Some people go to the Cape or the Hamptons for a long weekend. Not us. We like to keep it interesting and with points to burn, we decided to book a long weekend to our once-upon-a-time home, Florence, Italy. Having spent 5 months living and studying in the city, we skipped the typical tourist attractions in lieu of our most nostalgic spots. Although this type of itinerary is not for everyone, it's safe to say we hit all of our favorite Florentine places.
4 countries in 24 hours. That's how our whirlwind weekend in Florence began. Because we booked an award flight through Chase, we opted to fly Air France via CDG to Florence since there were no direct options available. Our connection timing was already aggressive, knowing we had to go through EU border patrol. However, due to some strong headwinds and airport congestion, our flight landed 45 minutes late. As a result, we missed our connecting flight. So did the other 50 passengers ahead of us. Long story short, we ended up on a detour through Amsterdam.
At long last, we arrived at our hotel by 5 - just in time to relax and get ready for balsamic steaks at Acqua al Due. Our hotel was in the perfect location, just off Piazza della Repubblica and steps to Piazza del Duomo. This historic landmark cum boutique hotel was the absolute perfect hub to all of our adventures. Just check out our view at Hotel Brunelleschi!
Although we didn't get a lot of sightseeing in our first night, it was the perfect way to reintroduce ourselves to the city and rest up for a fun weekend.
The next morning, we headed to our favorite bar, across from our school, Palazzo Rucellai for caffe and cornetti. We were happy to see that our favorite barista was still there!
TIP: Drink your coffee (a tiny, but potent ristretto shot) at the bar. It's cheaper since you won't get charged for sitting. Plus, it's inherently more italian.
Afterward, we retraced our steps back to our respective apartments, Tim's on Via Gino Capponi and mine in Piazza D'Azeglio. All our study abroad friends will appreciate that everything still looks and feels the same. We even stopped by Supermercato Conad to find our favorite 2€ wine and Kinder Surpresas. Don't judge.
After working up an appetite, we headed to Mercato Centrale. Downstairs, you'll find various stalls selling fresh pasta, cheese, meats, produce and pantry supplies. The upstairs was completely redone since we last visited and we were so excited to see stations selling prepared foods like bistecca, pizza, pasta and more. We enjoyed a light lunch with some Chianti and headed back out to explore some more.
TIP: There's also the San Lorenzo leather market right outside the food market, where you can find great wallets, gloves and knick knacks. They also have larger items like bags and scarves. Just come prepared to haggle with the vendors. It's fun!
En route to Oltrarno, we stopped at the Ferragamo Museum to ogle over his masterpieces. On display, we also found some of Andy Warhol's shoe ads and haute couture pieces from the likes of Viktor & Rolf and Issey Miyake. At a 6€ admission fee, this is a must-see on your next visit.
We also made a pitstop at Gelateria La Carraia for some of our favorite gelato and quickly spotted Ginger the Beagle, whose owner, Georgette of Girl in Florence I fangirled hard core. If you don't already follow her Florentine adventures on Instagram, do so now and thank me later.
After a long day of exploring, we headed to a 4-hour dinner at one of our favorite old spots, Il Latini. For 50€ per person, they bring out course after course of Tuscan deliciousness from crostini to mozzarella, pasta, bistecca and all the limoncello you can imagine. The best part of our dinner was making new friends. Christina and Bridgette, who turned out to know one of our friends! It truly is a small world out there.
There may be such a thing as too much limoncello at Il Latini, because we decided to sleep in the following morning before hitting a couple holiday markets.
First stop was Santa Croce for the annual Heidelberger Weihnachtsmarkt (German Christmas Market). The sights and smells were to die from. From mulled wine to pretzels, there's something for everyone. Not to mention the plethora of gift options. Sadly for us, we only brought carryons, so space was slightly limited. Still, window shopping here was definitely a highlight.
From there, we made our way across the Arno to Piazzale Michelangelo, for what is hands down our favorite view of this city. Midday, the crowds are smaller than the popular sunset hour, but with live music and a spectacular view, we were in heaven.
Climbing down the hill, we headed to the Nataleperfile holiday fair set in historic Palazzo Corsini. We especially loved this market because the proceeds go towards helping terminally ill patients in Florence and the surrounding areas. For a full breakdown of the holiday markets about town, see this and this.
We decided to stop by our favorite pub for a pre-dinner apertif. Although we couldn't sit out on the two-person balcony overlooking the Duomo, we were delighted to see JJ Cathedral decked out for Christmas. Lots of great memories here! If you see Neal Wikert anytime soon, ask him about this place. It's a great story ;)
For dinner, we found a new spot, Enoteca Conquinarius. This place was great! Our sommelier brought 6 different bottles of wine to compliment our dinner selections, telling us the story of where and how the grapes were grown. His approach was charming and unique, as well as self-proclaimed "democratic". He didn't want to lean us towards just one bottle without knowing the background of all of our matches. The food was also excellent, from the crostini misti to the beef cheeks and wild boar. We highly recommend it. you can even make a reservation on the Fork.
Before embarking on our long flight home by way of Zurich, we took the opportunity to visit the Terraza at la Rinascenete to take in 360 views of the city. That day was especially quiet at the cafe as the Florentines were busy voting on their referendum. Although the coffee here is substantially overpriced, the view was worth it.
We also had our last "supper", which consisted of one of the most famous Florentine street foods - panini al lampredotto. For those who don't know, this is a messy sandwich made with stewed tripe. It was so good but a little heavy for a long haul flight. #NoRegrets.
The flight home was far less eventful than on the way there. We stayed up the entire time to help keep ourselves on track for work the next day. This method worked great because we went to bed a normal hour and slept through the night. That's the beauty of such a short trip; your body doesn't have a chance to adapt to the new timezone and you can adjust back to EST without a problem.
All in all, this trip was worth the hectic schedule. It was so nice to end 2016 on a positive and nostalgic note. Now the real quesiton is, where on earth are we going to go in 2017?