We had plenty of time to enjoy Florence, so we relaxed a little bit more and weren't in a rush to see everything as quick as possible. We had great weather in Florence (only one day of rain), so we spent as much time outside as possible. Our first night there, we went to dinner at Buca Lapi (a recommendation from my friend Christy Bloom). This meal was such a treat, but you definitely paid for it! It was probably the most expensive meal we had in Europe, but it was so worth it. Not only was every thing absolutely delicious, but the ambiance was enjoyable as well!
We spent almost an entire day at the street market trying to make some deals, which started out as fun...but then I got a little antsy (read: I needed a glass of wine ASAP if we were going to continue shopping for one item all day!) Conor really wanted to buy a leather bag, but it took a long long time to get the price down as he wasn't buying it without a deal. I get so awkward in these situations; I just don't understand why they can't put a reasonable price on things! To take a break from all the street fair mayhem, we went to the Mercado Central to search for some lunch! This market was incredible, but also a little disturbing as people were selling cuts of meat that I couldn't even look at, let alone imagine eating! However, we avoided all the raw pig & cow and decided on a Rick Steve's recommendation, a great sandwich spot. We then found a wine store, got two plastic cups, and were ready to find some Church steps to enjoy our lunch on!
One of my favorite things that we did in Florence was climb the Duomo. Conor's brother, Kyle, told us to do this at sunset (about an hour before they close) to avoid the lines. This was the best piece of advice! Usually there was a huge line to do the climb, and a very slow process as not everyone is in as good of shape as us! ;-) Luckily neither of us are claustrophobic because the staircase was steep and very very narrow! The view at the top was absolutely spectacular! Such a wonderful view of the city; you are really missing out if you don't climb the Duomo.
My parents recommended that we take a day trip to Siena since it's so close to Florence. Siena wasn't quite as busy as Florence, so it was nice to get away from the crowds of people. We walked around for a bit to work up an appetite, and then found a deli that, yet again, Rick Steves recommended. This was the most simple, yet best lunch we had! The shop was very authentic, with an Italian man sporting an awesome handlebar mustache helping us. Unfortunately he is not a fan of tourists, so no cameras are allowed inside. At this deli you pay by the weight of your sandwich, so this guy loaded up some baguettes with salami, prosciutto, and pecorino fresco. That's it! Washed down with some red wine, it was perfect! We enjoyed our lunch in the sunny Piazza del Campo. There was such great people watching we could have spent the whole day there; but alas, there was more exploring to do!
Our last day in Florence was the only day of rain. This worked out perfectly, since we planned on spending the day in museums. First, we went to la Academia to see the David. I was moderately excited about this activity, since I think it's absolutely ridiculous to pay a bunch of money to see something that you used to be displayed in public for free! However, it was well worth it; I was completely blown away by how magnificent the statue is in person! There are many other great things to see inside as well, but the David is definitely the highlight. Our next stop was supposed to be the Uffizi Gallery, but we decided that neither of us were actually all that interested in the art...so we skipped it!
We had a much better time hiking up to Piazzale Michaelangelo! This is where the original David used to be; there's a replica there now that is just terrible looking once you've seen the real thing! Here you get another great view of the city, which never gets old! We left the square and went to Ponte Vecchio where we strolled with more gelato! I got black cherry this time and it was to-die-for!!!
The next day we hauled all our luggage back to the train station and had a little time to kill. So of course we had the last glass of wine from a bottle from the night before. I know what you're thinking: "We had leftover wine?!" This time we couldn't find cups anywhere...oh well! Roma is next!