T and B Do Italy: April 18-20

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the fourth of those posts.

Wednesday, April 18:

We made our last full day in Florence a fairly busy one. We slept in a tiny bit (comparatively speaking), but woke up with plenty of time to grab breakfast and stand in line for about an hour waiting to get into the actual Duomo cathedral. A line was going to be stood in regardless (I read on some other blog somewhere that standing in line is one of the great Italian traditions (for tourists?)), and we figured an hour before opening wouldn’t be too bad. We were right.

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Santa Reparata crypt underneath. Once again, built on top of another church.

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Looking up in the Cupola.

That taken care of, we headed across the Arno to officially hit the Palazzo Pitti as well as the Boboli Gardens.

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In the Palazzo Pitti. If this room isn’t rented out for weddings, the Palazzo Pitti is screwing themselves out of a lot of money.

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Renaissance bathroom.

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The ceilings, man, the ceilings.

The Palazzo, in its essentials, was basically an ostentatious old house. From an aesthetic standpoint, I think I prefer Versailles from my vague memories of it … although that might not quite be the fairest comparison.

When it came down to it … we might have been just happiest buying tickets solely for the Gardens as opposed to the package deal we did purchase.

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Gardens.

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Looking down at the Palazzo Pitti.

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Killer view of the Duomo from the Gardens.

I would have adored to spend a lot more time in the Gardens, exploring every pathway … but poor B was getting a bit hangry (and I’m not sure if they allowed re-entry), so we left and grabbed lunch at a cafe down the street.

Lunch eaten, it was back to the hotel to catch up on internet stuff and attempt to pack up. Due to buying the wine and other liquids, we knew we’d have to check a bag, and we figured mine would be the best as it was somewhat hard-sided. When it comes down to it, I am a packing wizard, so I was able to successfully cram everything in (pilot B was fairly astounded at my skills). However, we still thought another bag might be nice … so I decided to be a total tourist and purchase a 30 euro leather tote from a street vendor so I could have a second carry-on and maybe not completely stuff my suitcase to its gills.

B also wanted some chocolate as a souvenir, so we found a local Italian chocolate shop for that. We also decided to get some more gelato … but it was fairly meh. We capped off the night with our third dinner visit for pizza, which we once again ate on our balcony. Which I regret in no way whatsoever.

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Since I didn’t photograph it earlier, I wanted a picture of the church we had mass in on Sunday … which I took off our balcony.

Thursday, April 19:

We woke up early to get one more run in as well as some photos with everything quiet.

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Cathedral.

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Fake David near the Palazzo Vecchio.

We went back to the hotel and showered and went down to breakfast … where I was surprised with a cappuccino with my name on it.

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B got a duck. They said his name was too long … which is kind of a lie as he has seven letters, same as I. However, the B probably takes up more space than a T …

I felt so special.

Breakfast consumed, we walked back toward the Duomo for our cupola visit.

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Shot of the baptistery, campanile, cathedral and cupola.

It was a bit tricky to climb all the way up to the lantern part of the cupola, but the views made it worthwhile. It was a wonderful way to cap off our final morning in Florence.

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B taking photos.

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Yours truly.

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Looking down.

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Florence, you’ve been amazing.

We headed back to the hotel to check in for our flight, gather up our stuff, and check out. We walked back to the train station to buy tickets back to Milan and then over to the airport … as well as some snacks and lunch for the train.

Both trains were uneventful.

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Milano Centrale. I regretted not getting a photo here the first time around.

We had a tiny adventure getting to our hotel – the Holiday Inn Express Milan-Malpensa – but we made it work fine in the end. We walked over to a different hotel for dinner, but in general, it was a very low-key night as we had to be up super early the next morning.

Friday, April 20:

We took the earliest shuttle from our hotel over to the airport just to ensure we could be at the airport at least three hours ahead of time. Our options were get there 3:30 or 2:45 ahead of our flight; we went with the former … and good thing, too.

I checked in my bag okay and got the security check for my passport (or so I thought … there were issues with this) and B probably should have stayed with me, but due to some miscommunication (silly language barriers) … got in a different line. I got through my stuff way quicker, met him in line … where they ended up making him check his bag, too. That dealt with, we had to walk a bit to get through security … and then walk even more to get through passport control. This took up almost two of the three hours, so it is damn good we got there early.

Starving (breakfast at the hotel had been open five minutes before we had to catch our shuttle), we got our final Italian cappuccinos and some mediocre food at the cafe by our gate. We also used up most of our last euros buying some snacks and liquid for the flight home.

