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It's Raining in Florence

Great weather streak caught up with me

storm 70 °F
View Post-College Eurotrip on atbrady's travel map.

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

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