Eurotrip Vacation Review: Florence

Our second stop on the Eurotrip was Florence. What an incredible place! We ended up taking a train from Zurich to Florence, and couldn’t have been happier with that decision. Our hotel (the Marriott) in Zurich was within walking distance of Zurich Main Station and the Airbnb we stayed at in Florence was around a 15 minute walk from S.M.N. (Santa Maria Novella), the main station in Florence. That turned into a bit of a hassle on the way out of Florence, though, as we had a (always reliable, super helpful) Samsonite spinner wheel break off right as we started the walk to the station. That area of Florence is much too congested during the morning rush to try and bail out for an Uber (would have added 30 minutes easily), so yours truly got to carry the bag 🙁

Some of our favorite spots in Florence:

  • Centrale Market: a great market on the Northwest side of Florence proper. Many shops on the lower level, including places to find great cheeses, wines, and produce. The upper level is a recent addition and includes a food-court-style setup with dozens of vendors who all serve separate fare (anything from pastas to prosciuttos to sandwiches to dumplings, and many others in-between). There are also beer/wine service folks who will help you get a drink once you’re settled at a table.
  • Casa del Garga: an absolutely outstanding off-the-beaten-path restaurant near our Airbnb. We had one of our best meals of the trip at this spot, which was recommended both by our Airbnb host (as a great local spot within a couple blocks) as well as one of our wine tour guides in Tuscany (who used to live in the area when she was studying for her Sommolier exam).
  • 4 Leoni: tremendous spot on the South side of the river, which we found through a quick google search for “Bolognese” (one of my vices) while we were spending a leisurely cafternoon shopping on the more “locals” side of town. The lasagna is out-of-this-world, and the special ravioli/tortellini with pear is excellent as well. Here is the lasagna:

  • The Duomo: one of the more famous spots in Florence. Insider tip: book your tickets in advance (and select a tour time and print this confirmation). Skipping the line will guarantee you a spot, as well as save you hours in line as the flood of tourists for this site is constant. The hike to the top can be a bit cramped, with many small stairwells and several spiral staircases. The total hike to the top is approximalye 25 minutes in length, with an initial (interior) observation deck around 15 minutes in. Once you continue onward and reach the top, the 360-degree views of Florence are unmatched (making the climb totally worth it). One of the many, expansive views from the observation deck atop the Duomo:

  • Academy Art Gallery: the location of Michaelangelo’s famous David sculpture, along with several of his other “unfinished” works. The statue itself is incredibly large – much bigger than one might think based on photos alone.

  • Piazzale Michaelangelo: a common terrace on the south side of the river, with scenic views of the city. Free to go, and several bars/shops around to stop for a breather if the hike up the hill (~15-20 minutes) has you a bit winded.

  • Garga: one of the best hidden gems in Florence. We had what may quite possibly be the best, most unexpected bolognese of our lives here. Just take a look for yourself; you can almost smell it off the screen:

Bolognese at Garga

For lodging, we ended up in an Airbnb on the Northwest side of the main town center. It ended up being great, and gave us some good separation from the much more touristy areas down by all of the historic sites that Florence has to offer. We ended up finding some gems and hole in the wall restaurants off the beaten path, which was an added bonus.

Til Next Time,


Train Travel in the Northeast

This post comes to you from the comfort of an AMTRAK Acela Express train somewhere between New York and Boston. Just checking in to brag and do a quick piece on the joys of overland travel in rural New England in the autumn time. I think often times this part of the country gets a bad reputation for having absolutely horrific weather (which is definitely true), but there are actually times and seasons where this corner of the country is fantastic and picturesque. This is definitely that time of year. If you haven’t had a chance to make it up to this part of the country, I really do recommend it. I have spent significant time in New York, Boston, and Portland (Maine) and really have nothing but great things to say about it. Sure, you inevitably encounter a rude or aggressive person every now and again, but I have yet to find anywhere that you can avoid those outliers alltogether.

Today’s 4 hour train from NYP>BOS really is a subtle reminder of how comfortable travel can be. I landed in one of the “quiet cars” which is a calm respite compared to the otherwise obnoxious MD88 that would have taken me from Laguardia to Logan (i.e. crying children, cramped space, limited room to walk in the aisle). Boarding the train couldn’t have been easier – no security line, no luggage check, just a couple honest hardworking Americans (read: not “that” type of TSA) that wanted to make sure I had a ticket. The only way it could have been better is if I didn’t have to depart from Penn Station. That place seriously leaves a lot to be desired, especially when viewed in comparison to its classier relatives like the palatial Grand Central Station.

Alas, I digress. The train itself is spacious and comfortable. And, checking in at right around $100 for a last minute one-way from New York to Boston, the price really can’t be beat. Much more convenient than the airport cluster. Even though this trip is on business so the price wasn’t a huge factor, I am really pleased I decided to go the train route for this leg of the trip.

So, if you haven’t had the chance, make a trip up here for business or pleasure. And, give the trains a chance. They really are quite comfortable and convenient. I’ll check back in soon, hopefully with something halfway intelligent or somewhat worth your time.

Til Next Time,