A Hot Second in Milan
I completely forgot to mention that we also visited Milan. Direct flights back to Birmingham were much cheaper out of Milan than Rome, so we hopped a train from Florence and used Milan's underground transit to head into the city for a couple hours. Trenitalia trains link all the major cities in Italy and it was such a great option for us. Much quicker than driving, and definitely more relaxing. We packed a lunch and a small bottle of vino and sat in the piazza near the Duomo. It was a miracle we didn't get pooped on by a pigeon.
Milan's Christmas market was still in full swing, and we feasted on cheese samples, arancini, gigantic cannoli, and calzone type sandwiches. (Second lunch is the best meal of the day). The cannoli were about 5 times the size you would expect, and even more delicious. I almost went back for a second, but decided I'd OD'd on enough Italian desserts for one week.
We didn't make it into any of the shopping areas (probably a good thing) or venture very far from the Duomo since we had limited time. But it was still worth the detour to check out another city!