Monday, April 8, 2019

Our Week in Florence - Part One

Ah, Florence! How will we ever sum up our week? Probably with a million pictures and tales of daily gelato... ;)


We flew from Paris to Florence on Friday morning. It was only about an hour and a half flight, but the travel day took more out of us than we had expected. I think we were still jet-lagged, and we had some language barriers in the intra-Europe airport terminal, but overall it was a quick and easy flight and the Florence airport is only about a 20 minute drive to the center of the city.

Our time in Florence was beautifully scripted by our dear friend Kate - Zach's friend from Middlebury who I've stolen as my own friend! - and she has lived in Florence since college. She was a wonderful resource as we were planning and booking our trip, making sure we were well taken care of and hit all the highlights. She gave us the extra special friend treatment, but she has her own travel business now too for others looking for her expertise.

We stayed at a great apartment called Casa Ventura, which was centrally located right off the Ponte Vecchio, and very well appointed.

It had amazing views and a beautiful roof deck, and two bedrooms, full kitchen, living area, and laundry.

We put all of the kids in one bedroom - Nettie and Ryan shared the bed, Erin made herself a little bed on the floor with the patio cushions, and we put Henry's crib in the alcove between the bedroom and bathroom. Just don't ask about the naptime when he locked the door and trapped himself in said alcove.

We met Kate at the apartment when we arrived and she got us started with a few of her family's favorite local grocery items - yum! We got settled in, unpacked, and explored the apartment, and then set off to meet Kate for dinner that evening at Piazza Santa Spirito, which was right on a piazza where the kids could run around and I could enjoy my first Aperol spritz of the trip.

The kids integrated with some random Italian kids who were also playing there and had a blast - amazing how kids make friends wherever they go! We stopped at the Santa Trinita gelato shop on our walk back, kicking off our daily gelato habit for the rest of our time there!

Kate had organized a walking tour of Florence for us on Saturday morning, which was a great way to get our bearings and learn more about the city. Florence is actually a very small city and by the end of our time there, we really knew our way around. Our guide, Siro Chini, was very knowledgeable and did a great job gearing the tour to the kids level of interest and attention. Their patience waned a few times, but he steered us toward a gelato stop and all was well.

He recommended a place for lunch called Hosteria da Ganino, which was so easy and good, I ended up returning there with the kids again later in the week. Hooray for outdoor patio seating! These giant noodles were the kids' most favorite - we bought a box to take home!

After lunch, we rode the carousel, went home for rest time, and headed out on a long walk in the afternoon to explore the Piazzale Michaelangelo. It was a hilly trek up to the top, but there was a cool garden, amazing views, and a little space to throw the football.

We were feeling a little stir crazy after our first 24 hours in Florence because Ryan was really craving a good park to run around in and they are hard to come by in the old city center. Unlike Paris, which had parks and gardens on every corner, Florence was a challenge.

Kate and her family hosted us for dinner on Saturday night and it was really great to get the kids together. Erin and Kate's daughter Viola had been pen pals for a few months leading up to the trip and they were instant buddies. Ryan and Nettie had fun running around with Vittorio and we all had a delicious dinner in their home.

Italians eat much later than we do at home so we stayed on a very late schedule for the entire trip, which actually helped with the jet lag. We were in for a big surprise when we got home from dinner around 11pm and learned that it was daylight savings in Italy and therefore actually midnight! There's nothing like jet lag + daylight savings to really throw you out of whack!


Thankfully with the jet lag and the time change, everyone slept until almost 10am on Sunday morning - except Zach, who had to be out early for his first board meeting (the whole reason we took this trip!). The kids and I had a lazy start and then made our way to Mass (in Italian!) at the Duomo, which was a really cool experience. Even though we couldn't follow along with everything in the service, it was a great way to see the old church - there is lots to look at and plenty of time to take it all in during Mass.

After church, we went to the Mercato Centrale to find treats for lunch. It's a big open market, similar to Fanueil Hall at home, and we got a couple of delicious pizzas and the most amazing burrata toast (which I now recreate for lunch at home as often as I can).

We ate outside in a piazza before making our way to the Boboli Gardens.

The Boboli was the answer to our prayers for Ryan's need to run around. You do have to pay admission and explore a bit off the beaten path to find the open space, but it was beautifully designed and satisfied a tourist experience and some play time all in one.

We reunited with Zach in the afternoon for a quick gelato before he headed back out for a work dinner and we ate at home in the apartment.

More on the second half of our time in Florence in the next post!

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