A Travellerspoint blog

Venice

As beautiful as you could imagine

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We woke up early this morning and made our train no problem. When we got to Venice, we took a vaporetto from the train station to our hotel. It’s basically the public bus system, except that the buses are boats! It’s impossible not to be immediately struck by the beauty down every side street in Venice. When I say street, I really mean river as it seems that the sidestreets are tiny rivers just as often as they are actually streets. Spanning the Grand Canal that we took as it snakes through the middle of Venice were two beautiful bridges that we went under. I later learned that there are in fact four bridges spanning the canal, with one that was completed as recently as 2008. The good news is that because we were so close to Piazza San Marco, the main piazza in Venice we didn’t have far to walk with our bags to our hotel.

Literally right outside of our hotel is a gondola pickup and after we dropped off our bags, we had a while until check-in and sat there for a while to watch a few dozen people getting on and off gondolas. We ended up being pretty hungry and were surprised to find a cheap sandwich place nearby after reading in Frommers how expensive Venice is. Then, we stopped back at the hotel to check in.

We walked around Piazza San Marco looking at a bunch of the major sites in Venice. I immediately recognized the Campanile di San Marco because its on the cover of my Frommer’s book. I’m glad I found it, because I had been wondering what the heck was on the front cover of the book since I got it. From the looks of it, there is going to be a concert in the Piazza tonight. The piazza is lined with expensive shops and restaurants. Many of the restaurants have their own little ensembles playing music while you eat, from a pianist, to a 10 person band. Needless to say, we didn’t even think about going to one of those places. At one of them, I saw a 8.50 euro hot dog on the menu. That’s almost 12 dollars! We went into St. Mark’s basilica, which was pretty unbelievable because the inside is almost entirely covered in gold. Also, there are beautiful mosaics everywhere, not only inside but also outside the basilica because they can stand up to the weather which makes the outside unique in its colorfulness. The mosaics are unbelievable because you would swear they were paintings until you got up close to them. Inside the basilica is the Pala d’Oro, a 10 foot by 4 foot altar screen made of gold and set with 300 emeralds, 300 rubies, 400 garnets, 100 amethysts and 1,300 pearls. While the basilica admission was free, you had to pay 2 euros just to see this screen, but it was recommended in Frommer’s so we did it. It was definitely cool to look at, but it was kind of ridiculous that they made you pay just to look at it.

From reading about Venice, I knew that there weren’t as many concentrated sights to see in Venice but instead that you would appreciate it the most walking around to admire its beauty. With that, he recommended two major shopping strolls in Venice, so we set off from Piazza San Marco toward Campo Morosini ducking in shops and taking plenty of pictures along the way. I can truly say that Venice is the most beautiful of any of the places we have visited, every side street and river included. The only thing about Venice is that it seems that every single street is also filled with tourists and tourist-centric shops. My favorite part of this trip has been finding the places in the city that are away from the rest of the tourists and exploring the real city. In Venice, that just doesn’t seem possible as it is so small and yet brimming with tourists. If anyone actually lives on this island, I would be surprised. The walk took much less time than we expected, so we crossed the Ponte dell’Accademia bridge and continued toward the Punta di Dogana which is at the end of the Canal Grande and looks out onto the city. We sat there for quite a while right at the tip with our feet in the water admiring the view.

It’s crazy to see all of the buildings here look to be on the brink of crumbling. It definitely adds to the charm of the place, but also makes you wonder how long much longer they’ll last. Apparently, Piazza San Marco floods often and we even saw a marker near our hotel that marked the height of a flood 50 or so years ago that was about 3 feet off the ground! We also saw a picture in one of the shops along the way of Piazza San Marco so flooded that Gondolas were in there! We eventually walked back to Piazza San Marco which was easy enough to navigate with plenty of signs pointing us back.. Its great to live so close to the Piazza as these signs make it impossible to get lost. Once we were back, we headed toward another bridge, the Rialto Bridge, which is lined with shops along the way. This particular stroll even has a name, the Merceri. Once we got to the Rialto, we had worked up quite the appetite and looked around at the restaurants nearby on either side of the canal. Boy is Venice expensive. One of the menus we looked at had French fries as an appetizer for 5 euros (7 bucks)!

