It’s Saturday morning, I’m in Florence and first thing in my mind is why the hell am I awake at 9:00 in the morning?
During the week I’m struggling to get up early and now what? It’s weekend and I can’t even sleep properly? Is this a habit now? what kind of irony is this!? Heh, I know it might sound a bit over-dramatic and I bet this happens quite often to many of us.
OK, I’m awake and I take my fully charged phone along with a city map that I’ve grabbed from the hostel reception last night and I start making some plans for the day. With sort of a plan in my mind but not so detailed (as I know from my previous journeys that no plan matches with the reality [and that’s the beauty of it]) I prepare to hit the road.
When I get out of the door I notice that the hostel has a terrace, I walk up there and admire a sneak peak of the city and it’s panorama. It’s a bit cloudy but I’m optimistic, the weather will get better for sure.
Because it hasn’t been that long since I had dinner, I’m not that hungry, but I could go for a Cappuccino.
I mean I usually don’t drink coffee but in Italy It’s different, better. I’m not sure if it’s the water or the way they’re making coffee but I’m telling you, you haven’t had coffee until you’ve been to Italy. I’ve tried it in many different places across the world, but there’s nowhere near what they have here, and I just can’t stay away.
With that in mind, it wasn’t long until I saw a bakery with lot’s pastries and cakes in the window. Now If I’m having a cappuccino, why not have some Italian pastries as well? That’s my definition for a heavenly sent breakfast.
I get in and with the few words I know in Italian I’m ordering a Cappuccino and a Sicilian Cannoli. Now the funny fact is that I’ve actually managed to make them think that I speak proper Italian. That was just until they asked a question for which I didn’t really knew how to answer. Just smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.
I go and get myself a seat at a table and despite the last night’s experiences, I wasn’t disappointed at all about the quality of my breakfast, actually it was better than good!
After I finish my breakfast, I look around for the first “kind of” touristic place on my list, which was the Central Market.
I find my way to the market around lunch time, I sample some Italian cheese on display by the locals, take the stairs to the first floor where a marvelous display of food and good beer resides. Yep, I’m in the right place at the right time. OK, I’ll admit that the verity of beers was the first thing that caught my eyes but in my defense I wasn’t even that hungry!
As I’m looking around there was pizza, pasta, fish, seafood and lots of sweets everywhere. I mean even when you’re not hungry, there are just too many mouth drooling options so the temptation is too big, It’s just that hard to say no.
I walk a bit to explore the options and my sight quickly jump to a place where they do fresh home-made pasta and where I see lots of people on the queue. I just can’t miss that. It wasn’t only because of the food but the place had a vibe, it was full of positive energy as the chefs were laughing and making jokes. Clearly they were enjoying their work.
Looking the menu it’s hard to decide what to order, looking around I see a green sauce that looks like Pesto but I can’t find any Pesto pasta on the menu, I order it anyway but then they just said that they don’t have any… ok, but what’s that green sauce then? Well, it’s not pesto, it’s cabbage sauce! Hmm, ok… I’ll try that.
While I wait for it to be ready, someone in front of me asks for some parm cheese on his pasta. They refuse saying it has cheese inside. I’m just thinking… what do you mean “it has cheese inside”? No, no, my friend, not sure what kind of sorcery is this but any pasta is better with parm cheese on it. Ok, not that nice to refuse but that guy didn’t ask in a nice way either.
I “might” just mention this because I’m a cheese addict and as you could easily guess, I really wanted some parm cheese on my pasta and now my hopes were purely wiped. With a “what can I loose?” mentality, I’ll give it a try. With my rubbish Italian skills I just ask: “un poco di parmegiano per favore?” (A bit of a parm cheese, please?) and then with a smile I hear “Si, certo.” (Yes, of course)
While travelling in different places, I’ve noticed that it’s always good to know a few words in the local language wherever you find yourself. It doesn’t have to be perfect and sometimes google translate helps. They can see that you are at least trying and sometimes can open closed doors.
The pasta was really good but the sauce had strange taste (never had pasta with cabbage sauce before) though it didn’t matter that much for me because I had a side dish of Erdinger Weissbier (told you that I’ve seen good beer around, right?). Apparently Oktoberfest moved to… Italy.
I get outside and I see something unusual, a thing that I don’t see that often, especially in the place I live. I see happy people. It’s hard not to notice them as on the streets almost everyone is smiling, laughing or making jokes while they fit perfectly in the picture of this “not so cloudy anymore” day.
