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Fall Vacation '18 (Part 2): Florence & Pisa

Thursday, October 25th

We successfully navigated through Roma Termini train station and were on our way to Florence (Firenze) for the next two nights.

We arrived at Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station and walked to our hotel, Hotel Roma, which was conveniently located and a fast six minute walk. Hotels in Florence are a lot more clean and modern whereas Rome hotels were more "historic".

We did not have much planned in Florence except for the self-guided Renaissance Walk which started at the Duomo and ended at Ponte Vecchio.

The Florence Cathedral (Duomo di Firenze) is Florence's most recognizable cathedral and a must see when visiting. The Duomo is a staple of Florence's skyline, and the architecture and engineering was very ambitious for its time. We did not climb the Duomo's 463 steps since we did not want to injury ourselves as we lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle :) I did hear from a friend that the view is amazing and from pictures, it does look breathtaking.

The Giotto's Tower (Campanile) is a bell tower with 50 less steps than the Duomo.

The Baptistery is across from the Duomo and is octagon shaped with bronze doors that is said to be the gates of paradise. Since we did not get close enough, you won't be able to see the Old Testament stories that are portrayed on the door. It starts on the upper left door with Adam and Eve and continues on.

My parents are standing in the Piazza del Duomo, the pedestrian-only, heart of the historic center of Florence. Behind them you can see the Duomo with its red dome, the Campanile tower to the right, and the octagonal shaped Baptistery.

We ended our walk at the Old Bridge (Ponte Vecchio), which was built in 1345 and the only bridge in Florence that survived War World II as it was spared by a local German commander. The river that the Ponte Vecchio crosses is the Arno River.

Once we were on the bridge, my mom immediately went into shopping mode as all the stores on the bridge were jewelry stores. She had been on the hunt for Italian jewelry since the beginning of the trip. Luckily for my dad, they were all reasonably priced.

Since the Straw Market (Mercato Nuovo) was on the way to dinner, I had to find the wild boar named the Piglet (Il Porcellino) for a picture. It is rumored that if a person rub its nose and give it coins, they are ensured to return to Florence. I might not make it back to Rome, but at least, I will be heading back to Florence.


Friday, October 26th

With a few hours to spare, so we decided to check out the inside of the Duomo.

Unfortunately, the interior of the Cathedral was bare and mundane. I did not want to be disrespectful, but afterwards, we all voiced our disappointment.

During the planning process, we all agreed that the Leaning Tower was a must on our bucket list and designated the latter half of our day to tour Pisa. Pisa is about 50 miles west of Florence, and it was around an hour and a half bus ride each way.

The main square of Pisa is the Field of Miracles (Campo dei Miracoli). It is a(n) UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is considered pivotal to the religious life as the square represents birth (Baptistery), life (Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta), and death (Camposanto Cemetery). The bell tower (Leaning Tower of Pisa) is considered part of the Cathedral.

I'll be honest, once we had entered the Field of Miracles, and I saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa, my heart skipped a beat. However, just for formality, we toured with the Pisa guide to learn a thing or two about the Field of Miracles.

The Baptistery (birth) of Pisa is the biggest in Italy with lot of space inside for baptizing both adults and babies.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (life), also known as the Duomo, was really neat to see inside and a lot prettier than the Florence Duomo.

We did not get to see inside the Camposanto Cemetery (death).

The Leaning Tower of Pisa took over two centuries to be completed, by three different architects for this 200 feet tall, 55 feet wide tower that leans at a five-degree angle. I am really glad that we did our half day tour, and it gave us enough time to enjoy this site. This has been my favorite view so far of this trip.

We made our way back to Florence, and we were ready for dinner.

A good friend recommended we try Florentine Steak while in Florence, and so we booked reservations at Buca Mario. Best decision ever! It is a Michelin star restaurant, and the owner was super friendly and welcoming. The Florentine steak? Amazing and ginormous, I was beyond impressed and excited to finally be eating that delicious Italian food that all my friends rave about.

No dinner is complete without gelato, of course. Nick, my mom, and I made our way to La Carraia as it is one of the best spots for gelato. I definitely was not disappointed.

Though Florence is a big city, it is a lot more calm and intimate compared to Rome. It is so compact and intimate that Uber hasn't been introduced here and all of the attractions were within walking distance, much like Rome, only closer. Florence stole my mom's heart. She loved it for the shopping and how clean the entire city is (much less graffiti on the walls). My favorite part of Florence was, hands down, the Florentine steak, no surprises there.

Thanks for following along! Next blog will cover one of my favorite cities, Venice, and our first cruise port, Dubrovnik, Croatia.

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