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The traveler: An expected journey This time it's the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden & Norway before England again for several weeks and on to Croatia.

A night in Florence

ITALY | Tuesday, 27 October 2015 | Views [306]

Italy: the country I didn't think I'd be visiting when I left on my trip. I ended up spending 2 weeks there. The first week in Tuscany with my 2 more of my neighbors on a bicycling retreat was the holiday I'd needed from my vacation. In order to arrive on time though I spent just one night between France and Tuscany in the famous city of Florence, or Firenze if you're looking at the train schedule.
I'd seen some of Europe's old, narrow roads by now, but Italy would have to take first place in this category. I found my small hotel easily enough down one of the narrow, cobbled roads only because of my directions. As with several European places I stayed it was located on one floor of an apparently otherwise residential building right next to a mix of shops and other apartments. It had the lovely feel inside of an old Italian house, or at least that's what I thought having never been to Italy before!
I'd arranged to meet 2 of the ladies I'd be spending the next week bicycling with for dinner that evening. In the intervening time though I went for a very short walk down to the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge lined with shops over the almost still water. All of the shops along the bridge seemed to be selling jewelry displayed in glittering windows along the bridge. As the evening fell though thick wooden doors with iron work were pulled shut over them. A band started playing in the center of the Ponte Vecchio where there is a break in the shops. With a little patience I was able to get to the side with a view of the lights on either side of the dark river and a few gondolas still moving slowly down it. It was quite relaxing to lean back in the light amid the music and happy people.

I made my way back to meet the 2 ladies and we dashed off to a restaurant where they'd made reservations. The waiter kindly told us that the menus were in Italian so if we'd tell him what we were interested in he could point us in the right direction. I was content to go along with the other two and so we told them to bring whatever they thought would be a good choice. Over the next hour or two 4 or 5 different dishes to share made their way to our table. Thank goodness the servings were small! Nevertheless after the dips, salad, cheeses, fried vegetables, meats, and wine none of us were interested in dessert. What a unique way to meet two people from the East Coast for the first time: in a bustling restaurant in Florence! I must say it's much more relaxing and enjoyable to eat at a restaurant with other people while listening and talking.

The night was evidently still young as we took the taxi back to the area where we were staying. One of the two ladies pointed out that we could easily walk back if we could find the river to walk along. As none of us knew which direction that might be though we opted not to wander around Florence all night looking for it. You would've thought we were driving on pedestrian only streets the way the people slowly parted to let the car through, except that we'd seen other cars make their slow progress around the streets of Florence before. The patience of the drivers is truly remarkable!

I obviously went to bed and arose much earlier the next morning the late night crowds. With less than 24 hours in Florence I had decided to make the most of it. I found myself out on the calm streets with only dozens of runners with whom to enjoy the fresh morning. At the very helpful advice of my hotel owner I walked along the river before climbing up to the Michelangelo Piazza for an incredible view of the city. As I came closer to the Piazza I saw more people, though the booths in the piazza were still only just setting up. I found one though where I picked out a few things to munch on for breakfast.

Everywhere I've been one of the most inconvenient things is the check out time where I'm staying. It's almost always 10 am. This means I would have only a tiny bit of time in the morning to explore without my bags. Then for the rest of the day, or until my next train or bus, which was typically in the afternoon I was stuck with my big pack; not ideal for seeing museums, or maneuvering in other indoor spaces. So with my pack back on I went for a short walk to see the cathedral, which I'd admired on the skyline from afar just hour earlier. Luckily I wasn't tempted to go inside as it was Sunday morning and open only for mass. The outside of the building was quite impressive on it's own though. By this time the streets were filling up with the other tourists, especially around the Cathedral. Not a bad time to meet up with the ladies and catch the van to Tuscany and the bicycling retreat!

 

I will be adding more photos in the next week when I'm not concerned about using up too much bandwidth.

 

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