We ended up finding a restaurant that was semi-reasonably priced that had a tomato and artichoke pizza that Kristine had been craving. I had a veggie pasta dish that was actually really good. I noticed that in Italy, they put far less sauce on their pasta but its still loaded with flavor. It takes some getting used to but I’ve been enjoying it so far. One more thing that is evident is that everything at Italian restaurants comes out unbelievably fast. Every restaurant we have been to has been the same story. Getting the check on the other hand is another story. It is nice that they let you sit around and relax after your meal without making you feel like rushed, but as soon as you get your food, it’s impossible to find a waiter. They don’t come around to ask how your food is and make it very difficult to flag them down for the check. Some restaurants want you to head to the front register to pay, but it’s difficult to know when that is the case (unlike at home when its pretty much only at diner-type restaurants). By the time we finally got the check, we had to rush to get to the Campanile di San Marco to make it there by sunset. We were happy to find that there were no lines to get up to the tower but quickly found out why: a whopping 8 euros each (11 bucks) for the elevator to the top and no option to take the stairs. We bit the bullet and spent quite a while at the top of the tower. The views were incredible.

When we got down to the bottom of the tower, we were just in time to see some Italian military take down the flags from the flag poles in the Piazza San Marco which was pretty cool. Then we headed back to the hotel to plan for the coming day since our flight to Barcelona didn’t leave until 11pm and also bought our plane tickets to go home. We were between two of the cheapest flights, one laving on Thursday morning which was cheaper and also would get me home in time for my mom’s birthday. On the downside, that left us only two days in Barcelona since our flight on the third day left in the early afternoon, leaving us little time for sightseeing. The other flight was an extra $100 and left Friday night, giving us basically two extra days in Barcelona, the downside was an 8 hour layover in Dublin and missing mom’s birthday. We ended up going with the cheaper earlier flight and vowed to wake up bright and early every morning to get the most out of our two days in Barcelona. Then we read emails from two of my friends on recommendations for things to do in Barcelona, which was a great source of information since they both spent semesters abroad there. On tap for our last day in Venice is the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Ducal Palace. Off to bed!

Posted by atbrady 15:37 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

An Afternoon in Bologna

sunny 90 °F
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The train ride was fairly uneventful. When we arrived in Bologna, the shops at the train station were trying to sell maps of Bologna for 7 euros. I refused to pay 10 bucks for a map we were going to use for half a day in Bologna. I had bought our Venice and Florence maps ahead of time in Rome for 3 euros each and our Pisa map was 1 euro, so it was kind of ridiculous. Regardless, it’s pretty tough to find your way around a brand new city without one, which I guess is what they were counting on. Instead, we walked along the main road until we found a map posted in a coffee shop. I couldn’t find our street and eventually thought to look in my emails on my phone and found that my reservation confirmation had some directions from the train station. It wasn’t too far away, but it was north of the train station and the map only went as far north as the station but we got there without a hitch after that. I was ecstatic to have avoided being a sucker when we got to our hotel and they gave us a free map.

Our hotel is actually pretty nice, which I was surprised about given the price. Its pretty much the only legit hotel we have stayed at, rather than a hostel or converted apartment. We threw our things down quickly as it was already mid afternoon and headed down the street toward the historical center of the city. We’re pretty much 3 minutes from the one main road that takes us there. After being in Florence, I was immediately struck by how few tourists we saw in Bologna. In fact, we may have been the only ones. The main drag was lined with shops with great prices rather than tourist-inflated ones. We even stopped by what we thought was a small Mercado off one of the side streets but found it to be an enormous maze of a flea marketselling clothes, shoes, jewelry and anything else you can imagine. It was a great change of pace to try to blend in to the local culture rather than being tourists and visitng all of the sites. The only thing working against us was that I was the only blonde in the whole city.

