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Ciao-ing Down in Florence: Alice Not So Much

ITALY | Friday, 22 January 2010 | Views [1439] | Comments [4]

Ciao-ing Down in Florence:

Alice Not So Much

Welcome to Florence!  Or Firenze, as the locals say (This whole having different names for places in different languages needs to change.  It makes trying to find your train while rushing through the station that much more difficult).  Tuscany: home of gelati, Michaelangelo, and us, for three short days.  

So we had just been racing through the Alps on our bullet train, while Alice repeatedly “spewed” in the train’s toilet.  13 hours after we had left for the train station that morning, we FINALLY made it to Florence, we stumbled onto the platform and attempted to translate the Italian signs so that we could leave, but not before one last spew break.  So there we were: in a foreign country, Alice was dying, it was dark, we had no idea where we were, and were being weighed down by our entire lives on our backs.  We set off to find our hostel which we knew was within 900 metres of the train station.  Maybe we should fan out?  We made it ten steps out of the station before Alice made an executive decision, and we hailed one of the 12 taxi cabs idling right next to us.  12 taxis, right next to us, not knowing AT ALL where to go, it was obviously fate.  Best decision ever.  In retrospect, we (Alice) never would have made it to our hostel alive.  

We knew the address of the hostel, so when he asked us (in beautiful but useless to us Italian) where to go, I couldn’t even think of a single word to say, and shoved the back of my hand in his face, where I had previously written the address to remember it.  He chuckled,  nodded, grabbed our bags, we breathed a sigh of relief (I did, Alice actually held back some more spew), and we were on our way.  The next two minutes, which probably should legally have taken ten, were quite exciting!  He knew exactly where to go, and the absolutely most efficient way to get there.  Darting in and out of traffic, screeching around busy roundabouts, and squeezing between buses, nearly hitting several vehicles.  We got there in record time, and alive, and it only cost five bucks, score!  We got into our hostel, and at the time, being drained as we were(me of energy and Alice of several things), did not appreciate how nice our hostel was, except for how nice the beds were. 

That night I explored the hostel a bit, as I couldn’t sleep, having slept all day on the train (Sidenote from Alice: some people get all the luck), and I bought a calling card from the front desk and called my Opa to wish him a happy 82 birthday.  The first attempt to do this didn’t work, and neither did the second, so after walking up and down the stairs to the front desk several times, we got it working, but they asked me to do them a favour as well.  They got me to check that a poster they had translated into English made sense, so I did, and in return, they gave me a free calling card, and a voucher for a free glass of wine.  Only in Italy.  I then finally got my call through to Canada, but the phones were situated RIGHT NEXT TO the dance club, which was going hard for a Monday night, so I couldn’t really hear much on the phone, but could hear plenty of techno.

We slept in the next morning, so as to appease the beasts of Alice’s tummy.  Nothing interesting happened, except for the fact that, O YA, I make my bed in hostels and Alice doesn’t! Recovering from train flu or not, Alice Berents doesn’t make her bed, and Neil Loewen does.  Be proud mom.  I didn’t make a big deal out of it though, you know, not wanting to hurt her feelings and all, so, after taking pictures with our respective beds of course, we went off into the city.  We soon realized that, where Amsterdam had been swarming with bicycles, Florence had traded up to motorcycles and scooters.  Fast ones.  Ones less worried about road rules and/or the lives of oblivious tourists trying to cross roads.  We survived, and continued on our way, fully appreciating the warm Tuscan Sun beating down on us.  The Locals, apparently, were used to milder temps, and were bundled up in parkas and scarves that only allowed the skin around the eyes to be exposed to the outside world.  We were busy removing layers, and taking pictures of the locals, of course, and they were rushing past trying to get to the nearest heat lamp.  We came upon a large piazza, or square (one of several in Florence), and stopped for lunch.  I got the buffet (duh) and Alice tried some ravioli out on her fragile stomach.  The buffet was AUTHENTIC Florentine food, so I had no clue what anything in it was, other than the buns.  I piled my plate high in exotic foods, and finished half of everything, except for what I think was the fourth stomach of a cow, I only finished a quarter of that.  (sidenote from Alice: Neil couldn’t quite “stomach” that! hahaha) (sidenote from Neil: You wanna make stomach jokes Alice? OK) I had to have a bite of unkown buffet food, and then a bite of the bun, because the bun was the only thing my mouth had tasted before, and everything else was a little new.  I did finish everything on Alice’s plate though (except for the three raviolis she finished off [must have a hollow leg]).

