Florence Italy Guide

Travels in Firenze Italy

For many years, I had wanted to travel to the Tuscan region of Italy. Florence, or Firenze, is one of the main cities in that region. With beautiful greenery, hills, famous sights, it’s also the home of famous fashion brands, such as Gucci, and has delicious food.

I did alot of my research about Florence, from an American girl who lives in Florence: Girl in Florence. Thanks to her recommendations, me and my friend had delicious food, gelato, and brunch in our time there! Check out her blog for other recommendations!

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The kitchen of our cute airbnb! The lady was so nice! Me and my friend wished we had asked her what she does (I suspect she made jewelry), because she had a amazing place in Florence!

Florence is a city for walking or riding the bus (there is no metro!). Bus tickets are sold at tobacco shops or other convenience stores. Almost everything is closed on Sunday, except for some places to eat, so make sure you buy your bus ticket before Sunday (you can buy your ticket on the bus too, but need exact change, even so by Sunday afternoon they stop selling tickets, even if they still run). Most restaurants are closed on Monday in Italy, so double check if something is open. For dinner I recommend that you make a reservation. This is the rule of thumb I would apply for most cities in Europe (because some will turn you away). Walk in and make a reservation or call (if you have international phone service or ask your hotel). I would suggest you book a hotel or airbnb close to the places you want to see, because really walking is your best bet. Google maps can also tell you which bus to take to get to where you want to go or ask someone.

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Bardini Gardens or Giardino Bardini 
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Many do not know about this park which is a easy climb not too far from the main river. One can see the beautiful Duomo from here. 

There are tons of tourists in Florence (rightfully so)! We went to the Bardini Gardens which I had read about on many blogs of female travelers. I loved the views and the fact that no one was around! It’s not too big and easy to see and walk around with panoramic views of the city! A great way to start your day (most parks are closed by sunset).

There are many famous sights to see, try to book online in advance to save time (you may have to pay a few Euros more), and don’t believe individuals standing around trying to sell you a ticket or telling you you will have to wait a long time before you can go in, unless you buy their ‘special’ ticket.

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What I love about Tuscany is the green hills and beautiful homes. Florence is also known for a famous bridge called the Ponte Vecchio. It has nice jewelry shops, though expensive. 
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Per recommendation from the blog I mentioned above, we tried Gelato from My Sugar. This dude who makes the gelato (fresh by hand) won awards for his unique orange-cinnamon flavor. I usually don’t care for fruity ice cream, but it was so good! I also loved his pistachio and hazelnut flavors!  We kept going back it was so good!
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Brunch at Ditta Artigianale. It’s popular with foreigners and locals. I ordered a Turkish breakfast with a side of pancakes and a couple of lattes. So good! It’s also not too far from the famous sights and has multiple locations. 
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The beautiful Duomo
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Naked David. This is the original David carved by Michelangelo. Statue is located in Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze  that can be seen in about 15 to 30 minutes. He’s amazing to look at, but I find it weird that some were taking selfies with his big ‘package’ in the background (ahem). 
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We had our dinner at this beautiful restaurant. Make sure to have reservations for dinner! They also have a bar with desserts on display! 

I would suggest that even if you are on vacation it’s a good idea to have one chill day out of the week. We actually used that day to go do laundry, lol. Now coming from Atlanta, most people do not use a laundry mat unless their’s is broken or they broke. In other big cities it’s normal to use one and looking back for the long trip we had (or if you don’t like to travel with too much luggage), I’m so glad my friend pressured me into going. We went to a local grocery store called COOP, bought detergent packets, zip laundry bags, and I bought some things like, locally made coffee beans and soaps that made such neat gifts! We got fruit to snack on and went to a cafe for coffee that was inside the store. Let me tell you, I had such relief to do our laundry, be chill, and do as the locals do. Traveling can be exhausting. It was a lot of fun to see all the cool ingredients for Italian food that they use in their home too! The laundry mat’s in Euro are super fancy: they have music playing, a coffee machine, and are pretty cheap (the one we went to had a machine that exchanges bills into coins).