When we got to the historical part of Bologna, I was blown away to see the towers I had learned about during pledging, the Torre degli Asinelli and the nearby Torre Garisendi which leans quite a bit. They were actually doing some restorations on the towers and had some huge signs explaining the history of the towers, which I really enjoyed learning about. Apparently, Torre Garisendi was abandoned as it began to lean, so instead they tried again and built Torre degli Asinelli right next door. Garisendi had been saved from demolition several times and now has some metal brackets around it to keep it stable. Apparently both are in some danger of falling in the coming years, hence the restoration work. This made me even more grateful that I had been able to fit it into my trip. The only unfortunate thing was that by the time we made it there, we were too late to climb to the top of Torre degli Asinelli, which would have been cool. In a few places around the city, we were also able to see the ancient wall that used to surround the city, which was interesting.

After seeing the towers, we were both pretty hungry and decided to walk back down the main strip since we had seen several restaurants along the way. However, everywhere we went all they had was small hors douvers trays which we think were free if you bought a drink at the bar/restaurant. We weren’t sure whether everyone around here ate early and then had these types of snacks later on or what, but we must have walked into 25 “restaurants” only to find the same thing. Eventually, we remembered that we had seen a great sandwich shop while wandering around looking for a map and hoped to God it was still open. It was, and we had some fantastic sandwiches and sat on a few benches by a fountain at the train station. We headed back to our hotel for some internet time to figure out our hotel for Venice and plan our two days there to make the most of them. I ended up finding a great hotel on Priceline that was inexpensive (for Venice) and was actually a really nice hotel with a fantastic location right on the main Piazza. I’ve really become addicted to the way that we live by the moment and figure things out at the last minute. It’s been working out great and getting us some great deals!

Posted by atbrady 08:20 Archived in Italy Tagged shopping Comments (0)

Pit Stop in Bologna

Tourists in a tourist-free city!

sunny 88 °F
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Well, I may have found the reason why this place is so cheap. I woke up this morning with a bunch of mosquito-like bites all over my skin that were super itchy. I'm not sure, but I fear that they may be bed bugs. I suppose that its possible that they are mosquito bites since we slept with the window open, but we have been doing that just about every night since it is so hot. If it was mosquitoes, they were the worst ones I've ever come across. I slept in boxers while Kristine slept in a shirt and shorts, so I have it a lot worse than she does. The only reason I have to hold out hope that they were in fact mosquitoes was that I heard that if you have bed bugs, your sheets have red dots all over them from when you roll over and squish the bed bugs and I couldn't find any such dots. I guess time will tell...

We woke up this morning with the intention of going to Bologna and then continuing on to Venice, similar to our Pisa itinerary. The reason that I wanted to go to Bologna was that it has a history that is intertwined with that of my fraternity and I am thus very familiar with its centuries-old towers and streets. Since we were passing by on the way to Venice, I couldn't help but stop by. However, when we looked around to book a hotel in Venice for tonight, they were all absurdly expensive. It seemed silly to book such a hotel for a night when we would be arriving in the wee hours of the morning. Instead, we called an audible and booked a hotel for Bologna for the night and will arrive in Venice early tomorrow morning, that way we only have to pay for one night in Venice but can spend the better part of two days there. Our train tickets will still be good since they aren't for a specific day/time but are instead good for any time in the next few months.

Anyways, when we got to the train station to discover that the only trains we could see for Bologna were “express” trains and that we had bought “local” train tickets because they are about ¼ of the cost. Kristine was getting close to biting the bullet to make the upgrade because the woman at the ticket counter made it seem like there was no other way to get there. I figured that it wouldn’t make sense that you could buy local tickets if there were no local trains, so I wandered around looking for information booths for a while until I found someone that spoke a reasonable amount of English and told me the route we would have to take (with a transfer). So now, we are just waiting for our train to arrive, killing time playing 500 Rummy.

