Florence, Italy Travel Blog — Shalese Danielle Travels

Apr 25

America needs high speed trains.  Yes, I get that our country is MASSIVE, but we should make travel easier between cities and states!  Imagine how much more of our own country we could explore if we were set up for trains like Italy.  I mean, even if you live in Rome, what’s your excuse to never see Venice?!  You can get there in less than 4 hours!

That’s my favorite thing about traveling in Europe: how much you have the opportunity to SEE!  We took the high speed train from Venice to Florence in about 2 hours.  In 2 hours, we were in an entirely different environment and ready to see one of the most awe-inspiring buildings I’ve ever seen.

Going from little car-free Venice to big, bustling Florence was a bit of a shock!  I’m always a bit taken aback when we get to a new city because it’s never quite how I expect it to look.  Florence was no different.  We were rolling our carry-ons through the rain and construction and cars speeding around us.  Cars speed through tiny alleys that look FAR too narrow for a vehicle.  As we stood at our AirBnB door unlocking it, we had to jump into a doorway to avoid getting swiped by a mini bus.  CRAZY.  I thought, “Oh man, I don’t know if I’m going to like this!”  And then Robert said, “There it is.”

It’s almost impossible to get all of the Duomo in one photo.  But in the middle of Florence stands on the most impressive structures you’ll ever see in person.  That sounds pretty dramatic, but seriously, you’ll never get tired of looking at it.  It’s green and pink and white and MASSIVE.  The carvings that are ALL OVER the building are so intricate that you can’t even really comprehend the amount of time and work that went into this place.

So the above photos are from a different day — this is what it looked like when we arrived.  Super rainy, but still almost ridiculously colorful.

We headed straight to our AirBnB.  I usually book our accommodations so far ahead that I forget what they look like, which is actually a really fun surprise.  I had forgotten that I chose this particular AirBnB because it boasted about incredible views, and all the reviewers raved about Annarosa, the hostess.  WAS NOT. DISAPPOINTED.

Just a quick note on the AirBnBs we stayed in: it really changed my mind about AirBnBs.  In London, we stayed in one that was around the corner from a strip club and above a porn video store.  Not the best.  In Italy though, we were greeted at each apartment by a hostess and welcomed with open arms.  When we met Annarosa in Florence, I could have talked to her all day.  She travels all over the world, including a 2 year stint in the U.S.  That’s right, it took her 2 years to make her way from L.A. to Connecticut.  She loved New Mexico and Arlington in the U.S. but loves Thailand and other parts of Asia the most because “they’re so efficient and fast, fast, fast!”

After chatting with Annarose and taking a nap to wait out the rain, we ran back to the square to see what we could get into.  As soon as Robert found out that we could climb the bell tower, he was buying tickets.  Again, if there is a tower you can climb, Robert will buy the ticket.  I had no choice in the matter, and I was slightly terrified.  It’s TALL.  414 steps to the top, no elevator!

Once you get to the top, it’s surrounded by this “bird cage.”

See all those little people on top the cuppola of this gargantuan building?  Robert said, “We’re climbing THAT for sure.”  To do so, you have to spiral around the interior of that dome.  Just the thought of it made me feel queasy.

That evening, we did some exploring and followed Annarosa’s recommendation to SimBIOsi for pizza. On the way there, I found a job that I’m TOTALLY qualified for!  It was tempting.  😉

This is Robert’s hangry face because I insisted on taking pictures of everywhere we ate so we could remember. hahaha

“Bio” in Italy is like our slang for “being green.”  Their ingredients are all natural and all of that.  It’s difficult to translate, but simbiosi means “if you’re green, say it,” like be proud of it.

After pizza, we explored some shops, like this UH-mazing thrift store.  Italians and DEFINITELY Spaniards are really into the Americans 70s aesthetic.  I’m talking striped bellbottoms, porn staches, and round, colored sunglasses.

It was very difficult to leave this leopard fur coat behind, but there was no way it was fitting in my carry on!

We also found a used bookstore.  I almost moved in but managed to leave with a copy of 101 Dalmatians in Italian.  😉

The Duomo at night is just absurd.  ABSURD.

The next morning, we wanted to conquer the David!  The Galleria dell’Accademia was built JUST for this famous statue, and it shows.  We paid something like $33 each for skip-the-line tickets.  It was worth it to the skip the line, in my opinion, but still . . . super expensive.  And the thing about this museum is that the David is the coolest thing to see.  Everything else was neat, but we were really walking around trying to be interested to get our money’s worth!

This statue is, as they say, incredible to see up close. The detail is really hard to even comprehend, from the veins in his arms to the bumps of his knuckles.


I loved this statue of “Boy with a Dog” because . . . something else exciting is happening for Robert and I soon.  😉

In this museum, I FINALLY figured out why all the reproduction statues have these nails in them.  They’re used as a grid when the mold is poured to help replicate the original.

After the statues, we explored the Leather Market and Mercato Centrale, the indoor market.  It’s a wild building!

I’m not exaggerating when I say that produce in Italy smells better.  It smells heavenly . . . and REAL.