No upgrade coming back, but we sat together, so all was well. I ended up watching three movies on the flight (since, well, no nook to read):
– “Murder on the Orient Express” – B started it and I was watching over his shoulder so I finally just turned it on. Good, and I’m going to need to read the book now.
– “Battle of the Sexes” – no clue how much liberty was taken with this (knowing Hollywood, probably a lot), but I enjoyed it.
– “Spotlight” – SO GOOD. I vaguely remember the Boston church/sex scandal breaking while I was in college (… terrible journalism major, that’s me), but the lawyer on the case was a BU grad and featured in our alumni magazine, so I figured I should watch it, and I am so glad I did.

We landed in JFK, cleared customs … and then spent quite a bit of time in the Delta Sky Club before catching our flight home to Denver (which I mostly slept through).

Such an amazing trip, and I am so thankful we took it!

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T and B Do Italy: April 16-17

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the third of those posts.

Monday, April 16:

B wanted to see Pisa, so Monday was the day we planned to rent a car and head to Pisa. We left the hotel a bit early after breakfast so we could see the famous pig fountain (Il Porcellino) without masses of people around.

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B putting a coin in its mouth and rubbing the nose for good luck.

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Me pretending to be Inspector Pazzi from “Hannibal,” fake washing non-existent blood off my hands. Because I’m a nerd.

We found the rental car place okay … but realized too late that B needed his passport, so we had to do a round trip to the hotel and back. Oops. Extra walking!

That all sorted, we got our car (an Alfa Romeo with standard transmission, so ain’t no way was I driving), managed to get down the parking ramp and out of town successfully following Google maps.

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He’s only slightly terrified.

Made it to Pisa okay, found the last spot in some lot … and walked on over. B bought us tickets (you can go up the tower now; you couldn’t when I last saw it 20 years ago) while I spent .80 euro to pee … and it was some of the best .80 euro I’ve ever spent.

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Baptistery, cathedral, and tower (meant to be the campanile or bell tower for the cathedral).

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Dinosaurs and tower.

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Loved the detailing of the baptistery, though we didn’t go inside.

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Basic.

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Kidlets trying to do their part.

(much you think I was too mature to do this … I have shots. but on my phone. and I’m not sharing them here. sorry not sorry.)

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Looking up.

We were in line to get in when I got notified my purse was too big … so I had to run out of line to get it tossed in a locker, freaking out the while since it was right on our entrance time and they had a ton of signs saying YOU MUST NOT MISS YOUR TIME … but thankfully I was still okay. Phew. BUT. If you’re going to go up the tower … and you think your bag might be too big … just check it well before your time. Lockers are free. It’s nice.

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Cathedral view from the top.

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Stairs we popped out of.

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Looking up from the bottom.

We took a lunch break and then popped into the Duomo. I only took one picture inside – the stunning ceiling.

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Gorgeous.

(felt a bit weird taking photos in the cathedral after we had gone to mass the previous day … while most of these churches are sure, open to the public … they’re also still very much in use for services as well.)

We then mostly successfully navigated our way back to Florence (ended up on the toll road for a minute … oops) and returned the rental car.

The hotel was our next stop to quickly check up on some internet stuff and then we popped out for a mid-afternoon pick me up of cappuccino … after which we saw a random parade walk through.

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All in medieval (I think? Renaissance, maybe?) dress. I took a video of the majority of it on my phone, and the whole thing passed us by in just about two minutes.

Since we’re run nerds, we returned to the hotel to try to find the Boston Marathon on TV. We weren’t successful (boo), but we Twitter-stalked the race while playing cards, super happy for Des Linden becoming the first American woman to win in 33 years. Yay Des!

We were hoping for dinner to be pizza again … but a lot of things in Florence are closed on Mondays. I figured that we’d have luck finding an open restaurant near the Duomo since it’s the big tourist area and we did.

Our walk back to the hotel included a giant, delicious, yet ridiculously expensive cone of gelato (seriously overpriced).

Tuesday, April 17:

After breakfast, we wandered over to the Duomo to get tickets for everything. We could … but the earliest available cupola reservation was for Thursday, so we did the earliest we could get, figuring we could do it in the morning before leaving town.

We also skipped the actual cathedral that day (crazy lines), but hit up the baptistery, the campanile, and the Duomo museum.

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Inside the baptistery. I like how they covered the construction with images of what was behind it. Nicer effect.

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View from the top of the campanile.

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Campanile.

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Donatello turned Mary Magdalene into nightmare fuel.

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Michelangelo’s La Pieta.

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Shot of the cupola from the top of the Duomo museum.

Our next stop was the Mercato Centrale … and we apparently also walked through the San Lorenzo leather markets on our way there and back.

