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Sunday, July 7, 2013

chapter 74: FLORENCE

{At this point, I must admit something. This trip to Europe took place May and June 2012... We now find our selves in April 2013. I have been able to recount the details of our trip with the help of a journal that I took with us and wrote in each day. That, combined with Ben's recollection and my own is how we can recreate our trip. Historically, I have never been a very consistent journal writer and this trip was no exception. While in France, I wrote probably two or three pages a day of our events and explorations. All of italy? Two pages total. Germany? Sorry charlie... zip, zero.
That being said, here goes nothing...}

We didn't arrive in Florence until about 9:00 PM. It was already dark and so we shot a quick message off to our host to let him know we had arrived and were on our way. We then used our map to find our hotel; it was pretty centrally located and relatively easy to find. *Note, the streets were relatively busy and bustling for that time of night and it felt extremely safe, which was a good way to start our time in Florence.

We buzzed Ljubi (our host) and he unlocked the front door. We waked up the stairs and found our landing. He was very kind, checked us in, showed us where some travel materials were and gave us our key. We were in the very first bedroom - it was small, just a bed, desk and dresser, with a shared bathroom down the hall. Small, but clean. The only downside was, rather than one queen size bed, we had two twin beds. We stripped the beds, pushed them together and remade the beds into one bigger one - now we just had to compete over who had to lay in  crack. Right before going to bed, we walked around the square just outside our apartment. It was completely empty with only a few people wandering around. We were in Florence for five days total and in that time, we felt we were able to see everying we wanted to: 

We awoke and walkd out into that same square we visited the night before, but now found it to be a busy, alive market with tons of leather shops. I found a leather jacket and I fell in love with, but the price tag for authentic italian leather was a little outisde our means. We visited the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore and climed the stairs to the very top. While climbing, we saw a shockingly amount of grafiti. It was very upsetting and I might have gone on a bit of a rant about how disappointed I am in human society. The staircases to the top were often extremely narrow, slanted, and only wide enough for one person to go at a time. The way up and the way down were the same, so it took a little nagotiating to appropriately take turns. Next, we headed to the Baptistry, saw the Tower and did a little shopping. Fearing that it might rain, Ben bought a jacket and sweatshirt - claimimg them as his one Europe souvineer.

We entered the church of Santa Maria Novella where the tombs of Florentine celebrities are housed. We also walked through the Paliazzio Veccio and ate gelato while we watched musicians played beautiful music. Just down from the Paliazzio Veccio was the famous Ponte Veccio that we walked up and down and sat to watch the sunsent as we listened to a local band play on the bridge.

{prepping for the day by reading the guide book}

This morning we woke early and made our way to the Ufizzi museum. The line was pretty long, so while I held our spot, Ben disappeared to grab us some breakfast at a nearby pastry shop. After a little while we entered to see beautiful sculptures and art pieces, guided by our podcast friend: Rick Steves. We spent the remainder of the day, sharing ear buds to our ipod and took Rick Steve's guided tour through Florence, learning about the churchces, sites, and architecture. As the sun set we wandered past the Santa Croce and just enjoyed the architecture from the outside as it was already long past closed.


{Santa Croce}

Today, we made the long journey outside of the main Floretine city center, up to the Piazza Michael Angelo. We also walked up to the Porte Sante (chuch) and enjoyed a snapshot view of all of Florence. In town, we also stopped in a few toy stores and admired their Lego masterpieces.

Most days, we followed the Florenine tradition of taking a 'siesta' in the afternoons back in our room. Sticking with the customs, we also would eat a very large lunch with a light dinner. We had gelato every night and listened to street music - one night even elbowing our way into one gelato bar that alwasy seemed to have a herd of people inside.

{Today we had our first canoli and discovered how much we dislike them... I don't think we could finish it.}

{mmm... a much better breakfast decision}
Gelaterie encounter day 1
mass of people around the door and flooding the inside. We couldn't even tell it was a gelaterie because of all the people.
Gelaterie encounter day 2
we realized that it was a gelaterie and in fact, one of the most famous and best tasting in Florence.
Gelaterie encounter day 3
we didn't want to give this place our service and money as they seemed to have tons of people constantly eating there. We weren't going to waste our time.
Gelaterie encounter day 4
the stars aligned and somehow it was open and no one was inside?! We slipped in, ordered and, by the time we recieved our gelati, it was flooded again.

Well worth the croud, as that was our favorite gelati yet. After eating our gelati, we rubbed the "boar's snout" (Porcellino) for luck and dropped a coin into his mouth for hope of a return to Florence. Apparently, Ben will be returning to Florence and I will not.

The entire time our landlord, Ljubi, was extremely friendly and helpful, but occasiaonally the front enterance buzzer would buzz and we could always hear Ljubi shoting, "Who are you?!", "What do you want?!", "Stop buzzing!!"... it's amazing how he has as many tenants as he did with the way he greeted new potential tenants.
After four full days of walking, site seeing, and exploring, we found ourselves almost Florenced-out and ready for Venice. Five days seemed like one day too long and we ended up spending most of our last day relaxing in our room and reading about our next destination.

{someday I will either paint this or turn it into a puzzle}

The morning of our sixth day, we set out for the train station. Since our journey in was in the dark, our journey back out involved a bit of backtracking and getting lost. We found it though, and connected to our train to Venice.

On one morning, we strolled by a waffle stand that sold waffles covered in Nutella. Hungrily, we ordered to, only to find out it wasn't just one waffle, it was a waffle sandwich with tons of Nutella in the middle. We also didn't check the price before we ordered (never made that mistake again), so 4 waffles and 25 euros later, we were very upset about our morning thus far. I kept complaining about what a rip off it was and how I couldn't believe we had done that. In mid-sentance, a pigeon swooped by and pooped on my shirt/hair! I was disgusted and dove at the nearest fountain to try and wash off what I could. Probably the worst morning of the trip.

One afternoon, we caught a glimpse of a beautiful green onion dome and thought that it might be a church. We decided to venture far out from the center of Florence and find out what it was. We spent hours wandering up and down roads, occasionally seeing a corner of the building to help us course-correct. Finally, after almost turning back multiple times and reaching exhaustion, we found it.  Locked behind a large gate with no sign, we concluded that it was some sort of school and nothing really all that spectacular. A disappointment, but it did lead us on a nice long tour of the outskirts of the city and to a charming restaurant with a loudly singing host.

{a less than happy face...}

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