To get to Florence you can ride a train into the city from most other cities. We flew from Berlin to Bologna, Italy then rode a 35 minute train into Florence. I bought my ticket online in America before arriving. I chose that route because it was difficult to find affordable flights straight into Florence from Berlin. Florence has a main train station the Santa Maria Novella train station (but no train stops throughout the city). Most of the famous sights are not too far from this train station. Also I suggest day trips into the Tuscan countryside, check out the Girl in Florence’s blog I mentioned above!

For shopping: the lady I mentioned also suggested a bunch of stores whatever you are looking for. I love Italian bags so I suggest going to Mia Bag. They have a store right by the Duomo and they are so stylish and trendy. Most of the bags are in the 200~range or below, but I feel like for the price you are getting a beautiful bag that other more known brands would double if not triple the price. There’s also Liu Jo which sells beautiful clothes and bags that are little more affordable. Mia Bag also has a store in Milan.

Well I hope this guide helps in your next Italian adventure! Stay posted for my trip to Milan next mA! Thanks again!

Berlin on a Budget

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I had always been curious about visiting Germany. When my friend suggested visiting Berlin, I was like sure thing!

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Outside of our airbnb. 

First thing, when we arrived in Berlin it was super warm out. We reached our airbnb and decided to walk around the neighborhood to eat. That evening we tried to think of what to do next and my friend found on a website ‘free things to do in Berlin’ and found out about watching a outdoor movie! It wasn’t free but she bought our tickets online. They were pretty cheap I think around 7 euros which isn’t bad for a evening show.

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We ate this delicious pasta at Mirabelle. It was across the street from a park that had bee farms! Food is (usually) uber cheap in Berlin and there’s a lot Turkish places to eat kebabs. 
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When the weather is good, Berliners go outside! It was an awesome experience as I love doing what the locals do! They provide chairs/blankets (and you can buy drinks/snacks). When we 1st arrived we were kinda nervous because the park is kinda hidden behind broken buildings and graffiti (Berlin is covered in ‘cool’ graffiti we came to learn), but it was cool when we figured out where it was. 

It became packed soon enough. That was like the most fun thing we decided to do! The movie we watched was hilarious and it was so fun to watch the movie (with English subtitles) with other young German’s and foreigners. Here’s the link: Freiluftkino Kreuzberg

Once you figure out the metro system it’s pretty efficient and safe. It’s also really cheap! The next day we went to the German landmarks which are kind of situated in a particular part of the city and easy to walk around. It was also great because the weather was so sunny and amazing mA!

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Berliner Dom. It has a river right by it and is beautiful!

We also went to the Do You Read Me?! independent book store which isn’t too far from the sites. Berlin has some alot of cool shops to see here and there as you walk around and you can find affordable options. We also headed to the Bikini Mall which is mix of price ranges. We also went to museums. The DDR museum is really small (like you can see everything in 15 minutes). We went to the Neues Museum, which has the sculpture of Nefertiti’s head, she’s a beauty. The museum’s are walking distance from the Berliner Dom. They are not free, but the Neues Museum is worth checking if you are into Egypt and German history.

For dinner we were famished and decided to eat Turkish kebab! I was so happy. The place we went to is called Ruya Gemuse Kebab. It’s highly rated, and hot dudes were like gorging on the wraps in the middle of the street, lol. It was super fresh and the staff were uber friendly. Well I hope this guide helps in your stay at Berlin! I wish I could have stayed longer and I really liked the vibes of the city! It’s fascinating to see how a people and a city picked themselves up after everything they have been through. Still just goes to show the human spirit and its capability for change and growth.

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With fried veggies, mint leaves, sauces, cheese, and chicken…everything was so delicious and fresh. It was huge and so flavorful! For me and my friend plus water we paid only around 10 euros! Super!

Manchester in a Day

Exploring Manchester

Manchester is a cool city with hipster vibes, a lot of street art, and friendly people! I really enjoy visiting cities that are not super crowded, and are easy to get around. The reason I ended up visiting Manchester was because I found a deal to go there from my home city and that way I was able to continue on to other cities in Europe! The best way to find a deal to travel is pick non traditional routes to visit then fly out to other cities you want to visit. For instance, if I chose to fly to London, it would be uber expensive, but Manchester is just over 2 hour train ride from London, and I can still go to other cities in Europe as I choose! Another way is to sign up with apps or websites that alert you to deals for routes you like. That’s how I found out about a deal to Europe. Another tip is to buy your ticket for trips abroad (or locally) in January-February, March at the latest. That’s when airlines post cheap deals. Also consider alternative means of travel for instance, train or bus. In Europe, sometimes, trains are faster and cheaper to travel than airplanes.

