The best way to travel around Italy is by train. I prebooked all my train tickets through Trenitalia website before the trip. Although reserved seats are a much preferred choice. I realized along the trip that majority of the travellers sat wherever it was convenient. For us, going to Florence was still 2 luggages. We went to our assigned seats on this sector. (Later on, we hopped on to any seats that were near to the door or area where we could chucked our luggages)

 

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The journey from Rome to Florence took around 1 hour 30 min. As our tickets were prebooked with assigned seat. We do not have to validate the ticket. If not please do remember to validate the ticket or you will get a fine from the conductor going around.

We walked from Florence station to our hotel, Mercure Florence. The hotel is newly opened and ideally located. We were just 5 min walk from Florence Santa Maria Novella station and 15 min walks to the heart of Florence.

Our room was huge!! That was because we got upgraded to a bigger room because of Mr Lim. 🙂 We walked to the city centre and had lunch at Ristorante Caffe Giotto  right in front of the Duomo cathedral. Honestly I always find eateries that are located near famous places not fantastic but the place that we went served pretty decent pizza and they have one of the nicest pistachio gelato we had in Italy. The waiter was very friendly and accommodating to us, assisting us with a change of table as we were seated right under the hot sun.

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We spent the day walking around the city and exploring all the small shops.

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We were supposed to go for a dinner at Michelin starred  Il Palagio inside 4 Seasons hotel Florence. But…. we got abit lazy  to walk there and we cancelled the reservation and ended up having dinner somewhere near our hotel. Florence’s restaurants are all to my liking so far.  The street where our hotel were located were really lively, lots of restaurants and street performers. We had dinner at a small restaurant serving simple menu of pastas and pizzas. I had Aglio Olio and it was amazing. Much better than the one  I had in Rome.

 

Day 2

Its shopping day!!!! Actually we planned to go to Prada Space early in the morning then from Prada Space to THE MALL.  Unfortunately we woke up late and we were afraid we might not have enough time to cover both thus we decided to go to THE MALL first and Prada the next day.  There are direct bus to and fro THE MALL from Florence bus terminal. (5 min walk from train station) It cost €5 per way and the journey there is about 50min.

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You can find many designer brands at 70% off. We went to GUCCI straight and I got myself a nice bag at €870 ( The same bag in Singapore cost $2480 but in different colour) I bought a few scarfs, a cap and a passport holder. Our shopping king got himself a GUCCI suit, a few ties and t shirt. Inside Gucci, you just have to inform the SA the items you want to buy and they will issue you a card with the number on it. You just have to bring all the cards to the cashier at the end of the day and they will bring out all the items that you had selected. You can still change your mind then.

 

We then hopped over to Prada across the street. The concept of shopping at Prada is almost the same like at Gucci. We were given a no at the entrance. Quote your no to the SA whenever you are buying something and they will tag the item to your no. At the end of the day, all the items will be there at the cashier. We did not get much as we were supposed to go to the Prada Space the next day thus we wanted to keep our Prada purchase till then. I wanted to get a handbag for my mum but I could not get the one I like in black.

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Wanted to get this handbag for my mum in black.

The Saint Laurent store also had good selections of Tribtoos and Tributes. They had quite a few clutches but do check the stocks as most do have some scratches. Sad to say there wasn’t Sac De Jour in smaller sizes. Thus I will have to get my Sac De Jour when I hit Milan.

Some other stores worth visiting are the Alexandra McQueen where you can get nice shoes at €100. The TODS store are also well stocked and the price ranges from €195 to €350. I went to probably 90% of the stores at THE MALL. You can forget about getting rockstuds at the Valentino there, only saw the rockstud Havaianas slipper but there wasn’t my size. 🙁 Actually the price there was not as good as the one I saw on Inbeast.com

I was a little disappointed as I wanted to get a few items at Bicester Village in London but I told myself that I should wait for THE MALL due to the currency. The items that I wanted to buy in Bicester Village were not stocked in THE MALL. Balenciaga at THE MALL did not have the scarf that I saw in Bicester, the Saint Laurent also did not have the shoes in my size. 🙁 The price in Bicester is also around the same. Should have just get it in London.

