Day One I love to plan. It's an indulgence I afford myself, and I suppose Jeff really supports this time-consuming habit more than one would expect. I am lucky. To plan a month-long trip to Italy, requires a lot of time. Or a lot of money, and then you can have someone else plan it for you. The latter of which, we are not. But to figure out where to eat well, and to live well, I read, and then read more. Without the internet, I would likely be lost, as books can be exhaustively comprehensive, but it's not quite the same as being able to walk down the street in google maps, or more importantly, it is nowhere near the same as being somewhere in reality! So experience, is also helpful. Speaking a bit of Italian helps too. Luckily for me, this was my third time to Italy. This time with Jeff and my parents too! With four of us, I certainly didn't want anything to go wrong, and so even the tiniest details were of extreme importance. It is an enormous waste of time to plan to see the most fantastical and illustrious artwork of a city, only to learn that it is the town's closing day, or to learn that the restaurant you are most curious about is closed for the next month, but you could have eaten there if only you had arrived one day sooner... poor planning. These are the things that can be learned with time, and, perhaps or, a lot of reading. Sometimes it helps to get on the phone too. This trip was planned around a one-week rental at Fattoria Bacio, one of the most magical places on earth, but can usually only be rented from Saturday to Saturday. This can complicate things. The itinerary was: 9 nights Florence 7 nights Certaldo (Tuscany countryside) 5 nights Rubiera (near Modena, think gastronomic heaven within a short drive) 4 nights Montepulciano 3 nights Rome Of course, the trip was really prioritized around eating destinations. But since we had a month, we didn't want to overdo it, eating non-stop, or we wouldn't survive. Staying in apartments was a great help, as we could prepare and store a bit of food and drink, without having to eat out for every meal. Plus, some of our favourite delights were prepared in our little apartment kitchens. This worked for the first two weeks, as most of the eating was interspersed with lighter meals we prepared. However, we still ended up full to the absolute brim, and extremely grateful for the loosest fitting clothes we owned. We started with a flight from Calgary to Montreal, and then onto Rome. However, for whatever reason, I figured it would be a great idea to leave Rome right away and go to Florence. Well, actually, the cost of Roman hotels were absolutely ABSURD for July 2nd, and 3rd, and a two night stay was too short for most apartment rentals. But we did make it to Florence, and quickly too. We took the 11 Euro train shuttle from the Rome airport to "termini", the main station in Rome. At the Rome airport, we also purchased our Roma Passes, which I cannot recommend enough. With the pass you can skip all the lines! The information desk where you would expect to purchase them was closed, but they were sold where we purchased our shuttle tickets to "termini". Then, from "termini" we spoiled ourselves a bit, with first-class Eurostar train tickets to Florence. This was a good move, because we had much more room for our four bags, and we didn't have to lift them overhead... Besides, we'd already been traveling for about 20 hours. The 55 Euro price tag each, was worth every penny. Of course, it was hot when we arrived in Florence, over thirty degrees for sure. But the hotel was almost as close as one could get to the train station, Santa Maria Novella, as the hotel was right next to the church of the train station's namesake, Santa Maria Novella. Sure, you could take a taxi, but I think they would just drive around Florence first, and then give you the bill; it would have been an absurd request of a driver to go that short of a distance. We stayed at the Grand Hotel Minerva, and truthfully, I chose it for the rooftop swimming pool overlooking the city. Normally, it isn't something I would chose. But, I figured, that we would be jet-lagged, and could probably use at least a couple swims to adjust to our new surroundings. We had nine days in Florence to make the most of things, so why not take our time for at least a bit? Lunch was at Nerbone, located inside the Mercato Centrale. I will discuss this in-depth in a later post, as it is not to be missed. We also wandered over to the Ponte Vecchio, stopping by a few other piazzas on the way. And we stopped for gelato of course! I didn't make a reservation for dinner, just in case our flights were delayed, although I did have a few places in mind. Although I had also read that there is a special buffet for guests of the hotel on Thursday nights around the pool; this is partially true. If you visit Florence, you must enjoy an aperitivo. It does not only mean to have a pre-dinner drink, but also a bite to eat. In some cases, it can mean an entire meal. Essentially, you pay for your drink, in this case 15 Euro, which included an extensive spread of food. Anyone can attend, you do not have to be staying at the hotel. It starts at 7pm, and being prompt will provide you with a seat. Some of Florence's most beautiful people descended upon our hotel for the weekly event. Can you blame them? The food was good. Jeff was ecstatic to see chickpea salad outside of our kitchen, this was a first. There were salads, arancini, and endless tastes of this and that, all beautifully presented. I can't say that anything stood out above the rest, but it was all good. Mostly, it was nice to enjoy the view, the beautiful people, and just to relax after a long journey to Florence. La dolce vita on steroids. Here is Jeff enjoying his spritz, with prosecco and aperol. Somehow we were so excited, although tired, that we really didn't take enough photos. Take my word for it that the spritz's were the perfect start to our trip. They are on the table, really. Jeff is enjoying our favourite drink, in our favourite place. What could be better?! The rest of the trip, and the rest of the eating is yet to come. Today was a day of orientation, after extensive travel. Additional photos can also be found on my flickr page. I'm still wading through thousands of photos, but I'm getting there. Enjoy!