32: First stop, Firenze (Florence!)

  Although my hiatus of blog writing gives the impression of laziness, I can assure you it’s quite the opposite. Being the overly ambitious, busy body, I planned a five day trip in Italy that consisted of three and a half cities: Florence, Venice, and Milan with a pit stop in Rome for 8 hours. As no surprise to my scarce but steady blog readers, I tend not to plan my trips that thoroughly. I figure out when I’m getting there, when I’m leaving, and if I’m lucky, where I’m staying. That’s it. Now being that I was not traveling alone this time and with my friend Andrea, I could see why my laid back, carefree travel spirit may alarm some people. Woops. Luckily for me, he’s much better at the whole planning thing and is from Italy so I left the planning stage in his hands. Eight hours in Rome, 40 hours in Florence, 14 hours in Venice and 33 hours in Milan.

By now if you’ve read more than a couple of my posts you know bizarre things tend to happen to me while I travel and this trip was no exception. When I got on my plane I planned on arriving to Rome at 9am, checking my luggage at the lockers in the train station, roaming around Rome (haha that never gets old) and potentially meeting Andrea at his job until he was off at 5pm. Nope. As I sat in the last row I mildly chatted with my seat neighbors only to learn that they planned an impromptu trip with no idea where they were going and one of the three happened to work for US Airways (which is now American). We chatted, we drank, and I politely invited myself to hangout with them the rest of the day while they attempted to find a hostel. They indeed found a hostel and were even sweet enough to let me shower in their room. We all walked around Vatican City, them for the first time and me for the second, and stopped for a midday celebratory lunch with a couple bottles of wine. It’s times like these that remind me how amazing people in this world can be to complete strangers when one simply takes the time to have a conversation. Their hostel just so happened to be right across from the train station that I needed to meet Andrea at and I made it back just in time to quickly relax before he came to get me. I love when life just works itself out. Either that or I have a lot of good juju saved up from being a decent human being.

By the time we arrived in Florence I felt the jetlag setting in just a little but the thought of adventuring a brand new city was far too enticing for me to be tired. We walked around in the evening rain scarcely viewing buildings before finding someplace to have dinner. The most noticeable and mildly disappointing thing I noticed is not how many people spoke English, but how many Americans there were. I could’ve been on a movie set in LA based on the amount of times I heard “Oh my God, girl”. But being that this intimate cozy city was far more beautiful than Hollywood Blvd, I could instantly see the desire to travel here.

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We stopped at a dinner place he’d recommended with a delicious assortment of meats and cheeses and,  obviously, red wine. Fast forward an hour or two and we find ourselves in a karaoke bar, shouting over our beers to the sound of a no where near impressive performance of an obscure Sugar Ray sounding ’00s song. It was fantastic. Every place is completely different from one another and we even went into a place that was so American it had all the sorority and fraternity shirts, including my Chi Omega letters, stapled to the ceiling.

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Eventually I crashed pretty hard feeling like I needed thirteen hours of sleep but with the anticipation of exploring I only managed to get 6 and a half. Once I awoke being not nearly bright eyed enough, we stopped to get coffee and, of course, this is when I learned something new. You don’t always just get coffee, grab the first seat you see and chat while you drink it. Not only that but it doesn’t come in a to go cup either.

Lesson 258: There are actually coffee shops set up like bars and you drink them just as you would at a bar, in the same spot you ordered while standing.

I ordered my coffee at the bar like counter and began looking around to sit until I noticed Andrea looking at me confused. I wanted to sit for ten or so minutes but he enlightened me that you usually stand at the bar, drink it, then leave. Weird concept but I could dig it.

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We roamed the city in the morning passing several cathedrals, that I obviously wanted to go into, and managed to go into the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore where we climbed (approximately) 434 steps to the roof. Now, as I’ve mentioned 1,823 times before, I am NOT an athletic person. Ambitious and competitive? Yes. Athletic and fit. Hell. No.

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So although it was my idea to climb to the taller part of the roof up the stone and mostly spiral stair case that was probably 68 THOUSAND levels, I wanted to die. I think at a certain point I did die, blackout, and woke up in the same hell disguised as a humid hot dungeon with a really cool view. However, when we finally got to the top, it was so worth it. So worth it I’d even do it again. And then again. It gave you an entire view of Florence with rolling hill like mountains in the background and bright orange roofs that littered the city. I could easily see the appeal to having a rooftop balcony, if those are even a standard thing there.

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Once we stayed for a long enough amount of time to make sure my near death experience on my way up was worth it, we barreled our way back down against people coming up in the narrow staircase to go see the museum.

As much as I could describe the beautiful things I saw and the stories of the artwork that intrigued me, I think it’s safe to say you’ve been to a museum and my descriptions won’t do it justice. So I nerded out, saw a bunch of beautifully constructed art, and ended up at the most delicious Panini shop that’s ever been created.

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All’Antico Vinaio is a sandwich shop on a small street in Florence with no sitting room inside or out and a decently creative selection of made to order Panini’s. Being that the place came highly recommended, I assumed the food would be good but after eating here it has made my usual hidden Chicago sandwich shop a poor excuse for what a Panini should be. The food was great.
Hours passed whiles my legs started screaming at me but we continued to explore the city that reminded me all too often why I love Italy. The people are friendly, the history is breathtaking, the intimate streets and alleyways have a way of making you feel like you’re the only one there, and then there’s the wine. Florence is easily one of my favorite places I’ve ever been but once I continue to tell this story, you’ll learn that Italy in itself is on a pedestal not to be compared to any other place. The next morning we left at the crack of dawn to walk to the train station as I mentally prepared for what I was looking the most forward to; getting lost within the winding alleys of Venice on a day where the weather couldn’t be any more perfect. We hurriedly packed, boarded our train, and attempted to close our eyes while daylight crept into the train car. If only I slept as good on trains as I did on planes.

2 thoughts on “32: First stop, Firenze (Florence!)

  1. Great story of your adventure. I was equally confused about what to do in a coffee shop on my visit to Italy. Having the expectation of staying and actually enjoying your coffee instead of pouring it down your throat as you do 1 million other things… that’s a legit love for coffee.

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