Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by Firenze Number Nine, a wellness hotel in Florence, Italy, who generously offered a complimentary stay and massage in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.
I’m finally back from Italy and I feel so happy and ready to get back to work – thank you for bearing with me while I was out of town. My wifi was inexplicably slow while I was away, so I really couldn't get much work done, which wound up being a blessing in disguise, as I really needed a break.
Our Italy Yoga Retreat took place the week before and was an absolute joy. I loved every minute (aside from the jet lag!) and at the end of the week, was ready to move on from northern Italy and head down to Florence.
As many of you know, this past year has been a crazy mix of professional highs (my book Namaslay was published! I went on a book tour!) and personal lows (my dad was diagnosed with cancer (but update – he’s doing well), and I am getting a divorce). It’s not been an easy year, and I think to distract myself, I’ve just been going full steam ahead with work. Aside from a few days off around Christmas, I’ve just been going strong, so after the Italy Yoga Retreat, I wanted to take a few days to myself for a vacation. Now, it may seem like the retreats I do are vacations - but they're more vacations for the participants than for me. Sure, it's not exactly hard work to show up and teach my classes, but I would be lying if I said I didn't feel a certain level of anxiety throughout the week of a retreat. I am just constantly worried about whether people are enjoying themselves, if I can do anything to make their stay better, if things like the transition times between activities are going smoothly, etc. Again, it isn't exactly rocket science, but it definitely isn't a vacation for me just given the general overall worry I have in making sure everything is okay for the participants.
Our retreat was in Bolzano, in the northern part of Italy near the Dolomite Mountains. I hopped a train from Bolzano to Florence, which made me nervous – it was my first time navigating the train system in Italy – but the nerves were for nothing (as they often are), because it was easier than I could’ve ever imagined. The kiosks to purchase your tickets can all be easily changed to English and then boom, you know exactly where you’re going and what you’re looking for.
I arrived to Florence’s train station and decided to walk to my hotel, which was a bold move, but my luggage was up for the challenge. Raden had generously sent me this luggage piece months ago and if there a true test to its durability, this was it. I also had my very old (but very sturdy) Samsonite bag. Between the uneven cobblestone streets and the massive amount of people walking around, this is not a choice I’d recommend if you have luggage without wheels, or generally just don’t feel like heaving and hoing your way through the city. You will work up a serious sweat and question your sanity, guaranteed. Anyway!
Hotel Firenze Number Nine, a wellness hotel in Florence, generously offered a complimentary stay for two nights with an ayurvedic massage in exchange for sharing my experience on the blog, and of course I jumped at the chance.
Luckily, Florence is a lot smaller than I’d envisioned, so the walk took about ten minutes or so, and the staff all but flew down the steps to help me once I arrived. I was given a glass of water and a tour around the lobby, breakfast room, fitness center and spa area. The lobby is small but efficient, so I never once felt cramped while coming and going, and adjacent is a gorgeous reading room with plush purple velvet chairs you sink into. There, you can help yourself to drinks and croissants and there is also a small bar area in case you’re looking for a cocktail or glass of wine.
Morning gym sesh before leaving @hotelfirenzenumbernine. 1) 6 min AMRAP: 6 med ball some (I used 6kg) - keep ball close & smash it down with all your might once you get overhead, 5 walking lunges (I used 10kg dumbbells) - push through heel with front foot as you walk and loosen your grip to save your forearms, 5 squats - push through heels to activate posterior chain and keep chest high. 3 min rest followed by pt 2) 6 min AMRAP - 6 burpees, 8 v-ups, and 10 reverse burpees. #workout #yogabycandace #wod #travelwod #hiit #workoutontheroad #instatravel #ybcitaly #workouts
I was super impressed with the fitness center which is pretty much the opposite of your standard small hotel gym, and is an actual gym with a functional fitness area, weights, treadmills, bikes, a rowing machine, and a yoga studio space that offers memberships to locals.
I was actually so impressed by it I inquired about the possibility of holding an urban yoga retreat there in the future.
From there, I went downstairs to visit the spa area, where they offer facials, manicures and pedicures, and a variety of massages.
Later on in my trip I was treated to an ayurvedic massage, which is totally different from your standard Swedish massage in that they use a generous amount of oil which is infused with herbs to promote healing, and the best part? The oil is warm.
It feels so good, especially after traveling. The other cool thing about ayurvedic massage is that they massage your stomach, which is excellent for gut health, so you know I kind of geeked out on that.
