A few weeks ago I shared how I spent my first few days in Italy visiting Verona and Venice. We did so much on that trip that including it all in one blog post would be a bit overwhelming. I decided to divide our trip up into smaller parts. Part 2 covers our time in Florence, Pisa, and Assisi. Missed Verona and Venice in Part One? You can find it here!
After spending a few days visiting Verona and Venice we headed for Florence. I have to say that I really thought Rome would be the biggest highlight of the trip for me but I totally fell in love with Venice and Florence.
If you are an art lover, Florence is a city that you will definitely appreciate. It is full of gorgeous sculptures and tons of museums. The architecture is also pretty incredible. That is one of the things I appreciated most about Florence. Of course, it is also the home of Michelangelo’s David.
Another thing I loved about Florence was the atmosphere. While Florence is a large city and a popular tourist destination, it felt so much more laid back to me compared to the bustle of Venice and Rome. Our time in Florence was much slower paced.
We were able to do a lot of shopping and wandering around…and eating gelato. One of our favorite things we discovered in Florence was a gelato shop by the name of Festival del Gelato. Gelato shops are on every corner in Italy but most of them have a very limited menu but this particular shop had probably close to thirty flavors of gelato! We loved it so much that we visited several times while we were in Florence.
We also did some shopping in Florence. We visited a leather shop where we were able to see a short demonstration about the process used to produce leather and how to spot real Italian leather. When it was over I bought a wallet for my husband and gorgeous leather passport cover for myself.
I also did a little bit of shopping at Bartolucci for my kids. A bit of trivia for you…the classic Italian story of Pinocchio (not the Disney version) was written by Carlo Lorenzini who used the pen name Collodi. Lorenzini was a Florentine by birth and his famous story is set in his mother’s home village of Collodi (where he got his pen name) which isn’t too far from Florence. You can find all kinds of Pinocchio souvenirs all around Italy but they are particularly prevalent in Florence in traditional woodworking stores such as Bartolucci.
Florence was such a beautiful city and it is one I can’t wait to return to. The art and architecture makes it a must visit when you are in Italy!
After a few days in the beautiful Florence, we headed towards Rome but we made a few stops along the way. Our first stop was in Pisa. A stop in Pisa is not complete without visiting the Piazza dei Miracoli, or the Square of Miracles, to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The Piazze dei Miracoli is made up of four major religious edifices: the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Campanile (the Leaning Tower), and the Camposanto Monumentale or Monumental Cemetery. There is also a hospital located on the square. Our tour guide explained to us that the square is often considered to represent the stages of life. The baptistery is there for birth, the cathedral for life, the hospital for dying, and the cemetery for death. The Leaning Tower of Pisa actually has no significance. It is simply the bell tower of the church.
All of the buildings were beautiful but I was really moved by the baptistery. It was a beautiful building and the history behind it was very neat. The baptistery was built in 1152. It is the largest baptistery in Italy and Galileo was baptized there.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa was really neat to see. I’ve always seen pictures of it but I had no idea just how massive it was in real life. I felt so small standing beneath the tower and looking up. It was very impressive to see.
I really enjoyed seeing the entire Piazza dei Miracoli. I highly suggest checking it out if you are in the Tuscany region of Italy.
Our next stop on our way to Rome was in Assisi. Assisi is most famous for being the home of St. Francis of Assisi. When St. Francis died, his followers built a tomb for him at the top of a hill in Assisi.
Assisi is such a quaint little town. It sets on a hill and the streets seem to just wind endlessly up to the top. The views are absolutely incredible and there are plenty of places to stop and take in the views of the Italian countryside.
At the top of the hill that Assisi sits on is the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi. The church is absolutely stunning! Unfortunately, you are not permitted to take pictures inside but trust me, the inside is very moving to see. The bottom of the church holds the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi. The room had several people visiting it to pray to the patron saint. It was so moving to know that I was standing next to the burial place of such a revered man. Definitely breathtaking and humbling.
We only had a few hours to spend in Assisi which was a bit disappointing. I would have loved more time to explore the town and the quaint little shops that lined the streets. It’s definitely on my list of places I plan to return to.
After we left Assisi, we headed to Rome. Stayed tuned for a future post to learn about all the things we did in Rome! Missed part one? You can find it here!
If you have been following The French Lemon for any amount of time, you probably already know that I spent some time in Italy this past March. Things have been so busy around here the past few months that I have failed to blog about it so I think it is time to change that.
My trip to Italy started with a 6:00 am flight to Atlanta. We had a short layover in Atlanta and then flew to New York where we had another short layover. We then flew from New York City to Milan, Italy. It was an overnight flight which means that we landed around 8:00 am Italy time in Milan. I love overnight flights to Europe! If your flight is scheduled to land early in the morning then that means the last bit of your flight is spent chasing the sunrise. I love watching the sun slowly rise as the plane races towards it. We were so fortunate with this flight. As the sun began to rise, we were flying over the Swiss Alps! I had a window seat and was so thankful for that view! It was absolutely glorious!
We unfortunately did not spend any time in Milan. As soon as we landed and made it through customs we boarded our bus that was waiting for us and headed for Verona. We arrived in Verona in time for lunch. Verona is probably most well-known for being the setting of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. While the tale is not historically accurate, the city of Verona has capitalized on it and you can visit Juliet’s balcony.
It is free to view the balcony from the outside of the house but you can also pay a small fee to enter the house and stand on the famed balcony. A statue of Juliet graces the courtyard below the balcony. It’s tradition to touch the statue for luck in love. It’s a pretty neat place to visit but it was incredibly crowded so be prepared for that.
Verona is also home to the world’s third largest amphitheater that has survived from Roman antiquity. The Verona Arena is stunningly well preserved and intact. The arena is actually still in use today and is famous for the opera performances that are frequently held there. It is a quite a sight to see and I recommend checking it out if you have some free time in Verona.
After we left Verona we went to our hotel which was located just outside of Venice on the Adriatic Sea. Our hotel was right on the beach and we had a bit of time before dinner to stick our toes in the sea. So cold!
Our second day in Italy we spent in Venice. We started the day by visiting the island of Murano which is famous for its glass artisans. We watched an incredible glass blowing demonstration and then shopped some of the hand blown glass products in the shop. I bought some beautiful glass earrings. After seeing the incredible work these artists do, I decided that it’s my life mission to someday build my dream house, travel back to Murano, and pick out an incredible glass chandelier to go in that dream house!
We then headed a bit further into Venice. We toured the Doge’s Palace which had exquisite architectural details and beautiful works of art. It was really a sight to see and the history of the palace is also very interesting. If you have the opportunity to take a guided tour of the palace, I highly recommend it.
We spent some time in Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) and had the opportunity to explore Venice a bit. I really loved this city but it is a bit difficult to get around. The streets often felt like a maze to me but I had a lot of fun exploring. I wish we would have had more time in Venice because I would have liked to make my way a bit further into the city. I plan to go back someday and just spend several days exploring all of Venice.
Of course, you can’t visit Venice without taking a gondola ride. Gondola rides are a bit expensive but it is such a traditional experience in Venice that I think everyone who visits Venice should try it at least once. That being said, I’m not sure that I will spend the money to ride a gondola again when I return to Venice. The experience was valuable and a neat one to have but not necessary to fully appreciate the beauty of Venice.
Venice was definitely one of my favorite places that I visited while in Italy. Stayed tuned for a future blog post to see where else we went!