Florence in 2 days

Florence, the symbol of the renaissance is an open-air museum. No need to go inside any monument; the walk through the city is the way to see the beauty of the 600 years of artistic work. Here is a 2-day walking guide to admire that chef-d’oeuvre.

My travel App: Ulmon. It has all the sightseeing places saved and most of the restaurants and bars as well. It can be used offline which is very practical.

My booking site: Tripmasters.com . This is my 3rd time going through them to arrange my travel plans and I love the site. They have a great itinerary suggestion, hotels and all for a great price.

My Hotel: Hotel Vasari Palace, a former monastery, is a beautiful traditional hotel situated by the train station in a pedestrian zone.  I love to stay in traditional hotels where I can feel the charm and the history of the city. Great location, great service, great room and great price.

Must eat : Hotel Chocolate at Café Rivoire. Lunch at Le Volpi e L’Uva. Happy Hour at Caffe Cibreo . Dinner at Cantinetta Verazzano. Gelato at la Carraia.

Day 1

Start at the Train Station from where you can see the Church of S Maria Novella. Take the small pedestrian streets to get to San Lorenzo Basilica and Palazzo Medici. You can quickly go inside both monuments if you want, but again I don’t think it’s worth it. However, take a moment to admire the San Lorenzo Basilica from outside and go to the courtyard of Palazzo Medici to see the David by Donatello. Then, head to San Lorenzo Food and Flea Market. The covered food market is the perfect stop for lunch and the flea market is the perfect place for some souvenir purse shopping. After that cultural break, walk to the Duomo and the Baptistery. The entrance to the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore is free but to go up the Duomo you will have to get tickets in advance. In front of the Duomo, in the middle of the Piazza you will see the Baptistery and the east door of it called Gate of Paradise. The Duomo Piazza and the Cathedral are just breathtaking. The Piazza next to it via the pedestrian passage of Via de Calzaiuoli is where is Piazza Signoria with Palazzo Vecchio and Loggia dei Lanzi, a lodge full of inspiring statues. Palazzo Vecchio is not an impressive palace if you have been to Versailles. You can easily skip it. You can seat at one of the cafes on that square like the Rivoire Café to take a moment to absorb all that beauty. Walk then towards Ponte Vecchio by passing by Uffizi Gallery Courtyard where you can admire statues and check out the work of the painters in the courtyard.  You can admire the sunset from there or even better from the bridge next to it Ponte Trinite. The neighborhood of San Spirito next to those bridges is not that touristy yet and is full of great locals’ restaurants and bar. Great way to finish that first walking tour day.

Day 2

Start your day at Galleria dell Academia. Make sure you bought your ticket in advance as the line can get very long very fast. The museum is fairly small and the main attraction is the Statue of David by Michelangelo. David is enthroned in the middle of the museum.  You should then walk towards Via de Tomabuoni the shopping street of Florence for why not shopping session. Then cross that Ponte Trinite to go to Pitti Palace. The ticket will allow you to visit the palace, the exhibition, the Boboli Garden and the Bardini Garden. The only attractions worth visiting, I believe.  The palace is beautiful and you will get the feel for the grandeur of the Italians monarch. The Boboli gardens are beyond beautiful and as you go up you get to see more and more of that legendary Florence from the above view. There is a cave on the corner of the garden; don’t miss it. It is one of the unusual things to see in Florence. You can go up the small narrow street of old Florence, classified UNESCO World heritage to go to Giardino Bardini Gardens. The Building is a museum and has a very interesting exhibiting. The gardens are bigger than Boboli garden and majestic. Finish your walk uphill at the Forte di Belvedere where you will have the best view of Florence and the sunset. For dinner, you can head across the Arno River to Santa Croce.

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Pisa Walking Guide

Pisa is all about the Leaning Tower. Half a Day is sufficient to see the city.

