Hot, hot, hot. That’s what we got. Oh and lots of tourists. Lots of people unsure where they were or where they needed to be, or how to get there.
Actually that was us when we first arrived at what should have been our hotel. Google maps showed that we were in the right place, but nothing looked like a hotel. I wandered down the little side street (which wasn’t really little by European standards) but couldn’t find an entrance. I was about to make a call when I spotted a little metal plaque on the wall and sure enough, it was the name of the hotel. Thankfully they had a lift and by European standards it was fast (but still small). I went with the bags and Mr Fussy ran up the stairs keeping pace. The lift was glass so I could see him striding up the stairs.
We had arrived earlier than check in, and so had a number of other people by the state of all the luggage in the reception area. We got access to wifi and I looked up the website I had saved that gave a number of places to visit if you’ve got only 12 hours in the city. We had not made any plans as to what to do in Florence so these suggestions were what we decided to follow.
Again there are no cars in the city but the buses are everywhere, and with the foot planted on the gas pedal were making a bee-line to their next stop.
We noticed down one narrow street that the driver needed to stop (might have been a courier) but there was no where to park. So he stopped in the street, got out and went about his business. I was really surprised that no one behind him tooted or yelled. I guess that’s how things roll in Florence. But then we heard the siren of an emergency vehicle. We didn’t know which way it was going, but the increase in volume (like they actually had a switch to turn it up 9billion notches) told us that it was now behind all the vehicles that were stopped because of this other vehicle. That also included a bus. It still took a few second before we saw the stopped car drive past. Boy it might be hard when there’s an emergency when there’s no way to pull out passed other vehicles.
Did I mention it was hot? Like really really hot. The Pharmacy (Farmacie) always has a flashing green cross and it changes to display the current temperature. 33 degrees. Yep, too hot for us.
The first stop was in fact the pharmacy. I knew I would not survive the day tripping about on my foot with a blister so I bought one of those gel type plaster tube thingess. I’ve had them in the past when I was training for The Kepler. It helped save my toes then, and I hoped it would do the same for me in Florence.
We were heading towards the tower not of the cathedral (not sure if it was a Basillica, Cathedral or just some massively impressive looking church), but the one just down to it. Sadly it had been cordoned off and Police and other officials were hanging around on the stairs. That put paid to that highlight. We trudged on toward the canal so that we could cross over an get to the gardens.
The canal was green, and in parts it stank so much that I couldn’t breathe. We stopped to take a few photos and one of the bridal couple that had stopped on the bridge for photos.
Our plan had been to buy lunch and then eat it in the gardens. But pretty much after crossing the canal all signs of places to order food had dried up. Instead we found a pizza store and sat to eat our “Special” pizza. The special was having cherry tomatos and mozzarella cheese. The tomato had so much flavour. They were the best I’ve ever tasted. The mozzarella cheese had started to melt, but it was still a bit cool in parts. It was stringy! The freshly squeezed orange juice and the fans circulating air were welcome. It was really strange how as soon as you got into a street that had shade, the temperature dropped to something much more tolerable.
We set out for the gardens but couldn’ figure out how you get into them. We had passed the place that had been marked on Google maps, but it was a museum. Instead we walked up the street seeing if we could find the entry point at the top. The climb gave us a pretty good view when we could see between the buildings.
At the top was a fortress. We walked up some more stairs and asked the attendant if we could walk around the outside of the building (which had been partially roped off). He said yes, but we had to buy a ticket for inside first. Inside was a gallery with the works of someone famous (I suppose). But at €30 each I didn’t need to see the view that badly.
While we had walked we again passed another entry point to what we assumed to be another gallery or museum. Having not found any way to enter the gardens (it was all walled off) we went to the entry point and found that it was the way to get into the gardens. It wasn’t free, but it wasn’t expensive. We paid our money and were rewarded with some great views across the city of Florence. I sat a while to give my feet a rest and Mr Fussy was again called to take photo of couples. He must look very approachable because he’s been asked by a lot of people to take their photo.
