Travel

Florence and Cinque Terre

Florence

So begins the third of my individual city guides for Italy. The reason Cinque Terre is included in my Florence post is because we actually went on a full day tour to Cinque Terre on a bus that left from Florence, so I thought it would be appropriate to combine the two.

Unfortunately, we only had one day to truly explore the city of Florence so we knew that we had to plan our day out correctly in order to see all the places that were worth seeing. We stayed at the Adler Cavalieri hotel which was really nice and really close to the train station, so I would definitely recommend checking it out. The staff there was very nice and accommodating and were great at explaining directions to us and giving us recommendations. They also called us a cab on our last day to get to a different train station that we had to leave from so that was very nice and convenient as well.

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We started our morning in Florence walking to the Duomo. The Florentine Duomo is a stunning work of architecture that is definitely a must see in the city. It is truly the symbol of the whole city as it probably is the most recognizable place/building in Florence. You see the three Italian colors in it – red, green and white. The detail on the building is truly spectacular. It is also built in a very different style than the Duomo in Milan so it’s definitely interesting to see the contrast. We ended up buying a last minute tour as we got approached with an offer to skip the line and get a tour of the inside for only 15 euros a person, which was a great deal especially considering the line was outrageous for the place. I did not expect to be going inside the Duomo when we got ready that day and was wearing shorts and a tank top (it was more than 90 degrees that day) but luckily the people providing the tour had extra scarves which I ended up making into a long skirt and used as a shawl to cover my shoulders as well. So my recommendation again for the Duomo for girls is make sure your shoulders are covered and your skirt/shorts or dress is at least up to your knees.

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After our tour of the Duomo, we walked around the city for a few hours checking out the little streets and the shops. Florence is known for its food and we were definitely pleasantly surprised at the prices of the food in this city. This was by far the more affordable city to buy food in as everywhere you looked there were plenty of little bakeries and cafes and the prices there were very low. I am pretty sure that our lunch that day only cost us about 8 euros total for two people. I recommend just going around the city and stopping by little cafes and not going to the ones really close to the tourist attractions such as the Duomo and the Uffizi gallery. We were told there was a café on a rooftop from which you can see the Duomo and that this was “at a mall” so we were determined to figure out where this was. Those were literally the only guiding directions we had so we ended up finding a mall that was close to the Duomo and asking about a café with a rooftop view and miraculously, ended up finding it. That café is called Caffe’ La Terrazza and I would definitely recommend checking it out and at least seeing the view from the top because the view there is amazing. We were just going to grab a bite or a drink there since we’ve already eaten lunch at that point but the prices on that menu were very very different from the rest of Florence because that place was pretty pricey but definitely worth the view. The picture below is one I took at that Cafe.

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Another detour we took throughout the day was to visit the Palazzo Medici Riccardi which is a Renaissance palace located in the middle of the city, not far from the Duomo. It’s definitely worth checking out as it has a beautiful garden inside and the overall architecture is worth seeing.

After all this we had to take a “siesta” because it was just too hot for us to keep walking around. We were pretty tired because of the sun and the busy morning we had so we decided to spend a few hours inside and rest up because our evening “program” for the day was a very far walk away from our hotel. As I mentioned earlier, our hotel is very close to the train station which is great, however, it is very far from the Piazzale de Michelangelo which was the most important thing we wanted to see in Florence (other than the Duomo). So we waited for it to cool off and headed in the direction of the Piazza and Ponte Vecchio. For those who haven’t heard of Ponte Vecchio, it is the “golden bridge” or “bridge of gold” and the reason it is referred to as that is because along the bridge is one jewelry shop after another. All those shops have been around for years and are all family owned places. It is really cool to see all of what’s going on that bridge. The walk from the bridge up to the Piazza is a steep one though, so wear comfortable shoes.

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Now let’s talk about one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in person and that would be the view of the city from Piazza de Michelangelo. You’re up on a hill and looking down at a beautiful city and at the same time see all the mountains in the background as well. It is truly a beautiful view. If you’re only going to do one thing in Florence, go up to the Piazza and look out at the city from it. Another reason this place will forever hold a special place in my heart is because at that particular Piazza, my then boyfriend got down on one knee and proposed. So clearly, I will never forget Florence and the city look out.

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Some things we didn’t get to do but would have if we had more time were vising the Academia gallery.  What the Academia gallery is known for is the Michelangelo’s David statue. The one that is the biggest and most well-known. The thing is, there are David statues all over the city, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out on a whole lot by not visiting the gallery. We also did not get to go inside the Uffizi. We walked up to it and looked at all the statues around it but the line to get in was very long and we didn’t buy any skip the line tickets ahead of time so we did not get to go inside. When you have limited time, you have to prioritize.

 

Cinque Terre

On our second day in Florence, we woke up very early to pack a backpack and plenty of water and head over to the train station to catch a bus that would take us to the beautiful national park called Cinque Terre. You may have seen images of colorful houses on cliffs in the Mediterranean and those pictures were most likely taken at Cinque Terre. This is quite the tourist attraction and unfortunately, access to this place is going to become very restricted soon because all the tourists are disturbing the life of the locals living there so the amount of people that can visit Cinque Terre is going to be limited each year so I would definitely try to go before that happens as I can imagine it will get much more expensive to go.

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Cinque Terre actually translates to “five lands” or more accurately five villages that are all located in the national park. The villages are very similar in the way they look – colorful houses on cliffs in all of them. They do vary by size and population however. All the villages are considered fishing villages as they are located right on the Mediterranean.

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This is actually the exact tour we went on and I would highly, highly recommend it. It is stated that if you’re going on the tour, you have to be in at least moderately good shape because the hiking you do on the tour is no joke. You are going to be going through the mountains from one of the five villages to another and definitely need to be able to handle a 2-3 mile hike in the heat.  The tour does provide one very authentic lunch for you in one of the villages (probably one of the best meals we had in Italy) with a pasta dish and various seafood that is well known in that location along with some wine. During the day of the tour you get to hike from one village to another twice, take a train from one to another as well as a boat ride from the fifth village back to first (and since you actually start in the second village, you end up seeing the first one as your very last stop in the tour). We had dinner in the last village we stopped at (also a great meal) but this one wasn’t provided by the tour. We just walked around the city and chose out of 3-4 places that was selling food and were very happy with our choice. You also get some beach time during the day (you get an hour to swim in the sea) which was also a lot of fun. I would recommend bringing swimming shoes though because the beach is super rocky and in the water as well there are giant rocks everywhere so it’s easy to hurt your feet or stub your toes when you’re trying to get in.

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The tour guides we had at Cinque Terre were awesome.  They were super entertaining and very knowledgeable and were very easy to spend the whole day with. I cannot say enough good things about them because they made the experience even better than it was already going to be. Overall, the day was a blast and I would just say that if you’re in Italy, you need to see the beauty that is Cinque Terre.

 

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment below!

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