It’s a moment that I want to capture, therefore I open the notes on my phone and I start writing: “What I like in Italy?, Why am I going here that often? Well, for me, every single time I’m in this country, I see people smiling, on the streets, in the rain, while they’re working, literally, everywhere you look. They are laid back and they are enjoying life, it seems like they have everything figured out. It’s well known that Italy is famous for its gorgeous gastronomy but could this mean that the food is the secret of happiness? I don’t know yet, but for sure I’ll try to find out.”
Last time I’ve seen people like this it was in Amsterdam, but that’s kind of a different story, maybe for later.
I’m heading for Piazza del Duomo, one of the most famous places in Florence, a place of a true architectural brilliance.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived there, are the queues and just because of that I prefer to take it easy and try not to get in. It’s just not worth the little time I have in the city.
I walk around, take some pictures, admire the sight, when someone approaches me:
“Yo, brother! Yo, where are you from?”
There was a black guy trying to sell cheap items, I don’t say anything. I met many people like him everywhere I’ve been, they are just trying to sell things and most of them are pushy.
He insist, “Yo, bro”.
I give up and just reply that I’m from Romania, maybe he’ll let me alone, I take advantage of my country of origin and usually it works as they prefer to approach people from more… “western” countries.
He replies: “Ah, Romanian, my brother! I’m African, my brother! I’m from Kenya! Don’t you want to buy some items, I have nice wristbands and rings”. Ok, i’ll admit, i’m surprised that he keeps going.
I just say that unfortunately I don’t like wear any kind of token or jewelry but he insists to buy them as gifts. I say no thank you and then he goes with a different approach:
Because you’re Romanian you’re like a brother to me so I have a gift for you, and he hands me two dark red figurines, an turtle and an elephant. He says that in his country they are considered protective and they bring luck, not sure if it was just a sales pitch or something true, but as I’m curious I’ll give it a go.
Now to be honest I’m someone who is lacking luck, but I was a gift, or was it?
I’m just curious to see if he actually he wants me to pay for them. When I said thank you and goodbye, he just replied “take care, brother” and it looked like he was going away but that was when he actually asked me if I have some change for him to get a bottle of water. Hehe, I knew it… I mean I know he’s trying to do a living, and him like many others, is trying to aim for a better life, therefore I gave him some coins. I don’t mind, he was funny and quite a good sales man after all.
I’m now heading for Piazza della Repubblica on my way to Casa di Dante as I was curious where the famous Dante Alighieri lived.
I get lost on the beautiful old Florence’s streets and I see a window that says “Local wine, 2€ per glass” Ok, I must try it. It was a good wine.
I look on google maps for the Casa di Dante, but it’s quite difficult for the app to locate me for some reason (yes, I had internet access), but it wasn’t long until I’ve surprisingly noticed that it was just around the corner.
It’s nice, but I just can’t see why I had some kind of concept that his birth place is something special, that it was like a source of inspiration for him. Who knows, maybe it was, but I just can’t see it and this ain’t the beginning of a divine comedy, at least not for me. I guess i’ll just have to keep looking for that place of inspiration, that place of ascension where you can reach the “higher power”.
It wasn’t long until I head for Piazza di Santa Croce, the place where tombs of most illustrious Italians are (Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Machiavelli, Rossini, etc).
When I get there I notice a music that goes all the way through my soul, it was a combination of a violin and an acoustic guitar, purely amazing. I sit on a bench and just lose myself in the music, perfect environment to chill a bit.
When the performance is almost over I realize that I don’t have any change at all, therefore I go to a souvenir shop to change the money. It’s worth the effort and I had to buy some magnets anyway. I quickly head back to “pay” for the beautiful street performance.
At the end of the square i notice another statue of Dante Alighieri.
Then I have a sneak peak of a beautiful and relaxing backyard of Basilica di Santa Croce. I must get in.
End of part 1.
- 16 – 18 Oct 2015
- London Stansted to Pisa Airport through RyanAir -> 67£
- As a note: The flight was booked about 3 months in advance.
- Outbound: Terravision bus from Pisa Airport to Florence -> 6€ (can be paid by credit card)
- TrenItalia train from Florence to Pisa Town -> 8.3€ (can be paid by credit card)
- LAM Red bus from Pisa Town Center to Pisa Airport -> unknown price
- (Free for me as the bus was crowded there were no tickets available at driver to sell)
- Plus Florence Hostel –> 48€ for 1 bed / 2 nights, 4 guests per room.
- Personal rating: 8.3 (Based on my ratings on factors like: Comfort, Location, Cleanliness, Facilities and Staff.) -> Automatically calculated by booking.com.
- Booking.com rating: 8.2 (based on 4951 reviews)
- Nice weather, mostly sunny with:
- about 20-21°C during day and
- about 11-12°C during night