Rome and Florence Italy
Monday 21st July 2014
The first thing I felt as I got up was the intense strain in my legs yet again. Despite the pain, I picked myself up and headed into the restaurant for breakfast. I noticed that each day in the restaurant there were always different faces each morning. I must have been the only one staying for the whole week. As I was having my breakfast I was constantly focused on my plans for the day. As I had seen the main sites of Rome, I made the decision to take a trip to Florence. My mind was full of excitement with the thought of being there so I then grabbed my essentials for the train journey and headed to the station. Unfortunately, on the way to the train station, I was caught in the rain whilst wearing only shorts and t-shirt; so I was quite wet by the time I arrived there.
I headed straight to the ticket office and asked for a return ticket to Florence. I had second thoughts when I was told it would cost 96 Euros but I always wanted to go to Florence and I had the money available so I paid and received my tickets. As soon as I got my tickets, I was excited to get going but I soon ran into a problem. In my haste, I was standing at the wrong platform reading my ticket completely wrong and had to get to the right platform within 10 minutes. Thankfully, I managed to get onto the right train with slight help and we set off at 10:35am. I was told that it would take an hour and a half to arrive at the station in Florence and so I plugged my headphones in and listened to my music as I watched the beautiful Italian countryside go by my window. Despite the weather being overcast, it was a magnificent site to witness as I felt so relaxed even whilst sitting with 4 complete strangers. I couldn’t believe how fast we were going too as the trains’ onboard computer showed that the fastest we were going was 155mph. Time had passed and the train slowed down as we arrived into Florence. I soon realised that the weather was a lot worse here than in Rome so as soon as I got off the train and bought a map of the area, I headed into the first shop I could see which sold coats and jackets. Moments later I left the shop with my new red jacket and kindly gave my umbrella to a stranger who needed it more than me and checked out my map of Florence again. I already knew that this city was smaller than Rome as far as locations were concerned and as I turned the first bend in the road, the first location was dead ahead; the one I had always wanted to see; the Duomo. Everything I expected about the look and size of the church was achieved and I was speechless when I stood right next to it.
|Duomo Main Doors|
I could see a large line forming to get into the church so I joined it. It was the most miserable game of conga I had ever been a part of but the line was moving pretty fast and I was soon inside the Duomo.
|Conga Line to enter Duomo|
Yet again I was gobsmacked when I first walked in. Like the Basilica of St Peters, the Duomo had a large dome which was magnificent in its own way. It also had a unique clock above the main entrance which had bizarre roman numerals around it which didn’t make sense to me at all. I could see that I could get to the dome and look down upon the city so I headed out of the church to get to it plus to get away from the jam packed crowd. As I was leaving, there was a Chinese family in front of me taking a picture of their daughter. The difference between them taking a picture than any other family was that their daughter had the full Assassin’s Creed 2 costume on. I couldn’t believe what I saw as I was smiling at the sight of this. I asked them if I could take a picture and so I did. I think I was the only one in the church who understood who she was dressed up as and why (the game was set in Florence).
|Chinese Tourist - Assassins Creed 2 Cosplay|
I exited the building standing right next to the tower alongside the church. At this point I changed my mind about going up to the dome and wanted to go up the bell tower instead. Whilst I was queuing up I could hear the sound of a choir singing right behind me. I turned around and had realised the choir singers were British and were singing whilst lining up to get up the tower. It was nice to hear to relieve the boredom I felt of queuing up until I eventually got into the building.
Just in front of me there was my enemy; the stairs. Without a second thought I climbed and climbed the narrow stone steps with half the time giving way to people coming down the steps which was monotonous. I had sweat pouring down my back but I kept thinking that these stairs were nothing compared to St Peters dome so I kept going until I reached the top. My heart was in my mouth with the views of Florence surrounding me at al sides. Familiar sites of the city were around me such as the Palazzo della Signoria, Palazzo di Medici, Santa Croce and Ponte Vechio. I spent a long time taking in the breathtaking sites of Florence and also gathering my bearings to easily find the main locations before heading back to the bottom.