We used trusty Yelp (best decision of the trip: choose all restaurants based on in-person recommendations from locals and YELP!) to find Sandwichic, a delicious lunch spot.  There were some American students in there gushing over their first time eating at this place they had heard so much about, so we knew it was about to be good!  The staff is super friendly!

I feel immense sadness looking at this sandwich because it was so simple and so incredible.  Fresh ingredients are life.

We had 3:00 reservations to climb the Duomo, which is a MUST MUST MUST (more on that at the end of the post).  While we were in line, I saw the same guard who let us into the bell tower was working the Duomo.  He is my future brother-in-law’s TWIN.  I snuck a picture and sent it to the whole family.  They were floored.  Since Jesse is Italian, we are convinced they are long lost cousins at least.

I was SO NERVOUS about this climb.  It’s 463 steep, sometimes spiral, always narrow steps to the top.  At two different points, you have to walk around the INSIDE of the church with the choir loft WAAAAAAYYYYYY down below you.  Like WAYYYY down.  Robert HATED that part.  I just tried not to look down — I looked up at the gorgeous dome mural!  Luckily, there are signs everywhere to keep moving.  If people were holding us up to take pictures, I MIGHT have had a panic attack.  But moving was good  . . . and the climb was worth it.

Truth: I joked that Robert should have proposed up here.  I mean, it would have been epic.  Later he told me that he did think about it, but it was SO WINDY.  I mean, so windy that I walked around one of these arch/columns and got pushed back against the wall.  Here is Robert modeling in the wind.  hahaha

Oh, and we were also surrounded by high schoolers on a class trip.  They were SO OBNOXIOUS.  Always smoking to prove that they’re cool, even in wind that literally MOVED MY BODY.

It’s hard to tell, but you are looking down at the bell tower.  Surprisingly, the hike up the bell tower was shorter but more difficult.  In the bell tower, there’s one spiral staircase up AND down.  So you’re always waiting to let people by.  Climbing the Duomo was more . . . around and around.  It only got super steep at the end.



THIS is the super steep part!  I didn’t have to duck, but Mr. Six Feet did.

I did snap this on the interior walk on our way out.  We were so HIGH UP THERE.

I was grateful to be back on the ground.  Well worth it though!

Chanel is so casual in Italy.  EEK!

This photo was a must, obviously!

If you’re embarrassed to be taking a silly picture with the fake David statue in the Piazza della Signoria, don’t do it!  An American tourist will definitely snap your photo.  😉 hahaha

This is the outside of the Uffizi.  We didn’t go in . . . which I’m ok with?  It felt really expensive for art that I wasn’t super interested in, and I wanted to make sure I got to see Ponte Vecchio!


We also wanted to make sure we got to see the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo.  It was a WALK, but we actually did it twice because the first night was super cloudy.  Plus, if you take different routes, you get to see totally new places.  🙂



From this square, you get two strikingly different views: the city of Florence with the unmistakable Duomo and a distinctly more rural, Tuscan look.




Another great lunch spot!  I got a HUGE bacon, egg, and cheese that soothed my American soul.  😀

It was insanely windy and cold on our last day in Florence, so we took advantage of the free museum we got with our Duomo climb ticket.  We learned a lot about the Duomo and how it was built back in 1296.  Brunelleschi, the architect who designed the dome, had to prove to a council that he could make this humongous dome with no support.  To show how he could do it, he challenged the council to make an egg stand on its own.  Obviously, no one could.  So he took the egg (presumably hard boiled, hahaha) and cracked it down so the broken shell became an octagonal shaped support.  It stood.

We wondered back to Piazzale Michelangelo for one last sunset overlooking this city.  I fell in love with it and felt sad to leave!



Apparently it’s a thing to do wedding shoots all over Italy!  We saw couples all dressed a few different times in Florence.  Robert was like, “I can’t believe you’re trying to get a picture of them!”  I was like, “IT’S WHAT I DO!” haha

Now, the next leg of the trip is where it got REALLY interesting.  As we headed out of Florence early to get to Cinque Terre around noon, I didn’t know that the NEXT time I was on an early train to a new city . . . I’d be engaged.  😉

The Details

Our AirBnB — can’t recommend it enough. You will be hard pressed to find a better view for a better price!  The 12 flights of stairs (not kidding) are worth it.


SimBIOsi — Delicious pizza, super cute environment

Natalino — So good.  I got the fried chicken, of course.  It is definitely not American fried chicken, but dare I say it was better?

Sandwichic — Quick, delicious lunch spot!

i’Tosto — Ditto.

Getting Around & Doing Things

We walked.  A lot!

To climb the Duomo, we went to the museum the day before and reserved our time slot.  I think you can also do it online well in advance, which is probably a good idea — it does sell out.  **Very important!  PRINT YOUR TICKET.  Don’t just have it on your phone.  We saw them not let a couple in who had the ticket on their phone.  They were pissed.  Don’t be in that position!

To climb the Bell Tower, we walked right in.  I think they sent us to the museum to buy a ticket, but it was not as busy.  But if you’re going during high season, still buy this ticket in advance, too!

Other Parts of Our Trip & Other Travel Posts!

Venice, Italy

Edinburgh, Scotland

London, England

How to Travel with JUST a Carry-On!

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