Our train trip to Florence, Venice and Milan was a fast-paced trek sprinkled with instances where time seemed to slow in favor of savoring the experience. Florence is a bustling city with mopeds weaving through pedestrians who are strolling along narrow streets, enjoying gelato. (Pistacchio is my favorite.) A musty, yet pleasant smell wafts in the air – this is the aroma of history.
Florence is home to a number of must-see attractions, including the world’s greatest gallery of renaissance art, Galleria degli Uffizi, and the shops of Ponte Vecchio. Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is one of my favorite sites of all. The lush green courtyard filled with silence is the perfect place to sit, reflect and absorb nature’s energy. In the presence of the remains of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and other great minds, you feel enlightened by osmosis, if only for a moment.
A few tips:
- Be purposeful. You might return to this destination one day, but you can never return to this moment.
- The line to visit Michelangelo’s David is a long one, especially during peak tourist season. Don’t wait until the final hours of your trip to make this stop or you’ll find yourself running through the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze, literally. You may feel awesome as onlookers wonder if you’re a special agent escaping some threat, but you’ll regret not taking time to appreciate all the wonders this museum offers.
- It’s common for European hotels to keep a copy your passport as part of the check-in process. They are required to report guest details to the police, so they will ask to see your passport or a copy of it.
- European boutique hotels and B&Bs charge based on the number of occupants versus the number of rooms. A single-bed means a small twin bed that DOES NOT comfortably sleep two. We should’ve learned our lesson from the 2007 Paris trip! Hoteliers may become irate when they discover you’re housing two people in a one-person room. There are better ways to save than cutting corners on lodging. Trust me.
- If you overindulge with tasty limoncello, no worries. Similar to the prevalence of CVS shops in D.C., an electric green cross can be found on most streets and denotes a farmacia.