidentally booked 9 cars instead of just one, making it a point of actually showing me the print-out of the reservations (expedia wasn’t working properly that day…I swear!) Welcome to Italy! We were given the keys, a road map and sent on our merry way. Here’s a valuable tip: You may not want your first driving experience in Northern Italy to be in the heart of Florence! Though I was armed with directions and a road map, it was pure luck that after a half hour we located the first hotel. It took another 30 minutes to figure out how to make it to the parking spot that was on a one way street. (Cost: 2 flights to Florence, $1583, 9 day car rental, $467)
This Northern Italy hotel was highly recommended on tripadvisor.com and offered free parking, score! When we arrived the pleasant women at the front desk informed us that we could only have parking when it was available, otherwise it costs 12 euros a night. Luckily,there was one spot left, we parked the car and vowed to not move it for two nights! The staff at the hotel are very friendly and they all speak English well. The rooms were outdated, yet clean and charming. The bed might have been the hardest one I have ever slept on, but after all it took travel to Northern Italy, sleeping was not a problem! They offer a mediocre free breakfast that consisted of cereal, coffee, juice and pastries, but I would highly recommend stopping by a pasticceria in the morning and indulging in one of their homemade delicacies. The location of the hotel was just on the outskirts from the center of town, but we were able to walk everywhere. (Cost: $60 per night)
Even though I hadn’t slept for over 24 hours, it was only 3:00pm in Italy and there was no way I was going to sit in the hotel when a whole new world was ready to be explored—there were so many things to do in Florence! My first thoughts as we stepped outdoors was that it looked strikingly similar to San Francisco, graffiti and no parking!
NOTE DI VINO
We stumbled across our first Enoteca Wine Bar, Note Di Vino, and dived in for an Italian Happy Hour. The walls were lined with oils, vinegars and wines for sale. We took a seat at the tiniest table ever and ordered Chianti Classico. They were offering a selection of complimentary crostini. Italian happy hour? I was in heaven. We munched on the Vegetable, Garlic Oil and Classic Tomato toasts for free! I would imagine that on a warm summer night the outdoor tables would be filled, but tonight there were only a few of the locals enjoying their freebies. I was trying to save room for dinner, but I had to grab one more piece of crunchy bread before heading out to continue our exploration. (Cost: 5 Euro per glass of wine)
PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA
We quickly headed over to the famous Norther Italy Piazza della Signoria to witness the Fountain of Neptune, Palazzo Vecchio and Loggia dei Lanzi before it was too dark. Built in the late thirteenth century, it is the center of Florentine life. I am not a “artsy/gallery” sort of girl, but I couldn’t help being taken aback by the numerous famous statues that stood before us; Hercules and Cacus, replica of David and The Rape of the Sabine Women. We spent a great amount of time at this Northern Italy attraction taking photos from every angle, each one being artwork in it self.
Dinner time! Restaurants in Italy typically don’t open until 7:30pm and Cibeo Trattoria was no exception. So when we arrived right at opening time we only shared the restaurant with one other table. Eating so late was going to take some getting used to! The staff was exactly what I expected from the Italians; charming, engaging and funny. The waiter offered to translate the entire menu, which was necessary. I started my meal with Ricotta & Potato Sformato, it was similar in texture to a flan and absolutely delicious! For my entree I ordered the Eggplant Parmigian which was nothing like the one you would find in the United States, no bread crumbs in sight. My husband ordered the Veal Meatloaf which was served as a cold dish. We both agreed that it would have made a better appetizer than entree, but who are we to argue with the Italian ways. (Cost: 57 Euro, 1 appetizer, 2 entrees & 2 glasses of wine)
Okay, by this time I have surprisingly been awake for 30 hours, it was time to say goodnight to my first day in Italy!
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