We then took off to Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence, which is like a street over the river, as there are permanent shops on either side selling diamonds and expensive jewellery.  It offered wonderful views of the city and the River Arno, where we looked for otters frolicking about, as we had been told to, but to no avail.  Next we headed across the river to the old Medici Residence, the Pitti Palace, and the Boboli Gardens, on the hill behind it.  Upon paying entrance into the gardens, we were confronted with the hill part.  Now, though we may be experts at stairs, we haven’t quite yet conquered hills, and Alice was still ailing from some residual side effects.  We trekked our way on up, and, luckily, we had an excuse to stop so that we could take pictures of the beautiful scene down the hill.  We did this about every ten feet.  It was a pretty steep hill.  At one point, a woman stopped us to ask us for directions (in Italian), and we had a map so we sent her on her way down the hill, proud of ourselves for communicating with a foreigner, or as foreigners, i guess.  We soon discovered that we made a wee mistake in reading the map, as she was now following us back up the hill, so we picked up our pace, so as to avoid an awkward confrontation with a loud, tired, Italian woman.  We made it up the hill and were greeted by a glorious vista overlooking the Medieval city as it unfolded before our awestruck eyes.  We snapped a hundy (sidenote from Alice: I do not condone the use of that word) or two photos, and continued onto the next set of gardens, which were topped by a magnificent fort.  We were aiming for the fort, as we heard it had amazing views, but learned that entering the fort is, still not possible(get it? just like old times? that was Alice’s joke by the way, I offer no support).  In our effort to gain access inside the walls of the fort, we soon found ourselves lost.  This garden map obviously sucked, but it was too late to worry about that, so we decided to follow the cobblestone streets downhill, and eventually we would end up in the river.  

Our plan worked perfectly, and we took several more photos of the river, this time from another angle, before casually stumbling on the Duomo.  This is one of the most amazing cathedrals we have ever seen, with Brunelleschi’s massive dome crowning its top.  We were easily distracted from this, by our first gelati shop, and were soon happily enjoying our frozen Italian delightfulness-in-a-cone.

On the way back to the hostel, in a long alleyway with no one else around, I spotted a living statue (one of those guys painted all gold who doesn’t move) who was on his break, standing around casually having a cigarette, and thought it was one of the funniest things I had ever seen!  I, of course, already had my camera ready, and snapped a shot of him, but couldn’t get a good one so tried again.  The flash was on, so he noticed, and, luckily I was already past him, but he started yelling at me - in English (I guess it was that obvious) - and started to come after me.  I pretended like I either couldn’t hear him or didn’t speak English, and walked away as quickly as I could, gauging by the sound of his voice if he was running after me or not.  I made it out of the alley alive, but a little embarrassed, and caught up with Alice.  I stuck with her for a little while.  

We made it back to the hostel, and caught some Italian supper downstairs.  My ravioli was delicious, as was Alice’s pizza, which I know for a fact, as I ate the majority of that as well.  Poor girl was still unable to eat.  What a shame.

The next day, we took the train to Pisa, but did not see much of the beautiful Tuscan countryside as it was cloudy and raining.  Upon arriving in Pisa we found the map just outside of the train station and located the tower, which was on the other side of town.  After a trek through lots of beautiful Pisian (?) architecture, we learned that Pisa is, in fact, a city.  It was quite the walk, but quite beautiful.  We turned a corner upon reaching the opposite wall of the city, and there it was.  There was the leaning tower of Pisa, just chilling among the buildings.  We took funny pictures with the tower (poked, pushed, leaned on it), as we are rather skilled photographers, and know a few tricks of the trade, and quickly made our presence known as ridiculous tourists.  If I lived in Pisa, I wouldn’t have liked us, all stopping in the middle of roads for pictures, and all.  We returned to the station after a delicious (says Alice) one euro coffee, and some equally delicious two euro gelati.  Have I mentioned how much I love this place?