From The train station, take the main artery Corso Italia which is the pedestrian passage to get to Piazza Dei Miracoli. By there you have the Piazza del Duomo, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. The Piazza is the place where all the Pisa must see are including the famous leaning tower of Pisa that “had a great influence on monumental art in Italy from the 11th to the 14th century.” You can go inside the tower and while going up you can feel the tower is leaning. You will always be attracted to the walls which make the walking up the stairs a little bit difficult. From the top of the tower, you will have an amazing view of the Piazza and its monuments, the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the Cemetery as well as the whole city.

Exit the Piazza to go see the Cathedral of Saint Caterina d’Allessandria and you can stroll in the park in front of it.

Then head the other main square, the Knights’ Square. On that Cavalieri square, that used to be the political center of the city, you have the Church of Santo Stefano dei  Cavalieri, Palazzo de Corovana, and the Clock Tower. Stand in the middle to have a 360-degree view of that beautiful Piazza.

Finally walk back towards the Arno River. Take a leisure walk along all the colorful houses by the river. By the rover, you will see a very small Gothic church. It is the Church of Santa Maria della Spina. It is very unusual to see that small church in the middle of the city between the River the houses. Unfortunately, we can’t go inside of it.

Pisa is a small walled city and if you are on a busy tourist schedule, it is the perfect city to slow down and just enjoy Italy.

Cancun Escapade

Whether you live on the East Coast or the West Coast, Cancun is the perfect getaway vacation for a long weekend or for a Spring Break.

As soon as you land in Cancun you can feel the heat and the humidity. Cancun Hotel Zone is a street with all the hotels back to back. The Hotel Zone ends in Downtown Cancun. I stayed at Royal Solaris All Inclusive Resort. It’s the perfect combination of a budget-friendly hotel with a great pool and area.

You can enjoy Cancun at the Hotel Pool with again the all-inclusive service which means as many Margaritas and Daiquiris as you want by the poolside or at the pool bar. You can also escape the hotel and go to the Hotel Beachfront. That white sand and clear water is so tempting.

What I loved about Cancun is that it offers a tropical paradise; you can relax and tan by the pool or at the beach, but also an adventure. Cancun is the closest city to Chichen Itza, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO Heritage site.

Chichen Itza Day tour can be booked online or at the hotel, where they offer great deals. They picked us up at the hotel. First stop Sacred Cenote, Cenote Sagrado. What a natural wonder. We entered the Cenote, welcomed by locals. It was impressive to see the depth of the Cenote. Down in the Cenote, we got to assist at a traditional dance. Cenotes were used by the ancient Maya Civilization for sacrificial offerings.  A lot of people were diving and swimming; I got scared by all the small fishes that one could see in the water. We then headed to Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza which means “at the mouth of the well of Itza” is one of the largest Maya cities and our tour guide walked us around the whole archeological site. We saw the Bail Court, where they sometimes have special concerts, the Group of Thousands Columns, the Temple of the Warriors and of course dominating the site, El Castillo, the famous Kukulkan Pyramid. The tour gave us ample time to wander around on our own and take pictures. We ended that day tour at a local traditional buffet style restaurant where we had great food and great show by traditional dancers.

Cancun also offers a lot of Beach activities like Jet Skiing or snorkeling. I took a day tour to Isla Mujeres. We left the port in the morning. On the way to Isla Mujeres, we stopped for snorkeling. It was magical to see all those colorful fishes.  We stopped at a small beach for lunch and got to touch a shark. I was scared but it was a lot of fun. I wish I had more time and could actually spend a night is the island. It is definitely a little paradise on earth.

At night, even if the resort offers a lot of activities, DJ, and dancing, you need to go to Downtown Cancun. It’s a very small downtown with few clubs but a lot is happening at night. There is a party bus that stops at every hotel in the Hotel Zone and takes you to the clubs. What a way to start the night. The most famous club is Coco Bongo. You will have to pay to get in but it’s worth it. Coco Bongo is NOT your average club; it’s a club and a concert place. The main room is huge with about 5 levels and everybody has eyes on the stage. No DJ on the stage but your favorite singers’alikes coming to perform. And if you like 90’s music you will love. From Michael Jackson to the Spice Girls, all of the most famous singers alike will come and perform all night long. Oh and I almost forgot, it’s all you can drink. It is a crazy experience that you need to live while in Cancun.