From the wonderful town of Pisa, I took the train to Florence. After one short hour I arrived at the main train station and lugged my bags to the hostel I was staying in. Luckily it was not overly far away, so after 15 minutes I was all set and ready to explore the city. Florence is not the largest city in Italy, but I got lost a few times when navigating the streets with my free Ulmon app, which I had downloaded onto my iPhone. This also happened in Rome, so I am not sure I would recommend this app but its perks are that it’s free, you don’t need Wifi to access it and most of the main attractions, hotels, and restaurants are listed.
After crossing paths with the main train station again, I found myself almost in a completely different world: Quaint little streets, small churches, ice cream shops, only a handful of tourists here and there… The area close to the Duomo is amazingly clustered with tourists but one second you can find yourself in the turmoil of the mass and another you can walk down a deserted street and wonder how the light manages to shine so magnificently. Overall, there are plenty of tourists in Italy but Florence was not as bad as I had expected. Had I known better, I probably wouldn’t even have dealt with the madness of Rome but simply stayed here for a little while longer. Even though there were a fair amount of people on the streets, I felt I could deal with the fairly well (just the opposite of Rome indeed). It also helped that the sun was setting at this time, dipping the town into a beautiful golden light and illuminating the bricks in amazing colors.
I passed some not overly obnoxious restaurant servers who were trying to lure me into their spot (think Little Italy in New York but on a broader scale and in a much more charming manner). Then I was standing in front of the magnificent Duomo de Santa Maria del Fiore – one of the main attractions in town. From there I had planned on seeing the canals and rivers but somehow (thanks to the app and/or my poor sense of orientation), I got lost once again and was somewhere very different. The Place of Architects was partly under construction but other than that it was great to stroll around and take in less traffic, less people, and simply be. It was here where I decided to do a majority of my night photography and it proved to be a great spot!
After moving along and back to the Dome, I decided it was time to grab a bite to eat. I found a cute restaurant in a side street. Here I discovered that buying a glass of wine is almost the same price or only slighter cheaper than buying an entire bottle or carafe in this country. I was tempted to empty a bottle but since I still had to find my way back I decided against it. I was dining solo and perhaps you don’t see this too often, since it’s a pretty family- or couple-oriented town. The waiter was all over me and even invited me to a tada bottle of wine once his shift was over. I declined, even though I was tempted to just have a great night out. But I still had to get up early the next day and make my ways out to Roma so I didn’t feel like being hungover.
I tried their signature Toscana soup, which is tomato and bread-based, and it was delish. A bit thick, which I didn’t expect, but very tasty. I then went on to seafood pasta, since pasta is all I had wanted since entering Italy.
On my way back to the Guido Monaco, I ran across some late night strollers and still a few shops which were open at this late time of day. At 11pm it seems that you can still get your ice cream fix on and try other goodies.
In the morning I had the chance to grab brunch at a local bakery, where I once again noticed how little English people speak in Italy (or perhaps they were not in the mood for it). Nonetheless, communication was possible and so I got my coffee and scrambled eggs. Then it was off to Roma where a completely different vibe was awaiting me.