The third is the charm. Nope. Each time I go to Italy it is charming beyond belief. My third trip to Italy was for a destination wedding and boy was it a feast for the senses. After seeing major sites and museums the first two trips, I wanted to do really do the dolce vita thing this time around. This trip was a combination of all the beauty life has to offer in Italy.
Hotels/Palazzos. I stayed at the quaint Palazzo Branchi with family for the wedding. It was centrally located and close to the central part of Florence. I would definitely not shy away from staying in an apartment style hotel or location because you can have more room for several people. The Four Seasons costs a pretty penny but it is extremely beautiful. The gardens are like an outdoor museum with several buildings. If you plan to walk as much as you can, definitely book a place center to town. Walking is the best way to see Florence and you may want to avoid being in a taxi or car too much.
Mangia. Let’s eat! I felt shamelessly filled with happiness eating a lovely giant pizza or pasta for lunch in the Piazza della Signora without needing a post-lunch nap. The obvious next step is to get a gelato and view the sculptures in the open air museum. A chef friend recommended the lovely La Giostra which is quite the spot for celebrities and locals alike. It is worth a visit if you want to enjoy a unique atmosphere and recipes. If the owner is there, even better! The restaurants around each piazza often cater to tourist palates so it is worth the time to find what suits you best. Mercato Centrale is a large market and food hall that will cater to anyone and everyone. Don’t be afraid to try non-Italian food there. I had one of the best organic burgers at one of the vendors. Some advice: Go to Simbiosi on Via De’Ginori. It is an organic pasta place and I am still dreaming about the spaghetti aglio olio peperoncino. Insert googly eyes here.
History & Art. Italy and the words “history” and “art” will always go hand in hand. Florence was at one point home to the ruling Medici family of Italy and they commissioned many of da Vinci’s works which can be seen at the Uffizi Gallery alongside Botticelli and Michaelangelo among others. The Uffizi Gallery is special because it has the Corridoio Vasariano, a passage that in the past helped the Florentine nobility to reach the Medici office, across Ponte Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti. The home of David is a must see at the Galleria Dell’Acaddemia. I would suggest a tour guide at these locations to understand the stories behind the art. If you walk past the Ponte Vecchio, you take beautiful pictures alongside the river and eventually reach Palazzo Pitti on the other side. This was a residence of the Medici family and it features the beautiful Boboli Gardens. It is 100% recommended to plan your museum and gallery visits in advance due to high volume and long lines.
Wine. One word: Tuscany. This means lots of decadent wine. A reasonable day trip from Florence can be in nearby Chianti. Another option is to stay at one of the beautiful villa homes in Tuscany, do cooking classes, olive oil making, truffle hunting, wine tasting and simply be in heaven. No option is wrong. A drive down the roads and seeing the rolling hills and cypress trees will have you understand the meaning of dolce vita.
People. You know to always look for this one when I am traveling. I find Italians quite delightful. They are full of heart and find their happiness in the simplest of things. I see a lot of similarity between Indian and Italian culture. There is a lot of vibrancy. From the first moment I heard the word “prego” when I arrived to the Four Seasons for a wedding to when the pilot on my flight said “arrivederci”, it was all a beautiful dream because of the people. My last thoughts? “Everyone should get married in Italy,” was all I kept saying after the festivities were over. Whose next?