Europe Trip: Florence
And now for the conclusion to our great European adventure!
The train ride from Venice to Florence was long (about three to four hours) but, thankfully, a straight-shot. The train started out relatively empty, but filled up at each of the stops along the way.
We finally arrived in the city and purchased a map from the tourist desk. I figured out where our hotel was and that it was located about two miles away from the train station. I asked my mom whether she would like to pay for a taxi or walk. She asked what I wanted to do; I said I would rather walk. So we did. We rolled our luggage two miles down Florence’s cobbled streets and narrow sidewalks. Did I mention it was 90+ degrees outside?
When we arrived at the hotel, we were both red and dripping sweat. The man at reception was amazed that we had walked all the way to the train station. He showed us to our room and we relaxed in the air conditioning for a while.
When we were finally cooled off, we decided to go find food. We walked along the river for a distance, toward the center of the city. We stopped to check out the menus outside every restaurant we passed and finally found one that sounded good.
We both ordered the chicken in white wine, and I ordered some bruschetta as an appetizer as well. I asked for the house white wine to accompany my chicken, but the waitress brought me….Chianti. She must not have heard/understood the “white” part. Oh well, another bottle of Chianti for me.
The next day, we started to head up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which overlooks the city. We got about halfway up before we decided the view was good enough, and it was too hot to continue all the way up.
We had a reservation that afternoon at the Uffizi museum, so we started to head in that direction. We went to a few high-end stores, such as Gucci, Prada, and Armani before stopping for lunch. It was pizza again, but this time I actually got the house white! This is Italy’s version of pepperoni pizza. Apparently, if you ask for “pepperoni” you’ll get peppers. So this is “salame piccante” (or “spicy salami”). And it was good. So good.
After we ate, I finally bought a pair of shoes, though not from any of the designer stores. I really wanted a pair of Pradas, but I couldn’t find any that I thought were cute enough to pay $600 for. So I ended up at a smaller Italian chain store, and bought a cute pair of brown strappy sandals for less than $100.
We finally made it to the Uffizi and checked out all kinds of Italian art. We saw paintings by three-fourths of the Ninja Turtles’ namesakes. (Donatello was nowhere to be found.) The highlight? Seeing Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”. It was so much larger than I was expecting; I wish they allowed photos.
Outside the museum, we discovered a mime putting on a show. He was mimicking people and walking behind them. I’ve got some good video footage of this that I’ll eventually put together and post.
We headed back to the hotel and went up to the terrace. My mom read and I, of course, took pictures of the sights.
The next day, our goal was to tour the cathedrals around the city. We headed over to Santa Croce, which was close to our hotel.
The posted opening time was five minutes after we got there. So we waited. And waited. And waited. It never opened. Unsure if it was ever going to, we decided to head over to the Duomo instead. There was a little bit of a wait to get inside, but it was mostly in the shade and moved quickly.
Outside the Duomo was a tall tower, Giotto’s Campanile. When I mean tall, I mean tall. It takes 414 stairs to get to the top. And I climbed. Every. Single. One.
I paused at the top to cool down. No air conditioning. 90+ degrees. It would have been a good idea to bring water, but I hadn’t thought of it. I then entertained the idea of selling water at the top of this thing, or even right at the bottom. After 10-15 minutes of rest, I ventured to the outside of the tower to check out the view. And what a view!
After snapping photos, I headed back down the 414 stairs to find my mom, who was waiting patiently at the bottom. She had found some people to chat with, so I retrieved her and we headed off to find water and food.
I found myself with yet another pizza in front of me. This one was four cheese, and it was the best pizza I had the entire trip. No wine this time though. I figured I was too dehydrated as it was.
We went to the Accademia art gallery after lunch to check out Michelangelo’s David statue. It was very large. Very very large.
At this point, we were quite tired of looking at Italian Renaissance paintings, so after a quick glance around the rest of the museum, we decided to head back to the hotel.
We wanted to rent a car the next day, so we got directions from the hotel reception on where we could find a car rental place. We went inside the wrong building first, but they kindly pointed us in the right direction. Our car was a tiny little Fiat something.
We made our way into the Tuscan countryside and came to the town of San Gimignano. The town is like a fortress, walled and with an abundance of tall towers.
We ate lunch here. Yes, I had pizza, but it wasn’t very good. It reminded more of microwavable pizzas than the delicious pies I had elsewhere in Italy.
We wandered around the small town, going in and out of shops, and eating delicious gelato.
At one point, what I thought was a parade passed by…
…but it turned out to be a funeral. Oops.
We went to the torture and death penalty museums there, which I don’t think my mom was too thrilled with, but I found intriguing!
Isn’t the Tuscan countryside gorgeous?
On our way back into Florence, we stopped at the top of the Piazzale Michelangelo, which we hadn’t climbed to the top of days earlier, so we took some shots of the view.
Parking the rental car in front of the hotel, we walked toward the Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge”). On the way, I noticed someone had tagged each pillar with…Darth Vader?
The sun was setting, and I captured this photo on the bridge, which will soon be hanging over my bed.
Early the next morning, we packed up and drove the rental car to the airport, where we dropped it off. Our European adventure was coming to a close. We had a brief overlay in London (hey, I can say I’ve been to London too now!) and then a long flight back to the states, with another brief overlay in Charlotte.
It was two weeks, but it seemed to fly by. I cannot wait to go back, revisit some of the cities, and travel to new ones!