The Mercato Centrale is awesome. Bottom level is kind of like an indoor farmer’s market, with tons of stalls selling all sorts of food and goodies while the top floor is food vendors. We didn’t end up eating lunch there, but we did pick up two bottles of wine, some olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for us (which, as I found out later on my credit card statement, cost us like $10) as well as a jar of jelly for B’s parents.

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Food stall.

We didn’t want to be carrying all of that around everywhere, so we headed back to the hotel, picking up some sandwiches along the way.

After eating, we headed over the river to do the Boboli Gardens … but then decided to do the whole combo pack with them, the Palazzo Pitti, and the Uffizi Gallery. However, if you’re going to do so … you have to do the Uffizi first. So we headed back over the river to the Uffizi Gallery to buy our ticket there … and then saw a whole bunch of art, some of it famous.

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Botticelli’s Primavera.

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Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.

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Stunning ceiling in the Niobe room.

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Leonardo Da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi.

Post-Uffizi, we grabbed a cappuccino near S. Croce church.

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Both of us were dying just a touch, so we went back to the hotel to do our standard afternoon break.

We headed back out to dinner to Gusta Pizza where we dealt with super obnoxious Americans in line waiting to get in (holy. crap.) and sat next to some nice ones while we ate.

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Picture taken before we had company at our table.

Post-dinner, we hung out on the Ponte Santa Trinita, ostensibly waiting for the sunset (mediocre again), but it was just super nice to chill in the gorgeous evening and people watch.

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Husband. Probably with a Japanese engagement photo shoot going on behind him, since we saw a plethora of those while in Florence.

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Yours truly.

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Looking at our hotel, the Hotel Berchielli.

T and B Do Italy: April 13-15

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the second of those posts.

Friday, April 13:

I weirdly woke up this morning with a rash on my forearms that ended up spreading elsewhere on my body. I hoped it was just heat rash (though how *that* would have developed, I have no clue) and that it would go away in a few days.

(thankfully, it did.)

We ate breakfast at the hotel before checking out and wandering to take the metro to Milano Centrale so we could catch a train to Venice. We got to the station way earlier than we needed which meant cappuccino time (and we split a croissant).

The train trip itself was fairly uneventful. As I was without a book (boooo), I mostly just watched the scenery roll by … and it was pretty gorgeous. Got a glimpse of a lake near Verona and kind of wished I was on that side of the train so I could have gotten a picture.

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B on the train. We bought first class tickets for all our train trips – it had been recommended to us and it was totally the way to go.

We got into Venice and I was on Google maps trying to figure out where to go when we got accosted by a dude with a porter “helping” with our bags to a water taxi … when I totally actually wanted the water bus.

The ride was nice …

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Gondola as seen from the water taxi.

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Hanging out in the back.

… but it wasn’t 90 fucking euros nice. (20 for the porter who carried our bags 50 yards and 70 for the taxi. I didn’t tip the driver even though I probably should have. He can bitch to the asshole who directed us to him.) It was our one mistake on the trip and I am still kicking myself over it as you can tell. ARGH.

Once again, we were basically able to check into our hotel right away … which seemed really weird for both of us. We figured it was because we weren’t traveling during peak tourist season, but who knows, really.

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Tiny room. The cube shower was what I think of when I think of European showers – just enough room to clean yourself.

We changed clothes and then headed right back out to find food and wander around. I had major issues with Google maps and their directions finding lunch and combine that frustration along with hangry-ness and it was the first (and only!) time on the trip that we got really close to snapping at each other.

Pro tip: If you buy an international data plan and use the Google … ignore their directions. Streets change willy-nilly and trying to find street signs will just cause undue anxiety. Instead, follow the little blue dot line on the map and navigate that way. While it might seem like you’re using up ALL OF THE DATA … trust me, you aren’t. My plan gave me a gig of data and I didn’t even come close to using up half of it over this trip. Of course, I also threw it into airplane mode and used WiFi when it was available to be safe.

We eventually stumbled upon the lunch place B found on the interwebs as one of the best places to eat at … it wasn’t bad. We discovered the Ponte di Rialto during that adventure and found it crawling with tourists.

Post-lunch, we grabbed some gelato and then it was off to St. Mark’s Square.

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Down a canal.

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St. Mark’s Square.

We chose not to worry about going in.

Our next stop was all for me – the Libreria Acqua Alta. I had seen photos and I had to get some of my own. It was amazing.

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The book steps that are all over Pinterest. Bad lighting to get photos of a person on them, though, so sad day for that.

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This fire exit sign cracked me up.

