In case you missed it, head over here for Part 1 of my Italy trip recap! Part 2 covers our second day in Florence and two days in Verona.
On Day 2 in Florence, the first item on my agenda was a visit to Palazzo Vecchio. This former castle is now the town hall and a museum. For 14 EUR we purchased tickets to see the museum and tower. The museum shows off various rooms of the castle and describes their purpose and decor. The tower includes an over 200 step climb to the top where you can see out over all of Florence. We love any opportunity for a birds eye view so this was amazing. Highly recommend!
Afterward, my stomach was grumbling so we walked to an indoor food market. The Mercato Centrale is a bustling building filled with Italian food stands. Vendors serve both ready to eat dishes and take home specialties such as meats, cheeses, and olives. We snagged an antipasto platter with burrata cheese, prosciutto, sliced tomatoes, and crusty bread. It was all generously covered in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We scarfed it down in about two minutes. Since it was still raining outside, we figured we should stick around for a bit longer and I made the momentous decision to order a cappuccino.
Important background info – I hate coffee. I love the smell of it, but can’t stand the taste (including coffee flavoring in ice cream, desserts, etc). The closest I come to enjoying it is a Mocha Frappuccino, which we all know is basically a chocolate milkshake, that I get once a year on my birthday from Starbucks.
Anyway, Jay offers to make me coffee literally every day of the year, hoping I’ll eventually give in. So, ever since I decided to come on this trip, he kept talking up cappuccinos as my best option for trying Italian coffee, but I know he didn’t expect me to actually do it. Flash forward to when he asked in Florence – surprise surprise!! I actually said yes. Well, as I much as I hate to admit it, I liked it. Sigh. Then I added sugar and enjoyed it even more. I ended up drinking two more on the trip and we’ve even tried making one at home with decent results. It’s starting…he says soon I’ll be drinking straight black coffee. I doubt it, but stay tuned 🙂
So that cappuccino took about as long to consume as it took you to read my tangent haha. While enjoying our drinks, we met a lovely young couple also from Pennsylvania who just happened to sit down next to us. I love “small world” moments.
By this time the rain had mostly stopped, so we conveniently made a pit stop at our apartment (the amazing benefit of an AirBnB right downtown is a free bathroom anytime you want it – basically impossible to find in Europe). Then, after viewing the line for the David statue from our window, we thought we might as well wait. Turns out it’s a bad idea to wait to see the David statue when it’s raining. The line is outside, but luckily there’s enough of an overhang from the roof to keep you from getting soaked. Unfortunately, everyone currently in the museum has no desire to leave. And they won’t let anyone new in until enough people depart.
So, we waited and waited and waited for a total of two hours. You know a marriage is going well if you can wait two hours in a line that doesn’t move and actually enjoy it. All in all though, pretty much any wait would be worth it. The David statue is magnificent in person. Awe inspiring. I’m incredibly glad that we made it a priority to see while we were in Florence. Michelangelo’s talent and attention to detail is beyond belief.
I was still pretty hungry, though, so 45 minutes after entering the gallery we were back out the door and off to find an afternoon snack. That ended up being pizza and bruschetta – yum. Once again sadly, I have no idea where we went. I really need to start taking pictures of the restaurant name or street signs! Afterward, we went back to the apartment and (in a major trip highlight) Jay napped while I read!! Gotta love vacation. We roused ourselves an hour later and set off in search of a truly local wine bar. It took a while to find, but we stumbled upon a great place with a huge selection and an average price of $3.50 EUR per glass. It was full of Italian conversations and smoke and we loved finding a place that doesn’t cater to tourists.
For dinner we went around the corner to a restaurant with outdoor seating. We both ordered the lasagna (something I literally never make at home – too many layers!). Jay enjoyed it a bit more than me since it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. All the mozzarella and ricotta cheesy goodness that I’m used to wasn’t present. It was loaded with meat sauce and that’s about it. Thank goodness for our Americanized version.
After one last night in our cute apartment, we walked back to the train station and set off for Verona. We arrived with plenty of the afternoon left to explore. One of the neat features of this town is the Colosseum. This massive structure takes up a huge spot in the heart of the old city center. Nearby is a long street paved in pink marble that’s lined with shops – very popular with the wives who come along on these work trips. Since Jay is here every year for the trade show, he played tour guide and showed me all the main sights, including the Romeo and Juliet balcony! Apparently this little stone balcony in a secluded courtyard inspired Shakespeare to write that famous scene from his play. It’s now overrun with tourists, but still pretty neat to see in person.
While wandering we saw a sign for Castel San Pietro, so made our way across one of the bridges to find it. It’s located at the top of a rather large hill, but the many steps are worth it. From the terrace you can look out over the whole city of Verona. It’s quite pretty, but sadly the castle isn’t open to the public. There is a restaurant near the top that offers gorgeous views if you need a break after the climb!
On the walk back through downtown Verona we checked out the best gelato place in town (according to one of Jay’s work connections). Well, I haven’t tried all the gelato in Verona but this was pretty incredible. It’s called Gelateria Patagonia and is located in the middle of the pink marble street (Via Giuseppe Mazzini).
The highlight of Verona, though, is a tiny wine bar that Jay and his coworkers discovered. It’s called Enoteca Dal Zovo Oreste and is near Piazza Erbe. Wine bottles available for purchase literally cover the walls or you can select from a large list of wine available by the glass. We’re talking $2.50 EUR to $3.50 EUR per drink plus free snacks. We have literally no idea how this guy makes money, but we spent an enjoyable hour sipping red wine and prosecco. Then, we grabbed pizza for dinner at a nearby restaurant before calling it a night.
On day #2 Jay took me to Castelvecchio. This former medieval castle is now a museum, but you can walk through the outer courtyard for free. The drawbridge and connecting bridge across the river were both pretty neat. By lunchtime, Jay’s coworkers arrived! We met them for coffee at the hotel (another cappuccino for me!! Yum) and then went out for a late lunch. They let us continue exploring while they set up for the trade show.
Later in the evening we met up with a few more of their industry friends and returned to the beloved wine bar for drinks. Eventually we set off to find dinner and ended up eating at one of the restaurants with a beautiful view of the Colosseum. Luckily we didn’t stay out too late since I had to wake up at 4:30 am to catch my flight home.
The Verona airport is blissfully tiny and easy to navigate, so I had no issues in the morning. My United flight included a lengthy layover in Munich but was thankfully uneventful and dropped me safely in Newark to bring an end to my trip! After all that Italian food, I stopped by Wawa on the way home for a classic American dining 🙂