April 11-25, 2023
Northern Italy in springtime, sounds like a perfectly ok place to celebrate a birthday....any birthday!
We were going to hold off returning to Italy until my wife's birthday in the Fall, then 2 weddings conflicted with those plans ....so I volunteered to spend my birthday in Italy!
Tuesday, April 11th at 1700 we drove to Dulles International Airport and boarded the KLM flight to Amsterdam. I should mention we had some very good luck, the flight attendant said there were 70 vacant seats, we had our row of 4 seats all to ourselves! My wife grabbed a couple hours of sleep, I may have dozed off a couple times. I have learned from rotating watch schedules on boats that even if you can't sleep, lay quiet with your eyes shut! 7.5 hours later we landed, watched the rain fall for 2 hours, stayed limber on a bicycle charging table, then a short flight to Malpensa. Looking at the weather forecasts we weren't sure if we chose the right weeks?!!
We were just here in September and sort of remembered how to navigate the train system. We headed to the ticket kiosk but then saw a woman at the small ticket booth. We had our ticket choices on our phone using OMIO and asked if we were considering the quickest options to Florence and she said yes, but there's a regional in 4 minutes if we hurry! She processed both tickets for us, first a regional to Milano Centrale, then onto a fast train to Florence. This regional train saved us an hour, thank you ticket booth lady!! We would not have used the ticket kiosk fast enough to make this train, plus the validation machine was acting up and a nice employee manually validated for us, they are so efficient!
We contacted our host at Assaporarte B&B and told her our arrival time would be an hour earlier, she said no problem! The fast train took 1hr 55min and was very comfortable. Our B&B, aka boutique hotel, was just a couple blocks from the train station so we walked to Piazza Santa Maria Novella and met our host. She was very nice and gave us a tour of the 4 room B&B, then checked us into our comfortable room.
Now at this point you may be wondering if we were tired after that travel day.... heck yeah! Except for the cat naps we were around the 28 hour mark from when we woke at home. We could have easily crawled into bed at 5pm, but then we would be up by 3am! We got freshened up and decided to walk the town, our goal was to stay awake until at least 9pm.
We have been to Florence a couple of times for brief stays, but had never walked to the Piazzale Michelangelo ...so we walked! and walked! We prematurely turned up a street and climbed and climbed! ended up at a huge fortress with incredibly high walls, we think it was Forte Di Belvedere. It certainly deserves a visit but not this trip. Finally we used our cell phone and charted a new and more direct course to Piazzale Michelangelo.
The weather forecast was predicting something like 70-80% chance of rain, turned out to be a beautiful and dry afternoon. These false predictions would be the norm for the majority of our vacation. It was a week after Easter and we quickly realized that people were still on holiday. There were a lot of organized groups of teenage students, well behaved for teenagers!
Piazzale Michelangelo...what a beautiful vantage point! Florence is certainly sprawling, I particularly liked the view of the Arno from here, not to mention all of the other iconic must sees! We also enjoyed the beverage truck!! Ice cold beer and that view....priceless!
The sun was starting to set, we were really hungry, so we started our leisurely downhill walk. Our path would take us over Ponte Vecchio, seemed like a hundred selfies being taken as we breezed through. We really enjoy the walkway along the Arno River, even with the crowds in various "hot spots" you can find a calm, peaceful spot to soak it all in.
At 1930 we attempted to just walk in to a restaurant we really liked but they were full, on the same street we noticed Osteria "La Latteria", looks cool. I walked into the front door, saw the small main dining area full and a man points and asks if the lone table by the door would be ok, of course! The man turned out to be Riccardo, the owner, a super nice gentleman! We were tired, but very hungry and ordered various things to share that just sounded good, cacio e pepe, risoto with porcini, ossobuco....and red wine of course. The food, the service, the environment was outstanding. The chef even stopped by to ask how the meal was going, great atmosphere here, highly recommend!
We passed on dessert and coffee and simply shuffled 2 blocks to our bed! We were way more active on this arrival day than we expected. We were able to stay awake until 2130 hours and we figured with a couple cat naps we were up 34 hours! I hope I can sleep through the night..............