Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In search of David in Florence

They say a trip to Florence is not complete until one sets eyes on David, Michaelangelo's most famous sculpture. And yes, that was the one main reason why hubby and I made our way to the Tuscan land, after a fascinating Roman holiday.

Going there:
From Kuala Lumpur, we flew to Rome with MAS. Return ticket was less than RM3,500 each as we managed to secure a good deal from MAS website. One tip: Always be on the lookout for MAS deals, plan your journey and book your tickets well ahead. Sign up for MH Buddy or follow MAS on facebook and twitter to ensure you do not miss out any attractive travels deal. And yeah, do install MH mobile on your gadgets! With this, buying flight tickets can be made anywhere, anytime!

The journey to Florence from Rome was only 1.5 hours via train. We left Roma Termini Station with Euro Star train (Euro 42 per person) to Florence after a hearty breakfast. Comfortable journey throughout.


The hotel was only 10 mins walk from the train station. We had to drag our luggage along but the walk to the hotel was all right as the walkway by the road was smooth (no, no potholes sighted!). The hotel we stayed at was Globus Hotel (Euro 70 per night). Upon arriving, the hotel manager, a lady by the name of Serena came down from the reception area on the 1st floor to the entrance on the ground floor and helped us with our luggage. There was no lift so imagine a lady carrying hubby's 16kg luggage up a flight of stairs to the 1st floor! Such a Wonder Woman! The reception area was nice and warm despite the cold weather outside. What made our day that day was the fact that they had a computer available for free internet use at the reception area. They also mentioned that wi-fi was free on our floor. True enough, there was a laptop in our room! Such great news for people like us who like to be connected all the time, especially a blogger like me. Another bonus was we had Sky TV too!

Breakfast at the hotel was good - loved the variety of pastries, fresh fruits and the best of all was the hot chocolate! My oh my, I've never tasted hot chocolate as good as the one that Roberto (the one and only guy serving the guests in the hotel restaurant) fixed. I believe he made the drink out of Nutella chocolate spread straight from the jar! Seriously thick and of course, sinfully delicious!!

Must Do :
1) Pisa Tower - We took the train (Euro 15 return per person) to Pisa upon reaching the hotel as our room was not ready upon arrival. Pisa is 1 hour away from Florence. The train we took was ala our KTM train. From the Pisa Centrale station, we took the cab (Euro 5) to the Pisa Tower. It took about 10 mins to reach there. What do you do there? Camwhoring! We spent nearly 3 hours taking shots after shots. There's a row of stalls selling souvenirs, so grab whatever Pisa souvenirs you like here because they're hard to find elsewhere. Plus, it's relatively cheaper here compared to other places. Fridge magnets cost between Euro 2 to Euro 4.
2) Open markets - They're a few open markets worth going. The one near our hotel was San Lorenzo market. This was where we spent our Euros to purchase souvenirs for people back home. Nice silk Italian ties from Euro 3, silk pashminas from Euro 7, tees from Euro 5, various accessories from Euro 5, pill boxes from Euro 2, key chains from Euro 1 etc. Florence is well known for its leather goods too. You'll be spoilt with endless choices of leather bags, shoes, leather-bound journals, books etc.
3) Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery - Ponte Vecchio is a nice bridge with stores along it. Mostly jewellery shops. It's believed to be the only Florentine bridge to survive the World War 2. A few metres away from it, you'll find Uffizzi Gallery. Entrance fee is Euro 6.50. It's one of the finest and oldest arts museums and they have statues of famous figures outside e.g. Gallileo, Michaelangelo, Leornado Da Vinci etc. We read that a replica of the famous David statue was outside this museum as well. Hubby and me went around to look for it, asked people around but to no avail. Apparently it was right in front our eyes but alas! it was under restoration, so it was covered by plastic. Sigh!
4) Galeria dell'Academia - Our search for Michaelangelo's David ended here. This is where you would find the original statue. Entrance fee is Euro 6.50. We went straight to him upon entering the gallery. Unfortunately, we couldn't take pictures. Yupp, the statue looked alive; the spectacular sculpture on a pedestal, with its detailed muscled calves, ribbed abs and veins on his body. The souvenirs in the gallery's souvenir shop were all about David. From key chains to posters to bags to table cloth etc with price tags starting from Euro 2.
5) Duomo Piazza -The city's beautiful cathedral, the symbol of the city. Brunelleschi's (one of the famous Renaissance architects) cathedral huge dome was considered an engineering feat of the time. A statue of Brunelleschi was sited in the piazza, with his figure looking upwards towards his dome.
6) The Mall - This is one of our shopping highlights! Hubby and me went crazy ok! We had to take a bus from Florence town. Costed us around Euro 6 return per person. The place is situated about 45 mins away from Florence town. Situated in a country-like area, it's actually an outlet for designer off-season goods! Imagine Gucci, Fendi, Armani, Ferragamo, Tod's, Bally, Burberry etc at more than 50% cheaper than what you'll find here. This bargain hunter totally went nuts! Ended up buying Tod's loafers (Euro 90), Armani shawl, (Euro 20), Fendi handbag, (Euro 150), Gucci wallet (Euro 60), Armani caps (Euro 15) and tees (Euro 15) etc.
7) Go on a day trip out to the country and enjoy the Tuscan landscape. You’ll discover a spectacular world of woods alternating with vines and olive trees, medieval farmhouses, Renaissance villas and castles. For this, you can join a guided day tour, starting from Euro 40 per person.

Before you embark on all these activities, do your research on travel portals such as Yahoo! Travel. You'll definitely find travel inspirations and guides that are valuable.

Good eats :
Where else to have the best authentic Italian food if not in Italy itself? Imagine all the pizzas, pastas and chocolates. Halal food including pizza and kebab are also available, from as low as 2 Euros. Chocolates are sold everywhere, with a 250g packet going from as little as 3 Euros. Florence is also believed to be the birthplace of gelato. From 2 Euros, you can choose all sorts of flavours, from Ferrero Rocher to Twix and Kinder Bueno. If you fancy hot chocolate,
go for the pure thick hot chocolate drink made from dollops of Nutella (that originates from Italy).

Nahhh, Florence is a safe city, so you can walk around without fearing for your safety.

Insider Tips:
I would say that Florence is my favourite Italian city. It's a cultural and an architectural gem indeed. If you fancy Medieval and Renaissance era, it's like going down the memory lane. The city is timeless. People are friendly. Goods are cheap. Everywhere is within walking distance. So, make sure you bring good walking shoes as the city is best seen on foot. It is also advisable to buy tickets to galleries and museums, especially Galeria dell’Academia and Uffizi ahead of time to avoid long queues.

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