Flash forward to today, July 20, 2013. After Bologna I stopped blogging on trains and therefore now have only my distant memories and photos to go off of when trying to think of all the wonderful things to write about. So what do I remember of Florence?
First off, when people ask what the best part of our holiday was, we struggle to answer. Everything was so different in many ways and similar in others. Each place had unique qualities and reasons to love it as well as perhaps some reasons not to. Rome had its ancient ruins, Tuscany had peaceful tranquility, Switzerland was so amazingly picturesque, Venice was the most awesome place to get lost, and Florence? There was just something about Florence… something that made this city probably our favourite in Italy. Was it the Statue of David? No, we didn’t even go see it- neither of us felt a need. If we had to narrow it down, we’d say it had one of the best combinations of old and new. There was a good mix of history and modern luxuries. It had a river and greenery- something a few of the other cities lacked. It had amazing views from up on the hills and great dining and bars with some fantastic aperitivo. Oh… have I not mentioned aperitivo? Well now I shall. It is basically the best happy hour ever. You buy a drink at a bar and you get free food. Now some places give you piddly little bowls of chips but some places give you full on buffets! An actual free buffet of food for the price of one drink. We knew about aperitivo and had received some free focaccia pizza in Bologna but it wasn’t until Florence that we saw really good offerings. Plan to have a couple drinks at night? Head to one bar, order a drink, get the free buffet and then head off to the next bar, order another drink and get a new buffet. Best concept ever. But it wasn’t just about the free buffets. The city itself had some stunning places to visit.
The location of our apartment was perfect, right near the river and a short walk into the center of town (that’s another thing we loved, most things were within easy walking distance). We were staying in a gorgeous old building with original frescas (paintings) on the ceilings from the 1300s! Our host was not the most overly friendly that we met but she did cook up some delicious breakfast. Eggs on toast with cream cheese? Big win! One negative about our location was that every night sounded like Mardi Gras. Seriously- do people not work in Italy? Luckily our ear plugs came in handy. One bad thing about visiting cities for only 2-3 days at a time is that you don’t have the luxury of going out and exploring the night life, staying out until 2am and sleeping in the next day. You have to make the most of your time and unfortunately that meant cutting out a lot of late nights for us- but who am I kidding? I’m getting old and most nights I wanted to sleep anyway.
Our touristy exploration took us to the Duomo, the Uffizi, the Galileo Science Museum and Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. The Duomo was one of those buildings that is just beautiful to look at and worth visiting even if you don’t know the history (which I did not). I decided to pay and climb the million (e.g. 463) steps to get to the top of the Dome and the view was worth it. I only wish I had spent more time looking at the ceiling. I saw a few weird looking things at quick glance and when I told Andrew about it he said his friend noticed the same… it’s got some pretty graphic scenes in the “hell” part of the painting which are shocking to see in a church.
So while the Duomo was one of those really beautiful and interesting places to visit, the Uffizi Museum was not. I really think you need to appreciate ancient religious art to appreciate the Uffizi. To me, each room displayed just another statue or bust or another painting of Jesus or another painting of Mary. Andrew and I walked around like bored school children on a tour of… well… a boring art museum.
Our walk up to Basilica di San Miniato al Monte was one of my favourite things we did. It was a good little hike up, followed by a reward of a wine and topped off with a gorgeous sunset.
Yep, even looking at these photos again reminds me of how much I liked Florence. I would have loved to have stayed there longer than 2 days. In fact if I could do it over, I’d cut out Bologna all together and stay longer in Florence- but then again, maybe we just got lucky. Maybe we just went at the right time, stayed in the right place and did the right things. Maybe it was the perfect combination to create great memories. Afterall, last time I went to Switzerland I named it Zur-ick and this time was a completely different experience. I guess that’s the thing with travel. Sometimes you get lucky and other times you hit a dud. Florence definitely was not a dud.