Travel Tips Part 19: Florence, Italy.

Anyone who’s ever spent time in Florence has had nothing but great stories of this beautiful town, so you’re excited to stay a couple of nights to explore. You arrive in the late morning, find your hostel, and are greeted by the lovely Jonathon – the owner of Dany House. He greets you with kisses and watered-down Tuscan wine – a fantastic way to start the next leg of your trip. After showing you places to go on the map, you put your gear in your rooms before setting off in search for a decent tattoo shop. Mik has a specific design she’s wanted to get for a while, and Florence has a good rep for tattoo artists. You find an address online, and with your trusty map you start hunting. Along the way towards the river, you’re blown away by the old architecture, the balconies and the smells emitting from the bakeries and cafes. Everything just looks so…Italian! (Funny that).

Following a rough guide, you end up in a plaza holding one of the most beautiful cathedrals you’ve ever seen – you have no idea what it’s called or when it was built…or even if it is a cathedral, but you take a few pics anyhow. After buying yet more gelato, you continue down the cobbled streets till you get to the river – the view over the river is of course beautiful, giving you a perfect view of the market bridge. You walk across the market bridge where expensive gold and silver jewellery are on sale – tempting your already tight wallet. After a couple of kilometres of yet more walking (gotta balance the ice cream intake), you finally find the street with the tattoo parlour on it – the number of the parlour is 299 and you’ve started on number 20. You walk for 2 more kilometres, find number 299 and discover…nothing. The tattoo shop doesn’t exist. You ask directions from some friendly Italians, who having no idea what you’re saying; point you somewhere down the street. Still finding no tattoo parlour, you decide to give up and begin the incredibly long journey back. When you eventually get back to the hostel, you take a shower, buy some noodles and get chatting to the group of girls in your dorm. After chatting for a few hours, you head to bed at 1am and sleep in till 11 the next morning.

That afternoon once you’ve sorted yourself out, you decide to visit the statue of David – why not, eh? You find the small museum in the centre of town, pay 6 Euros and ignore all the other art until you find the statue of David. The statue reaches to about 8 ft tall, and is so beautiful to see the icon in real-life. You sit for a good 10 minutes just looking at the mesmerising statue; you find it hard to believe that Michelangelo carved this beauty out of a block of hard marble. The curves are smooth and spotless, and David himself is so real-looking that you almost expect him to get up and start walking out the door. You decide to be a bit naughty and take a couple of stealth photos, even though you can hear other tourists being told off for doing so – “NO PHOTO!” Afterwards, you have lunch in yet another dingy café, before heading off in search for the castle on top of the hill showing a beautiful panoramic of the city. The climb is in no way as exhausting as Bologna’s castle, however, your legs and lungs are seriously aching when you reach the top – you light a cigarette and figure this is the reason why you’re struggling with a simple walk.

The view from the top is easily one of the best views you’ve seen yet, putting it at number 2 just after Bergen in Norway. You take a thousand photos, buy a 5 Euro scarf from a stall, then begin to walk back towards the river. You walk into the centre of town and visit the famous museum housing Botticelli and Da Vinci (to name a few). At the start of the art tour, you run into Grace – the lovely girl you met in your dorm last night. You walk around the rest of the large building together, stopping to gaze at statues and old paintings of a bloody Christ. (i)

(i)                  Seriously…so…boring.

Eventually you find the foreign painters section which turns out to be much more interesting than the rest of everything you’ve seen, but you’re disappointed to find that the Da Vinci section is undergoing renovation – so you’re unable to visit it. You walk back to the hostel and meet another traveling American in your dorm. You decide to all go out to dinner together to a small restaurant recommended by Jonathon. You order yourself a bowl of cheese and pear gnocchi (ii)

(ii)                Or “neochi” as Grace would say.

and dig into the best dish you’ve had so far on your trip. The small potato dumplings are drizzled in a light cheese sauce, with softened pears peppered in between. The gnocchi tastes like a desert dish, with everyone at the table sampling bites of your much-envied pasta. After a yet another smoke, you order panacotta which you kind of regret considering how much you’ve already eaten. You all waddle back to your hostel where you and the other girls rug up to Clueless. You stay up for a while updating your blog (check it out!) before falling into a peaceful slumber. The next morning starts just the same: breakfast, cigarette, shower, cigarette, and then more trains.

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