The standard room was beautiful with hard wood floors and large, vaulted ceilings that made it feel even bigger. The window was basically floor to ceiling which must’ve been about seventeen feet or so, and it just felt really luxurious without feeling stuffy. The bathroom was cool – there was a toilet, sink and bidet on either side of the jack and jill shower. The bed was exceptionally comfortable, and I didn’t hear any outside noise.
I also loved that they offered a minibar free of charge to all guests, and with the daily turn down service came little chocolates and a plate of biscuits, a bowl of fruit and a small cup of nuts.
Breakfast, which was included in my stay, offered delicious cappuccino, fresh pressed juices, nearly every type of baked good you could hope for, yogurts, cereals, fresh fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, and your typical European breakfast fare: cured meats, breads, and marmalades.
The hotel is situated just steps away from the Duomo, so the location is fantastic and it made for the perfect base to explore Florence. On my way to dinner above, shop the look (*affiliate) below.
I didn't really have much of a plan when I came to Florence. I was just happy to explore and eat my way through the city, haha.
One day, I hiked up to a place that overlooks the city to see a replica David. The views were insane and as you can imagine from the view below, it was a trek to get up to the top! My butt and hamstrings were on FIRE from walking up the steep hill to get there.
Shop the look below (*affiliate)
Food was next level delicious, and I was only disappointed once the entire time I ate there. It was my own fault, I never trust restaurants where there's someone outside begging you to come in. It's a rule of mine. But, of course, on my first evening there, I threw that rule out the window...and was disappointed. But even a disappointing meal in Florence was relative - it wasn't exactly bad, it just wasn't as incredible as the others. Stand out favorites included pizza at Le Nostre Ciabatte, tiramisu at Caffe La Terrazza which overlooks a gorgeous plaza, and absolutely everything at Konnubio. My mouth is watering just thinking about the meals. Ugh, so good! Something that really impressed me is that in the US, I very rarely eat out because I feel sick every single time I do. I think I have a sensitivity to canola oil or vegetable oils or something because even when I research a great restaurant, and order something that is gluten free, I still wind up feeling pretty awful. My stomach hurts and I just feel incredible uneasy, so I think it must be the oils they cook with? I don't know. When I cook, I use coconut oil or animal fat or butter. Never canola or vegetable oils just because they're really tough on the digestive tract.
Anyway, while in Italy, I ate out every single meal. And do you know my stomach didn't hurt at all? Like, not once. Ok, once, but it was after a serious five course meal where I just ate too much, not that I ate something that upset my stomach, you know what I mean? I just thought it was so interesting because I didn't avoid gluten while there because I know that Europe has extremely stringent rules on how grains can be processed, and what is used in terms of pesticides and things like that. I also didn't put up a fuss and ask any restaurants what oils they cooked with because I knew from past experience living in Europe that - once again - Europe has very stringent rules about oil quality....and everyone cooks traditionally with animal fats or high quality olive oils. And lo and behold, I ate breads, pastas, meats, vegetables, desserts, and with no digestive issues. It was amazing...and also made me feel really disappointed in the quality of our food in the US.
Another interesting thing to note - I distinctly remember looking around often throughout my trip and it just seemed like everyone was healthy. Like the quality of life just seemed so high. I wound up one day in an off-the-beaten-path kind of area where it was mostly locals, and they were just chatting in the streets, doing their grocery shopping at little delis and butcher shops and mini farmer's markets and I thought, 'Man, what a great life they have.' I don't know, it just seemed like stress was not a huge part of things. Like life was a little slower paced, and a hundred times more vibrant.
Anyway, that realization reminded me to slow down and enjoy every sip, every bite, every moment, really. I took time to focus on the little things, like I kept finding amazing chocolate at little tea shops and coffee houses. I am a bit of a chocolate snob. If it's got more than four ingredients and an emulsifier, I inadvertently wrinkle my nose. I kept finding the best chocolate throughout my trip and really took time to enjoy each bite. It's the little things, my friends!
I had some people reach out and ask if I worked out while on vacation. I did, here and there. I think in the two weeks I was in Italy between the retreat and the vacation, I maybe formally worked out three times. The majority of the days were spent walking all over the city, and being far more active than when I'm at home at my desk. And also I just tried not to worry about it. I figured, I'm only on vacation a short time, why not just enjoy it without worrying about whether or not I can squeeze a workout in? If I can, great. If not, it's not the end of the world. The stress of not working out, in my opinion, is more detrimental than not working out at all, so I just took a go with the flow attitude and that served me really well.
Pt two of my Italy trip will come later this week. Thanks to Firenze Number Nine for hosting me!