I have just realized (thanks to some readers. Oh God, is there anything more embarrassing?) that posting 40-plus high-resolution photos along with 2,000 words isn’t the most sensible way to go about this.
In my defense, I see it happen everyday on many other blogs and websites but what totally slipped my mind was that theirs are professional and set up with high-speed internet and all that jazz while mine is the product of…the third world (sorry, I’m acutely aware that I overuse this one but I can’t help it because it’s the cold damn truth.) For that reason, I will divide the travel’s posts into two or three parts (depending on how photo-oriented they’re) from now on so they load faster for every party involved. If there’s any recurring technical glitch, please please kindly let me know. I’m doing my utmost to improve my blog every single day.
One lesson I have learned from traveling on my own is that having a tentative plan or itinerary at hands is incredibly helpful, especially when I only have a limited number of days in a city that has a plethora of things to see and do. I’m in complete control of my schedule yet don’t have to forgo that element of surprise and spontaneity throughout my trip. Case in point: I created a tentative plan for Florence (and every other city as well) but was very flexible in terms of when each activity would happen, except for perpetually being in a military state of mind which included bed late, early rise and walking (’til you’re) dead.
The second day in Florence started off in the best possible way with glorious sunshine and light breeze. Almost instinctively, I skimmed through my papers to see which would warrant 200% corporation from the weather. A ha! Climbing to the top of the Duomo.
Normally, once we decided what we would do on a particular day, we would be out of the doors in like 5 minutes. I already raved about the location of the hotel HERE, so we took our time munching croissants, sipping espresso and ogling on runners’ toned legs. (No no no, the last part was a complete white lie. I ain’t no pervert.) After all of that, we walked literally 1 minute, no more no less to the Duomo.
Here is an important little tip for y’all: The line to go inside the Duomo is different from the line to climb up to the Cupola, with the latter being on the other side, not on the front and usually quite short. The fee is 7 or 8 euros and the number of stairs is more or less the same as that at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. C’mon, we all need to kick-start our day with a bit of cardio. I promise you will be rewarded with some marvelously spectacular views of Florence and the Tuscany region. Here’s the proof:
While Rome is eclectic in colors and patterns, Florence is all about consistency. The city’s main color palette is a mix between yellow and orange. When you see it from a vantage point this high, you basically can’t do much other than mumbling “wow, wow, wow” to yourself and with your travel companion. Oh and snapping pictures like a mad man. That was exactly what I did when I was up there.
You could also see Basilica of Santa Croce from here. Florence is a very compact and walkable city. Everything is within walking distances, which I absolutely love.
The way down and the way up. If you don’t want to climb the Cupola of the Duomo, there is another very nice option. Which is climbing the top of Giotto’s Campanile (otherwise known as the Bell Tower). You will get the same breath-taking panoramic view of Florence, and you would also catch me red-handed taking photos of you huffing and puffing on the top of Giotto’s Campanile from the top of the Duomo. Just kidding. I’m positive the view will be equally astounding especially that you can look at the red brick dome of the Duomo in all its glory.
When we got back to the ground safely, it was almost noon. (It was absurd how late we set off on the second day and how much time we spent circling the Dome and taking 20 photos of the exact same view.) Before lunch, we had to solve a life and death issue, which was to purchase a new reliable pair of walking shoes for my sister. Otherwise, her legs would just break down after 5 days of sashay-ing on the Italian notorious cobblestone streets. Believe me, they look all charming and lovely and romantic and sexy and walkable from your computer’s screen, but in reality only cause you hellish discomfort. Bring along your Nike’s, Adidas, New Balance or whatever it’s that you use on the treadmill or when working out.
We shopped at the familiar Foot Locker on Borgo San Lorenzo, and then lunched at Il Grande Nuti right across the street. Our second day in Florence must have been a bad food day or something because both lunch and dinner (which you will hear about in part two) were extremely mediocre. I’m under the impression that Il Grande Nuti exists mainly for tourists with not a lot of gastronomical curiosity and enthusiasm. We ordered a set, which included Bolognese pasta and chicken with kale and salad. Both dishes were as unmemorable as they could be, so I will spare you the boring details.
All in all, I don’t recommend if you’re looking for a special culinary experience. After lunch and with a new pair of Nike’s firmly on her feet, my sister was able to march on again like a trooper that she had been from the beginning. In the afternoon, we headed to the other side of Arno River to explore the much-hyped Oltrarno neighborhood, which boasts interesting historical and cultural heritage, pretty residential buildings, vibrant cafes and restaurants among others. Who wouldn’t get stimulated reading such an inviting tidbit, right?
I was obviously no exception, but I was more than thrilled about the fact that it’s much less visited and offers a more authentic Florentine vibe. A few highlights in Oltrarno are the church Santo Spirito di Firenze, Palazzo Pitti, Piazzale Michelangelo just to name a few. We visited Santo Spirito church, people-watched at Palazzo Pitti, and wandered aimlessly around. As for Piazzale Michelangelo, stay tuned for one of my most…(insert something here) moments in Florence.
On the way to Oltrarno. It’s really, really hilarious how I always whine about the atrocious number of motorbikes here in the third world (if any of you my beloved readers has ever been to Vietnam, you know that motorbikes are the main mode of transportation here). But when in Florence, I kept gushing how chic they are. In Vietnam, those models are in the upper echelon of the market and thus cost an arm and a leg. I guess they aren’t cheap in Italy either, but their convenience and mobility far outweigh their prices.
This is a very convincing proof of how I can assimilate seamlessly into Italian culture; I don’t know how to drive yet but can ride motorbikes and bicycles and use public transportation. Sending love to my American readers.
Again, I forgot to note down the name of this gelato shop. But it’s located on your right-hand side of the street right after you finish walking Ponte Santa Trinita. I remember seeing an award sign on its door, and a host of people were licking their gelato outside. You won’t and shouldn’t miss this place. It’s a true delight. The exterior of Santo Spirito church is more austere and modern than that of any church we saw previously. The same can be said about its interior. After I took this photo, the guard informed me that no photo is allowed. No more shot of Santo Spirito church, unfortunately. I promise I’ll make it up to y’all. I have something pretty extraordinary in store. Here starts my visual take on the nooks and crannies of Oltrarno. Some sections such as Palazzo Pitti and Ponte Vecchio are surely more crowded, but make sure that you stray away from those and stroll streets around Piazza San Spirito and further, it might be deserted and thus more authentic and pleasant. Enjoy and I’ll be right back with a unique story about artistry and craftmanship in part two!