Day 8 – November 6, 2011
We took train italia from Termini to Firenze Santa Maria Novella. When we first got to Termini, we were confused because none of the trains listed their destination as Florence. Apparently trains there just list their END destination, Florence was one of the stops on the way to Venice so they listed that instead (you should instead check the train number). I’m glad we took the train! Europe by train is pretty. It reminded me of the drive between San Francisco and LA…
Less than two hours later we arrived at Florence. Our hostel (Il Ghiro) was located super close to the station which made me happy because that means we didn’t have to drag our luggage for too long!
Was even happier when we got to the hostel and the room was really spacious and pretty! The ceiling was super high and the bathroom was spacious. I was sad we’re only staying here for one night :( The staff was very kind as well, they let us leave our luggage with them when we were out exploring Florence the next day!
Our first destination was Mercato Centrale, which was across the street from our hostel
This place is great for leather goods! Super cheap and makes great gifts! I got two leather wallets for €15 and €17, and 3 small leather journals for €20 total. I could probably bargain a bit more, but I felt like the price was good so I didn’t fuss too much. We had lunch at a place nearby, which wasn’t really worthy of mentioning. In Italy they do this weird thing called cover charge, which is usually €1-1.50 per meal.
Serena then went across the street to get some gelato. Except somewhere, something was lost in translation and she ended up with a GIANT ice cream and lost €15. It was yummy gelato (I had to help her finish it) but expensive!!
At least she got a cute picture out of it… the thing was as big as her face!
We had nothing much else to do, so we spontaneously decided to take the train to Pisa. It’s only an hour from the Firenze station, and the journey costed €11.90 for return trip! Once we get there, we took the bus to the tower. We read this blog to find out which bus to take.
I can’t believe we’re looking at Pisa tower! THE Pisa tower! Over there, everyone was trying to do the same pose – where you pretend to be touching the tower. We tried to get that picture too but failed miserably -_-.
We got back to Florence and checked out the shopping area. They have quite a few high end stores at Via de Tornabuoni, so Serena went to visit Burberry (her favorite store) and walked out with a new scarf for less! High end brands are cheaper in Europe and on top of that they have 12% tax refund (in Italy and France, Spain is 18%). Collecting tax refund is pretty easy and if you visited multiple countries like we did, you can just do your tax refund at the last destination. In some places you can also get your tax refund in the city, but they would only give you back the refund in form of cash. If you want to get the refund credited back to your card you can only do so in the airport.
After shopping we were hungry for dinner, and we had been missing Asian food so much after a week of constant western food. We hadn’t looked up where to eat, so we just walked around aimlessly until Serena spotted a Peking restaurant in one of the corners! We happily went in and ordered a lot of dishes.
The damage for comfort and familiarity: €20. Pricey, but we were happy with the meal!
Day 9 – November 7, 2011
Realized we missed out on most of the museums in Florence because we forgot that they close on Monday. Was upset that we missed statue of David, but there’s nothing we can do about it… so we headed out to see the Duomo at Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore instead.
The cathedral was finished in 1436
Left with nothing much to do, we shelled out €8 for a ticket to go up to the dome. Except no one warned us there would be no elevators and the hike up the dome are filled with stairs like these:
and an especially steep(!!) one like this one:
Even when we maintained a steady pace, we must have climbed for 10-15 minutes. It was intense cardio!!
The ceiling of the dome was painted with paintings depicting heaven and hell. You start with hell imagery from the bottom, and gradually became heaven as you go up the dome. I couldn’t capture the whole thing..
The hike up isn’t easy, but once you managed to make your way up the dome you are greeted with a beautiful view of Florence from above.
It was drizzling a little bit, but thankfully didn’t interfere with the view from above!
I wanted to try Bistecca alla Fiorentina, so we made our way to Sostanza which received a great raving review for their bistecca. It deserves a separate post so I wrote about them here.
We wanted to check out The Mall outlet, which is about an hour away from Florence and is famous for their low price for high end brands, but we missed the noon bus (because we were at lunch) and the next bus isn’t until 3pm. Given that we had to leave Florence by 7pm and the last bus back to Florence is at 5pm, there wasn’t going to be enough time so we opted to stay in Florence.
The rest of the day in Florence was rainy and drizzly, with nothing much to do but chill in a cafe or shop around… and we did exactly that. It’s a bit boring since we had a crazy activity-filled days for the first week, but in a way it was a welcomed break for my tired feet…
We picked up our luggage from the hostel and got onto our train to Venice.