Top Things to Do in Florence, Italy

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with a rich history that includes architecture, art, and politics. There are so many wonderful sights to see when spending time in Florence, but if you have limited time in the city there are a few things that should certainly be on your itinerary. We would certainly recommend spending at least 3 days in Florence if at all possible as there so much to see and do. Depending on the time of year that you visit, you can expect plenty of crowds in Florence, so going during the off-season is advisable. Here are our top things to do in what we would consider to be the order of priority depending on the amount of time that you have to spend in Florence.

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Looking Up at the Cathedral and Bell Tower
  1.  The Duomo – Officially the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Duomo dominates the city skyline. There is the cathedral itself, with the largest brick dome in the world as well as the bell tower and the baptistry. Although you could consider each of these as separate places to see, we have grouped them together as a single highlight when visiting Florence.

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    Replica of David in the Piazzale Michelangelo
  2. Piazzale Michelangelo – There are many reasons to make the effort to visit the square with the bronze replica of the Statue of David, but the main reason is the incredible views of the city. You will find many vendors selling food and trinkets and it is a wonderful spot to just sit and enjoy the beauty of Florence. There is also a restaurant located near the square, which was a great place to enjoy a wonderful glass of wine after the somewhat strenuous walk up to the top of the mount.

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    Statue of David
  3.  Galleria dell’Accademia – The Accademia Gallery is best known for having the Statue of David on display, but obviously there is a lot of other famous artwork on display. With seven different halls to wander and enjoy the incredible artwork, you should give yourself at least four hours when visiting the museum.

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    Outdoor Statues in the Piazza
  4. Piazza della Signoria – The plaza is an open-air museum that was built in the 1400’s and has a variety of statues on display. Two of the more famous statues are the Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna as well as Cellini’s Perseus. Considering it is free, it should definitely be one of the places that you make time to see.

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    Ponte Vecchio Up Close
  5.  Ponte Vecchio – This medieval bridge is certainly a highlight of any visit to Florence. Today it is filled with vendors selling a variety of local products, but it was originally the location of the butchers in the city. Like many other locations in Florence, expect plenty of crowds in the area and be careful of pickpockets taking advantage of tourists on the crowded streets.

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    The Birth of Venus
  6. Uffizi Gallery – With many great works of art from artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Machiavelli, it is certainly one of the most famous museums in the world. After all of the members of the Medici family had died out, a deal was made to donate all of the artwork to Florence and it is now housed in the Uffizi Gallery. Just like the Gallery Accademia, be prepared to spend at least several hours seeing all of the amazing works of art.

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    View from a Restaurant at Night
  7. Local Restaurants – Obviously you need to eat and there are so many wonderful restaurants to choose from. There are probably few locations in the world that bring to mind the food of the region as much as Tuscany where Florence is located. We would certainly recommend eating at one of the restaurants that can be found along the Arno River as the scenery is quite beautiful, especially at night.

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    View of the Duomo

Needless to say, there are more sights to see than these, but we would recommend that you put all of these locations on your itinerary when visiting Florence. With so many beautiful sights, seemingly around every corner, just walking the streets of Florence is a magical experience. If you have enough time, taking a day trip to Lucca and to the Leaning Tower of Pisa is definitely a worthwhile experience.

The Beautiful Beaches of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has some gorgeous beaches, which is definitely the case in Punta Cana. Located on the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic, or “DR” as some people say, Punta Cana has a variety of beautiful resorts. All of them require that you purchase an all-inclusive package, which can make them quite expensive and also discourages you from leaving the resort to visit the surrounding area. We stayed at the Paradisus Palma Real during our trip to Punta Cana a few years ago and were definitely impressed with all of the amenities.

Paradisus Palma Real in Punta Cana
Paradisus Palma Real in Punta Cana
View of the Beach from the Resort
View of the Beach from the Resort
View of the Resort from the Beach
View of the Resort from the Beach
The Resort
The Resort

When staying at a large resort, such as the ones in Punta Cana, there are usually many restaurants to choose from, which provides many different options for dining, from casual to fine dining. We took advantage of upgrading to something that the resort called “Royal Service”, which provided us with an ocean view room, access to a concierge to make reservations to restaurants and shows, as well as private pool. It also provided us with a reserved cabana and lounge chairs on the beach without having to get up early and put a towel on it to reserve them.

Main Resort Area
Main Resort Area
Royal Service Area
Royal Service Area
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Beautiful Beaches
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Warm Water for Swimming

Obviously, the highlight of going to Punta Cana are the beautiful beaches with plenty of opportunities to partake in water activities. In addition to spending time on the beach or at one of the many pools, there are also shows every evening for anyone that wants with music and dancing. During the day, you can also participate in activities such as yoga on the beach, volleyball, cooking lessons, and more for those that need more than just sun and relaxation. We use trips like this as a vacation and a break from our hectic schedules, so we tend to simply sit back and soak up the scenery as we sip on tropical drinks.

Cabanas on the Beach
Cabanas on the Beach
Secluded Boardwalk
Secluded Boardwalk
Dos Mai Tai's at the Pool Bar
Dos Mai Tai’s at the Pool Bar
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Blue Skies and White Beaches

We hope to enjoy other beaches in the Caribbean, but Punta Cana, with beaches that face both the Atlantic and Caribbean, is definitely worth a visit.  We would also recommend the royal service to anyone who has the opportunity.  It is a bit of a splurge, but truly worth the extra expense, especially if you’re not travelling with children.

Fountain at the Resort
Fountain at the Resort
Beautiful Beaches
Beautiful Beaches
Our Room at the Resort
Our Room at the Resort
Tropical Fruit
Tropical Fruit

 

Parasailing – Just for the Thrill of It

If you have ever been to a beach resort, you are likely to have seen the boats pulling parasailers around above the ocean waters. Strapping yourself into a harness that is connected to an over-sized parachute and being hauled by a boat while you float higher and higher, probably sounded crazy when it first started in the early 1960’s. We actually went parasailing during one of our trips to Cabo San Lucas and found it to be a lot of fun with great views of the beach and we could even see the large sea turtles swimming in the ocean below. Apparently, there is now a craze to parasail over water with great white sharks swimming below. That is more of a thrill ride than what we would consider doing. Although it is a lot of fun, having done it once is good enough for us and we probably won’t do it again. Generally speaking, parasailing is safe, but accidents do happen and there isn’t anything that keeps the tour companies from taking people up in unsafe conditions. With multiple companies out in the water at the same time, they can sometimes come dangerously close to colliding with other boats or other parasailers. For this week’s Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge we are sharing some photos of parasailers, including ourselves, from some of our trips to the beach. Have you gone parasailing? Would you do it again?

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Parasailer in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
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Parasailer at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
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They Took Us Really High
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Multiple Parasailers at Sunset
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Having Fun
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The Views are Amazing