Our first stop in Italy was Florence. We only had two days built into our itinerary so we wanted to make the most of our time. Since we were sort of winging the middle part of our trip, we booked a very last minute Airbnb and it worked out perfectly. We were close to the Statue of David at the Accademia Gallery and about a 10 minutes walk into central Florence.
I'd visited Italy about ten years ago, but only traveled to Rome and Venice. I'd heard so many mixed reviews about Florence vs. Rome, so I thought it was time to see for myself. Florence to me is smaller, cleaner and has more of a boutique feel to it than larger and grittier Rome. They are just different, both extraordinary in their own regard.
We made a point to see the statue of David, and eventually caved and bought the group tour tickets while waiting in line. The line was a 3 hour wait, and we just didn't have time for that, not with only 2 days on the itinerary. If you have luxury of planning ahead, I'd look into the best times to jump in line for David, or purchase a ticket ahead. One of the most memorable experiences of our trip, I was blown away by the scale of this marble work of art. And the fact that Michelangelo was only 27 years old when David was created. 27?! I was watching Netflix and going to bars. Ugh. And the fact that I'd read about him in Art History but seeing the statue in person was truly the only education I ever needed.
The other majesty of Florence is the Duomo. It truly took my breath away. It's one of those landmarks you have to experience in person - the magnitude of it all can't be captured in a photograph. We didn't go inside, buy tourist tickets, or climb to the top. We simply admired it's greatness as we passed by, snapping a few pics along the way.
I also highly recommend strolling through the Boboli gardens. I think Chris and I walked 30k steps this day. The grounds are massive and absolutely beautiful, statues and treasures at every turn. We hiked to the very top where we found a garden maze and extraordinary views of Tuscany.
Right before we left, I was adamant about visiting a different sandwich shop that was listed #1 on Tripadvisor. It was 9 am, I didn't want a sandwich, neither did my husband - but I insisted. I HAD to try the #1 sandwich place before we left! This is where things get really sad. I barely understood the sandwich maker, ordered something terribly disgusting, and sat outside with my poor victimized husband who didn't want a sandwich, forcing him to bite into this undesirable sandwich. That was when I had to really take a good look in the mirror and tell myself to get over FOMO if it's not meant to be.
When I was in Europe in 2006, there was no Tripadvisor. There were no stickers with star ratings in windows. It was perfectly mysterious, adventurous, and story book like. Your expectations weren't let down if the food wasn't great because the place "had 5 stars." You weren't relentlessly chasing hype and other people's opinions. You were just there, enjoying the city in the most authentic way. Those were simpler times, times that I miss because they were so untouched and real. Europe is still magical, but back then it was truly a damn unicorn.
While we wanted to visit the Uffizi Gallery, there wasn't time, and we were exhausted form cramming in as much as possible – but it's definitely another place to check out while in Florence. Onward to Rome!