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There is a global blue office in THE MALL, you can get your tax refund there in cash. Do note that you still have to get the form stamped before you leave the country if not your credit card will be charged. You need to leave EU within 21 days of collecting the tax refund. Thus if you still have a long stay, I will probably think that getting the tax refund at the airport might be a safer alternative. Kel got charged for his purchases in London, I guess the custom forms took too long to reach London.

We had lunch at Gucci Café located on the upp level of Gucci Boutique. The café was tastefully decorated. Food were decently priced. Taste wise.. There were no better restaurant inside THE MALL so just had to make do with this.

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We spent the entire day in THE MALL and took the 7pm bus back to Florence. We went to the train station to get the train tickets for tomorrow Prada’s trip in case it got sold out again like today.

 

We found a nice restaurant that served aluminium foil wrapped  seafood linguine. I gave it 10/10 and even told Kel that I wanted to return the next day to eat again. The restaurant only had 2 staffs but they were very patient and good with recommending food and wine to us.

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Day 3

We woke up earlier and headed to the station for our ride to Montevarchi, the station of the Prada Space Outlet. When we asked the customer service if we got the right tickets, he straight away said “Prada Prada Prada” when he saw we are going to Montevarchi..  Do note that it is not a direct train from Florence to Montevarch.  Montevarchi is just one of the stop along the journey. So you have to take note when to alight. The journey took us 50 min and cost €5.90 per pax.

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Once you are at Montevarchi station, head to the exit and you will see taxi service to Prada Space. There is a guy by the name of Stefano. He does this service for many years and each trip to Prada Space without sharing is €12. If you are lucky and there are other commuters, you only need to pay the share rate. We had 6 others to share with us thus we only pay €3 per person. Stefano’s taxi is a Mercedes Maxi Cab. It can take up to 8 pax. Do take his name card so that you can get the Prada staff to call for him to pick you up at the outlet when you are done. Stefano also does ferry customers from Prada Space to THE MALL and it will cost €60. Alternatively, just go back to Montevarchi and take a train to Rignano Sull’Arno. From Rignano Sull’Arno take a  5 min taxi ride to THE MALL. It will cost probably around €20 to €25. If you are in a bigger group then it will probably make more sense to book Stefano’s service.

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We reached Prada Space at 10am and there were already a queue forming outside. (Store opens at 10.30am) You need to get a number stub from a ticket machine located outside the entrance. The same concept as the Prada store we visited at THE MALL.

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It was a fruitful trip for me to Prada space.  I was very happy because I bought a very nice  Prada handbag for my mum ( the exact one I saw yesterday at THE MALL but in black) and a nice  Miu Miu tote bag for Granny (hahah ya Granny… ) The Miu Miu tote bag was €€320. There were more selection of bags and shoes here compare to THE MALL. I ended up with 4 bags, 4 shoes, belt and accessories. Most of the bag are between €500 to €700. I am talking about the leather bags not the canvas thus it was pretty decent price for a branded bag.

We knew we were in deep shit when the staffs handed over our shopping bags. I told them to remove all the boxes for the bags.

 

While waiting for Stefano to pick us up, we stood outside Prada,  repacking the items. We threw away all the shoe boxes and squeeze all into 2 bags.

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We managed to reached Florence by 3pm and decided to do a walk around the city to look for another luggage as we were  out of luggage space. We saw Mandarina  Duck having 50 % sale and bought a luggage for €130. We  left the luggage in the store and went on walking around.

We walked to Ponte Vecchio, (“Old Bridge”) a arch bridge over the Arno River. It was noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. There was a place for you to make a wish. I wished to come back to this beautiful city again. 🙂

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Our initial plan was to keep Day 3 for our touristy stuff but because of all the shopping we were left with little time.

So I will say it was a  pity that  we missed out on the nice places to visit in Florence. We will definitely come back again.

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Day 1

We arrived in Rome on a Friday night. The flight from London to Rome took longer than usual due to high traffic coming into Rome. Rome unlike London is truly Summer! At 7pm, the sky was still bright.

We arranged for a hotel transport and it cost us €70. A normal taxi ride from FCO airport to downtown hotel will be around €48. We paid a little more as we were afraid of the safety initially.

