Our train from Rome only took about an hour and a half, so we arrived in Florence at 5:30, giving us time to check in at our hostel before heading out in search of food. The views from the train were wonderful; there were rolling green hills, farmland with mountains in the distance, and many red-roofed Mediterranean houses. I would certainly have taken pictures if possible, but such is life.
We found Dany House with only a little trouble (we walked around a nearby piazza a couple of times before finding our turn), but as we arrived earlier than we had originally planned there was no one to let us inside for nearly twenty minutes. After Ella (one of the owners, along with her husband Jonathon) let us in she gave us a very helpful map with several suggestions of things to do and places to eat, and was generally very enthusiastic. The hostel was quite small, with only three rooms for guests, along with Ella and Jonathon's private room.
At Ella's suggestion we ate at a nearby restaurant, Il Cipiglio, and tried the well-known Florentine Steak (a super rare steak which is apparantly a traditional Tuscan dish). It was alright, but not particularly to my taste, although I am glad that I tried it anyway. On our short walk back we had a lovely view of the city and the Duomo, which was therefor the subject of my first picture in Florence (at least my first that was not of food).
The next morning we got up at about nine and had breakfast at the hostel, which consisted of several kinds of pastries and tea, before heading out. It was fairly raining that morning, so we decided to try to spend our morning in the Galleria dell'Accademia, one of the famous art museums of Florence and the one which houses the original Michelangelo's David. We waited in line for about an hour, taking advantage of the fact that we could read (I on my iPad and Maddy on her Kindle), while two guys behind us were very vocal in their displeasure with waiting.
The museum was incredible, especially David (which was much larger than I had pictured in my head). There were also some beautiful statues by Lorenzo Bartolini and paintings by Alessandro Allori. One of my favorites was the copy of Andrea del Sarto's Madonna del Sacco by Irene Parenti Duclos, which is apparently the only painting by a woman on permanent display.
Afterwards we headed back towads the Duomo, by which point the sky had cleared up at least a little, so we got some better pictures this time. The inside was much more austere than the churches we had seen in Rome (especially Santa Maria Maggiore), but the paintings on the inside of the dome more than made up for the simplicity elsewhere. I certainly understand why it is considered one of the more beautiful churches.
It was almost one by then, so we went looking for lunch. On the way we passed the Palazzo Vecchio (where we saw a replica of David) and the Loggia dei Lanzi (where we saw some statues of which we had seen the plaster models in the Galleria). We had a quick lunch of paninis at a pizzeria before making our way to the next long line at the Galleria degli Uffizi.
The Uffizi was both much larger and much more impressive than the Galleria, unfortunately with a much longer wait of more than two hours. We saw many amazing paintings and sculptures in the Uffizi, among my favorites were: Boticelli's Venus, reliefs from the Augustan Altar of Peace (or Ara Pacis), the Medici Sleeping Ariadne (a Hadrianic version of which is housed in the Vatican Museums), Albertinelli's Visitation, and Michelangelo's The Holy Family (the only painting by Michelangelo in Florence).
When we finally got out of the museum, at about five, our feet were killing us. So we found a cafe in which to take a break, and get a snack. I tried panna cotta with creme caramel and an Italian hot chocolate (which is much thicker than hot chocolate at home, and came with sugar to sweeten it). We walked around the river a bit afterwards, we even saw the Ponte Vecchio (a bridge with shops jutting out from the sides, the shops actually used to be people's houses, I think living on a bridge might make me a bit nervous).
For dinner we went to La Prosciuterria, where we had a platter of meets and cheeses, a bowl of bread, and a glass of chianti. It was actually one of the best meals I've had in Italy so far, along with Piccolo Arancio. We actually each bought a set of their wine glasses as souvenirs.
The walk home was lovely, I took a few more pictures of Florence at night on our way back to the hostel (the Duomo was almost prettier in the dark). When we got back we hung out in the common area with some of the other hostel guests for a bit (there was a girl from Peru, one from Mexico, a guy from Texas and his friend from New Mexico, a guy from New Jersey who we'd met the night before, and a girl from Connecticut).
The first thing on our list the next day was to get our train tickets to Venice, which would take us closer to two hours even on a high speed train (I wonder how long a regular train would have taken?). Then we walked through the historical center of town and crossed the Ponte Veccho. It was complete chaos, the bridge was incredibly packed with people and, as cool as the bridge (and the many beautiful jewelry shops lining it) was, I would not do it again.
After crossing the river we made the exhausting trek uphill to the Piazza di Michelangelo, which provided us with a spectacular panoramic view of Florence and the surround area (it also provided us with yet another replica of David, someone sure is popular). While my feet were definitely killing me after all those stairs, the view was worth it.
We headed back into town and grabbed some food at a pizzeria across from the Basilica di San Lorenzo, before heading into the leather market the street over. We looked at a few of the stalls and accidentally haggled a purse down from €70 to €30.
We walked back to Dany House to pick up our bags and went to catch our train. On the way we made a stop at a pasticerria, Forno, to pick up an assortment of Italian cookies to eat on the train (which were delicious by the way, and I'll definitely have to learn to make some).