Tag Archive for florence

Flittering around Firenze

So after the debacle of actually getting to Florence and finding our hostel, we had a couple of hours to fill before we were able to check in. We deposited our bags, freshened up (as best we could in a cramped hostel bathroom after spending the past 25 hours travelling) and got on our way.  We spent our time wandering around the city, aiming to get to the famous Ponte Vecchio. I have been to Florence in the past and didn’t think too much of it. But this time, for some reason, the city seemed to be more beautiful, more interesting. Despite the mass of tourists crawling around the streets, the city still manages so stay alive with Italian magic and authenticity. Upon arriving at the Ponte Vecchio and seeing it logged down with tourists, we decided against walking along it, instead choosing to head over to the statue of David in order to see him in all his naked, very naked, glory.

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By this point, we were literally walking with closed eyes so we made our way back to the hostel in time to check in. As soon as we got into our room, we lay down on our beds and finally submitted ourselves to a couple hours catch up sleep. Ahhh, bliss.
I awoke feeling disorientated and slightly confused but infinitely better. Once we were feeling more alive and fresh, we headed back out to experience Firenze by night. We ate some dinner, ambled slowly around the city, finally making our way down the slightly less frazzled Ponte Vecchio and finished the night off with a quick glass of vino, in one of the (what we discovered later) the more expensive platzas. Oops. We also discovered that in Italy, they give you nibbles such as crisps and bread and then expect you to pay for it even though you didn’t order it. We just thought they were giving us free food. We were loving it. And then we realised. We did wonder why our food bills were more expensive…

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The next day we headed to Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower). We walked around the beautiful cathedral marveling at its height, its design, its general vastness in such an otherwise small city. The exterior is beautiful; covered in intricate designs and elaborate panels, it’s hard not to lose yourselves in its beauty. What I’ve taken from Italy so far, is that everything is so elaborate, so glorious, so momentous. Gorgeous buildings tucked in amongst small, tourist clogged streets, fascinating designs smothering their walls, making even viewing them from the outside an amazing experience even if you do miss out on exploring the inside (In all fairness, I would have loved to explore the inside of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore but after seeing the queue and feeling the heat on our backs, we decided to continue exploring the streets of Florence, basking in the afternoon sunshine and preferably stuffing our faces with gelato. We’re in Italy! If you can’t stuff your face with gelato in Italy, where can you hey?!).

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We decided to head back to Palazzo Vecchio and sat on some steps with said gelato, people watching and shading ourselves from the Italian sunshine. A mime, Grey the Mime , began a performance nearby where we were sat and he was surprisingly good. Not much of a clown/mime fan me, find them a bit odd, but this guy was actually quite funny. That’s about as praising as I can get towards a clown to be honest. I did love however, how whatever language, whatever nationality his  audience were, he managed to make everyone laugh without even speaking, just with his actions. What a clever clown. Slash mime.

After a full day of wandering around Florence, we made a move back to the hostel. Hostel Tasso was one of my favourite hostels that we stayed in over the duration of our three weeks in Europe. It wasn’t the best, there are probably a hundred better hostels but the atmosphere and the laid back nature of this hostel made it relaxing and open to be in (no, it didn’t have anything to do with the really attractive receptionist. At all. Not even a little. Well, okay. I admit, he was nice to look at).

After three weeks of traisping around Europe spending all our hard earned cash on meals out, we decided to stay in and cook in the fully equipped kitchen. The kitchen was amazing, seriously. All clean and sparkly and white washed surfaces, and best of all a disco ball which bounced off the light and danced around the room. Being a rubbish cook but fantastic wine drinker, I sat on the table drinking my glass of vino and relaxed as my friend went about the business of cooking a gorgeous Paleo infused dish which was so delicious I was nearly tempted to start the Paleo diet myself. And then I remembered that I liked cake.
We sat outside, in the hostel courtyard, with another glass of vino, munching on our food and generally loving life. Florence is just so….ahhh….I don’t even know. It’s the kind of place you just don’t want to leave.

10644841_10154638084885602_6473101834181324144_nWe enjoyed an eventful night of drinking lots more vino, meeting some Americans (plus some rather boring Germans. It was okay, they left after a while and party moral was restored) and making our way out (eventually) to one of the platzas for (another) glass of vino. The night did end however, whilst we were chilling back at the hostel, with afore mentioned attractive receptionist managing to drop my friends phone, cracking the screen and nearly making her cry. It was okay, in return, he gave her two bottles of wine. Because you know, two bottles of wine apparently makes up for a smashed up iPhone screen. Ah well, all’s well that ends well. Well, not for the phone. But hey! Free wine!

We awoke the next morning feeling sad and dejected that we were leaving Florence but soon perked up when we realised that in a few short hours we would be in Rome. Rome!



From Venice to….

