I can see why so many people have told me that Florence is their favorite city. It is a magical place. The old city is so walkable and manageable in size. The old buildings and particularly the giant wooden doors that line the streets were spellbinding to me. They appeared to hold so many secrets. I was dying to look into each one of them.
The biggest thrill I got was when one gigantic wooden door was left open for some workmen and we were able to walk through to see what lay behind it. A beautiful courtyard lay in front of us with apartments all around. I felt like I was part of their door secret.
Even more impressive was the first night in Florence we walked back to our apartment and heard someone singing opera. Upon investigation we discovered it was coming from diagonally across the street from our apartment where just a couple hours ago there were blank wooden doors. Now the doors were thrown open and inside we saw there was a stunning, beautiful, medieval church. And there were opera singers rehearsing for their daily opera show.
It was phenomenal to witness this And to see the magnificent church. I loved the doors in Florence.
We were thrilled that Rita and Jon and Rian from the UK traveled all the way to Florence to share a couple days with us. (Hint hint to everyone else.)
We had a fantastic time discovering the city together and our days with them were the best days in Florence. Jon had things he wanted to see so we were thrilled to follow someone else's lead and leave the planning to him. It was awesome to see the Duomo.
and the Galileo museum was amazing. The part that stuck with me of that museum was that they had an exhibit of Galileo's finger.
I just can't get over that. WHY????
Jay took this picture with his sunglasses over the camera lens, which gives the rainbow effect below.
Of course the best part is that over the two days with them there were plenty of stops for coffee and beer/wine, and gelato.
We also learned about aperitivo. You buy a drink for about 8-10 euros and then you have a buffet of food to eat. All you can eat. That night I drank and ate too much. The mojito was VERY strong!
When they left, we were on our own again and had to plan our own days. Here’s the thing, we haven’t been doing a great deal of research about what there is to do in the various cities. We are just kind of taking it as it goes. One main thing we are doing is taking free walking tours in each city as they have been fabulous orientations as to what we would like to see and do.
The upside of figuring out as we go along is that we feel surprised and triumphant when we stumble upon something great. We feel jubilant like we just discovered some hidden treasure. The downside of this type of travel is that when we find these things there are a million other people there holding their guidebooks, looking purposeful, as if the only reason they came to this city was to see this particular site. Which makes me feel a little foolish, like why didn't I do this research and then I would have known we should have come here.
During our days in Florence, I felt like maybe I wasn’t optimizing our time and maybe we would be better off having a big plan. I decided to look at a travel guide that had been left in the apartment, but when I read it the words just blurred together. So many churches. So many piazzas. How could you distinguish which would be the ones we should visit? And the descriptions seemed so dry. They just didn’t capture my imagination. So I put the guide down and said let’s just keep on doing what we are doing.
The upside of figuring out as we go along is that we feel surprised and triumphant when we stumble upon something great. We feel jubilant like we just discovered some hidden treasure. The downside of this type of travel is that when we find these things, there are a million other people there holding their guidebooks, looking purposeful, as if the only reason they came to this city was to see this particular site. Which makes me feel a little foolish, like why didn't I do this research and then I would have known we should have come here.
And so, when we stumbled upon the San Lorenzo leather market, which the free tour guide had told us about, we were happy we had found it, as we didn’t pay attention as to where he said it was.
And then when we, just on a whim, walked upstairs in the indoor market, we were astonished to find the Mercato, a beautiful, eclectic, modern food court.
Wow! we said, how did we miss this? It’s awesome. And as we looked around, we saw that we were probably the only tourists to come to Florence and not know about it. It was packed with people wandering around looking for just the right thing to eat among all the gourmet food choices.
And finally, I had read in the guide book that the neighborhood where we were staying had a lot of craftsman and small workshops. It would be fun to walk around and see this. I also read that the Medici Palace, or Pitti Palace was around there but I didn’t really pay attention to where it was. And so after walking about four or five blocks from our apartment, when we saw a HUGE building around the corner, we decided to go see what it was. It was the Pitti Palace or Palazzo Pitti. Jay has become a huge fan of the Medici family so he was excited to see it. “How did we not know about this?” he asked.
"I don’t know," I mumbled.
We spent about three hours in this place. There are about six museums in the building. One of them was a fashion museum, which Jay loved.
Those two round roses on top of each other? That is a dress.
I loved the wording in English that accompanied the different exhibitions. I couldn't stop photographing them as I wanted to share them with you. They are really something. Here is one. Do you understand this language? What are they trying to say?
And on another day we went to see the synagogue.
One night, on the way back to the apartment crossing over the bridge we passed rows and rows of people just standing on the bridge, looking over to where the sun was setting. Well, I thought to myself, I guess this is another thing that I didn’t know about. I guess it's a "thing" that you are supposed to come to this bridge to watch the sunset. Ok. So now I know. So much for not reading the guidebook.
Our apartment: as we were getting ready to go to Florence I checked the Airbnb reservation and noticed that the apartment we had reserved was no longer being listed. I heard an alarm going off in my head. I looked at the reviews, which I hadn’t done since making the reservation many months ago. The reviews were horrible. I was getting a bad feeling about this. I messaged the owner twice and he didn’t write back. So I called him. Oh, yes, he said. No problem, of course the apartment is ready for you. Come on.
We went to his office, just a couple doors down from the apartment. Oh, he said. We only have one more reservation in this apartment and then we are closing down. It is very bad, eh? What complaints do you have?
We looked at each other in confusion. Wait, we said, we haven’t even seen the apartment. How could we have any complaints? Are we the last people staying in this apartment before you are shutting it down? This was not looking good.
It was true. After us, no one was going to be staying in the apartment after we were through with it. Jay was awesome and started joking around with the guy about how bad it was and saying all this stuff that only Jay can say, and the guy was laughing and said this was the best check-in he's ever had. He also said that after tonight, we should stay in touch with him and he'll see if he can find another apartment for us to stay in for the rest of our visit.
It was a bad place. Mostly because it smelled so bad and was so musty. But this was the decoration in the room, which epitomizes exactly how the apartment was:
Anyway, we spent the night there and Rita and Jon, and Rian, who were with us when we checked in felt so sorry for us.
The next day, I called the guy and he said he had a couple choices for us. He showed us the first place. You had to climb up a ladder to a loft that was big enough for a double bed and that was it. And the ceiling was so low that you would not be able to sit up in the bed without hitting your head. We said no.
OK, the guy said, rubbing his hands. I'm going to reserve you in this next apartment because I know you are going to love it.
We moved down that same street a couple doors down. A big door. (Now I was getting excited).
He opened the door and we went through a dark narrow corridor to a metal door. He opened that door. Now we were inside a courtyard of apartments all around, with plants filling the space. "Stop here," he said. I have to make the place ready for you." We all looked at each other, wondering what we were going to see.
"Come on in!" he exclaimed after a few moments.
So we walked in and saw this:
We'll take it, we said.
And we did. It was a fantastic place, so comfortable and a very great representation of being in Florence.
I love Florence!