We stayed a M Gallery La Griffe. The hotel was 5 min walk from Roma Termini station. It will be easy for us when we are heading to Florence. La Griffe is located along Via Nazionale. Walking distance to quite a few famous monuments. Travelling with Kel definitely got a higher chance of upgrade as he is always a gold member at most of the hotel groups. La Griffe upgraded us to a Junior Suite. We were excited till we saw the room. Hahaha, it was a duplex. Luckily there were not much shopping in London so we could still manage to bring our luggages up to the loft.

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We then asked the hotel for some nice restaurant nearby. They recommended Ristorante Rinaldi al Quirinale located 5 streets down the road. It wasnt cheap but we enjoyed the meal. I had Calamari, Linguine Vongole and Kel had his Ravioli.  The wine recommended was also pretty good. We then realized they have reasonable collection of wines. They even have the only gold wine in Rome (not sure if it was Rome or entire Italy).  We spen9t €100+ for our dinner (We realized it was consider pricey as our meals later on are all very decent priced). The restaurant requested if we can write a review from them on tripadvisor as most of Italy’s retaurant are super into reviews by tripadvisor. Honestly, I have not sit down to write them a review yet.

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Day 2

I booked the Vatican City tour through Viator. Time for the touristy stuffs.  It is officially Vatican City State, is a walled enclave within the city of Rome. With a population of 842 in an area of approimately 44 hectares, it is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area and population.

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Within Vatican City are St Peter’s Basillica, Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum.  I will highly recommend anyone who plans to go to Vatican City to go through this tour with Viator.  Things to note are, please make sure your dress code is appropriate as they will require you to cover up your shoulder and not exposing any parts above the knees. Skipping the long line is good enough to justify why this tour is a must. Our guide, Francesca also did an excellent job to go through everything with us. You can really tell that she loves her job. Francesca brought us through the special entrance where we skipped the queue. Inside Vatican, she explained everything in details. We saw other tour guide just going through the motion of bringing the guests around while Francesca delightfully went through the history of the place. We spent a good 20min outside Sistine Chapel where Francesca told us the story behind and I understand the history and Michelangelo better after her session.

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Francesca also brought us to Raphael’s Rooms and after the Sistine Chapel, where we were not allowed to talk and no photographs allowed.

 

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Beautiful ceiling inside Vatican museum

Enchanted by the workmanship

 

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Raphael’s room

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Raphael’s work

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Going to Sistine Chapel

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Walking to St Peter Basilica

We were led to the amazing  St Peter’s Basillica. I cant describe the “awe” feeling I had when I stepped in. Whether you are Catholic or not, it is very hard to disagree that St Peter’s Basillica is an amazing piece of architecture. It is very very detailed in every corner, the ceilings, the walls, the floors.  It was built by Michelangelo and is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. We wanted to climb the Dome, after Kel heard it is going to be a 491 steps exercise, he smartly suggested going to another attraction. Hahaha. I have read that there are certain parts that it is so narrow that they could not build a railing and have to use rope. I also agreed I might have to skip as I have very bad Acrophobia.

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St Peter’s basilica

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The only signed Michelangelo’s work

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Call me Aunty if you want. This umbrella was my BFF for the entire trip.

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We planned to go spanish step next. Taking the hop on & off bus will be ideal as the bus will bring you to most of the must see places.

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Gelato is the best option in this sunny weather

Once you leave Vatican City, you will see many guys selling the ticket for the Hop on & off buses. You can either get it there or go further up where the bus stops are. There were 4 companies doing the routes. The most popular ones were the Gray Line (Pink buses) and the CitySightseeing (Red Bus). There were 2 more companies but I will advise against them. The Pink and red buses run tills 11pm. So you have more time to do your sight seeing. We took the City Roma but at 7pm, they had a break till 9pm. We got no choice but to wait and do our night sightseeing.

To go to Spanish Steps, you will drop at stop 1 and take a 5 to 10 min walk to the top of the steps. There is nothing much to do other than it is a flight of steps for you to take your picture. We took our selfies and moved on to all the shops.

