We got to our Airbnb apartment on Florence and buzzed our host Polly at the door. The buzzer downstairs had a camera on it so I knew the whole complex had to be really nice. We got in the elevator and went up to the fourth floor. We were so shocked when the elevator opened up to the penthouse apartment rather than just a hallway. Polly was by far the most personable Airbnb host we have had so far. She was very nice and offered us water right away. She gave us a Florence guide book in English and even said we can eat anything in the fridge for breakfast. She had a bunch of yogurts and bread, butter, and jelly.
She showed us the room, it was the nicest place we had stayed in so far! The room was big and had a closet and air conditioning. We had our own bathroom as well which was huge and had a big tub with jets!
The apartment was very clean and nice. The only thing it was missing was internet access. We thought it was funny that out of all the places we have stayed, this one was the one without wifi.
We settled in and decided to walk around our area. We didn't realize how great our location was until we walked around. We were about 2 blocks from the plaza that had a replica of Michelangelo's David and the Uffizi Gallery. Just a few more blocks in the same direction and you would reach Ponte Vecchio, the famous picturesque bridge that Florence is well known for. A few blocks in the opposite direction was the Duomo.
We loved the location and the feel of the city already. While walking on Ponte Vecchio we got caught in a huge rainstorm that seemed to come out of nowhere. The wind was blowing so hard on the water and everyone was running for a place to escape the rain. The street vendors all immediately pulled out their umbrellas and ponchos and tried to sell them to everyone.
We ducked into a cafe to get some coffee and wifi and to get out of the rain. After spending a little while at the cafe mapping out our days in Florence, we decided to move towards the Santo Spirito area to walk around before dinner. My friend Katie just studied abroad in Florence this past spring so gave me lots of recommendations! She told us that the gnocchi at Osterio Santo Spirito was the best pasta she'd ever had - so we had to try it out. The pasta was great and the wine was cheap, only €2 a glass! The only weird part was when another couple was seated at the table table as us. We were sitting at a four top table across from each other and they were just as surprised as they were when the waiter plopped them down right next to us. An older couple actually left the restaurant before ordering when another couple was seated at their table with them.
Katie also told us to go up to Piazzale Michelangelo up above the city to watch the sunset. We bought some prosecco and got some much needed bug spray and headed up the hill.
We realized we weren't going to make it up the hill before the sunset so we stopped on the bridge we were on. We were on a bridge just east of Ponte Vecchio so had an even better view than the people on Ponte Vecchio since we could see it in front of the sun.
We got talking to a couple on the bridge because they had asked an older man to take some pictures of them and I could tell the woman was not happy with the pictures. I offered to take some more to make sure they got good pictures. After I took several different photos, they were so happy the man asked if he could kiss me on the cheek! We started talking to them a bit and he told us a restaurant to eat at up on the hill and a restaurant to eat at in Greece. Unfortunately, I don't remember either of the restaurant names. He was from Greece and she was from California. He told us about them meeting because a mutual friend asked him to show her around Florence when she came for vacation. He said they fell in love but then she had to go home. While back home, she started taking Italian language classes without telling him. Now she was back, living there, and they were loving Florence.
We decided to get gelato before ending the night, but stopped home to pick up the iPad first. We wanted to bring the iPad with us to get wifi so we could upload some photos from my camera.
We went to a gelato shop just around the corner from the apartment and hung out for a little bit to upload photos and plan out the next day's activities.
We got home after a long day of travel and I couldn't resist a bubble bath in the tub with jets before heading to bed.
Our first stop of the day was supposed to be the Duomo. However, I wasn't really thinking in the morning when I got dressed because I put on shorts. All the street vendors were trying to sell women in shorts, skirts, dresses, or tank tops thin scarves to cover up before entering the Duomo. I didn't want to have to buy something I would never wear again so we got out of line and decided we would go into the Duomo later on the afternoon instead.
The next stop was the markets. We went to Mercato San Lorenzo and Mercato Centrale Firenze. Mercato San Lorenzo was an outdoor market full of vendors selling clothes, jewelry, purses, ties, and all kinds of souvenirs and trinkets. Mercato Centrale Firenze was an indoor food market that was trying to be like Mercado San Miguel in Madrid and La Boqueria in Barcelona but just didn't quite make the cut. It was more cafeteria like whereas in Madrid and Barcelona people actually went to those markets to buy fresh produce and groceries, not just sit and have lunch or buy prepackaged goods for gifts and souvenirs. I did buy a few things at Mercato San Lorenzo though... I found a blue "leather" (still undetermined but it's probably not actually leather) purse and a pair of white linen pants.
Since we had such a nice location, it was easy to stop at home in the middle of the day if we wanted or needed anything. We stopped at home, happy to have air conditioning, so I could change into some pants to go to the Duomo.
We stopped for lunch before going into the Duomo and just split yet another ham and cheese baguette and got two Sprites. This has been the standard meal for us all trip and I'm surprisingly not sick of it at all. As long as it's on a good baguette, I could have a ham and cheese sandwich every day. I've also gotten used to not having anything else on my sandwiches - no mayo or mustard etc.
After a quick lunch, we went inside the Duomo. I believe it's some 800 years old. The inside of the dome has several large cracks but apparently there is a lot of controversy about how to repair them because of the artwork on the inside.
After we finished spending some time and taking pictures at the Duomo, we decided to stop outside our gelateria from the night before to get some wifi. I was able to FaceTime my mom and chat for a little and tell her about Florence.
Next we went to the leather school of Florence. It was really cool to see all the different leather products that were made.
We walked around our area a little more and over to Ponte Vecchio again. We bought a bottle of prosecco and a package of shortbread cookies to bring up to Piazzale Michelangelo for the sunset.
We went up the hill and sat on the steps with all the other people, waiting for the sun to go down. We saw a woman and her daughter that we had seen at dinner in Rome a few days before. It's funny how many people we've recognized or run into multiple times. When we were in Dublin we saw a few girls at Temple Bar who were at Guinness the next day the same time we were. A few days later we saw them walking on the street in London!
We've also seen and met a ton of people with Colorado ties. We saw both a DU and Steamboat Springs shirt when we were walking around.
During the sunset we were sitting next to a Spanish couple. Just after the sun went down he proposed! I spoke to them in Spanish and we said congratulations, offered them a glass of our champagne, and took some photos for them. The girl was so happy she starting crying when we offered them champagne and took pictures for them.
We ended the night at Edoardo gelateria. Katie recommended this place and said they made the cones right in front of you so they were still warm and your gelato melted into them. It was pretty busy and we waited in line for about 20 minutes so they had the cones all pre-made instead of making them in front of us. The cones and gelato were still really great! While waiting in line we also met a kid with a Colorado t-shirt on who had gone to Denver School of Science and Tech in Stapleton and then Colorado College.
Sad to be leaving Florence, we packed our bags and said goodbye to Polly. We were off to Pisa on the 9:30 train!