Having walked back down to the bottom through the gardens we carried on to our next stop. It was another church. Again there was a lot of gold going on. It was also the church that has Michelangelo’s tomb. It was a very impressive space. Not only were there lots of sculpted pieces inside the church, there was a lot of art.
Another building that comes off the courtyard has the sides of the walls sculpted. And the floor is completely covered in plaques. I guess it’s the equivalent of tombstones, but these were all laid on the floor. I was looking for the memorial for Florence Nightingale but I couldn’t find it in the location that had been indicated on the map.
I didn’t find Florence markedly different to Bologna like I had found Bologna so different to Modena. What I saw as being different were the amount of patterns “painted” on the buildings.
With it now well after check in time we decided to head back to the hotel, check in, then go to the gallery where the statue of David is. What I hadn’t realised was the queue that was awaiting us. You can imagine how thrilled I was when my feet were aching and it was so hot. We stood in the queue for an hour waiting to be admitted. Each 15 minutes there was an intake of waiting tourists. While we were waiting I got chatting to the mother and daughter next to us. I had been listening to them talk and trying to pick up if they were saying anything that sounded Australian. I didn’t. They were Kiwis. The daughter is working in London and Mum is from Auckland visiting. It was so nice to have a chat to people that knew where we were from (NZ) and we could talk things that were topical to us.
Overall the number of English speaking tourists had really increased. As had the size of motor powered bikes. We’d seen many many little scooters but now we were seeing full on motorbikes. Oh and stalls. There were stalls everywhere selling mostly leather bags and t-shirts, or shoes. You could actually smell the leather out on the street. This was the first place we had been where there were street vendors like this. Mr Fussy kept telling me there would be lots of opportunity to buy shoes in Florence but I hadn’t understood it would be like this. The write up from the website we were following had said there was no need to shop in department stores, that there would be so many stalls you could get all you needed from the San Lorenzo market, but to haggle for a price. I was too intimidated to even pull a bag off the rack to see what zips/pockets they had, let along try and negotiate a better price. Yes, TOURIST was in big capital letters blazon across my forehead.
Ahh yes, where was I. The queue to the museum. When we finally were admitted Mr Fussy pointed me in the direction of where the statue was, he’s been to Florence before. More than anything I was happy to see there were bench seats lining the viewing area and after a few hasty photos I retreated to the seating.
(We’re currently in Rome, hiding from the heat, on our last full day discussing what we did after the piece I’ve written above – we’ve come to the conclusion).
Having wandered around the Museum and having a look at the paintings and the musical instrument section it was time to move on. That meant heading back out into the heat. There was still a line of people waiting to be admitted. On a Tuesday (during certain months of the year) the Museum has extended hours, and a Tuesday the Museum is open until 10pm.
We scooted up the road to find the post office. The Post Office was of course closed. There was no sign of anywhere to drop any mail. I assumed there would be, or at least should be, but nothing was obvious. The Post Office was sort of under an arch, and the space beyond the arch had some painting on the wall that a woman was photographing. We decided to wander back there, and sure enough, against a wall behind the painting, but along the outside wall of the Post Office was the red box. Now we knew what to look for.
With the post card in the mail we made our way back along the same roads and this time stopped to take a few photos of Pinocchio.
We sat on the steps of the San Lorenzo market and debated what to do for dinner. I consulted the Yelp application again which told me there was an extremely good restaurant right next to us. We could see it from where we were sitting. Neither of us felt like food. It had been too hot, and we were too tired from the day. Of course I always have room for Gelato, and since it had been so hot, Gelato was a good choice. With the Yelp app at the ready it told us there was a really good stop in less than a kilometre from where we were sitting.
The shop was down a little street and there were people sitting outside having their dinner. As has been the case in almost every gelato shop, the flavours are a completely mystery. Sometimes you’ll find a place that has almost English names to go with it. The place in Bologna had an English menu that was handed to me. I really didn’t know what to have, and I really didn’t know what flavours were available. The man at the counter did his best to explain and it was lucky there were no other customers otherwise I doubt I’d have been given the same help. One flavour I screwed my nose up at and he gave me a plastic spoon to taste. It was great. I thought he said it was Ricotta, it had tiny little bits orange and lemon rind and it was fresh and creamy. So Cookies and Cream (I got tired or pointing and asking) and this lovely fresh tasting Ricotta gelato. Mr Fussy must have been feeling very hot because his serve was a very large cup.
