How we've spent our first week in our home away from home: Firenze!
We arrived just about a week ago, but it feels like we've been here ages already. We've packed so much into our short time already - and as we explore, we just keep finding more to do! So let's recap where we've been and of course, what we've eaten so far!
Wednesday, June 29th
Our afternoon arrival into Milan Malpensa started with a bang! We exited the plane down a steep flight of stairs directly onto the tarmac. With little sleep, lots of carry-on luggage, and a toddler in tow, something had to give - and it was my carry-on bag. I had to quickly pick up Paxton and carry him when I realized how steep the stairs down were off the plane, I let go of my bag for two seconds and it launched itself down the giant metal stairs to the flight attendant's disgust as she watched it tumble to the bottom. Literally, thank God no one was in front of me - it could've killed someone at the rate it was going! Pax got to sit in the engine when the pilot deplaned shortly after us and spotted us. We did stick out - not many toddlers being toted around. Pax honestly did fantastic on the flight. He probably slept four to five hours and barely even made a noise/cry. We used an inflatable seat extender which created a little bed for him to lay horizontal. He truly loves to fly - so he did great.
There is a small regional train that goes from Malpensa airport to Milan. There was a huge line to get tickets - so thankful I bought these ahead of time. We went into Milan Centrale, because there is luggage storage there and our train from Milan to Firenze was from the central station. We dropped our bags and had just a couple of hours to explore. It was toasty - so we walked a little way and stopped into a little cafe for some quesadilla-like sandwiches and water. We made our way to the Galleria (unexpectedly) and Milan Cathedral by design. It was just absolutely stunning - and to think this place was all but empty a couple short years ago in the height of the pandemic. By this point, it was 5:30 and we needed to book it back to the train station to make our 6 pm train to Florence. We hailed an Uber, threw Paxton into the back, and thanked the Lord for a speedy driver. We ran down to pick up our bags in storage and back up to the platform, only to realize our train had been delayed 35 mins, then an hour! So we rested our feet and grabbed a drink. Then we boarded our train and took a short nap on the relaxing ride. I always forget how laid-back train travel is in Europe. No one even checked our tickets! I mean you have to have them because sometimes they do - and they WILL kick you off a train. By the time we made it to Florence, the sun had just set and Paxton was knocked - like deadweight asleep. So here we are with an assed-out toddler, three carryons, and two loaded backpacks, sweating to death and figuring out how to navigate to our place in a city we had only been to once eight years ago. We finally got to our apartment, which we have been so pleased with. It's spacious and has everything we need! The room arrangement is especially perfect. And I was most surprised by the space. Needless to say, we got Paxton into bed, I grabbed some takeaway pasta and bruschetta from a ristorante around the corner and we fell asleep!
Thursday, June 30th
Today was a day off acclamation and exploring. We hit up the Il Mercato (the Market) right around the corner from us, then we went down to the Duomo and then Piazza de Santa Maria Novella and enjoyed lunch - it was a true "pinch me" moment. Josh physically pinched me, y'all. Paxton ate an entire plate of spaghetti, while I got an antipasti plate of bread, meat, and cheese. Josh all got pasta - which is why he loves Italy so much, I think! We then headed to the grocery for lots of essentials - we didn't pack toiletries since we'd be here for a month. We also got bread, eggs, cheeses, and meats and made some fantastic homemade paninis for dinner.
Friday, July 1st
Today we headed off to the coolest toy store I've been to - and it was right next to the Duomo! We scored a couple of European toys for Paxton and then strolled down to Palazzo Vecchio and grabbed some gelato - because in Italy - gelato is appropriate any time of day! Then we strolled the gorgeous Ponte Vecchio, took in the view, and rode on a carousel! We grabbed some lunch which was pizza and lasagna! And I discovered the ever-popular Aperol Spritz! Seriously such a refreshing cocktail to enjoy with lunch - you see everyone drinking one at lunch or appertivo time. After resting a little bit we headed to a ristorante around the corner called Simbiosi where I'd grabbed breakfast and espresso for us the first morning we arrived. This place was so unique! I got an orange and licorice pasta, a panzanella salad, and Josh got wild boar ragu - truly a unique meal experience and absolutely delicious! We followed dinner with our second gelato of the day then headed back home - our friends Allie and Jackson had arrived that day, so they stopped by our place to catch us up on their travel day. They ate some pizza and we enjoyed a local Chianti I snagged at the grocery for just 4 euros a bottle! Wine here is so cheap and delicious.
