Finding Florence

I can’t believe how fast I have settled into this trip. Normally it takes a week or so to acclimate into my new reality, but this trip just feels so normal already. I even think I convinced the man I bought a punnet of strawberries off (or should I say fragole) that I was a local. And that’s super impressive because I didn’t even learn Italian at school…not that I really learnt any French either.

I wish I could say arriving in our second city Florence was a breeze. But it wasn’t. There was no breeze at all; it was just really ridiculously hot. Our hostel (Archi Rossi) had given us good directions though, and with the help of Catherine’s trusty app City Maps 2Go (which doesn’t require wifi) we were inside in the relative cool before long.

First thing on my agenda as always was to get lost. We wandered the streets and realized what a difference having roads and cars makes to the dynamic of a city. Still not sure whether there are any road rules in Italy or whether pedestrian crossings are really pedestrian crossings, we managed to maneuver ourselves through Florence to arrive in the Piazza della Signoria. Littered with statues and tourists, we were disappointed to find the Neptune Fountain was running dry. It was gorgeous nonetheless, and after a picture and peruse around the numerous statues and the Palazzo Vecchio we wondered through the Uffiizi Gallery to the Ponte Vecchio. Wow, just a few name drops in that sentence. How bloody convenient is Florence!

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The sun was a perfect backdrop for a photo on the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge, shining almost as brightly as the gold that adorned the shelves of the shops lining the road across. After ensuring we had got the very best angle on our #selfies we headed towards home as while the sun didn’t mention it, our stomachs were starting to make more than a slight grumble. Must be 6pm.

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On the way back we stopped off at the Basilica e Chiostri Monumentali di Santa Maria Novella, which we both agreed was the prettiest we had seen. My favourite part about it is the fact that the incredible green and white marble facade is merely that, a façade. Once you turn the corner, the basilica is just a huge brick building. At least one couple agrees with me though, as they chose to have their wedding photos outside the basilica. While attempting to photobomb a few photos we couldn’t help but notice the sweat absolutely pouring down their faces in the close to 40 degree heat. Ahhhh, love conquers all obviously.

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On our second day we decided to do the Duomo. A convenient all included pass allowed us to climb the Campanile (bell tower), descend into the Santa Reparata (Crypt), behold the beauty of the Baptistry, and of course see inside the Duomo. Learning from past experience we dressed appropriately and were let in relatively quickly to the Duomo considering the length of the line when we arrived. The Campanile, a measly 414 steps was a great work out, and I think its safe to say I sweated out at least three pizzas. The views were fantastic though, right on top of the Duomo. Ahhh, I love me a good aerial view. The Duomo is enormous and breathtakingly beautiful. I can’t help thinking in all of these churches why they built them so big but only have five rows of pews in them. Does anyone know the answer?

To avoid the midday heat, we headed home for our siesta. Yes, this really has become something we do EVERY day. Showered, slept, but still sweaty we headed off on a mission to walk across the Ponte Vecchio to find the beautiful Giardino fi Boboli and Bardini (that’s gardens for all you non-fluents). I am pretty sure we got terribly lost but we ended up walking through some of the most beautiful and tranquil streets that looked like the scene from a movie. All of a sudden I really felt like I was in the Tuscan countryside. Bellissimo! We ended up stumbling across a free art exhibition by Anthony Gormley called Human, which was held at Fort Belvedere and boasted some of the best views of Florence. And this is why I love getting lost when I travel. Moreover, the kind man who lured us into the exhibition was also able to explain to us that the €10 entrance fee to the garden actually gave us access to both gardens and therefore it was not worth going to the garden that afternoon as we would not be able to visit both and get our moneys-worth. Some valuable advice indeed.

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Instead we opted to trek it to Piazzale Michelangelo. Actually opted may be an exaggeration. The only downside to a map is they don’t tell you when that short distance you can see from A to B is actually a huge, massive, gigantically long hill. Needless to say once I got to the top I didn’t think any copy of the statue of David overlooking Florence with a sunset in the background could be as beautiful as the man selling cold lemon granite (crushed ice drink), but once again I was mistaken. The granite was pretty darn good though.

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On our descent we realized there was actually a bus that goes from literally outside our hostel to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo…and so we rewarded ourselves with a sweet ride home. I guess karma is a bitch though and the universe wanted to send us a sharp message about walking off all those pizzas we’ve eaten, as we got slapped with a huge fine by the ticket inspectors who explained that buying your ticket from the driver is not enough and that you actually have to also put the ticket in the machine and validate it. No leniency for tourists. The inspectors were dicks, the fine was a dick, goodbye €50 each. Dick, dick, dick. Oh well, we will put that one down as an important learning experience and will make sure to double, triple check that our tickets are validated before we get on any form of transport. BEWARE OF THE DICKY TICKET INSPECTORS.

In order to cool off we distracted ourselves by a fancy dinner out. Ha, what am I talking about, we go out for dinner every night. But distract us it did, as I spent the night sitting across from Catherine who giggled every time one particular waiter walked past to the point that at the end of the night he asked us if we wanted to go for drinks. I pinky-promised we’d come back the next night…I’ll let you know how that goes. Should be interesting.

Ciao for now.