It was time to go visit the Pope at Vatican City, the smallest country in the world! Fun fact, Vatican City is barely over 100 acres, which means it is about 1/8th the size of New York City’s Central Park.
In this country’s absolute monarchy, the Pope is the ruler. Their government prints its own money, stamps, passports, and licenses. The country has no need for taxation and generates its revenue off of the admission fees to the museums and the souvenir sales.
Once again we saved ourselves HOURS of waiting in lines from taking the advice of our friend Lucca, the hotel manager at Armony Suites. He helped us buy our ticket online rather than waiting in this massive line that wrapped around the outer wall of the country. Seriously, look at this line! I heard people waited in it for hours!
The Vatican museum was stunning. Actually, a bit overwhelming. You could spend all day there and not have enough time to appreciate all the art, beauty, and attention to detail.
I just couldn’t believe that from floor to ceiling the rooms were covered with paintings, tapestries, sculptures, and other works of art.
I was happy I found my favorite painting, “The School of Athens” in what is known as Raphael’s room. This painting features ancient philosophers, such as Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras, Euclid, and Diogenes, along with more contemporary artists and thinkers including Michelangelo and a self-portrait of Raphael himself.
Works from pretty much all the Ninja Turtles are in here! We found art from Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo de Vinci.
Then it was time to see the Sistine Chapel! This room was breathtaking! This is the first room we actually sat down in just to marvel at the beauty of Michelangelo’s masterpiece.
The funny thing is that Annalisa and I both thought that the main part of the Sistine Chapel was the two hand reaching out to each other.
In reality, even though it is the center, it is hardly the biggest picture and only takes up a fragment of the whole room’s design. There are many stories of the Christian faith shown on these walls displaying “The Creation of Adam”, “The Fall of Man”, and “The Last Judgement”.
Along the walls there are plenty of other stories. Some I recognized and some I did not. I saw a painting of Christ handing over the keys of the church to Peter which I believe was by Perugino. There is also paintings by Botticelli depicting stories of the life of Moses.
We had one last walk around Rome before it was time to board the train.
Photos: Analisa-Joy Photography
We spent a little bit too long sight seeing and we were running late… again. Shoot. When will we learn? Anyway, we switched gears to AMAZING RACE mode and took off on a frantic pace. We rushed back to the hotel to collect our bags and set off at a jog to the subway station that was only four blocks away.
Then I had to lug our 175 pounds of luggage down two flights of stairs. I almost died. Lol. Which reminds me the day before I tripped on this same staircase and fell down four stairs and two girls laughed at me. -_-
Bad news. Even though we had EURO cash, they only accepted coins to purchase our subway tickets. So I had to run back up and out of the subway station to break my bills. I was running around like a maniac and three stores later I was able to get change.
We boarded the first subway, then had to get off and change to the B subway at Termini. We were still several stops from our train station and only had ten minutes till departure, yet we were determined to make it.
But we didn’t make it. The B subway has two lines that veer off at the stop “Bologna”, and we were unaware that we had to get off there to switch to the other B line. This costly mistake cost us and we missed our train.
If we were on the Amazing Race, we just got eliminated. Dun, Dun, Dunnnnnnn.
But since we aren’t in a race, we found our way to the station, bought a new train ticket, and boarded the next train 30 minutes later. It may have worked out for the best because we were able to get lunch before boarding and had a delicious panini.
I’m not going to lie, missing the first train was pretty frustrating, but big picture you never know how that ripple in life will effect the rest of your day or even life. Sometimes you don’t ever even realize its effects or it won’t be till later in life. For example, who knows if something bad would have happened to us if we arrived in Florence 30 minutes earlier than we did. We could have been mugged or robbed. Or we may not have met this woman who helped us map out our entire day. The advice from the locals has been invaluable on this trip. She showed us the best places to go in Florence and we would have never known where to go without her.
When we finally boarded, we took the train through Tuscany with a beautiful view of the rolling hillside the whole way. I definitely recommend this way of travel while in Italy. It is better than renting a car because you don’t have the stress of driving and trying to navigate. You can simply relax and enjoy the view. The seats were very comfortable and they offered free wifi.
Poor Annalisa was so tired, but luckily she was able to get some rest on the train.