Upon returning to Florence, we took in a museum, which housed our old mate: David.  This museum was actually quite interesting, with works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michaelangelo, as well as some other Renaissance artists.  The crowning glory of this museum was certainly David though.  I had always thought the David was life-sized, maybe a little smaller even, being the diminutive David, and not Goliath, right? You know? So I had always wondered what the big deal was.  I could sculpt a person, call it Mike, and be world famous too.  But nope.  Dave’s about three times the size of a person, and I think Michaelangelo did a pretty good job.  We give him an A+, because we sat in the room for about ten minutes, staring at a statue of a naked man, which isn’t everyday, at least not for me.  As we left the museum there was a man sitting near the street, drawing caricatures of people.  He asked us in broken English if we wanted one of us.  We declined and made to carry on.  “O, divorce?” He asked us.  We laughed, our “engagement” on top of the Eiffel Tower obviously had not lasted that long! haha

We next weaved our way through the city, all the way up to the Piazzale Michaelangelo, where we saw a majorly oxidized bronze, half-size replica of David, in a parking lot, on top of a hill overlooking the city, just in time for the sunset.  It was cloudy, and we were actually a bit early for sunset, and we were hungry, and kinda tired, and could see our hostel off in the distance, so we headed back towards home.  45 minutes and one gelato later, we made it, and crashed on our beds, after a long, but awesome, day of walking.  

For supper, Alice again attempted food, and I wisely didn’t order anything.  She managed more than a couple bites this time (for the first time in three days) but I was definitely satisfied with my supper.  Alice being sick (and the mandatory two day recovery period) is actually probably worse for ME because I am forced to finish every meal, eat half of every gelato, and other similar tasks.  I am the real victim here.  (No, Alice, you may not side note at this time)

On our final day in Florence,  we went to the Duomo, to climb to the top for some magnificent views of the city.  This seems like all we do: climb things (tall things) to get good views.  We are gonna be ripped.  Climbing this Duomo shouldn’t be too tough we thought, I mean we had already done the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, etcetera.  Turns out, this one is much older than anything we had climbed, so the architects hadn’t worried about fire codes or giving people heart attacks, and I hear people were alot shorter back then.  End of story, the stairwell only got more and more cramped as we climbed, and the stairs were steep and uneven.  We made it to the top though, and the view was unbeatable.  We could see for forever into the distance, as well as the mountains of Tuscany.  The church bells started ringing while we were up there, and it was, “One of those moments where you are standing there and you think to yourself ‘Wow, my life is awesome’” -Alice.  

We now, unfortunately, had to leave Florence behind for Venice, but not before one more gelato,  and at the train station I continued my streak of foreign McDonald’s items and got a Pollo Piccolo or something like that which was really just like the P’tit wrap in France, and a snack wrap in Canada, but they all have a different sauce.  Alice would never have known this, always asking for no sauce, so she thanked me lots for being so wise and enlightening her and being such a good friend through thick and thin. (sidenote from Alice: this never happened.)  

So, we have now arrived in Venice, but haven’t seen any of it yet, so we have nothing to report, but are poised to upload the Florence album at about the same time that this will be uploaded, so I will stop talking in the future tense, because the album is online RIGHT NOW!! Check it out! Or don’t, whatevs. Ok. So, I have trouble with goodbyes slash conclusions, soooooo, I’m gonna go to bed now. mmmmk. This is awkwaaaaard. Night!

Love Neil! and Alice!

Tags: david, duomo, firenze, florence, italy, michaelangelo, neil loewen, pisa, plus florence, the leaning tower of pisa




Being left out sucks.
Miss you!

  Kendra Jae Jan 23, 2010 1:54 PM


Ohh man, just amazing after amazing adventure. Hope Alice is fully recovered now! And props to Neil for managing an awkward goodbye through a blog written thousands of miles away, well done! :)

  Sacha Jan 23, 2010 8:44 PM


Everything look ssooo beautiful there guys! Have fun in Venice!!

  Della Brynn Jan 24, 2010 10:11 AM


haha oh poor neil having to finish alices food.. looks like not much has changed even if you are in a new country :)

  Lindsey Jan 26, 2010 8:02 PM

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