Florence has been simply fantastic. Though it was overrun with tourists, we managed to find several restaurants off the beaten path, mostly thanks to Frommer's, and got a great feel for what the city is truly like. Not only is it beautiful, but it has so much charm as a city that is smaller and has more personality to it than the larger cities I have been to. While we were waiting at the train station, I went across the street to the grocery store for some snacks. I noticed that people are expected to bag their own groceries here, as the cashier only scans them and then puts them on the platform behind him. This was also the third time in the last few days that I saw someone in the service industry blatantly on their cell phone and holding up customers. While checking out the person in front of me, he stopped for a while to read and respond to a text message. It was then that I saw the same beggar waiting behind the cashier for spare change. It was the fourth time I had seen her in just over two days, all in separate parts of the city. On a random side note, I don’t think I have mentioned it yet, but Florence has a bunch of short buses as their public transportation buses. At least half of their buses are these funny little short buses.

I'm now sitting on the train admiring the Italian countryside. Next stop, Bologna!

Posted by atbrady 18:51 Archived in Italy Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

Extra Day in Florence

What a life!

sunny 87 °F
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This morning, we went down for another filling breakfast before hitting the trail yet again. We woke up a bit late again (about 9:30am) this time because Kristine’s phone time got screwed up like mine did a few days ago. I guess once they can’t handle being off the Verizon network for too long. Interestingly, there has not been a clock at a single hotel I have been. I figured out that the granola type cereal is called Muesli and I would have to say that I’ll be looking for it when I get home. We hit the road from our hotel to the center of the city, the same 20 minute journey from last night except now we were carrying all of our bags and it took significantly longer. Once we got to our hotel however, there was an open room so we were able to check in early which was nice. Looking outside our window, we can even see the dome! It’s about a 5 minute walk from everywhere so that I won’t need to bring my backpack around today and we can just stop in if we need something. I haven’t had a hotel with such a good location all trip, so this is certainly a luxury. Since we were so close, we decided to climb the steps of Il Duomo to get a view of the city as we had in each of our other destinations. The line was long but moved surprisingly fast, leaving me to wonder how they could fit so many people up top. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that there was another line stretching from the top to about halfway down the 463 steps. This was certainly not as well thought out as the other places we have been, as there were various times on the stairs (which in places were no more than 2 feet wide) where there was traffic both up and down. Elsewhere, there had always been both an up and down stairs. It made the stairs extremely cramped. Why they didn’t have us wait outside rather than on the stairs I’ll never know. For the second day in a row, I met a kid from Rochester while waiting in line. He was from Fairport and was part of a musical group of high school and college kids that were touring Europe. Once was definitely weird, but I couldn’t believe that it happened again, let alone the next day! From the top, I could see that the city was much larger that I had imagined despite the fact that all of the historical places were tightly grouped together.

At one point, we were close to the train station and decided to buy our tickets for Bologna and then Venice for tomorrow. At the ticket counter, the lady waiting on us answered her cell phone in the middle of our conversation and turned off her microphone, at which point she pretended to look busy helping us on the computer during her 5 minute phone conversation. Once she got off the phone, it actually took her about 30 seconds to print off the tickets for us. It ended up costing just 30 euros for train tickets to both places for us, which we were pleasantly surprised by. However, we definitely get spoiled at home with our customer service. The rude employee having a bad day is usually the exception to the rule. Plus I don’t know many people that would answer their phone on the job so blatantly in front of a customer, fearing retribution from their employer. A similar incident happened to me in Rome when the cashier at a supermarket was blatantly texting in between each customer in his line. As he was the only cashier there, the line got pretty long.

For lunch, we headed back to the same place we went yesterday for lunch. It was the first time we had gone anywhere twice, but the price was right and we loved the little old Italian owner, who spoke no more than five words in English. He had taken good care of us, heated up our sandwiches and insisted we sit down while he brought our sandwiches out to us. A lunch for $10 euros is just about the best you can do around here for 2 waters, a sandwich a piece and a third to share.

