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  • Writer's pictureslexenskee

Life at Garreg Mach Monastery

Two days in Florence, Italy.

Honestly wasn't expecting to like Florence as much as I did. I was prepared to find it to be College-lite with all the people I knew who went to Florence to study abroad, but perhaps because it was summer and apparently also a regional holiday I didn't get the frat feeling of WVU at all. Actually, I was dead certain I'd found the place used as inspiration for Fire Emblem Three Houses.

Travel & Logistics

We arrived via train from Venice, total travel time was probably around three hours. Nice, smooth ride through the Italian countryside. The train drops you off right in the city of Florence so I vastly recommend that mode of travel rather than the airport, which was 30min by cab. Didn't even bother to catch a cab from the Florence train station since my hotel was all of a 7min walk away and there were plenty of Pokemon to catch on the way 😁 Beis suitcase held up against cobblestone like a champ, but after dragging it across Venice I expected as much. Despite the heat I found it a very walkable experience; staying on the same side of the river as all the big tourist destinations (the museums and the Duomo) made everything very convenient.

The Museums

Arriving at 1pm, I scored an early check-in (*chef's kiss* to Marriott Gold) dropped my bags and then fled to meet up with Skee to get tickets for the museums. Probably should have brought an icepack and a fan - in the city interior the summer heat is sweltering and oppressive, without a breeze in sight. Coming from Venice, which had been breezy and mostly shaded walkways, I was melting. But how many times in your life are you going to see the Statue of David? Or the Birth of Venus?

Accademia Gallery

Ah, air conditioning, my first love.

Much smaller and, frankly, less exciting than the Uffizi all around, but you gotta see the Statue of David no matter how many people are shoving iPads at it and taking oddly off-centered photos with it. I hate guides and have labored under several years of art history class and have no interest in hearing anything about it again, but even I could appreciate the less medieval-style of the bunch. I think art history does Allori dirty because homeboy created the 'instagram filter aesthetic' way before instagram was a thing. The color balance in his paintings is *chef's kiss*. And a Renaissance painter using fuchsia, pink and violet and painting things besides baby jesus??? Be still my beating heart.

Buy your tickets in advance, don't be like me and melt in line in the sweltering, breeze-less Florence heat for almost an hour.

Uffizi Gallery

Air conditioning? Never heard her. Here's a twenty minute walk through a sauna and in addition about seven sets of stairs to get to the top of the museum from the ticket office, cheers mate.

Ah but seriously this was a beautiful museum. From architecture to artwork to painted ceilings. They definitely had an aesthetic and hit it out of the park. Since I still suffer from vaguely traumatic memories of cramming for Art History finals, I had very little interest in most of the paintings, but of course you have to see them in person, even if you spent several university credits trying to prove that every painting was just the artist's internal gay crisis to a very disapproving Art History teacher.

This museum has all your Ninja Turtles: Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael. And of course Botticelli. I've included the painting I can now never unsee, and neither will you, because I'm terrible like that. Also adding in one of my favorite examples of 'the artist is a sexually repressed homosexual and I can prove it to you Professor'. Real talk my favorite part was their incredible collection of marble busts lining the hallways, dating back to the Roman Empire.

The Hotel: The St. Regis, Florence

Stunning hotel. The Fire Emblem Three Houses experience was off the charts. I must have stared at the stained glass windows looking like a loon for hours. Exactly the sort of service and vibe you'd expect from a St. Regis. And the St. Regis in FLORENCE? I expected to feel like I was walking through a historical set, and I did. I woke up in my hotel room and half expected I'd been accidentally iseaki'd as a Renaissance princess or something. Then I blew the power out in my room with my curling iron and was returned to reality 🤣 that being said the help from the staff to fix the circuit breaker and find me a new adapter was immediate and helpful.

There's a reason I love to stay in hotel's like these when I do solo travel: I've never felt safer in my life. The front doormen knew me by face, I didn't even have to tell them my room number when I returned to fetch my vintage brass room key, and I was only there for a night!

I used points for this one, about 100k which was super reasonable for a Category ... whatever I think it was a 7 (does Marriott even do the category program anymore??) in the Marriott portfolio in the height of summer, but it didn't come with breakfast but I got it anyway. Worth it? Maybe yes just to get to lounge on the balcony looking down on their gorgeous winter garden. I could stare at that ceiling all day long. They also gave me wine and treats for being a gold elite, which I adored. I'm bummed I missed their complimentary drinks in the winter garden (7pm-8pm I think?) but I was off making sure my Lord Voldemort instagram account got plenty of photos in golden hour 🤣

Florence was a stunning city, but this hotel was really the cherry on top.

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