Florence (Italy)

After two fun filled weeks hanging out with the entire extended Oringer clan and many friends in Florida, it was time to continue on our RTW journey. 

We will be visiting Italy for the maximum 90 days that U.S. passport holders are permitted to stay in the Schengen Zone, which includes 27 other European countries.  This means that after 90 days, U.S. passport holders must leave Europe (at least the most desirable 27 European countries) and must wait an additional 90 days before re-entering any of the European countries that are part of the Schengen area.  Very few Americans are even aware of this visa rule probably because not many U.S. citizens ever plan to stay in Europe that long.  However, when you are living a nomadic lifestyle like us Flashpackers, it requires some strategic planning.

Our current style of travel has evolved into ‘slow travel’ in order to really sink our teeth into a destination.  We have discovered, through experience, that in order to get the most out of each city/town, a minimum of seven (7) nights seems to work well for us.  When we first began our RTW journey in 2015 in Southeast Asia, we were staying in each location on average three (3) nights in an effort to visit as many locations as possible in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines & Singapore.  Reflecting back, I feel staying only three nights in a destination is way to fleeting and we were not retaining a lasting memory.

As a result of our new ‘slow’ travel philosophy, we will keep the number of locations we plan to visit in Italy to a minimum considering our 90 day visa granted to us upon arrival.  We will just have to return for another 90 days in the future to cover the remaining parts of the country we desire to visit.  We will just have to put on hold, the road trip to the numerous beaches in the Puglia region and the island life of Sardegna.  Both look right up our alley while avoiding the overcrowded city life in Rome and the swarms of tourists in Venice and the Amalfi Coast.

On this 90 day stay in Italy, we plan on visiting Florence, Lucca, Bologna & Naples (with side trips to Modena, Parma, Cinque Terre and Viareggio).  The bulk of our trip in Italy will be spent road-tripping around the island of Sicily for six weeks.  We plan on circling the entire island of Sicily in a rental car at a slow pace and covering the most desirable towns and beaches.

Our first stop and introduction to Italy was in Florence.  A city which I have coined ‘Italian America’. Apparently American families along with large swarms of college students are infatuated with life in Florence (aka Firenze), and have flocked here in huge numbers.  Most of the countries we have visited on our RTW journey were predominantly visited by Europeans and Aussies.  However, Florence was full of Americans all wanting to do the same exact shit, and in my opinion, way overcrowded conditions.  Americans all look very comfortable here and just love Italy.  I guess what draws the huge flocks of Americans to Florence is their love for Italian food, gelato and the abundance of overstuffed deli meat sandwich shops that Florence is so famous for.  When they are not inhaling food, it’s then time to join the long lines to get into the wide range of museums, basilica‘s & duomo’s.  And, that completes the model for the ideal Italian American city vacation.

Highest rated Sandwich Shops:
All’ Antico Vinaio, SandwiChic, Salumeria Verdi – Pino’s, La Schiacciata, Retrobottega, I Fratellini, I’ Girone De Ghiotti, Antica Porchetteria Granieri, Ino, Panini Toscani, Il Cernacchio.  

If you have the guts (not pun intended) to try the famous pig stomach Lampredotto sandwiches:  L’Trippaio Di Sant’Ambrogio, L’Antico Trippaio, Lampredotto Food Cart (outside Mercado Centrale), Gusta Trippa, Trippaio del Porcellino.

Highest rated Gelato Shops:
Sbrina, Gelateria Santa Trinita, Vivoli, Gelateria dei Neri, Venchi Cioccolato e Gelato, Il Procopio, La Sorbettiera, Gelateria La Carraia, Gelateria della Passera 

I had thought we could beat the crowds by visiting in early April, the shoulder season.  Much to our dismay the crowds were in force, probably because of the Easter week celebration.  Florence was way too crowded for us tropical islanders but we were able to adapt to the frenetic lifestyle.  

I now know why Covid hit Italy so hard.  People literally live on top of each other in the big touristy Italian cities.  Almost every activity involves humans on top of humans in very close quarters.  Jam packed streets, restaurants, coffee/pastry shops, bars, museums, and basilica’s.  One good sneeze laced with Covid in any of these places is your ticket to a positive Covid result.

Yes, Florence is crowded but it somehow flows very nicely.  It was not a stressful crowded.  However, it was a bit of a culture shock after living 2 1/2 years within the wide open green spaces & oceans of Maui and French Polynesia.

Barbie and I both loved the vibrancy and food in Florence and allocated a full 10 nights here in order to hit up as many restaurants on our hit list which we accomplished.  All the food was very good and we really enjoyed walking around to every neighborhood in the city centre taking in all the action. Florence is a ‘must’ visit when visiting Italy.  However, I would say one visit is enough as it’s quite touristy and way too crowded.  It is now time to hop on the Trenitalia train for our next stop in the significantly more relaxed paced Tuscan town of Lucca. 

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