From Ireland to Austria Series: Fleur de Florence
This is from a series originally posted on my original blog: Seefahrer Thayer. While I don't recommend it, you can view the original posts here. Because the content had value and useful tips I've decided to repost them here, however, they've since been heavily edited and updated.
I had so many great titles for this one, but I knew you'd groan at all of them.
Sooooo, all ya'll get is a boring, but appropriate, one.
Fleur de lis are really big here, it's almost like being home!
Anyway, so Florence is definitely in the top 5 for favorite locations of the trip. There are some serious pros and cons, and I can totally understand people hating it, but for me it was great.
We're going to start with the downside to Florence- that way you can be like "there's no way it's going to get better from here, Florence sucks and I'm just gonna start reading." This is how we'll separate the Florence of Arabia's from the Florence Nightingales. (You decide for yourself which one is the compliment.)
Dang Florence, you are not a cheap date. Food is expensive here. I've paid more for food here than anywhere else.
Half pint of beer? 4-5 €
Pizza? 4.50-10 €
Cappuccino? 1€ (yay!!!)
Croissant? also 1€ (another small victory!)
Florence kinda gets around... Tourists GALORE. And when I say tourists, I mean elbow-to-elbow shenanigans. Standing in the way, walking in front of your bike, rubbing up on your back REPEATEDLY in line, asking for directions without even knowing where their hotel is (and expecting you to know). Those dang tourists. Seriously. Horrible. Absolutely horrible. It makes me smile when I watch them overpay for cheap mass produced "leather" goods in the rat trap of a market square.
Unfortunately, Florence isn't much of a cook. I've had three pizzas since getting here (don't judge, where else but its country of origin to get your favorite food?) And I know, I know, you get pizza in Naples or somewhere south of there if you want "real" pizza from Italy. But Naples got kicked off my route, so saving my appetite for pizza was destroyed. So anyway, three pizzas. ONE was actually good. Not great, but good. Acceptable. Luckily the staff was amazing, so it made it all the better.
My hostel roommate had two people yell at her for not speaking Italian. To be fair, I wasn't there to see what happened... it may have gone down differently, but I have no idea. I haven't had a single problem with it whatsoever. For the most part, everyone's been very accommodating and nice about me not speaking Italian.
Florence, you got class. Absolutely diverse city. There's a poshy section with Louis Vuitton, Coach, Prada, Michael Korrs, Burberry, Fendi, Versace, Armani... the list goes on. But there's also a ton of street vendors... everywhere. The best are the ones not in the markets, but off the beaten path (as off the beaten path as you can get in Florence). So there's a lot of quality window shopping to do. Also a good place to get knockoffs if you're into that kind of thing? Personally, all I wanted from this trip was a nice, handmade, quality leather bag from Italy, and I'm happy to say I got it. I'm a big window shopper though, I like looking and I'm a sucker for markets, I love being among the people, even if I'm getting elbowed and shoved. I just like watching people interact.
Gelato, gelato, and more gelato. That's it.
Tuscany at your fingertips. Florence is a great via point for a vast number of locations. Today I had wanted to do a Tuscan bike tour, which was expensive and booked up, so I rented a bike from my hostel and went at it. It was nice going at my own pace, and stopping to look at what I found interesting. I'm sure I would've seen a lot more on the tour, but hey, I really enjoyed my day. I biked about 20 miles today, 2-3 miles of that up a nasty hill with a one-speed bike. But the scenery was gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful. The other parts were gorgeous as well, though had more tourists. For the most part, I had gotten so sick of the tourists any time I saw a group of them: I turned around. Unfortunately, though, the reason those areas are touristy is because they're actually nice places, so I'd try to just spend a few minutes and leave. I also found a little side-of-the-road fruit stand and I got a peach, a tomato and a few little apple looking things: all absolutely delicious. Best peach I've ever had. And yes, I ate the tomato whole. I ended up stopping by again later (because I ate everything) and got a few more peaches, some apricots, some more soft apple thingies, and he gave me a handfull of cherries for free. With both trips I only spent 4.50€. It started raining earlier- the first time rain has disrupted plans this entire trip, so I'll deal with it. But when I was starving and it hadn't let up around 8, I ventured out to a place an employee recommended for pizza. It was so dreary and gross outside. When I sat down and say the cook glance at me, I gave an incredibly sincere smile, showing how happy I was to be dry and have food. Well, within a few minutes the waitress brought me over some prosciutto on fresh baked bread and said, "on the house." I was so surprised, I had never had it happen before, I didn't know what to do.
Florence is cultured. Home of Michelangelo, the sculptor of David, as well as the home of the world's oldest art museum. On top of that, there's gorgeous architecture and creativity... I got to visit the museum today, and hopefully see the David tomorrow before I leave.
So yeah, I can understand both sides of the argument. I can understand why people would hate it- though "bustling and big" is relative when you compare to places like Milan (which I hated).