From there, we kind of got turned around and ended up in a part of town we didn’t necessarily want to be in … but since Venice is so tiny, no harm no foul. We next found our way to the San Zaccaro church and its flooded crypt.

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Difficulties of being in a city that’s essentially sinking.

From there, we found our way to a gluten-free shop our friends Norm and Emily who went to Italy this past November visited. Norm asked us to pick up something as a favor for Emily’s birthday which is coming up soon, so we did that.

Then off to the hotel to chill out for a bit before venturing back out to dinner. I had read that you wanted to hit up the Rialto at sunset, so I snuck out of dinner to do so … didn’t get any good sunset shots, but I did get an evening Venice shot off the bridge.

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Saturday, April 14:

So you know how I mentioned above that I read that you wanted to hit up the Rialto at sunset? Well, I actually meant sunset AND sunrise. I’m not completely sure as to *why* that’s a recommendation, as the lighting wasn’t amazing at either … but sunrise was a fantastic time to hit up the bridge because it was EMPTY.

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Could not have gotten this shot during the day. Or at night. Or any other time.

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Okay, so the lighting wasn’t *completely* terrible at sunrise …

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Yours truly.

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Absolutely no way I could have gotten this during the day or the night prior.

Completely worth waking up for.

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Mossy steps leading into the Grand Canal. Rialto is behind me, for reference.

Our next stop was the Ponte di Chiodo – the bridge with no parapet. It is one of two bridges in Venice left that doesn’t have a handrail and, I’m not going to lie, it was a little weird walking down it.

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Completely glad we went looking for it, though.

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Street view from the bridge.

Last main thing I wanted to see in Venice seen, we popped back to the hotel to grab a few euros for a cappuccino at a cafe we saw open and then BACK to the hotel to shower, pack up, and eat breakfast.

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View from our window, looking down.

We then took the water bus we were SUPPOSED TO TAKE IN THE FIRST PLACE back to the train station.

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Seen on the ride.

Then, at the train station, it was time to sit around and wait for our train to Florence.

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I saw donuts. I totally bought one, too.

We took a different train company up to Florence – Italo as opposed to the TrenItalia Frecciarossa. Wasn’t necessarily better or worse – just different.

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We did sit next to each other though as opposed to being across from each other.

Florence, thankfully, was completely easier to navigate than Venice … although that could also be due to the map trick from above. In any case, made it to the hotel just fine … and once again, checked in right away.

Room was super nice – we got a balcony!

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Just chilling in the sunshine.

Our location was wonderful – on the banks of the Arno, just one bridge down from the Ponte Vecchio. We got settled in, I figured out how much data I had been using (I was worried after the Venice navigational nightmares), set up alerts (which is how I know I barely used any on this trip since I got no alerts) … and ended up napping. Oops.

Woke up around 3:30p and decided to wander around. We got gelato at some place B found on the interwebs as supposedly amazing (eh).

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And clearly upgraded to two flavors.

In our simple wandering, we found our way to the Plaza dell’Accademia as well as the Duomo, so it’s nice that everything is easily navigable that way as well. We went back to the hotel where B proceeded to nap and I killed the last of my nook battery. Dinner was takeaway pizza from the BEST PIZZA PLACE EVER (no, seriously, it may have surpassed T’s for me), Gusta Pizza.

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He’s so happy.

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Om nom nom.

This was one of the best moments of the trip – eating delicious, authentic pizza (owners are from Naples) on our own private balcony in Florence.

I tried to catch the sunset after dinner, but it was too hazy to be really good.

Sunday, April 15:

I woke up at 3:30a … probably due to my nap the day previous. Oops. It ended up being okay, however, as we went running pre-dawn up to the Piazzale Michelangelo to try to catch the sunrise and get views of the city.

We didn’t get a sunrise, but we did get amazing views.

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B hanging out.

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Us.

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See? Amazing views.

We also ended up chatting with some Italian locals (well, kind of – he was from Turin originally) who we’re pretty sure were still up from the night before. Heh.

Ran back to the hotel, grabbing some more euros out of an ATM along the way.

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And a shot of the Ponte Vecchio, clearly.

We ate breakfast at the hotel when we got back, showered, and wandered around, stumbling upon the Florence Half-Marathon along the way.

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We had seen signs for it in our hotel’s elevators … and I didn’t think until later to look up if they had other distances. I am not in half shape by any means, but I totally could have done the non-competitive 8K. Plus it was cheap. Dangit.

One thing B really wanted to do was to go to (Catholic) mass while we were in Italy, so we found a church with an English speaking service and went (totally my first time going to mass in like two years). We also got roped into doing the readings which was a touch awkward.

Wandered around a bit more after church and grabbed some paninis for lunch which we ate near the Duomo.