After wandering around a few more shops, we stopped at the Ufizi galleries in the late afternoon, which came highly recommended from Frommer’s. The line looked to be moving quickly at first, but ended up taking almost an hour and a half. During that time, we saw the same beggar for a third time in less than two days, all in completely different parts of the city. When we walked the first floor of the gallery, we felt as if we had been duped. There were a bunch of tiny paintings that didn’t really look like anything across several rooms. It was the second floor, however, that held the museum’s treasures. While I would have passed by a few of them without thinking twice, I was happy to have Kristine with me who knew several of the paintings there, including La Primavera, Venus and the Half Shell and the Painting of the Duke of Urbino, which is the first known painting to show a person’s imperfections rather than an idealized version. Overall, the museum was just OK for me but Kristine knew a lot of the paintings from her class that we didn’t know were there. We almost didn’t go, but she loved it so I was glad that we made it there.

Today was a much more relaxed day as far as sightseeing goes. It is definitely the smallest of the three cities we have been to (excluding Pisa). While there was less to see, we both really enjoyed wandering around Florence’s many markets and tiny shops. At one point, Kristine stopped for Gelato and as she was eating it, we were stopped by the same beggar woman for a third time. When Kristine told her she had no money, the lady had the nerve to ask for her gelato. It was a very strange experience. This city is absolutely beautiful, and now rivals London as my favorite destination along the way. After Uffizi, we were so close to Ponte Vecchio that we decided to end our day there yet again. This time we were able to stay to enjoy the sunset as well as a street performer who was surprisingly good and played a good mix of American classics along with authentic Italian songs. We stayed there probably at least an hour, watching the sunset and listening to music.

When we pulled out Frommer’s to find a place for dinner, we settled on a tiny 35 seat restaurant called Le Mossace. Kristine ordered a white bean appetizer and tortellini while I had mixed vegetables (which ended up just being spinach) and some baked chicken. Boring I know, but meat is hard to come by over here. All of the food came out at the same time in about 5 minutes. You would swear they had just thrown it in the microwave, but being in such a small restaurant, Kristine and I had seen them just a few feet away in the smallest restaurant kitchen I have ever seen. When we mentioned the speed to the waiter, he told us that they had to cook fast since it was such a tiny restaurant. We ended up combining my spinach with Kristine’s white beans on our bread which turned out to be fantastic. My chicken was uneventful, but when Kristine was full and gave me her leftovers, the red sauce was the best I have ever had (don’t worry Tommy, you still make the best meat sauce). I couldn’t get over how flavorful it was. The grand total for all of our food was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 euros, which was by far the cheapest we have eaten, especially with 2 courses each and including house wine that cost us 4 euros for a few glasses each. The funny thing is that our bill also included a table charge. We had found it funny when we saw various restaurants around the city advertising “no table charge” which is taken as a given at home. However, it was 1 euro 50 cents and the food had been fantastic and quick, so we didn’t mind.

On the way home, we brought the bottle of wine we bought in Paris to the Piazza della Signoria, where a street performer played guitar and sang all kinds of (mostly American) music to a gathered crowd of a few hundred people. We figured the artists had some sort of informal agreement with each other since a different performer was out the previous night but neither night had competing performers. It was a great way to end the night, with great music and incredible scenery. While we relaxed in the piazza, I saw a street artist with a cool painting of Ponte Vecchio. We asked how much it was and couldn’t believe our ears when he said 700 euro (About $1000). Good luck with that. It was great to have our hotel so close by for a quick walk home for once!

Posted by atbrady 18:45 Archived in Italy Tagged food Comments (1)

It's Raining in Florence

Great weather streak caught up with me

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We got a bit of a late start this morning, not getting up until 10am. After our exhausting night, it wasn’t a terrible thing except that we had planned to go to a few museums in the early morning to beat the lines. I must say that breakfast has been significantly better than any other hostels/hotels in Europe although there still weren’t any eggs included. It was basically some ham slices and cheese, yogurt, peaches, cereal (corn flakes or this granola-type concoction) and toast. I had the yogurt, peach and the oatmeal cereal which turned out to be much different from the oatmeal at home. Although it has raisins and some oats, there’s also some other stuff in there that I’m not sure what to make of. Kristine had toast with Nutella. Anything is better than more croissants.