Saturday, July 2nd
This morning we had timed tickets to see the David at the Accademia - again if you don't be timed tickets for this you are just asking for a long stinky line in the heat. Don't do that.... after gawking at the David (Josh's favorite) and playing tour guide with some fun facts about Michelangelo's skill set and history of the statue, we strolled over to Le Managere (an adorable cafe) for brunch! We sat outside under a canopy of lavender flowers. Just dreamy! We then hit up an authentic leather shop for souvenirs! Jackson scored a leather jacket that they custom fit to him, Allie and I purses, and Josh picked out a bag for his mom for her birthday. There are tons of leather shops in the city, but most aren't legitimate. We did our research and found this one to be super authentic and the shop workers to be so kind and accommodating. We rested up and then hit up the Il Mercato for appertivo! The upstairs of the market boasts a variety of restaurants. Each night at 5:30, they offer up one appetizer/small dish for 10 euros. You walk around ordering as many as you want and get a drink ticket for the bar for each dish you order. We enjoyed a variety of dishes included wings, Asian dumplings, a pasta sampler, and meats and burratta cheese. And of course some riffs on spritzes! The night wouldn't be complete without dessert - so we did gelato and macarons from the market and enjoyed a gorgeous night walking and people-watching through the Duomo area and Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
Sunday, July 3rd
Since this was the first Sunday of the month, many of the major museums were free. I wasn't sure what to expect for a crowd, so we got up early, had breakfast, and trekked down to Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. I figured if people were going to take advantage of the free entry, it'd be at the David and Uffizi. We were right! We had a practically private viewing of Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, while steep, provided a breathtaking view of the city and shady winding paths through gorgeous groves and gardens. It was like a hilly, Italian version of Versailles and the gardens there. It was a hot one - so we crossed over the Ponte Vecchio and found the best little ristorante/cafe along the Arno river with amazing misters and fans - I pretty much pick restaurants based on their airflow - ha! We had a great lunch of bruschetta, cold pasta salad, grilled chicken and fries. The women who ran the restaurant were completely enamored with Paxton. They asked if they could bring him some gelato with cookies and he gave them a big hug when we left. it was precious.
Monday, July 4th
This was truly a top-ten day of my life. I was really looking forward to our private Tuscany tour we had planned with Jackson and Allie. Our driver Massimo picked us up that morning, educated us on the area, drove us to dreamy San Gigminano and then to a family-run winery in Chianti. San Gigminano was unbelievable. A medieval city truly stuck in the middle ages. The town boasts about a dozen towers that make it a true spectacle from near and far. We grabbed some gelato from the famous gelateria in town and just leisurely strolled the streets taking in the gorgeous views. Then we went to Casa Emma, a local family-run winery in Chianti. It was amazing learning all about the wine industry and regulations that go into the various types of wine. The black rooster - a sign of the Chianti region as well as the DUCG label is a certification that guarantees your wine is an authentic, organic, and naturally made Chianti wine - they have to use certain types of grapes and can't even irrigate the vines. It's a very regimented process. They grow olives right alongside the grapes and as such not only create their own wine, but also their own extra virgin olive oil (which I've learned is a totally different flavor than olive oil) and the most amazing aged balsamic. We got to do a four-course tasting with breads, EVOO, and 7-year-old and 20-year-old balsamic. Then we had a tomato mozzarella salad with a white wine and rose, and then a pasta course with two Chiantis and a dessert course (creamy gelato with balsamic drizzled on top) with a Cabernet and Merlot. Needless to say, we had plenty to eat and drink and enjoyed the view and ride back through the Tuscan countryside. We saw fields and fields of gorgeous sunflowers and stopped in a little town called Greve with the oldest butcher shop in Italy! We rested the rest of the night and then grabbed some pizza to go for dinner from Simbiosi.
Tuesday, July 5th
Today was a super low-key day after all of our adventures. I studied up for our Uffizi Gallery visit, and we grabbed lunch from a spot called Ristorante Accademia that Massimo recommended. We got a gazpacho soup, cacio e pepe pasta and a refreshing grilled chicken with lemon sauce and potatoes. We then headed to the grocery (grocery runs are daily or every other day here because we can only carry a couple of bags from the grocery so we just get what we need for a few days). We were craving Mexican food - there are a lot of international cuisines here but Mexican isn't one of them - so I tried making some nachos at home for dinner. They turned out pretty good, considering we didn't really have the ingredients we needed - we couldn't find salsa or the right kind of cheese, so they were more like cheeseburger nachos - ha!
Wednesday, July 6th
This morning we fueled up at an amazing place I've been wanting to try since day one, called Shake. The one near our place has a cool courtyard and they boast unreal all-day breakfast, smoothies, juices and smoothie bowls. The menu is killer. I needed some vitamins after all the carbs and wine, so I opted for a green juice and smoothie bowl, while Josh went with the traditional breakfast plate of eggs, pancakes and "bacon." I can't rightfully call what they call bacon our kind of bacon - it's just not the same. We had plenty of time to kill before our Uffizi Gallery timed entry, so we ordered another round - Mimosas and french toast! Legitimately, one of the best french toasts I've ever eaten. We met with Jackson and Allie before heading to the Uffizi. I studied a lot the previous day and that morning to be prepared for my art history lesson and we made a good run of the VERY BUSY museum in less than two hours. We got to see all the Renaissance greats such as Leonard da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Botticelli, and some amazing Roman sculptures from the first and second century AD. We ate a late lunch at a hole-in-the-wall authentic spot - Trattoria Anita. We all needed more fuel so big salads and light pastas were the winners. We parted ways with Jackson and Allie - who have truly packed in so much into this week. And we enjoyed some gelato and another stroll through town on our way home. We rested up and worked in the afternoon and then grabbed THE BEST sandwiches take away from All'Antico Vinaio. Quite simply, this is a must-have while you're in the city. The sandwich is the size of my laptop, so one will do to split, or if you're like us, keep the second half for another meal the next day.
Thursday, July 7th
Today is a total relaxation day and rest up before our weekend getaway to Venice. We are hanging at the apartment reading, watching TV, doing chores and planning our weekend in Venice. I'm also going to make a trip over to Il Mercato for some gifts for some agency clients arriving in town early next week - a little welcome basket is just the way to introduce them to this unforgettable city.