Florence ~ September 2012

What better reason to travel than to meet dear friends for a birthday party and wedding anniversary. And what better place to travel to for a wedding anniversary than the romantic Tuscan city of Florence.

So that's how we came to go to Italy last weekend. Mary and Jeff, friends from Chicago, had gathered some friends to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary with them, and we were honored to be part of this select group.

We got to Florence on Friday at lunch time, stayed at nothing less than the best address in town, The St. Regis Florence. It is located right on the Arno river, about three blocks from the symbol of the city, the Ponte Vecchio.

We had what you would call a cozy room, with a view to the inner patio, that despite not being that beautiful was quieter than the rooms with a view to the exterior. While probably the smallest room category it did have beautiful frescos on the walls, making it very florentine.

 Our room

But hey, we are in Florence, so let's get out of the hotel and around town!

So there we walked, no guide book on us, and the map of town I lost probably on the first few hundred meters. We were meant to explore just as it comes, and in cities with rivers you can't really get lost anyway. Our first stop was busy Piazza della Republica, but in one of the little side streets we found a quiet trattoria for lunch. Well, that's what we thought. After about 10 minutes there a tour guide showed up, and with him about 25 spanish tourists, mainle female between 40 and 60. Notjing against spanish females that age, but the quietness was gone... Too bad for me I could understand every word of the table in the corner, now I know the latest gossip of the village there in extremadura or wherever it is. Still, the Chianti was cheap (for our swiss feeling) and good.

Giotto's Belltower Duomo David copy

After lunch, out into the crowds again, next stop Piazza della Signoria, the square where the David copy stands, where the Palazzo Vecchio casts its huge shadow, and where the queue for the Uffizi starts. We took the mandatory David picture, but then turned to watch the fellow tourists from a quiet corner - my favorite passtime when traveling!

On we walk, roaming through streets and shops, until we stand at the Piazza del Duomo. After fourhundred and something steps we stand on top the Giotto belltower and are enjoying the most amazing view of Florence and surroundings. The interior of the church in our opinion could not compete with its stunning facades, except the fresco in the cupula itself.

Dinner that day was at a casual pizzeria, and we also had some great gelato next door.

Day number two started with a nice sumptuous late breakfast at the St. Regis.... We are on holiday, right? Today the first stop was the Ponte Vecchio, way overcrowded and a pure shopping place. Not ours. On we went to Palazzo Pitti and the beautiful gardens behind Palazzo Pitti. We might have enjoyed tha part most - less crowds, a large park and beautiful views once again. (If it weren't for the nasty mosquitos we would have enjoyed even more!!) As it was the UNESCO world heritage days the entry to some sights, including Palazzo Pitti and Uffizi was free, although as we are no fans of queuing for eternity we did not visit the latter. In the end, Florence is driving distance so we will most definitely pick a quieter time for the next visit.

The highlight of the day was dinner with Mary & Jeff and their friends in the restaurant of the St. Regis. The right setting for celebrating 20 years of marriage! We ended with a night cap on the roof top terrace of the Westin...

Thank you Mary & Jeff for inviting us, we had the best time and are looking forward to welcoming you to Switzerland soon!

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