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All in all, though, it was a pretty lazy day. I was almost successful in not napping that afternoon (almost). We did find a great place for dinner and did the full three (four?) course thing and pretty much rolled out of the restaurant (more on that when I do the food blog).

T and B Do Italy: April 10-12

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the first of those posts.

Tuesday, April 10:

We woke up early Tuesday morning to head to DIA for our 7am flight to JFK.

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Me at the airport.

I read on the plane, but I also finally got B to watch “Coco,” which we sort of managed to do together. I really do enjoy that movie.

We landed in JFK, got some Shake Shack, and then headed to the Delta Sky Club since we had a few hours to wait before our flight to Milan.

That flight was nice since we were able to get upgraded to Delta One.

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Brandon in his pod.

In true me fashion, I didn’t sleep at all on the flight (except wanted to in the final hour or so when it would have been pointless). I did watch “Cars 3” since B has been bugging me to do so for a while. Definitely not as cute as the original, but not bad. I also watched “Pitch Perfect.” I attempted to journal, but the turbulence was pretty bad so that didn’t happen.

Wednesday, April 11:

We landed in Milan with me half asleep … and I somehow left my nook charging cable on the plane. I realized it right as I exited the plane and went back on to look … but it was nowhere to be found. I think it got caught up with the Delta headphones (which were picked up immediately apparently …?) and I filled out a lost item report, but, as of today, still haven’t heard anything from it. But it’s okay, because B ordered me a new one on the internets and it got here yesterday.

We got some euros out of an ATM in the airport and then proceeded to catch a train into the city and then the subway to our hotel … right off the Duomo stop. Our room was actually ready within 15 minutes of getting to said hotel, so that was amazing. I got on our internet to figure out why my international data plan wasn’t working (had some setting switched off. Oops.) and then proceeded to take a three-ish hour nap which was NOT intentional, but hey.

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View from our hotel window.

We ventured out in the rain for some food. We tried a grocery store, but couldn’t find anything easy that didn’t require thought/assembly. We then found a sandwich place around the Duomo area which was really delicious. Post-paninis, we had the first of very many Italian cappuccinos.

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Gustave the coffee dinosaur approves.

I will say right now that I am typically NOT a latte/cappuccino person. I am iced coffee all the way. But Italian cappuccinos? Starbucks (and, quite honestly, most coffee shops) is complete trash comparatively.

Food eaten, we went back to the hotel to go sleep a lot more.

Thursday, April 12:

We woke up relatively early (unsurprisingly) and ate a really delicious breakfast at the hotel. Our hotel actually had a fitness center too (SO WEIRD for Europe), so we hit that up for a super quick lifting session that felt amazing. We showered after and then ventured outside for a few hours.

Our first stop was to get tickets for the Duomo … which took us no time at all because the cathedral was barely open at that point. Hooray for keeping weird American hours! We walked around inside and went up on the terrace.

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Replica of the Madonnina that’s on top of the cathedral.

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Inside.

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Archaeological site underneath. A lot of the cathedrals seem to have been built on the same sites as former churches, so there’s history beneath them.

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On the terrace/roof.

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Dinosaurs with the city behind them.

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B taking in the view.

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Gothic architecture.

We left the Duomo and headed essentially next door to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an insanely awesome shopping center. We grabbed some waters as well as a snack and cappuccino inside.

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So gorgeous.

Our next stop was the Milan canals, which I had read about. Got turned around a bit on the way, but eventually made it there. Definitely not as impressive as the Venetian ones, but fairly off the tourist beaten path which was nice.

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We split a massive (and delicious) slice of pizza for lunch. It reminded me of my favorite place back in Boston (T. Anthony’s, if you don’t remember), but not *quite* as good. The still-shining sun provided us a pleasant and much more direct walk back to the hotel.

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Random church we saw on the way.

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Duomo with clouds rolling back in.

We realized we still needed to visit the Duomo museum (admission as part of our cathedral entrance), so we did that.

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Scale model inside.

After, we decided to go back to the hotel to chill for a while. We’ve found when traveling that it’s wise to give ourselves some downtime. B ended up napping while I killed the rest of my nook battery to FINALLY read T. Kingfisher’s “The Wonder Engine,” which I had been saving specifically for this trip. It was amazing as I expected it to be.

We wandered out to find food that evening and it ended up being fairly snacky and fairly terrible. It also started raining again, but it meant for some fun night shots of the Duomo.

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We then found ourselves the first gelato of the trip from a cart (the shop we had been eyeing had just closed as we walked in), but it was delicious.

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We packed up and headed to bed – we were out of town the next day.