With the company of her visiting boyfriend, Payton spends a long weekend exploring her host city. From rooftop sunsets and a quick trip the Chianti region, to free museum day and gelato, get inspired by this perfect stay-cation itinerary!
This weekend, I was lucky enough to have a visitor in Florence! My boyfriend, Wylie, who is also studying abroad this semester in Madrid, came by for a few days to check out my new city. Staying in Florence for the weekend to show him around and enjoy the place that I’m calling home for the semester was a nice and much-needed rest from all the weekend traveling that I’ve been doing. Don’t get me wrong, I love that I am able to explore so many parts of Europe so easily while I’m here, but constant traveling can start to take a toll on your energy levels. Florence is also such an amazing place, it deserves it’s fair share of my time, too! And what better way to appreciate where you’re at than with the people that you’re closest to.
Day 1: The Duomo, food, rooftop sunsets...and more food!
The first item on the agenda, after a quick cornetto e cappuccino (croissant and coffee, a typical Italian breakfast) was—you guessed it—the Duomo. We walked around and made sure to look at it from all of the best angles; the views from which never get old. Even I am still in awe every time it enters my line of vision, and I’ve been here over a month now!
Wylie and I at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Duomo.
Once we'd had enough of the tourist crowds, we made our way to a popular local lunch spot, Trattoria Sergio Gozzi. My 'Ganzo!' Dad was able to get us reservations, as he was good friends with the owner, and talk about amazing food for an amazing price! Afterwards, we met up with a few of my friends from CAPA and headed over to one of our favorite gelaterias in town, Gelateria dei Neri. I got a scoop of the ricotta e fichi (ricotta and fig), and al riso (sweet rice). Wylie got the pistacchio con ricotta e cioccolato bianco (pistacchio with ricotta and white chocolate). They have some really interesting, delicious flavors there!
Sunset from a Florence rooftop
Later, we made our way up to a rooftop restaurant at the Grand Hotel Baglioni to catch the sunset. It was the prettiest view of the city I’ve seen yet, featuring terracotta rooftops, the Duomo, and the Santa Maria Novella cathedral all in one shot! After that, we stopped by a tiny little fresh pasta store. I pass by it on my walk to-and-from class every day but had never actually been inside of it. All they do in the store is make fresh pasta all day long, and sell about 5 or 6 different types. We went for the gnocchi, which they sell for 8 euros/kilogram. We brought it home and cooked up a 4-cheese and pancetta gnocchi dish with some caprese appetizers and some left over cake that my 'Ganzo!' family had sent home with me that week. If you couldn’t tell, gathering with loved ones to eat, and eat well, is a big thing in Italy. No complaints here!
Day 2: Cafes, the Chianti region, and lasagna
The next day was a bit rainy, but that didn’t stop Wylie and me from getting out to explore! We started the day by checking out a cafe that Bianca, my 'Ganzo!' sister, showed me. It has a garden seating area where a lot of locals like to hang out and work. There was a little vintage shop right next door that we stopped in as well, before heading to Piazzale Montelungo to catch a bus to Chianti for a winery tour. There, we visited two vineyards and learned quite a bit about the Chianti region and winemaking. We also spent a little time in the small town of Greve, and ordered some prosciutto and burrata from a famous old butcher shop.
A vineyard in Chianti
When we arrived back in Florence, we met some friends from the program at a restaurant across the Arno called I Tarocchi Ristorante Pizzeria, where I ate the best lasagna I’ve ever had in my life. The pear ravioli was amazing, too. You really can’t go wrong here.
Day 3: Free museum day, Michaelangelo's David, and you guessed it...more food!
Wylie chose a great weekend to visit, because on his last day in town, being that it was the first Sunday of the month, all of the state museums in Italy were free! Needless to say, we got up bright and early and went straight to the first museum we wanted to see, which was the Galleria Dell'accademia, where Michelangelo’s David is located. We were greeted by a line that stretched about 8 blocks, but we decided to stick it out for the opportunity to see such an important piece of art, free of charge. Fortunately, the line moved quickly and we were in the museum in no time. Seeing the David in person was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. The statue is 17 feet tall, and perfectly carved from every angle. As my oil painting teacher put it as I was recounting the experience to her today, “there’s a certain energy about it that you just can’t get from the replica (in la piazza della signoria). It just vibrates.”
The David by Michaelangelo
We found ourselves with time to visit one other museum, and chose to hit the Boboli gardens at Palazzo Pitti. The rain clouds from the night before and earlier that morning cleared as we toured the maze-like gardens. They were so beautiful, and offered even more spectacular views of the city that I call home. My CAPA friends and I had already visited Palazzo Pitti in our museology class, but we enjoyed the museum so much that we wanted Wylie to see it, too! We walked through the endless corridors of paintings and costumes until we mutually agreed that it was time to head home for a well-deserved nap. We grabbed sandwiches at my favorite panini place on the way, and woke up a few hours later to get ready for our dinner reservation at Acqua al 2. We had a little trouble navigating the menu at first, as it was entirely in Italian, but ended up having a lovely and delicious dinner (strawberry risotto, anyone?) before Wylie had to head back home to Madrid.
The view from the Boboli Gardens
Having Wylie in Florence this weekend was such a blessing, as it got me to appreciate the city that I live in and therefore sometimes take for granted, and take in everything it has to offer. If he hadn’t come to visit, I may not have made a point to stay in Florence this weekend and try the restaurants I had been meaning to eat at, or see the David on free museum day. There’s also something so fun about showing someone you know around a place that is very familiar to you, but completely brand new to them. I got to watch his face as he took his very first bite of Italian gelato, and lay eyes on profound renaissance art pieces in person rather than on a screen or in a textbook. Thanks to his visit, I feel closer to Florence, and so grateful for CAPA, for providing me with the opportunity to be here and do all of these incredible things every single day.
Payton Meyer is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Strategic Communication major at University of Colorado Boulder, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
Payton's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.