I was actually quite sad to get the train from Venice to Florence; it’s such a shame that we only spent one full day there, and it’s the first place I’ve actually felt a genuine connection with. It does mean, however, that I know where I want to return to in the future, and I can’t wait to further explore there for a good few nights!
After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we found out that we couldn’t check in for a couple of hours as the room wasn’t ready; this was actually relatively good news, as it meant we could investigate the sights we needed to put on our list for tomorrow. Heading towards the “Duomo”, or for those wanting full names, the “Cathedral of St Mary of the Flower”, we wrangled our way through the busiest streets encountered so far, and went to gawp at one of the biggest churches in Italy. It dates back a staggering 581 years, and Jacob and I found it hard to believe they managed to construct such a feat of engineering without the technology available in modern society; the striking exterior is made of polychrome marble panels coloured in green, pink and white, reaching up to the highest point of 114m. It really is a sight to behold.
Just a short walk away is the “Palazzo Vecchio”, the town hall of Florence. There were so many tourists here that we were crammed in like sardines, and chose not to queue in the growing heat as we would have been there for hours. It’s also not very wise to spend too much time in such crowded areas as pickpockets are rife, so I snapped a few photos of the replica of Michelangelo’s David (the original stood here yet was moved to the “Accademia Gallery”) and the impressive marble frontispiece before going to the “Ponte Vecchio”, which is my girlfriend’s favourite place.
It is an incredibly unusual sight; crossing over the Arno river, this medieval bridge still retains the old Italian tradition of having shops built upon it’s path, and although once occupied by butchers (which would have been preferred for today’s budget), there are now around twenty jewellery, antiques, and souvenir shops. Interestingly enough, this is where the term “bankrupt” stems from: when a money-changer could no longer pay his debts, the table which he sold his stock from (called a “banco”) would be broken in two by soldiers (“rotto”). Not having a table to sell from anymore, the merchant would be penniless.
Hunger struck, so we ducked into the nearby “Ristorante a Borghetto”. We didn’t expect much due to the touristy areas usually serving crappy food, but this was surprisingly good. We ordered some bruschetta to start, and whilst Jacob was up for having yet another pizza, I diverged to carbonara, my favourite pasta dish. Although this definitely wasn’t the best I’ve eaten, it wasn’t unpleasant, and we spent an hour or two relaxing with our drinks. The bill for four drinks, a starter and two mains came to EUR. 37.50.
I’d finished my book on the train over to Florence, so it was lucky that we passed by a decent bookstore in the form of “La Feltrinelli Librerie”. It stocks a fair number of authors in English, ranging from fantasy to all-time classics, so there’s something there for everyone. Jacob purchased “A Game of Thrones”, and I got “Catch-22” and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. It was time to head back and recoup some energy, so I spent the next few hours reading/slipping into a coma.
Right. Chicken feet. I am aware they are a delicacy, or at least considered so, in the Eastern side of this world, yet I never thought I’d end up trying them in Italy. Jacob and I had thought a restaurant called “Ina”, which promised asian fusion dishes in abundance, looked good, so we popped in and tried to order. The problem was, every dish that we selected was reportedly out of stock, so out of desperation we pointed to some random thing that said “Chicken leg” and thought nothing of it. Next thing we know, we’re staring into a bamboo cage of boiled chicken legs, with the waiter standing nearby. I made eye contact with Jacob as if to say “I am so very sorry for my mistake” as I picked one up, grimacing at the texture being exactly that of a condom. I cannot tell you how foul it tasted. They laughed at us quite a lot.
Running next door out of equal parts disgust and embarrassment, we went into “Capitale Della Cina”, a Chinese restaurant that had good reviews online. At this point we were starving, so without even looking properly we selected a load of random things, and within minutes they were there (sesame chicken, sweet and sour pork, chicken noodles, and prawn toast). The chicken was footless, which is all I cared about. On a serious note, the prawn toast had a one inch thick layer of prawn on there and were the highlight of the meal, so if you fancy some asian food I’d recommend going there. The whole meal was ginormous and cost EUR. 30 for the both of us, which is a price I’m willing to pay to forget all about the previous incident.
Tomorrow, amongst other things, we’re going to try “the best steak in Florence”, so I’m preparing myself for something spectacular. It’s been a fun afternoon, but it’s just not quite Venice.