I should state up front that Florence was my favorite part of the entire trip. Make of that what you will…
I hopped off the train at SMN with a dream and my heavy coat.
Okay. I couldn’t resist. Glad I got Miley out of my system.
Right! We arrived in Florence at about 9:00pm and headed straight to the hostel which we knew closed at 10. Upon arrival, however, we discovered that 10pm was actually 9pm, their website was misleading, their reviews were faked, and their phone number non-existent.
Strike 2 for Alison.
After fuming for a good…let’s call it 20 minutes, we realized that we would have to do something or else we’d be homeless in Florence overnight. So we bucked up and started walking. We walked past two hostels that didn’t answer the door and finally found one that had staff in the reception area. We walked in–unintentionally playing up the poor/wet/stranded/English-speaking travelers bit. Though this hostel was full, he knew someone and could make a call.
We were SAVED by Plus Florence! They had room for us, so we walked out (it stopped raining!) to go find this new/awesome/fantastic/savior hostel. Things were looking up. We walked into Plus Florence and waited for our turn at the front desk. After explaining the situation, her face slowly dropped. “I’m sorry. We don’t have any rooms, we’re fully booked!” I took a deep breath to stave off frustration tears. (You know the kind…)
“Totally kidding! Welcome to Plus Florence.”
I bashed my head on the counter. Don’t play with me, lady.
So we got a room! Sure, we had to pay a bit more, but the amenities in this dorm were FAR superior to our original hostel, Locanda Rocco (owned by Hotel Toscana.) We dropped our bags and I went out to find dinner. On my mothers (and the receptionists) recommendation, we trekked to Mercato Centrale (an indoor market featuring all walks of reasonably priced Italian foods.) I had a delightful dinner (so much spaghetti…) and then we hastened back (it was raining again, damnit!)
Up and at ’em early (eww!). It was the first Sunday of the month. In Italy, this means that all museums have free entry. Oh dear. We hurried along to Galleria dell’ Accademia or as I like to call it…David’s House. As it was our first stop of the day, we only had to wait in line a whopping seven minutes. Strike a pose!
From there, we walked down Via Ricasoli until we dead-ended at Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, or as the tourists call it, Il Duomo. This building. Damn. This building was astounding. A breath of fresh air. Beautiful craftsmanship, colors, carving, and HUGE! I was fortunate enough to get pictures of it in the rain, in the sun, and at night. Take a look!
After freaking out over a building for a solid 30 minutes, we continued down Via dei Calzaiuoli (essentially the main thoroughfare south of Il Duomo.) I ate breakfast (and had more Cafe al Ginseng. I’m telling you. Try this stuff…) and we wandered over to Museo Casa di Dante. Unfortunately, they don’t subscribe to the Free Entry rule, so I didn’t actually get to see Dante’s house. 😦
On the way to Palazzo Vecchio, I decided it was time for some gelato. As most know, Italy takes gelato very seriously. I stopped in what was probably the most expensive and touristy gelato shop (seriously… €8 for ice cream is absurd) but just look at this monstrosity!
Funny story. You can’t take gelato into the Palazzo Vecchio. (Huge shocker, right?) So I sat outside and scarfed so that we could move on with our self-guided tour and spy on Cupid a bit.
From there, we almost went into the Uffizi. Unfortunately, word of free entry had spread, so we opted out of the two hour wait and went to the Archaeology Museum instead.
We wandered a bit more south and came to the Arno River. Due to mother nature, the river itself looked disgusting. It was brown and dirty, strewn with wood and rubble. We walked the river a couple of yards and came to Ponte Vecchio, “Gold Bridge,” named as such due to the Medici Grand Dukes in 1593 prohibiting butchers from selling there. Consequently, it was immediately taken by several gold merchants. It was quite sparkly.
On the other side of the river, we faced a sudden onslaught of torrential rain, the likes of which I’ve never seen.
We swam to Palazzo Pitti to hide out from the freak storm.
After the rain slowed, we wandered back towards the river (without crossing) and started walking the other bank.
We hiked up a hill for a good 40 minutes and made our way to Piazzale Michelangelo. I had some fun on the steps. My travel partner was less than amused.
Upon arrival, we were gifted with a beautiful overlook of the city as well as a rainbow!
You can actually see the storm disappearing into the distance and the sun coming out to play.
I’m slightly ashamed to say I took a bunch of selfies on top of this hill. I’ve never taken so many selfies in my life. Ah well. Here are two.
I think we put off going back down the hill as long as possible because the only thing worse than going up hundreds of steps is going back down them. Alas, all good things come to an end. We made our way back to the other side of the river and took a 15 minute siesta back at the hostel before heading out again.
Spoiler alert: it was raining again.
On mom’s orders, I set out to find Fontana del Porcellino. According to myth? legend? basic tourist instruction? visitors rub the snout to ensure their return to Florence. I’ll be back. Just you wait.
The goal of setting back out after our siesta was to locate the best pizza in Italy…also on mom’s orders. I had nothing to go on but some road names and a Google Maps screenshot, but we made it work. (Isn’t technology grand!?!) Unfortunately, Pizzeria O’Vesuvio didn’t open until 6pm.
A smidge chilly (and more than a smidge wet) we stopped in a cafe to
waste time warm up before going to find food. This is where I discovered that Italian Hot Chocolate is less a drink and more like a thin pudding that must be eaten with a spoon. I would say that it ruined my dinner…but I’d be lying.
Finally! 6pm! Pizza time. My body was ready. We walked in to see a wood-fire pizza oven. I didn’t immediately start drooling…but it was a close thing.
I wound up ordering the mushroom pizza. I am not exaggerating when I claim that this pizza was the most delicious pizza I have ever had the fortune of putting in my mouth. I finished the entire thing myself in roughly 24 minutes. I honestly could have ordered another…it was just that good.
I regretted the fact that my first pizza had been the nasty monstrosity from Venice and regretted even more so that I had no remaining meals in Florence. Oh well…
Day 4.1 – Pisa
We woke up early to do a half-day trip to Pisa. Honestly, a half a day was all we needed. We took the train to and from and were in the city for roughly an hour and a half. We were good. I took the stereotypical Pisa shot:
And one that accidentally made it look like the Non-leaning Tower of Pisa (but the definition in the photo is beautiful, so sue me…)
From there we went back to Florence. I was determined to find the Jewish Quarter (as you do…) only to discover that I’d been taking pictures of it from atop Piazzale Michelangelo without knowing what it was. It was the building with the lovely green dome on top.
That was the final thing we did before lugging our bags back to the train station. Until next time, Florence. I will not forget you!
Next stop: Rome!