We departed our Hotel Albani at about 8 am and headed for Florence. In my last tour in Italy it was one of my favorite cities so I was excited to come back. The bus ride was about 3.5 hours with one stop, most of which I spent doing homework. When we arrived we were taken to exactly the same gold and leather store as my tour 10 years ago. It was a very interesting case of deja vu. I remember buying a leather belt for my father last time as well as leather pants (that I never wear). This time I thought maybe I would make a more classy investment. I found a leather motorcycle style jacket. It was fine tailored leather that was brush painted tan. I tried it on, despite my better judgment, and of course loved how it looked in me. I knew it would be expensive but I didn’t realize that it would, like dinner the night before, be completely unaffordable for me. But luckily for me Mom and Dad came to the rescue. We negotiated, like we do, it to be an early Christmas present (note: my birthday next month was already accounted for when I wanted an expensive lens for my digital camera last Christmas) and I happily left the store with a beautiful Italian leather jacket.
That night there was a dinner excursion offered but we chose once again to go to another one of our agents’ recommendations. Before doing so we headed over to Ponte Vecchio, a very old (possibly the oldest) bridge in Florence. It was quite a site to see because it had little buildings built all the way across the bridge. The shops had old wooden covers that could be propped open during business hours and then pulled down to shut at closing time. It was a bit touristy but worth the short visit. Our dinner venue was called Paoli and was definitely a better value than the night before. It was very modestly priced and had excellent food. But most interesting was the environment inside. This restaurant, the oldest restaurant in Florence, used to be a church and the walls were painted and decorated as such. The waiters spoke English very well so I was relieved of most of my translation duties for the night.
The next day we went back into Florence, as our hotel was a bit outside of the city center, and briefly visited the museum of fine art (which houses Michelangelo’s David) and then took a short walking tour by the beautiful marble dome called The Basilica of Saint Maria of the Flower (La Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) and through the Signora Plaza (Piazza Signora). The Signora Plaza was a unique site due to all the statues outside in one small area making it an open art museum of sorts. When our tour ended we had a quick bite to eat and I finally allowed myself to splurge on a cafe latte before heading back to our bus and hitting the road again. This time — the road to Venice.