May 16 2017
We planned our trip with travel in mind- we weren’t just visiting Italy, we were conquering it. After Siena, we took an early morning bus to Florence. Now, had we listened more to the warnings, we might have decided against Easter in Florence, but, alas, we didn’t. And it wasn’t entirely a crazy experience.
A gentleman informed us that all the Italians from the North flood to the South, and all the Italians from the South flood to the North during Easter break. I found this to be true, as well as a wild amount of people from all over the world. This semi-small, Tuscan town was overwhelmed by the masses. I’ve never seen so many people packed in one place. The lines were incredible, the languages we picked up on varied, and the heat of a hot spring day cloaked it all. But while the many people were a bit frustrating to deal with, Florence made up for. By being beautifully epic.
A friend of mine had studied abroad in Florence, and it was her brain I picked before our journey. Where to go, what to see, and the truth is, there isn’t really a corner of Florence that shouldn’t at least be wandered through. The streets still capture the days they were laid. The wide open spaces flooded with performers, people, hands sticky with gelatto or a sandwich. This city had the feeling of relaxation and time, endless amounts of it, to sit, drink a glass of wine, watch the sun make its way across the sky. And so Elizabeth and I simply wandered and soaked it all in (eating just a few cones of gelatto ourselves.)
Easter morning we tried to get close to watch the explosion of the bull. People pressed from all around to gain another inch closer to the opening of the famous Florence Cathedral. It was… for a claustrophobic gal like myself, interesting. We will use the word interesting.
We couldn’t witness it blow up, but boy did we hear it. The noise was insane, as were the figures that then marched out at its end, dressed in full old school solider regalia from the Renaissance. Overall, a cool experience, though in my opinion the only way to enjoy it is to befriend an Italian with a balcony view above the chaos.
There is so much to see and do in Florence, which doesn’t surprise me as it was at one point the Renaissance spot of Europe. It is still today on of the fashion and artistic capitals of the world. Over the course of two days we wandered through the Galleria dell’Accademia, lined with statues of famous philosophers, artists, and poets throughout history and home to Michelangelo’s David. Sat outside the Florence Cathedral with it’s winding lines of tourists waiting to get in (for hourssss.) Pushed our way through the crowded Ponte Vecchio, gazing at the jewelry shops that line this famous bridge. Once used as a butchers bridge, the blood being washed off and swept into the river, it dates back in existence to the Roman times. It was the only bridge not destroyed during the retreat of the German forces in WWII.
We did the infamous hike across the river and up the steep incline, visiting the old monastery atop it’s peak and taking in the views of Florence sweeping below. The river meandering it’s way, splitting the city in two, the beautiful dome shimmering in the late afternoon sunshine. We picked a shaded place, breaking open a bottle of wine and taking in the views. Worth the climb for sure.
We gorged ourselves on gelatto, as one should always do when in Italy and enjoyed our first Italian pizza of the break. The second day we followed the weaving line to the infamous sandwich shop, All’Antico Vinaio. We got there at 11:30 with long lines already standing in anticipation. Well worth it and an experience in itself to witness the line of people waiting, this sandwich shop offers a variation of panini’s for five euro. Delicious, fast, and easy to wander the streets eating, it was a nice filler for lunch.
That night, my friend Katie and her brother were also visiting. We met up at Il Gatto e la Volpe for an Easter dinner. They offered a cool ‘family dinner’ option. This included four plates of different pastas, a huge anti-pasta to start off, bread, and wine. We gorged ourselves. Because how can you say no to fresh mozzarella and a bottle of wine after a long day of playing tourists, especially when with friends.
We befriended our AirBnB’s cat, who was old and grand company. Her ask of us before she left was that we not kill her cat. Which of course is something we would never aim to do. But I did have a moment of thought, staring at the aged cat, and that perhaps such an ask was a bit out of our control. (Spoiler alert: the cat lived and was perfect for snuggles.) We sat out on the balcony drinking two bottles of wine. We somehow ended up traveling with them from Siena and a bag of peanuts, staring out over the glorious views of Florence.
I always try to make it a point when traveling to take a break. Whether that comes in the form of a nap or a long sit next to running water, or the act of reading away an hour- it’s life-changing after a long day of playing tourist. It’s something I’ve learned along my many journey’s. As well as the art of eating when hungry and sleeping when tired. Just because it doesn’t match up with normal times doesn’t mean you should push yourself. That’s when a journey becomes a nightmare.
With only two days in Florence, and a crowded two days at that, we were hard-pressed to see and do all. But we did, along with some Apéritifs and river walks in between. Apéritifs are when a bar offers a 8 to 10 euro deal that includes a drink and all you can eat bar. Some offer little sandwiches, others salads and the equivalent of pinchos. It was a cool way to fill the belly without spending a ton and the people watching was prime.
Onward to the Amalfi Coast we go.