Hi Friends! I hope you are all staying safe and healthy! I’ve been holding off on posting this for while with all of the craziness of Coronavirus happening, but with things slowly getting back to normal I figured this was a great time to highlight one of my favorite countries. And being stuck at home I finally had time to put together the pictures from my trip 🙂 I don’t know about you but I am dreaming of where I want to go when all of this is over and Italy is definitely on my list.
Fun fact: at the beginning of this year I was actually supposed to be in (essentially move) to London for about 9 months for work. I worked extremely hard last year to make my client (which is a UK based company) fall in love with me. The next part of their SAP deployment was in the Nordics so I figured this was my chance to make my dream of semi-moving abroad for work come true. I am in my late 20’s, single and have no one to report to but myself, so if there is anytime to make a move like that it’s NOW.
One day in September I got a call and it was all happening! I had convinced them to bring me onto the next part of the project! YAY! I signed a bunch of paperwork, told everyone I knew, bought a new rain coat and in my mind I had already moved. London here I come….
Flash forward to the Friday before Christmas when I got a devastating call that the site I was going to be working at got de-scoped from the project (aka – no more London for me). For the last two weeks of the year I was honestly a little depressed (minus the whole Christmas joy going on around me). Especially when everyone kept asking me when I was moving…
It wasn’t even just the embarrassment of telling everyone what happened, but I was also genuinely sad. I know how much I would have thrived in London. But sitting here writing this post about Italy, I know that there was a reason I didn’t go to London. I still haven’t completely figured it out (maybe this Covid pandemic), but I was given another amazing opportunity to travel earlier this year and I can’t wait to tell you all about it below.
Now let’s get into the fun I had in Italia!
I worked in a suburb called Scandicci which is only about 20 or so minutes outside Florence. During the week I stayed in a Hilton property by where I worked which was a huge upgrade from the janky Embassy Suits I stayed at in Baltimore. If you are traveling here for a short period of time I would recommend staying downtown Florence, but if you have Hilton points and want to stay using your points they have a daily shuttle to take you downtown. The lounge also had free wine (I’ve noticed this is typical at Hilton properties in Europe) which is a total win in my opinion!
I normally don’t venture out too much during the week, but two of my co-workers were so nice and planned dinners with me so I didn’t have to eat alone. With amazing food, wine and limoncello every night – I was one VERY happy (full) girl!
After a full week of work, I headed downtown to stay at Hotel Berchelli. This hotel was in an amazing location! It was only a 2 minute walk to Pont De Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery. The rooms were more traditional European style (think big metal keys and a little more old fashioned decor) than the Hilton which I liked! Even though this hotel was in a great location for me, I honestly feel like you can’t go wrong staying anywhere downtown. Florence is a very walkable city. I didn’t take any cabs the whole weekend I was there.
Since I was pretty exhausted, I grabbed a pizza to go at Gustapizza (per the recommendation of so many people) and headed back to the hotel to get some rest before a full day of exploring. FYI – Gustapizza is cash (Euro) only and will make your pizza in a heart shape if you ask <3
Saturday morning I woke up bright and early to head to the Uffizi Gallery. I highly recommend booking a ticket early in the morning! I went at 8AM and practically had the place to myself.
After I was done at the gallery, I explored the city until it was time to go to an Airbnb Experience I booked at Conti Tuscany Flavors, which ended up being the perfect activity for a rainy afternoon. Right outside Conti was a giant food hall with a ton of amazing looking food, but I held off so I could save my appetite for my afternoon experience.
The experience consisted of a balsamic and olive oil tasting, along with bubbly, wine, little sandwiches and truffle crostini’s (YUM)! I would highly recommend doing this experience if you are ever in Florence! Yvonne and Stefano were fabulous hosts (even though I was the only person who booked that day).
Here is the link to the exact experience I did: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/502516
Although I had a ton of food at Conti, I decided my day wasn’t complete without a pasta dish, so I stopped at Trattoria Za Za for dinner. The food was delicious but my favorite part of dinner was listening to the conversations of the study abroad groups next to me, and having my waiter slip me his number in my check (your girls still got it!).
I almost forgot what it was like traveling around as a broke student. I couldn’t help but laugh at their comments about if they could afford the water (which is not free in Europe), and how badly they wanted a steak but would get the cheapest pasta and wine option instead. As I sipped on my $15 sparkling rose next to them, I reminisced on when I studied abroad, and then became extremely thankful I am now traveling as an adult and can treat myself to whatever I want – Cin Cin
Sunday morning, I had another delicious breakfast at the hotel and head out to meet a local named Lorenzo to explore the city and learn a little history. I also found Lorenzo on an Airbnb experience and had such a fun afternoon exploring with him!
Link to his experience: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/1247109
Next I checked out the Gucci Garden. It’s right in the center of town and was a fun way to learn some history on the brand and see a lot of vintage pieces.
Next I headed to Piazza de Michelangelo which has some of the best views of Florence! It was quite a hike to get up there, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes (or take a cab).
My last stop of the day was at Eataly. We have an Eataly in Chicago so I wanted to see how similar it was to the original. Honestly it was very similar to the one in Chicago which I was pleasantly surprised by. While I was there I met this adorable woman Sonya who was doing wine tastings for a winery called Celestina Fe. She didn’t speak english very well, but I did learned that she harvests the grapes for the winery. It was fun bonding with her over something everyone loves – a good glass of Vino!
Aside from the history and delicious food, a trip to Italy wouldn’t be complete without doing a little shopping. Florence is the home to a lot of designers like Prada and Gucci, so make sure to take advantage of the outlet malls while you are there. I know I did…
Also – if you are traveling from out of the country make sure to bring your passport to the mall so you can get tax free when you’re flying home (I got about $150 back).
Caio – Until next time Italy!
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed this post. What are your favorite places in Italy?