Thursday, July 11, 2013

One doesn't come to Italy for niceness, one comes for life! / Florence, March 2013

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1: Statue of Michelangelo's David (replica) in Piazza della Signoria // 2-6: The view from the roof of our hotel, (Hotel Medici) // 7: Cheeky fun with David // 8-9: Recalling that scene from A Room with a View // 10: Tara and I

I began this post last week, cup of tea in hand, as the rain poured down outside my window. Disheartened, I got distracted. This week couldn't be more different! The weather took a total turn around last week and we are enjoying temperatures in the mid-20s all across Ireland. So now I am recalling my Italian trip with fondness, and sharing some of our pictures! I had meant to blog about my Spring trip months ago, I did write a blog post on gelateria in Florence in March, if you're into that sort of thing!

Tara is one of my best friends, we met in our first year of university as we were placed in student accommodation together, and happily a firm friendship was formed. We took the same Art History classes and vowed to one day visit Florence. We fulfilled that promise earlier this year. Tara works in Dubai, so our rendezvous point was at Rome's International Airport. From there we took a fast train to Florence. I would advise that you book these in advance, or you can buy a ticket for half the price, but it takes closer to 4 hours to travel between the two cities.

We were (and are!) two twenty-somethings on a budget, so we took our trip in the down season (though is there every really a low tourist season in Italy??) We stayed at Hotel Medici, a 2 star hotel in the city centre. Our rooms were actually a 5 minute walk from the main reception, but we could easily walk to the hotel in the mornings for a simple breakfast. Italians are reknowned for their generous meals, but breakfast is an altogether simpler affair. Typically they may have a pastry for breakfast with a strong expresso, so they can enjoy a long, lazy lunch. We would eat heartily at lunch so we got used to our simple breakfasts. After breakfast, we strolled lazily along the characteristic Florentine streets to our first attraction of the day. On our first evening, we picked up a cheap bottle of Italian wine and sat on the balcony admiring our up close and personal view of the Duomo (see above). I can confirm that Italy does actually have a cold spell during the winter and spring, so do bring a warm jacket and scarf. We had 3 aran sweaters to share between the pair of us, so we were fine!

We visited all the major attractions - the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens, the Uffizi gallery, the Accademia galleries, the church of Santa Croce (c. 1443), and Florence Cathedral (San Maria del Fiore).

As with any trip, if you want to save on admission prices, book in advance. You can get reduced rates up to 12 hours before your visit. In 2011, a tourist tax was introduced for the major Italian cities. This rate is paid daily, to your hotel, and varies depending on the star rating of your hotel. There is a cut off point (eg. 10 nights is the maximum charge for Florence).

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1-2: Interior of the infamous Dome of Florence's catherdral. A feat of engineering, designed by Brunelleschi in the 15th century // 3: Italy's old restaurant signs // 4: Looking over the river Arno, after consuming the best panino I have and will probably ever eat again // 5: Facade of the Church of Santa Croce (c. 1443) // 6-11: At the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens

All these photos were 'borrowed' from Tara's superior camera. Thank you again!