If I was to sum up our time in Florence in to one sentence I would probably have to go with “That holiday we went on where we walked around a lot and ate ALL the Gelato”. So much (amazing) Gelato was eaten that we’re going to have to do it justice with a whole other post on just our Gelato eating exploits.
So what did we get up to in Florence other than eat Gelato?
Well we got off to a bit of a rough start when we left the train station armed only with the street address of our hotel and a rough idea of the general direction to walk in. Turns out a map would have been a great idea as we drifted off in the wrong direction and turned a 15 minute walk in to an hour of getting grumpy at each other’s stupid ideas for directions. Through a bit of a fluke we did stumble upon our hotel eventually and got to drop our bags before setting off to explore Florence.
And what a city to explore!
Our first taste of Florence was the walk along Arno river from our Hotel towards the main (tourist) part of town with the sun setting behind us.
A series of beautiful bridges spans the river so we ended up getting a little trigger happy with the camera.
Eventually we got to Ponte Vecchio to cap it off. It’s a unique looking bridge due to the amount of buildings squeezed on to it – it looks like it should be sagging under the weight of them (pretty much all jewellery stores in case you’re curious).
Once we hit Ponte Vecchio we set off to get lost in the winding cobbled lanes. This first walk around the city was repeated every day as we wandered around and every day we seemed to uncover another area we hadn’t explored yet. The winding lanes are all walled in by old stone buildings punctuated by the odd giant square every now and then so it’s easy to go around in circles without anything to walk towards. You do sometimes get a glimpse of the giant Duomo to head towards though.
We found out the hard way that Italians like to eat late. We would be hungry at say 6/6:30 but a lot of the restaurants didn’t even open until more like 7:30/8. Even then there wouldn’t be many people in them until after 9 so it made choosing somewhere to eat a bit hard. At least everywhere gives you free bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (can’t go wrong with that!).
We suffered a bit of a let down on the food front probably due to our high expectations and the fact that some of the restaurants we went to were aimed at tourists where they didn’t expect repeat business anyway. We did have some wins with food too (as well as on the Gelato front where every time was a win) – the number one recommended restaurant on TripAdvisor even lived up to its glowing reviews. All’Antico Vinaio is this fast paced little sandwich shop which had queues out the door every time we walked by. I learnt on our visit there that the best way of ordering is to let the guys behind the counter just take over and choose most of the ingredients for you. I ended up with an amazing salami sandwich on freshly baked focaccia bread with mozzarela, sun dried tomato, sweet pepper sauce and a few other things which I didn’t really catch but sounded good. It was definitely worth the 4 odd euro for the sandwich!
We spent so much time walking around the city that most of the money we spent ended up being on drinks.
Free food when you buy a bottle of wine!
I think we did our bit for the Eurozone debt crisis by propping up Italian beer and wine companies. We got all of this after a particularly long slog around town in the heat:
All the drinks
One of the things Florence is famous for is it’s art so we of course had to check out at least one of the museums. The most famous museum there is the Uffizi gallery which often has queues out the door with people waiting for hours just to get in. I managed to book tickets via phone to jump the queues which I wasn’t sure had worked (I had booked something but wasn’t sure what due to the fast speaking Italian lady on the other end of the phone). Turns out it had worked fine and we got in bright and early and avoided the crowds forming outside.
Unfortunately neither of us was too impressed by most of the art there other than the few famous paintings that we recognised (maybe we weren’t in “museum-y” moods). I did love the fact that the paintings have been there for hundreds of years though. Oh, and if you’re blind then don’t let that stop you going to the Uffizi – they cater to the blind as well (hot tip for all our visually impaired readers).
One common theme of Italian art that we couldn’t help noticing is the tiny…err…”representations” of the men in all the statues. Also the sheer number of these tiny representations is crazy. We lost count in the Uffizi somewhere around 40 but the naked statues are everywhere. It’s definitely a different representation to that of say, Maori statues.
Touching the floor
Not so much touching of the floor here
So after a few days we noticed some common themes of all the statues we were seeing. They seem to be grouped in to a few different categories of statue. There’s the classic Statue of David type ones of just one guy posing (like the one above); there’s some weird orgy ones with everyone all over each other; and then there’s the weird violent ones with naked guy’s beheading people and holding up there heads. I don’t really get it but hey, they’re all very well carved though I’m sure.
We spent one afternoon slowly making our way to Piazzale Michangelo to see the view (we got distracted by a few restaurants and bars on the way). It is pretty much just a car park as I heard it described before we went but it was worth the walk up the hill just for the view alone.
We spent an afternoon exploring Boboli Gardens, another spot famous for it’s views across Florence. Our romantic stroll in the gardens took a turn for the worse though when Dayna ended up in tears from being eaten alive by the bugs there. I don’t know what it is they love about Dayna because for the most part they left me alone. We did still manage to explore most of the gardens and soak in some of the views of the hills around Florence and I loved it anyway (can’t speak for Dayna who was left bleeding and itchy).
A spot we returned to most nights (along with most of the tourists) was Ponte Vecchio. This bridge is famous for being a romantic spot where couples come to add a lock to the railings but we felt takings photos of the locks was enough for us (because we have enough romance in our lives already right Dayna?).
The main attraction of Ponte Vecchio at night was the buskers that set up in the middle of the bridge. It was a great spot to just relax and listen to live music.
I think we both felt like we had an actual holiday at the end of our stay in Florence. It’s really the first proper trip we’ve done since travelling around SE Asia (other than our little Brighton/Bath road trip) and it felt a lot easier and more relaxing than that for sure. The pace of life in Italy is a lot slower and being able to understand a bit of the language also helps (well more than in Asia anyway). I felt like I could speak Italian after a few days of adding “-o’s” to the end of words and learning new phrases (when a waiter said Prego to Dayna the first time I thought he might of been asking if she was pregnant but turns out he was just saying “Of course”).
Random thing we started noticing in Italy was the funny little cars they drive. This is just a few of the ones we saw but it was pretty common to see tiny little things with three wheels driving around.
All up, Florence would be very high up on my list of favourite holiday destinations and I’m sure we’ll be back there again. I think the Gelato alone will bring us back there actually but I’ll leave that for our next blog!
Until next time, I’ll leave you with this little postcard.
From Matt and Dayna