We were able to sit inside and eat. While we were doing so a “local” arrived. I watched while he ordered a tub, which looked like an oblong polystyrene container, full of differnet flavoured gelato. The gelato was weighed (minus the weight of the container) and the gentleman put his €10 on the counter (our combined Gelato was €9) and was given some change. Wow. Wish first of all we had good Gelato at home, and second of all you could order it “to go”. I think TipTop would have some competition.
Our day was done. It wasn’t late, but we were tired, hot (still) and weary. We stayed in our lovely cooled hotel room, the best accommodation we’ve had amongst our hotel accommodation, and just caught up on what was happening around the world, and of course trying to catch up on my blog posts before forgetting too much!
The following day we quickly headed down for breakfast. This hotel had a basket of fruit, including stone fruit. I was a very happy girl. Mr Fussy even got to cook some toast, the real thing, not some pre-packaged cracker sized portion of “toast”.
Mr Fussy was out of clean t-shirts and he had spotted a stall the previous day that sold them but thought it was too early for them to be set up. They certainly weren’t up and around the corner of San Lorenzo we could view from the hotel, but we wandered out onto a side street and they were all geared up ready for customers.
With just 20 minutes before we had to be out the door on our way to the train station we managed to walk most of the length of the street. Mr Fussy bought two t-shirts and after a bit of looking about I came away with a leather bag. I had heard you were meant to haggle with the price, but that’s way out of my comfort zone, and I’ve never done it before. The stall owner said the price that it would usually be and that he would reduce it by €10. That was good enough for me to feel like I’d not been ripped off (but I bet I could have haggled still). Hand bag purchased we raced back to the hotel to grab our cases.
Thankfully the streets hadn’t quite come to life like they had when we arrived. We were able to negotiate out way through the streets much more easily. Again our train was delayed. I really believed the trains ran like clockwork, but so far that had not been our experience.
We were a bit nervous again about the space allocated to store luggage. So many people on the platform had large suitcases. Sure enough, by the time we got to the front of the queue to board the train there was no luggage space in the allocated area. With a 2 hour train ride I didn’t want to end up having to nurse the bags like we had going from Modena to Bologna. The overhead shelves are really sturdy, Mr Fussy got a workout trying to lift his 22kg (we know this now that we’ve dropped our bags off for our flight from Rome to Gatwick) above his head and onto the shelf. My bag has a slightly narrower but taller shape and it was able to fit between two seats that were backing onto each other, creating a cavity that luggage can be stowed.
When we got the bags sorted we saw another woman was in one of our seats. She had her head down busy tapping out a message on her iPhone. I had said excuse me but she paid no attention. Mr Fussy started waving our tickets under her nose to get her attention. I explained she was in one of seats. It was like water off a ducks back. She collected some of the trash that was littered all over the tray table and just moved over to another seat. I picked up what she left behind and placed it on her new seat, she thanked me for it. Weird. It looked like rubbish. But at least she moved without making a big deal out of it.
The first class tickets gets you some service. Nothing more than what you’d expect on an Air New Zealand domestic flight. A drink and either a sweet or savoury snack. Unlike our train ride from Bologna to Florence, this ride was not all through tunnels although we had a couple of them.
Roma Termi is a very busy station and it wasn’t immediately obvious where the taxi rank was. This was going to be our first time using a taxi. Everywhere else the distance from the train to our accommodation has been within walking distance or a short metro ride that put us almost within metres of our accommodation. Our AirBnB accommodation in Rome was a little bit away from the Metro or Bus stop and after hauling our bags around and up hills and over cobbled streets I just wasn’t having any of it. I had been online and checked out the cost that we weould likely pay from the station to the apartment and for €13 it was well worth it to take the hassle out of negotiating the metro and still having to walk a bit.
So having arrived in Rome, it was time to scout out the taxis.