I was so excited to get to go see Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibition at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art last night! I had bought tickets months ago and had been anxiously awaiting my turn ever since. The show did not disappoint! This was one of the most fun art exhibitions I have been to (and having been an art major and working at a museum for three years, I’ve been to a few!).Read More
Every year, The New York Times publishes a list of its top picks for places to visit in that given year. This year's list of 52 Places to Go in 2015, provided an interactive look at places around the world, from Macedonia to Cleveland to Cuba. While I wouldn't turn down the chance to go to any of these places, I have had the chance to visit a few for myself so I thought I'd share my own top four picks from the list (four is much more manageable than 52, am I right?!).Read More
I drove in to Boston from my trip to Maine (hold tight for a forthcoming Vacationland blog post), arriving around lunch time. I had an afternoon to kill while I waited for Kyle's flight to arrive and for my friend Matt to get off work.
I decided to wander around the North End and find some lunch, and I had it on good authority that I needed to make a stop at Bova Bakery. Yes, Mike's is the most famous, but according to my local source, Bova was better so clearly I had to try it! I bought enough cannoli's and pastries to share over the weekend, a calzone for lunch and headed to the harbor for my own personal picnic by the water. I spent the afternoon strolling through the neighborhood, checking out the coffee shops and the Old North Church, and later, walking along the water.
Boston is an awesome city with so much character. I would highly recommend spending much more time than one afternoon here and the summer or fall seem like great times to go!
*Tip: I didn't get to go this time, but if you like museums, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is my favorite museum of all time! Its also where the largest theft in U.S. history occurred when upwards of $500 million in art was stolen, including Rembrandt's only known seascape. The empty frames from which the thieves cut the canvases still hang in the museum (I wrote an entire term paper on this in my college museum studies class, so I could go on, but I'll stop there).
Milan is located a little over an hour south of Lake Como and I was especially excited to visit for two reasons: first, I had never been before and second, THE LAST SUPPER!
Driving into Milan during morning rush hour is a truly Italian experience that everyone should try at least once! No, really - you're going to love it! *Tip: When driving in Italy, stop signs are more of a suggestion and aggressive driving is the only respectable way to operate a vehicle. So don't be afraid to drive it like you stole it.
Santa Marta Suites, our hotel in Milan, was a small boutique hotel of only 8 rooms located right in the heart of the historic city center. We absolutely loved this hotel and highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city. Each room is different, the customer service is superb and it offers a very unique experience!
After arriving in Milan, we quickly located the iconic Duomo di Milano and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, both of which are stunning. The entire Piazza del Duomo is surrounded by shopping options and, when in Milan, one simply must shop! We wandered by the high end shops located within the Galleria, including the first ever Prada store, and then made our way to some of the flea markets lining the side streets. This is where we really had fun! There were so many vintage purses, scarves, dresses, hats, and ties!
That afternoon we made our way to Navigli, Milan's canal district, where we decided to cool off in a cafe. Unbeknownst to us, we happened to be there right in the middle of preparations for men's fashion week...helloooo, male models!
The next day, we took a walking tour of the city with Dark Rome. Again, great company, great tour guide - highly recommend. The tour took us into the Duomo where we saw the statue St. Bartholomew Flayed, through the Galleria and along Milan's Brera district, which is a great spot for restaurants, or if you are so inclined, a croissant with a brownie inside (I was sooooo inclined)!
We made our to Sforza Castle, where Leonardo lived and worked while he was painting The Last Supper, before ending at Santa Maria delle Grazie, where I ticked yet another item off my bucket list!
The history behind The Last Supper and da Vinci's painting techniques and processes are incredibly fascinating - he was testing out a new method in which he used eggs in his paints; the number 3; the face of Judas is thought to be the face of one of the monastery's priors who had angered da Vinci; the "fresco" began to deteriorate within a few years after it was completed; monks actually cut off Jesus' feet to install a door so that they could reach the kitchen faster; the church was bombed during WWII and the painting was only saved because of protective sandbagging. But, I digress. Needless to say I was, and there's no other word for it, pumped to have finally seen this piece. Mission accomplished.
Ahh, Florence...Florence is where dreams come true. Seriously! Ever since studying abroad there I have dreamed of going back, and voila! Dream come true.
