Friday, July 27, 2012

ITALY Florence | Day 7

Firenze (Florence)
Ponte Vecchio? So hard to keep track of all the bridges
DAY 7: We had breakfast at the hotel in Rome, and then packed.   Our hotel was close to this huge marble structure called the Victor Emmanuel Monument.  We wanted to get a closer look at so we took a quick walk to it and took some photos along the way.  We read about it in our travel book.  The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II) or Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) or "Il Vittoriano" is a monument built to honour Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.  The monument holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame, built under the statue of Italy after World War I following an idea of General Giulio Douhet. The body of the unknown soldier was chosen on 26 October 1921 from among 11 unknown remains by Maria Bergamas, a woman from Gradisca d'Isonzo whose only child was killed during World War I. Her son's body was never recovered.  The monument was controversial since its construction destroyed a large area of the Capitoline Hill with a Medieval neighborhood for its sake. The monument itself is often regarded as pompous and too large. It has been described as being "chopped with terrible brutality into the immensely complicated fabric of the hill."
The monument is also glaringly white, making it highly conspicuous amidst the generally brownish buildings surrounding it, and its stacked, crowded nature has lent it several nicknames. Foreign people sometimes refer to the structure by a variety of nicknames, such as "the wedding cake", whereas Romans commonly call it "the typewriter".  Despite all this criticism, the monument still attracts a large number of visitors.

Victor Emmanuel Monument
Huge horse
View from the monument
View from the monument, driving through that roundabout was crazy! There really aren't any lanes
Not sure what this is, but there were ruins like this everywhere
We checked out of our hotel, then took a taxi to Rome Termini train station to catch our train to Florence.  Upon arrival in Florence, we bought Florence Cards which turned out to be a very good investment.  They were expensive, at 50 euros each, but let us skip the line at over 70 museums.  The trick is the card is only good for 72 hours and there is only so much you can see in that short time span.  But, I was very impressed at being able to basically cut in front of everyone in line at both the Accademia and Uffizi gallery.  It was a huge time saver! I read in the Rick Steve book that someone had waited in the Uffizi line for over 6 hours to get in {yikes!!!!!}. Again, there were no photos allowed at both of those museums, so you will have to use your imagination and enjoy the stock picture below.  After we purchased our passes, we took at taxi to Hotel Lungarno, which is on the “other side of the Arno river”.   

Our hotel at night: Hotel Lungarno
Bicycles outside our hotel
Entrance to our room
Our bed
Stairs in our room to 2nd floor
View from 2nd level in our room
Another view from the 2nd floor
I really liked staying in this part of town, it was peaceful but still super close to the main sites we wanted to see.  We got upgraded to a bigger room that looked like the inside of a castle (our room even had a second floor lounge area just for us)!!!  It was really unique and cool, something we probably wouldn’t have picked for ourselves but it was really nice to experience.  After we checked in, we walked around our hotel at all the lovely boutiques. There were so many things that I loved!  We had lunch at a local spot called 5 e cinque {our first menu in all Italian} and we had pizza, but they didn’t call it pizza, so our waitress had to help us out a little with ordering.  I read in our phrasebook a few days later that Italian’s don’t eat pizza during the day, only at night, so that is my best guess at why they didn’t call it pizza on the menu.  

5 & cinque: lunch spot
our pizza - tomatoes and mozarella! So simple but so tasty!
After lunch, I went back to a store that was selling the Longchamp Le Pliage tote.  I have been wanting one for a while, but didn’t pull the trigger because we have been saving so much for Italy. The bags are $145 at Nordstrom, so they aren’t cheap.  The store was an authorized seller and I inspected the bag to make sure it was real {certificate number, detailing, stitching, etc, plus they had a huge display of the bags with the brand spelled out and everything}.  I bought the navy color for 81 euros which translates to $100 US dollars. I read online that the bag is cheaper in Europe, which makes sense because it doesn’t have to travel far. The company is based in Paris.  Originally, I thought about getting black, navy or a brighter turquoise color.  The store only had black and navy and some other green/olive colors.  I got navy because I thought it was a fun, young and fresh neutral but it wasn’t your basic boring black. We have been using it ever since we bought it and I absolutely love it! It is so durable and chic. The only thing I wish they had was more pockets inside so I don’t have to constantly dig around the bottom of the bag if I want to grab my chapstick or something small.  I didn’t realize until we had all of our bags together later that day that both our luggage and my cross body bag are also navy.   Coincidence? I think not.  After browsing some more, we walked back to our hotel and rested and relaxed.  We decided that we probably needed to wash some clothes and the hotel laundry service was absurdly expensive (6 euro for one t-shirt, 3 euro per pair of underwear, etc).  Jake did some research online and found a laundry mat that was close {we consulted our Rick Steve’s travel guide as well}.  We lugged our laundry there {after eating some delicious gelato} and spent about 15 euros to both wash and dry our clothes.  It was a fun experience!

Our 2nd favorite gelato in Florence!
Walking to the laundromat
But, it messed up our eating schedule and by the time we got back to our hotel, all the nearby restaurants had closed.  Our hotel recommended a restaurant called Golden View with a view of the Arno River, which was very nice, but expensive. We only had water and one seafood dish a piece and it was 60 euros.  Oh – speaking of water, I love the sparkling water. 

Prawn risotto
Seafood pasta
Even though it’s a pain to have to pay for it, you feel like you are drinking something special if you get the sparkling kind. I think I am going to start buying Pellegrino at the grocery store now. It’s expensive, but so good! After dinner, we walked back to our hotel and slept.  Goodnight, Florence!

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