I had visited Manchester before, after graduating high school, and didn’t know what to think, but I was pleasantly surprised. However I have some unfortunate news though, it was one week later, after my day there with a friend, that the Manchester bombing happened. It was shocking to read about it while still being in Europe. I feel I should mention that the entire time I was in Manchester I felt safe, welcome, and everyone I spoke to was very warm and friendly (a vibe you don’t get everywhere in Europe towards Americans these days). Unfortunately, terrorism or mass attacks are happening in the world and it really is sad that it makes traveling risky and puts everyone’s lives in danger. Still, I believe that the ‘war on terror’ is making things worse for everyone, and it is foolish to believe that war will end the attacks. However, I want to discuss the positive things about his cool city and hope that this blog post will help people, and encourage others to visit Manchester!

Me and my friend stayed at an airbnb (my first foray into airbnbs) and it was absolutely perfect! The airport is not far from Manchester city and it helps to have international phone service (which my friend got a phone plan for her travels from Sprint) to be able to call the taxi (I’m not sure if uber is in Manchester? Still you can ride the train into Manchester city too).

The lady we stayed with in her pretty home was walking distance to the tram (more like a train) and we rode into the City Center. Tickets are pretty cheap and it’s easy to navigate. We had originally planned to go to the Peak District, the English countryside, and go to Bakewell, a English town/village, eat Bakewell tarts, and visit Chatsworth House a castle where some films have been made. Sadly, it was supposed to rain so we opted to stay in the city (I still got to try the famous Bakewell tart towards the end of my trip to Europe! It was delicious!).

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Street art in Manchester

First order of business was grabbing coffee. We went to Moose Coffee, and we got latte’s to go, it was really good. We went to Primark, M&S and looked at cakes to eat (really good and cheap), and checked out other shops. We wanted to have afternoon tea and looked up Sugar Junction, but it was under renovation so we couldn’t go that day! Still there’s lots of places to have high tea or afternoon tea. You should make reservationsf for high tea and can also do so online at Sugar Junction. Perfect for out-of-towners!

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Inside Moose Coffee. It also sells American food. I was surprised by how many ‘American’ restaurants there are in Manchester. I feel it’s difficult to classify American food. But going to Europe this time around, a lot of the popular places to eat and especially grab ‘brunch’ and lattes (American style with a glass cup and latte art) were everywhere. Even in cities that traditionally pride themselves in their own culture, maybe the hipsters/millennial/ broke young person (LOL) is too hard to resist or easy to relate to? Or maybe gentrification and it’s effects on culture and cities is a thing everywhere? Maybe in Europe it’s different, certainly American style places have been popular, but makes me wonder how do these things catch on and why. Still I was happy with my delicious latte! 

I wanted to visit Selfridges at Manchester Exchange Square. At that particular Selfridges, in the beauty section they sell the brand RMK

I have known about that brand for years. It’s Japanese, and I believe only sold in the U.K. outside of Japan. I had bought their foundation which I LOVE. I originally bought some foundation from the airport in Japan on my way to China, and it is also recommended by many Japanese magazines. If you happen to be in the U.K. I suggest checking online on RMK’s global site to see which store carries the RMK brand and try their makeup out!

Right across from this particular Selfridges, is a famous cathedral and we also grabbed food at the pub across the street. Got to eat a pub at least once, which is kind of part of English culture and food is pretty cheap in there too!

All in all I enjoyed my time in Manchester, even if it was for just a day. I hope this short guide helps!

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Got my Bakewell Tart! I just randomly stumbled upon this cafe in the airport on the way out back to America. God listen’s to every little wish we make, even a wish to eat a tart from a small town in U.K. haha. From Pork & Pickle (there is no pork in this tart, just saying)!