We weren’t supposed to go to Florence. We had such a simple route planned, it was supposed to be so easy. We were going to leave Ljubljana, stop for a few hours in the beautiful Venice and then head over to Genova, and from Genova we would have a long train trip all the way up to Paris. See? It sounds so simple. We’d even got organised and booked a Megabus back to Cardiff from Paris. We’d even booked our hostel in Genova as well. We were so proud of ourselves for being so organised, and then everything just kind of…went wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. We were so certain that everything was going to run smoothly. But it didn’t. It really, really didn’t. Even writing this is bringing back horrific memories. So this post is dedicated to one day/night. The one horrific trip from Ljubljana to Genova. The one horrific trip which subsequently destroyed our organised route home and forced us to spend yet more money on a plane ticket. But more on that later. Here’s to Genova! (not).

Okay, so it started innocently enough. We found ourselves in Venice train station, ready to explore the water city. We left the train station and were greeted by lots of rain and lots of buildings and not a lot of water. We were confused. We walked up the street, telling ourselves that maybe, if we kept walking, the water and the canals would just magically appear. They didn’t. We resisted the temptation to ask someone where the water was, instead turning to the wonder that is Google Maps, therefore discovering that we were in fact in Venice City, not Venice. That explained a lot.

We finally made it to Venice where it was absolutely tipping it down with rain. I’d been to Venice before and was enthralled by the beautiful canals and the tipsy-topsy buildings but this time, in the rain, it didn’t seem quite so magical. We ate in a restaurant (an extremely expensive restaurant) where we were practically pushed out by the staff once we had finished eating before wandering off to check out the rest of the city. Venice is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it was raining and we are incapable of reading directions correctly so we ended up wandering around random streets and walking over gorgeous bridges until we eventually found our way back to where we started.2014-08-23 18.01.542014-08-23 15.05.08

We’d checked our bags into the luggage cupboard at Venice City train station and had to get them out at 6pm, however our train to Genova was at 10pm. So after making our way back to Venice City train station, we got our bags and set up camp on the train station floor, eating our snacks and reading our books. This was all fine and dandy until we got approached by various creepy old guys who couldn’t take no for an answer when we kindly rejected their incessant offers of “coffee? coffee? come on, coffee?”. Ummmm, no thanks kind sir, we are quite happy here on the floor eating our slices of ham and drinking our water.

Our train finally arrived and we made it to our stop over in Verona where we had to wait 2 hours for our connection train to Genova. “Okay” we thought “we can survive this”.
We set up camp again, this time inside the warmth of the waiting room on the platform (it wasn’t warm at all. It was freezing. Really freezing). We wrapped as many layers around ourselves as we could, set an alarm and attempted to get some sleep. Getting some sleep whilst in a platform waiting room in the middle of the night is extremely difficult, yet we still sprang up at 2.15 with the sudden realisation that our connecting train was in five minutes. We panicked, grabbed all our belongings and ran like the hell to find the departure board. We found it, only to discover that our connecting train was not on the board. It wasn’t anywhere. It was cancelled. We screamed internally and quickly looked up other trains to Genova, and found that there was on at 7.30am. Five hours from now. We cried internally. We headed back to one of the waiting rooms and set up camp for the third time and again attempted to get some sleep. We made it through to 5.30am feeling disgusting, tired, crabby and hungry. We then discovered, upon looking at the departure board, that the 7.30am train was also not running. At this point, we were too exhausted to even cry internally, so we sat back down on some seats and wondered what to do next. Being a fairly big train station, you would have thought that there would be some things open. But apparently not. So we sat there tweedling our thumbs, waiting for the ticket office and for the loos to open. Finally, at around 6am they opened (thanks for that) and whilst I ran off to empty my bladder, my friend headed to the ticket office to get some advice on how we should get to Genova when there seemed to be no trains. After a conversation with a right moody mare of a man who told her that getting to Milan was fine, but from Milan, he wasn’t sure of the trains so we’d have to see, she made the executive decision of crossing Genova off our lists and booked two train tickets to Florence instead. And then finally, finally, after more than 23 hours of waiting around since Ljubljana with very little sleep and very little food, we were seated on a train heading to a destination we knew and we loved. After booking a hostel whilst on the train, we nestled back in our seats and relaxed properly. Of course, on arriving in Florence and walking at least 45 minutes across the city in the streaming sun and with massive backpacks, we discovered that we could not check in to our hostel until 3pm.

That was hard. That nearly put me over the edge.

But after a quick freshen up, quick check in of our bags and a quick drink, we shook ourselves off and went to experience the beautiful city.

More on Firenze in the next post!

Sidenote: okay so I just read this back and it doesn’t sound that bad. But it was, I promise. It really, really was. Moreover, the basic thing we took from this lovely experience, was that we shouldn’t be organised and book things in advance as when we do that, everything goes wrong. Screw organisation, let’s just go with the flow!