We arrived in Florence. The train station was only four blocks from our hotel so we decided to try to walk rather than taxi. I stopped several times asking for directions getting closer and closer to our destination. After awhile though, we still couldn’t find it and were getting tired of dragging around our luggage everywhere looking for this place. We were just about to hail a taxi, when Annalisa spotted a street name we had been looking for. From the point we walked about fifty feet and found our hotel. I can’t imagine if we actually waved down a taxi… that would have been embarrassing. He would have been like, “You want me to drive you fifty feet to your hotel?” HAHAHA!
We checked in to our place. We both would have been content just relaxing in our hotel room the rest of the day but it was our one day to explore Florence, so immediately after setting down our bags, we headed out again.
First stop the world famous Boboli Gardens, an enormous park behind the Palazzo Pitti.
From the top Terrace we had a stunning view over all of Florence and could see the signature dome of the Piazza del Duomo in Cathedral Square.
Florence, along with all of Tuscany, if filled with gorgeous scenic hillsides and greenery everywhere even in the winter time.
All we do is walk all day. We found more and more stairs but Annalisa said press on. I’m not going to lie, I was very impressed by her nonstop vigor.
Annalisa and I agreed that Tuscany is a very romantic part of Italy. If you are looking for a romantic getaway this is the place to go. We both felt more lovey-dovey and amorous than normal, as cheesy as this sounds.
I think we were the last ones in the garden because we were escorted out by the closing staff and we didn’t see anyone else around.
So Annalisa sent a picture of this to Amanda and Eric and this was Eric’s response: …”poor guy on a statue. As if he couldn’t get any slower- he decides his mode of transportation is going to be a turtle.” HAHAHAHA
We then walked throughout the rest of the charming city.
We watched the sunset from the Ponte Vecchio.
I could definitely go back to Florence again. The charming shops, restaurants, and overall architecture of the city was awesome.
Seriously every other store in Europe is a cafe. Europeans LOVE their coffee and pastries. We noticed that just like there is a massage place on every corner in Asia, there is a cafe on every corner in Europe. Some stereotypes are there for a reason.
We learned that none of the restaurants open till 7pm so we went back to our room to relax until dinner.
I spent countless hours researching hotels before our trip and thus far it has really paid off! Every hotel has been the most amazing experience, but this was the BEST one yet.
We stayed at the Number Nine Firenze Hotel and Spa. It was fantastic. Annalisa gave our entire stay a 10 out of 10, and if you know that we our hotel snobs, that means it was really good.
The staff was super attentive, friendly, and helpful to everything we asked. We were greeted with coffee, tea, and water while they took our bags. The hotel had a complimentary mini-bar, complimentary gym, spa, and wifi. Our room was huge, with a super nice bed. It had a large flat screen TV (which even though we never used, it was one of the nicest we have seen while traveling here in Europe). We also had a walk-in closet, huge bathroom, and shower with rainfall head. The best part is that you are in the heart of Florence. We were right by ALL the main museums, attractions, Dome in Cathedral Square, and train station. I highly recommend this place if you are every traveling to Florence.
After walking over 11 miles today, we decided to take advantage of our spa. First, I went and used the hotel’s gym which was extremely nice for a hotel. Actually maybe one of the best I have ever used. It was 2-stories with anything you could need to get a solid workout. This was my first time in a European gym so I don’t know if this holds true for most but for such a nice facility I was surprised by two things: 1) The lack of people working out (I don’t think going to the gym is as popular in Europe as it is in America). 2) The lack of water. There was no water fountains to be found and I was very parched. Actually, since being here in Europe we have been very rarely served water in cup. It is always served in a bottle even at restaurants and they always charge you. I miss the endless water served in America. Water is my favorite drink.
Then Annalisa and I went down to the spa, which was actually really nice with several saunas, a Jacuzzi, and a steam room. It was the hottest steam room had ever been in. In the center of the steam room was a cold water bath and cold hoses on the side to spray yourself off with. It felt so nice and kept us warm for hours even while walking around later in the cold.
We went to dinner at what everyone told us was the best place in town. It was a higher-end place called Buca Mario that in my opinion was overrated. I’ve had much better Italian food at Olive Garden… so yeah, it was not the best.
We bought this really cool necklace from a street vendor and watched as he created it in front of us. It was pretty neat.
One thing I am disappointed in Europe thus far is their bread. Other than croissants and pastries, we have not had any good bread since we have been here. To be honest, it has been quite bad and we have eaten at a variety of places (from high-end to whole in the wall). Considering that bread is my favorite food in the world I was really hoping to find good bread and oil somewhere. We are heading to Venice, Italy next. If you know of any good places with bread PLEASE message me and let me know. Thanks for reading! 🙂