It turns out our hotel is a bit of a hike from the center city. On the way, we did pass by a beautiful park on a hill that gave us a great view of the city. During the walk, I really enjoyed the look of the city, much more quaint and homey than Rome had been. However, first stop was the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of David. Here there were some of the longest lines I have seen anywhere on this trip. At this point I remembered reading in Frommer’s that there is seven tourists in the summer for ever native Florentine. After waiting in line for about 15 minutes and moving nowhere, we realized that we needed a new itinerary. We had planned to do this first thing in the morning, but now it was around noon and the line was at its peak. Instead, we headed to “Il Duomo” or the Cathedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. The outside was beautifully decorated in alternating pink, green and white marble, with a large red-tiled dome dominating the structure. As we waited in line to get inside, the ominous skies let out a drizzle of rain. I have to consider myself lucky that on this trip, I have been graced with absolutely perfect weather, but finally, the rain had caught up with me. Despite the beautiful façade, inside the Catedral was bleak save for the underside of the dome which was covered in beautiful, colorful frescoes. By the time we left the cathedral, the rain had started to come down harder. We had planned to climb Giotto’s Bell Tower, but in the rain, we hoped that the line at the Galleria dell’Accademia would have dissipated so we rushed back over there. On the way, we noticed that the vendors who had lined the streets walking around selling their wares (mostly prints of famous paintings) had put everything away (god knows where) and pulled umbrellas out of thin air and began selling them. We decided to rough it out, since the 3 euro umbrellas looked like they had been made for 3 cents. At the Accademia, we were a bit disappointed to see that the lines had barely improved, but decided to get in line anyways. Once the rain started coming down harder, the price of the umbrellas went up to 5 or 6 euros for most of the vendors but once we found a vendor still willing to take 3 euros, we bought one as we were now committed to standing in line, since we didn’t want to leave without having seen David and this was probably the best the line was going to get (even though it still stretched around the block). Over about two hours, we saw a few groups give up as the rain continued to pound everyone’s newly acquired cheap umbrellas and the wind started to pick up, making the umbrellas even more useless.

One lady kept walking up and down the line selling tours of the Gallery that would allow us to skip the line but it was about 20 euros more than the price of admission which seemed absurd to see one statue. We saw plenty of beggars come by, as well as a few umbrella vendors who were late to the game yet still came down the line asking each person individually if they wanted an umbrella even though everyone already did. They sure are persistent. The line didn’t feel as long as it was, mostly because we started talking to the people behind us after they had been talking to a group behind them about being from Rochester. It turned out that he was from Greece and traveling with his sister. We talked with the two of them and the group of two guys behind them and all agreed that this better be the best statue we have ever seen since nobody had any clue what was in the museum other than David. In retrospect, it was pretty fun waiting in the rain with them and made for a good story. Plus it was insane meeting somebody from Rochester. While we made our way though the museum to see David, we were looking at a painting that was in a recess on the wall, Kristine leaned in to look at the plaque underneath and smacked her head on the admittedly very clear glass. We were still with all of our new friends, who all got a kick out of it. It reminded me of one of those windex commercials where the birds fly into the windows because they can’t tell if it’s a window since the windex did such a good job.

Anyways, it turned out that David was in fact the greatest statue I had ever seen. Of all the art I have seen on this trip, this one most lived up to its hype. First of all, the statue was absolutely massive. IT had once been in the nearby Piazza della Signoria but was moved in 1873 when signs of wear were evident. David (the one from Rochester) told us about how he had been to the Piazza della Signoria and had seen the replica that had been put where the original used to stand and had thought it was the real thing. The extent to which every detail was taken care of on the statue was impressive. Everything down to the veins on the hands and arms was spot on. I would definitely recommend seeing it if you ever have the chance. The group from Rochester left too quickly but we made plans to meet up with the other group later tonight.