Our hotel was situated right on the river, directly across from the Ponte Vecchio, Florence's most famous bridge. While our hotel in Siena was all about historic elegance, Hotel Continentale in Florence was all about modern luxury. The hotel is part of the Lungarno Collection, a group of hotels owned by the Ferragamo Group, and I happened to be traveling with a Salvatore Ferragamo enthusiast. Coincidence? Definitely not.
After checking in, it was time to explore! We wandered down the street to Piazza della Signoria, enjoyed lunch al fresco with a nice side of vino rosso, and headed on over to the Uffizi Gallery. For an art history nerd, such as myself, this place is heaven. For the husband of an art history nerd, such as Kyle, this place isn't so bad either. We made our way through the da Vinci's and Botticelli's to find my personal favorite - Michelangelo's Doni Tondo. After geeking out for a bit, I decided it was time for Kyle to experience the magic of the San Lorenzo Market.
We made our way past the Duomo to San Lorenzo and the shopping commenced. When in Florence, you must buy leather (its a rule, I swear) and the best place to do it at is the market. Bonus: if you like a bit of good natured haggling, this is the place for you. All in all, I left the city a couple purses and one fabulous leather jacket richer. Mission accomplished.
Alas, the shopping had to end, and so we headed back to the hotel to enjoy our room's balcony overlooking the Arno River, before heading up to our hotel's rooftop bar for a pre-dinner drink, or as the Italians say, an aperitif. Dinner that night left something to be desired so we decided the best course of action was to check out another rooftop bar, this time at the Westin Excelsior. Between La Terrazza at our own hotel and the Westin Excelsior, we had now found the two best rooftops in Florence.
On day two in Florence, we woke up early and after grabbing a cappuccino and a croissant, we headed to the Galleria dell'Accademia. In addition to many of his unfinished sculptures, the Accademia houses Michelangelo's David, a must see. Even if you don't like art, you will appreciate the David. It, quite simply, takes your breath away.
We then headed to Florence's main Duomo, The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore to climb Brunelleschi's Dome. Though its quite a hike up many, many stairs through a very narrow, hot stair case, the view was worth it! From the top of the dome you have a 360 degree view of Florence and the hills of Tuscany.
*Tip: When going to Florence, Rome, Milan or Timbuktu do your research and figure out how to NOT spend your whole vacation standing in line! For us, I pre-purchased a Firenze Card that was literally worth its weight in gold. We walked right into every single site we wanted to see without wasting hours of our precious vacation waiting in line. In the case of the Duomo in particular, we bypassed a line of people who had probably been standing there since dawn.
After our morning hike, I visited the Palazzo Vecchio, which is where da Vinci's lost Battle of Anghiari is rumored to be hidden under a wall (nerd alert!). For lunch, we headed across the river to Gusta Pizza, said to be the best pizza in Florence. It did not disappoint!
We spent our afternoon wandering around, window shopping on the Ponte Vecchio, visiting the Ferragamo flagship store and museum (yes, it exists), going back to the market to browse and finally relaxing with an aperitif at the hotel bar. For dinner, we walked along the river to Lungarno Bistrot for what was probably the best meal of our entire trip. I'm still dreaming about that tiramisu!
Sunday morning we put on our running shoes and did some more exploring, running past the building I used to live in and through side streets and back alleys until we made it back to the river and eventually our hotel. A rainstorm hit that afternoon so we sought shelter at a cafe outside the Pitti Palace before exploring some of the art galleries and surrounding neighborhood. That day, it just so happened to be Mona Lisa's birthday so the entire neighborhood was out celebrating in the squares and in parades along the streets. I do love a good birthday party.
My favorite church in Florence is San Miniato al Monte, which sits on one of the highest points in the city. The view is unbeatable and the church itself is actually very quiet and calming in a city where churches are the main tourist attractions. This one actually feels like a church. We climbed and climbed, took in the view and caught our breath inside the church before heading off into the sunset (and I mean that literally).
When in Florence, it is an absolute must to watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo, which is just a short walk from San Miniato. So, that is exactly how we decided to spend our last night in this amazing city. Cheers to you, Florence! I'll be back.