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Extra Day in Florence

What a life!

sunny 87 °F
View Post-College Eurotrip on atbrady's travel map.

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

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Ah-ha . . . Tommy Boy was pleased with your comment on his sauce! xoxoxo

by EJBrady

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