There are bikes everywhere in Florence. In areas with a few bike racks, there are a few hundred bikes locked up. I read about how awful it was to drive here so that must be the local’s way of getting around that. We stopped for lunch at a tiny little sandwich shop where this funny little Italian guy stood outside and greeted everyone that walked by and even shook most people’s hands. The sandwiches were great and cheap too at only 2.50 euros. There were these funny little deserts there that we were very curious about, that basically looked like a big pyramid of whipped cream except that it was hardened. Just before we left, a family sat down next to us and ordered one and we couldn’t help staring to see what it was all about. They just kept breaking off piece and eating them with their tea. Had they not been so enormous, we may have tried one. After lunch we headed to the Basilica de Santa Croce, which is the final resting place of people like Machiavelli, Dante, Michelangelo and Galileo. The church was certainly beautiful and it was cool to see the elaborate sculptures on the tombs. I even saw the tomb of Enrico Fermi who is the namesake for school #17 in Rochester where I did my Eagle Project. Once I get home I’ll have to figure out what he was known for.

While we walked through the streets, we stopped in various stores and a few markets that Frommer’s recommended. At one point, we were stopped by a beggar who held an especially fake looking picture of “her children”, but we weren’t buying it. All the while we were making our way to Ponte Vecchio, a neat little bridge lined with tiny gold stores that is supposed to be a great place to end your day and watch the sunset. We got there a bit early and didn’t stay for the sunset only because we were starving and had to eat before meeting up with our friends at 8:30pm. We went to a little place called Da Penello and had the best seat in the house, right in front of the giant windows that were opened and looking into the street. The downside of our view was that the same beggar we had seen earlier came up to us while we ate with what I could have sworn was a different picture of her kids. The meal was one of the best we have had on this trip, with a great white bean and tomato appetizer and a spinach, tomato and shrimp dish. We ordered the house wine which was 9 euros for a 1.5 liter bottle. How it works there is that they bring you out the huge bottle and then you only pay for how much you finish. I thought it was a great idea both for the customers, who can have as much as they want, and the restaurant, since it probably encourages people to drink more wine when they aren’t tied down to a specific size. We paid only 4 euros for 3 small glasses each. Overall, the place was extremely cheap and yet both authentic and delicious. I would highly recommend it. The only downfall was the same of all restaurants over here in that after you are given your food, your waiter disappears. It’s nice because you can sit and relax while you eat and for a long time afterward sipping wine, but when you have somewhere to be as we did, it’s a bit frustrating.

We ended up being about 20 minutes late to meet our friends, but they were luckily still there and we went to a nearby bar with them. We talked with them for a couple hours about our respective trips. They had been in Europe for 6 weeks so far and still had 3 ahead of them. They were managing to live on about 40 euros a day. I found it fascinating to listen to their stories of places they had been and how they managed to do it so inexpensively. They were trying to be less touristy and only did about one sight/museum a day. They slept in, took naps and went to the grocery store for most of their food. I thought it was pretty interesting although I’m not sure it would be worth it for me to come to Europe and do that little with my days for so much money. However, their objective was more to get a feel for what it would be like to live in the city, which was an interesting way to approach such a trip. One of them told us how at one point in Germany, he lived off of 5 euros worth of bread and cheese for 3 days. We even talked about how we had both seen the same woman walking around asking for money. It started pouring again and the guys set off for their hostel which was just a few blocks away, while we had a 20ish minute walk back to our place. The great thing about Florence is that all of the attractions from the old parts of the city are just a few minutes walk from each other, but we hadn’t done enough research before booking our hotel and it was pretty far away. Regardless, it was fun to be in Europe huddled under a tiny, crappy umbrella and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The beauty of the way we’re doing our trip now is that we can decide what we want to do as we go. Partially because we got a late start in the morning but mostly because we loved Florence so much, we decided to stay an extra day. We booked a place for one night that had a much better location (less than a block from the cathedral and dome) and was somehow a bit cheaper.

Posted by atbrady 18:17 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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