Bye Bye Venice, Hello Florence!

Here are some final shots taken as we were on the shuttle boat to the train station.  I just liked the skull on the outside of the building so I zoomed in.
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There are quite a few trains and this station was bigger than I expected.  I guess it would really be a main way out of Venice.
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From Venice we went to Florence.

We stayed at Hotel Pendini, with a great location right in Piazza della Repubblica.  This is pretty central to everything, but we quickly learned all major sights were really very close.
Here is our room.  This was much smaller than the first room in Venice, but we expected that.  We didn't plan on spending tons of time in the room anyway, but Ryan is over 6 ft tall, so some space is needed just to move around.  In fact, one place with a good price in Venice had to be overlooked because they were not sure he would be able to really fit in the shower space.  I think the ceiling was just too low and the shower head was down lower.  Needless to say, there we went with the big room.  But this room in Florence was good, although the bathroom was quite narrow.  Oh, and the other problem was that we were right next to the hallway door that was a keyed entry, and the door was very heavy and slammed every time someone went in or out.  Very early in the morning this started and kept waking us up.
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The best part of getting to Florence when we did was that the Firenze Gelato Festival was going on.  Firenze is the Italian word for Florence.  Now all I can say is Holy Moly!  What insane timing to wind up in Florence.  Even crazier, one of the booths, for a large gelato vendor was right outside our hotel in the piazza (basically a public square).  So we quickly dropped our bags off and wandered out to check this out.  Did I mention that Ryan loves ice cream, like really, really loves ice cream.  I may have been in heaven, but he was extremely excited for this opportunity to try out all these flavors.
We started off by each getting a cup from this place, Sammontana, which is the one that was right outside our hotel.  We were not fully understanding yet the gelato card, although we later did purchase this card that was 7 euro for 5 samples (not just a spoonful, but not quite a full scoop), and rechargeable for 5 euros for 5 more samples.  It also came with some little goodies, including a balloon.  
Look at all the people lined up:

Check out all that gelato:
I went with my favorite flavor, stracciatella, which is similar to chocolate chip.
Oh yes, I enjoyed this!
They had all these little ice cream deliver displays up.  This one is a boat.
They also had some gelato cocktails for purchase.
We had arrived around noon, so we had plenty of time to explore.  We also knew that the rest of the gelato vendors were over by Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, so we decided to head out over there.  As we left I took a picture of the square.  You can see the hotel on the top levels off to the right of the arch.
I also got a shot of the fun looking tower.
On the way we stopped at a cute, although touristy, street cafe.  They have tables outside at most places and just about anywhere you could think of sticking some tables.  This was down a little alleyway.
They also had a lot of gelato here.
Ryan ordered a pizza.
I ordered this amazing veggie bruschetta (did you know this is to be pronounced brus-keta?  I didn't, but I quickly learned).
After lunch we continued on our journey.  I thought this was a super cool idea.  This is a popsicle store.  What a fun idea!
The next stop was a trip over the Ponte Vecchio.  This is a major bridge over the river, and is lined with gold jewelers.
Walking here was insane and a little like being in Disney World (as far as crowds are concerned).
Here is the view off one side of the bridge.
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Here is the view off the other side.
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Then, after a short walk, we arrived at Pitti Palace, with a huge gasp as we saw all the ice cream vendors and all the people.
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Welcome to gelato heaven!!!
Here is a little about the origins of gelato.  I was glad they had all their information in English too. 
Here is a fun way to keep the gelato.
Ah, check out all the vendors.  My guess is there was somewhere between 16 and 20 vendors.  In another post I will have a picture of what this sample size looks like.
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For the museum, we decided to bypass the paintings and instead go for the Gardens Pass.  There were a few museums with this, but I thought this would be a better one to see.  We only had so much time and both parts were sold as separate tickets.  Those tickets can add up in price fast, so you really need to pick and choose.
Here is the view from inside the gardens overlooking the city.
These are pictures inside the gardens.
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Again, some shots overlooking the city.  The gardens went up hill so you got a good view out over the Palace.
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Some sculptures inside.
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Here I am at one lookout spot.
This was a smaller garden where the porcelain museum was located.
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As we were leaving there was a gelato making demo, but it was only in Italian, so we left after a quick view of what was going on.
Here is the sample size, but like I said, there is a better picture from another day.  The one thing I love in Italy is that they do not use scoopers, but instead paddles, so they can very easily, and very happily, give multiple flavors in one cup or cone regardless of the size.
Dinner was at a restaurant we found in the Rick Steves guide book (yes, we use Rick Steves!).  We picked Trattoria al Trebbio based on the description and then the location.  We were a few minutes early for our reservation, so we wandered around a little.
This is the Santa Maria Novella Basilica. 
Since it was still light out and still nice outside, we thought we would use those last minutes before dinner to take a look around.

Inside the restaurant was very cute and cozy.  Throughout the evening this place became very packed with happy diners.
We started with bread and wine.
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Ryan and I split the bruschetta.  The Italian word for tomato is pomodoro.  So this was pomodoro bruschetta.  Now, this was during the E. coli outbreak in Europe, but only limited to a watch on cucumbers at this time, and not even an alert in Italy, so we did not really feel pressured to not enjoy this tasty dish, although we were still keeping an eye on this situation.  Oh well, we didn't get sick, and that is a good thing.
In Italy, they order the antipasto, which was our bruschetta, and then comes the primi piatti, which is the first course, a pasta dish.  On this night, Ryan had the pasta with meat sauce and I had plain tomato sauce.
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For the secondi piatti, we split the eggplant parmesan.  This may have been the best egg parm I have ever eaten.  It seems like a lot of food, and it was, but at the same time it seemed just right.
On the stroll home we took a few more pictures of the churches and things we passed.
So that was the end of our very long day, but very good day getting in to Florence.

QUESTIONS:  Are you familiar with the Italian way of dining, or the terms used for the menu?  Do you know any Italian restaurants that list their menus this way?  Do you like eggplant parmesan?  Have you ever been to an ice cream festival?


Unknown said...

I think the hotel we stayed in in in your bridge photos :) I love eggplant parm...mmmm! I WISH I have been to an ice cream festival! I can not think of anything better!

Emily said...

I seriously need to come on vacation with you sometime because you are an expert traveler! That gelato sounds amazing, mostly because it is 98 here!

Gina; The Candid RD said...

Wait...a gelato festival?!?!?! Oh my gosh, I bet you were in HEAVEN!! I would have been.

We have a restaurant called Trattoria Not the full name, but I forget the rest) and they list their foods in a way that I always have to ask the waiter/waitress for help!

EA Stewart-The Spicy RD said...

Aww,,,Venice! My husband and I were there almost 5 years ago and had such an amazing time. Love all your photos , and I do like eggplant parmesean too! Now, I've got gelato on my brain :-)

Special K said...

Florence is my upmost favorite art and cultural "City" in Italy so far...the gelatto, hands down, closest non alcoholic food that makes me knee woozy.
Glad to see you are slopping it up!

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