(Location: Florence, Italy)

(In 2000, I was commuting from Raleigh to Austin for work most weeks. Due to corporate policies, this meant flying via Dallas or Chicago, and usually home on Thursday nights. Most weeks, flights were overbooked and the airline would ask for volunteers to take another flight in exchange for a voucher. After a few weeks of playing this game, I had accumulated enough for two round trip tickets to Italy.)

Compared to Rome, Florence looked like Disneyland, complete with workers scraping gum off the cobblestone streets.

We stayed at the Hotel Pendini, which had a great location right off the Piazza del Republica, spacious room compared to others on this trip, and was around the corner from an internet cafe.

We knew our time in Florence was limited, especially with closures due to Christmas, so we had a plan and a schedule.

After we dropped our bags at the hotel, we headed straight for the Accademia, stopping along the way for a few pictures of the Duomo. We saw David, spent about an hour at the Accademia, and then set out to find lunch. We were so so tired of margherita pizza and spaghetti pomodoro that we adventurously ordered something else. This was the beginning of “the week of veal”. Marsala, milanese, picatta – you name it, we had it on this trip.

Christmas Eve we visited the Uffizi Gallery, then walked across the Ponte Vecchio to visit the Boboli Gardens. Come to think of it, we walked everywhere in Florence. We had dinner the the Trattoria Ponte Vecchio, just to the right of the bridge when walking back from the Boboli Gardens. Our meal was so amazingly fantastic we returned for Christmas dinner.

Next stop: Venice