“Should we walk or take a taxi?” I asked Edwin as we fumbled with our luggage. We had just gotten off a 2-hour train ride from Venice and it was mid-afternoon in the city of Florence. Now this is when we regret checking the route to our Airbnb the night before. Our host had mentioned that it was just a 15 minute walk from the station, but with our luggage threatening to break apart as we considered rolling it across cobbled-stone streets, the taxi was decided.
We soon learnt that the entire historical centre of Florence, which is where all the main attractions like the Uffizi, Duomo and the Academia, are located, is walkable from one end to another, which was great, since we were stationed here for five days. We had planned to use Florence as a base for two day trips – one to Cinque Terre and another to Tuscany.
Under the Tuscan sun
The weather could not have been more perfect for our day trip to the Chianti region of Tuscany, on a Vespa! I was particularly excited for this tour because in pictures, Tuscany looks like a dream, like it had been taken out of a disney animation… you know when the tape rolls and the film begins with “once upon a time, in a faraway land” and the scene opens to a beautiful castle on top of a hill?
After a basic scooter orientation and safety briefing, off we went, riding our Vespa along tree-lined avenues and winding country roads dotted with olive groves and lush vineyards.
The skies were clear, a remarkable shade of blue. Our guide, Alessio, said that it was one of the best weather he had experienced on the tour! I was certainly not complaining that the wind was sweeping my hair into a tangled mess, or that the seat of the Vespa had burnt my butt. I literally felt like a movie star in a period film, romanced by a handsome Italian man (a girl can dream :P). The air was still and time barely moved even as we whizzed past rows and rows of trees. An indescribable serenity. Somewhere in the middle of the Italian countryside, we found life’s natural rhythm, and it was good.
We stopped by a couple of scenic spots for photos and found ourselves arriving at a small family-run restaurant for lunch. We were served the most refreshing tomato bruschetta, together with slices of roast beef and grilled potatoes, accompanied with red wine. It was a light meal, but just enough so that we did not feel uncomfortable on the ride back. To conclude the tour, we were taken to the Castello di Poppiano where we got to taste the famous Guicciardini wine and extra virgin olive oil made on the estate.
Sadly, we did not get to see sunflowers as we had hoped. We were a couple of weeks too early. Though on our journey by train to Rome four days later, we squealed with delight at a sea of yellow outside our window – its first blooms!
Renaissance Art at the Uffizi Gallery
As someone with little interest in history or art, I can say that I tried. We’d followed Rick Steve’s audio guide (recommended if you don’t have a guided tour) through more than 80 rooms to see the main attractions of the Uffizi such as the “Birth Of Venus”, “Laocoon and his Sons” and “Madonna and Child”, among many others. The Gallery is a maze. If not for the audio guide, we would have been utterly and completely lost. Everything on the walls would have looked no different to us. But we did learn something new about the evolution of Italian art through the renaissance period. Can I also say that I really loved the ceilings, which were of course an art in itself.
No matter what you do in Florence, you need to try the Florentine T-bone steak. This was by far the best steak we had eaten in our lives. It was 700g of steak served to medium-rare perfection, which we savoured and devoured to the bone. Each tender bite was a burst of flavour and our tastebuds were in heaven!
It was luck that we had stumbled upon Osteria dè Benci on our first night in Florence. We were looking for somewhere fancy to celebrate my birthday and this cosy family restaurant in Santa Croce appeared in our google search. We absolutely loved the steak (not to mention the pasta and the service were wonderful) that we went back a second time.
Sunset along the Arno River
Perhaps one of the most romantic and memorable things we did was simply strolling down the Arno River after dinner, hand in hand. It was just before 9pm and we’d unexpectedly caught the sunset – a streak of orange painted across the sky. Its brilliant rays were reflected upon the water, peeking through Ponte Vecchio almost as if saying hello.
The encounter was fleeting, though. One moment we were on the bridge admiring the beauty in front of our eyes, the next, all that remained was a light glow on the horizon as night enveloped the city.
Follow the rest of our Europe 2017 adventure:
|Day 1 – 2 / June 24 – 25||Athens: Greek Gods & Temple Rocks|
|Day 3 – 6 / June 26 – 30||Chasing Sunsets in Santorini|
|Day 7 – 8 / June 31 – July 1||Venice: A Modern Day Fairytale|
|Day 9 – 13 / July 2 – 6||Romancing Florence|
|Day 12 / July 5||Cinque Terre in One Day|
|Day 14 – 17 / July 8 – 11||Rome: The Eternal City|