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Spanish steps is where all the luxury brands are. I headed for Hermes. My mission for my Lindy. 🙂 We asked the 1st sales person if there is a Lindy. Obviously the answer we got was “NO”. I suspected something as before he replied, he looked to an older guy for confirmation before replying. Kel then bought a few ties and got me a Black and Gold Clic.  While paying, we saw 2 Asians walking in and asked for another bag. Again the sales person looked to that older guy. After leaving the boutique, I told Kel I suspected they are selecting who they want to sell the bags to and related the 2 inicidents to him. He told me to wait for him and he went back into the boutique. He came out and told me that they do have 1 Lindy 34 in Prune. It was reserved and if by 6pm the customer does not pick up, they will let us have the bag. I was estatic. Kel asked me to think carefully as it was not the size that I wanted and we might have to carry it all the way along our holiday.  We then went to a 2nd Hermes store, there we saw another Lindy 34 in Flamingo. The sales person suggested other bags as that Lindy was a display and they are not allowed to sell Display. (The Lindy in the 1st store was also a Display but the Manager agreed to let us have it) We went back to the 1st Hermes store at 6pm. The manager honoured his words and brought the Lindy for me. I then made the gravest mistake, I told him “NO” after trying as I find size 34 too oversized for me. Obviously after that, I never get to meet another store who is willing to sell me the display. Moral of the story, take the bag even if it is not really your colour or size cause you will not know when is the next time you can get it.

We took a stroll to the Trevi Fountain and were to disappointed to know that it is under some restoration process. We still threw coins in with our wishes and took some photos.

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We headed back to the CityRoma bus stop and realized that it was the last bus for the day. They will start the night sightseeing tour at 9pm. We had more than 2 hours thus we decided to go back to our hotel for a rest. M Gallery has one of the nicest rooftop view. We stayed for the beautiful sunset.

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Lovely sunset

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Creative Kel took this while on the way for our night tour

Night sightseeing are nothing to rave about. I personally prefer Rome during the day.

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Upp deck of the bus is only possible at night.

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St Peter Basilica at night

We dropped at Piazza Navona and went for our dinner at Da Francesco (Piazza del Fico, 29, 00186 Rome, Italy ).  I highly recommend this small restaurant as their pizza and pasta were one of the best we had during the entire Italy trip. The food were reasonably priced. The pizza and pasta were below €15.  This is definitely must try.

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Day 3

Another touristy day, I booked the Colosseum tour. It is no joke doing any tour under a scorching hot sun. The weather in Rome during mid Aug is sunny, around 34 degree Celsius and not humid like Singapore. The feeling is like piercing sun on your skin. We spent 4 hours on this tour under hot sun.  You can actually do this tour on your own. With a guide you probably find out more about the history but nowadays you can google anything so it is individual preference. The one fact that I remembered clearly about the tour was that Colosseum was built in 8 years! It was such a great architecture and to be completed in 8 years was amazing. We are talking about 73 A.D where there wasn’t much technology then. (St Peter’s Basilica took 120 years to complete)

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We went on to the Roman Forum after the Colosseum. Maybe was due to the extreme weather, I could not really pay attention to our guide.  I was constantly looking for a shadier place.

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We went to a nearby place for lunch. La Taverna Dei Quaranta (Add: Via Claudia 24. 12.30pm – 3.30pm, 7.30pm- midnight)Decent and reasonably priced. Not our best Italian food but you know eateries near famous monuments are usually not that great.  For those who wants a decent lunch place near Colosseum, this will be the place to go to.

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Kel’s Chicken with vegetables

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Carbonara

 

After lunch, we took a cab to Pantheon. According to Tripadvisor, Pantheon is the no. 1 place to visit in Rome. Pantheon has the biggest dome in the world. (St Peter’s Basilica has the 2nd biggest dome). It is free entry to all. Do observe the dress code as it is a basilica. No exposing of shoulders and knees.

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Pantheon is near to Piazza Navona where you can find all the street stalls selling handmade jewellery and art pieces. There are a lot of nice restaurant around the square where you can sit down and people watch. We spent a long time having our beer and ice cream at one of the shop with very strong WiFi.

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We then WALKed back to our hotel. I was surprised Kel was agreeable as it was quite a distant.  My lovely hubby really bent backwards to accommodate me. 🙂

 

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