Aly’s Adventures in Italy Part 2: Florence, Italy
After several busy days at Cosmoprof Bologna, I needed a break. So, I decided to travel to Florence, Italy for a day or two. ( If you missed Part 1 of the blog, click here.) Unfortunately, I missed my train to Florence, but I took it in stride. The next train arrived about a half hour later. While I waited, I enjoyed a coffee, people-watched, and allowed the minutes to flow by just as they were.
Florence was only about 45 minutes away by train. This time last year when I went to Rome, I didn’t realize how easy it was to get to Florence and I was sad I didn’t get to visit the city overflowing with jaw-dropping art, architecture, culture, and more. I wasn’t going to miss Florence this time and I would spend a few days there before I headed to Rome and then back to Atlanta.
Walking in Florence, Italy: The Cobblestones Teach Us Lessons
When I left the train station, I could do the most logical thing and travel through Florence on foot to get to my hotel. It is far easier to get around the city that way than by hired car or bus. In fact, Florence can practically be walked in half an hour or so if you did nothing more than walk from point a to point b. Of course, who does that? Florence is like an open-air museum paved in cobblestone, and drenched in history, beauty, and art replete with stunning plazas, churches, museums, shops, markets, galleries, restaurants, and more. There is so much to see, hear, taste and smell in such a short distance that you could spend a lifetime there and not see it all.
After all my travels, I love how Europeans (and perhaps Italians in particular) create beauty that lingers. Here in the U.S., we sadly sacrifice beauty for affordability. Europeans make things beautiful and lasting, and they don’t tear things down with the whim of a trend. Looking at something as beautiful as the Duomo or the Uffizi, I was in a city that is a work of art. It makes sense then why almost all of the top beauty brands are from Europe.
As I began my cobblestone march from the train station to my hotel, I remembered my first trip to Florence with my son. We visited 11 countries in 13 days and my packing and luggage abilities were not what they are today. Back then, I traveled with an ultra-large, 60 lb. bag, a giant suitcase, a soft top bag, and a backpack, and we lugged, labored, hemmed, and hawed our way across the cobblestones of Florence back then. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty and those cobblestone streets taught me plenty of lessons. Because of Florence, I learned how to pack and when I got off the train this time, I made the 14-minute trek from the train station to the hotel with more ease. It still isn’t easy because it is 100 percent cobblestone to the hotel with no sidewalks, but that is why I travel lightly now.
I got to my hotel, the Continentale Florence, and upon check-in, my room was double upgraded thanks to my membership in the IHG One Rewards program. IHG One Rewards partnered with the Mr. & Mrs. Smith travel club to offer IHG members “access to hundreds of new boutique and luxury hotels in the world’s most enticing destinations.” And I prefer boutique hotels because they often feel more personal and intimate. My room at the Continentale Florence did not disappoint and it overlooked the Ponte Vecchio. The view was one of the most stunning things I have ever seen. They had a bottle of wine waiting for me too and the cobblestones were forgotten quickly. I enjoyed a glass of wine, lightly unpacked, and then headed back out into Florence for some meandering time through the markets.
If the Shoe Fits in Florence, Italy
When you are traveling solo, a lot of people have a lot of opinions of what you should do and see, and plenty of people mentioned the outlet stores. Just thirty minutes or so outside of Florence, these designer outlets have everything from leather jackets, boots, and shoes to clothing, belts, bags, and more from some of the world’s most renowned designers and craftsmen. I was iffy about going after being in Bologna, where I became so tired of looking at so many things at the event that made me say, ‘absolutely no shopping.’ Of course, that didn’t last long, and I eventually found myself fifty meters from Goccia Shoes.
A client of mine, Victoria, recommended I go there and see Nino and his wife Michaela. Victoria had called him to tell him of my arrival, and when I arrived they shut the store down for me. I was in shoe heaven, and I tried on every single pair of shoes in the store. I ended up with 6 pairs of shoes that actually fit me. If you know me, this is a huge feat. I have a wide foot and a high arch, and I still ended up with 2 pairs of boots, 2 pairs of loafers, 1 black pointy pair of flats, and a pair of black gold sandals. I also learned that the name goccia means “raindrop” in its English translation and represents how they view their small but mighty boutique, found alongside a sea of major labels. To them, “success is not defined by size and numbers alone, but satisfaction and gratification of a job well done!” I couldn’t have said it better.
The next day, I went to Nino’s leather store, and I had some additional things shipped back home to me. Then, I enjoyed a calzone and would proceed to have an amazing adventure with a new pal I met, Ryann, and we danced at 1 am outside of the Uffizi in the Piazza della Signoria.
The next morning, I sat outside, sipped coffee, and marveled at the ways Europeans create beauty that lingers. Here in the U.S., we sadly sacrifice beauty for affordability. Haven’t you ever wondered why all the top beauty brands come from Europe? They make beautiful things that last, and they don’t tear it all down when the next trend comes along. Looking at something as beautiful as the Duomo or the Uffizi, you can’t help but marvel at these works of art and here I was in a city that is a work of art. It was pure magic.
As I passed by storefronts and walked under and past architectural gems that make one swoon, I pondered the many ways I can make beauty products that fuse form and function into one- making functional art that women can wear and want to wear because we use beauty products that feel beautiful when we put them on. The ritual of putting on makeup can make you feel beautiful and that’s often why we love pretty packaging, fabulous fragrances, and lovely textures too. Florence helped me remember all of that and more.
Stayed tuned in the next 2 weeks for Part 3 of Aly’s Adventures in Italy: In Rome & Back Home Again to Atlanta, and follow along on the journey from our YouTube channel here.
About Aly and Authentic Beauty in Atlanta:
Authentic Beauty Makeup Salon & Brow Studio, located in Atlanta at 4674 Roswell Road, is an award-winning, full-service makeup salon and brow studio in Atlanta owned by Alyson Howard-Hoag. Our philosophy is real people, real life, real beauty made simple and Authentic Beauty was born from the idea that a person should never be told how they should look, while realizing that inner beauty, self-acceptance and learning to express your Authentic Self are pathways to outer beauty. In that vein, we are committed to helping clients make peace with themselves and fall in love with what they see when they look in the mirror. We also believe in beauty with a clean conscience and many of the products we sell in salon and in the online store are vegan and organic.
Our ‘no wax and only tweeze’ brow services have earned Authentic Beauty national and regional awards including best of the best brows by Allure Magazine and given Alyson the title of the brow guru for her ability to transform brows into gorgeous, natural looking brows. Brow services include brow tweezing (we only tweeze for the most precise, natural effect), brow tints, brow lamination, and brow arching through our brow rehab process. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.