|View from Bell Tower - South|
|View from Bell Tower - South East|
|View of Duomo from Bell Tower|
|Inside Bell Tower|
After passing the Palazzo di Strozzi, I ended up right next to the Arno River which was completely calm giving off a mirror effect of infamous Ponte Vechio right in front of me. It was a very unique sight to look at with its buildings built onto the bridge. It was a great feeling when I set foot onto the bridge too and to witness all the little shops on it with spectacular views of the Arno River on both sides of the bridge. The shops were jewellery shops, clothes shops, sweet shops and there were a few market stalls selling trinkets too.
|Sweet Shop Window Display|
|Sandwich Shop Window Display|
My next thought came to my mind as to figure out where to go next. I always wanted to see the city at a distance and I was told to head to a place called the Piazzale Michelangelo. I walked by this beautiful looking shop along the way which had an ice cream stand inside and then a thought came to me that I never had an ice cream during my trip to Italy. So I went into the beautiful quaint shop and I picked a tiramisu ice cream and it was the best tasting ice cream I ever had so far. I loved how the flavours just melted in my mouth and I was not happy when I finished the lot.
|Ice Cream Shop Window Display|
|Tiramasu Ice Cream|
While I was having my beautiful ice cream, I tried to find a quick way to the Piazzale but ended up in a different area right next to the Forte di Belvedere. I had to climb down a hill only to climb up the right hill and my legs took a battering because of that. After climbing more stairs trying to keep up with an elderly man and failing, I eventually arrived to the sight of hundreds of people at the Piazzale looking over to the city. It was amazing and felt relieved when I looked onto the beautiful city of Florence hitting me at the fact I was at this marvelous place. The Duomo was the main building that stood out along with the Palazzo della Signoria. I spent a long time admiring the wonderful views at a great angle placing the views in my heart so I wouldn’t forget it. A long while had passed until I decided to head to the Palazzo della Signoria.
|Fiat 500 - Classic Italian Car|
It was quite a long walk from where I was to the Palazzo weaving in and out of streets still focusing on my bearings but finally I arrived with a sense of relief. It felt great standing in front of the marvelous unique building admiring the architecture and the statues surrounding the courtyard.
|Piazza della Signoria|
|Piazza della Signoria|
|Piazza della Signoria|
By this time it was time for something good to eat; so I sat outside a busy restaurant in the square at the front of the Palazzo and I had ordered thinly sliced grilled meat with rocket potatoes and parmesan with a large beer. Along with the balsamic vinegar it tasted magnificent. After I cleansed my plate from the great food on it, I decided to go and see the Santa Croce which was not far from where I was still working my way through the streets and then I soon arrived to the sight of the beautiful marble architecture at the face of the church. The inside of the church was like any other church with its mosaic art and beautiful statues. I wanted to see the courtyard more next to the church but I didn’t want to pay the entrance fee.
Instead I headed back to the Duomo still mesmerised by its shear beauty and then I took a slow walk to the church in the north called the San Marco. The difference with this church than the Santa Croce was that there was a glass casket of a pope who had passed on which was still an interesting site to witness. I passed the Palazzo di Medici which didn’t have much to show on the outside but I assumed there was a lot more wonders within its walls and ended up at San Lorenzo. I sat at its steps for a brief moment and then walked into its courtyard. It was small but pretty to see nonetheless as I sat for a long while resting my tired legs and I couldn’t believe how peaceful it was too. I enjoyed this peace and quiet admiring the beautiful courtyard with an orange tree at its centre and then I looked at the time realising I only had an hour left to spare before I had to return to the station.
|Palazzo Medici Riccardi|
|San Lorenzo Courtyard|
|San Lorenzo Courtyard|
So I spent it by sitting in front of the Duomo admiring its beautiful unique marble work with huge orange roof tiles with not a care with what was going on around me. The peace in my heart ran away when the church bells were chiming loud across the entire city. It was lovely to hear though and this finished off a perfect day in Florence for me. Unfortunately, it was time to head back to the station and as I didn’t want to make the mistake of standing at the wrong platform again, I paid close attention to the board and felt relaxed as I sat at the right platform watching my train pull into the station moment later. I successfully sat in the right seat and I felt great because there was nobody else sitting in my area which meant I had loads of space to stretch my tired legs and relax. I plugged my headphones in yet again and went into my own world. On the return journey the rain was becoming torrential in the distance and I could see a lot of lightning bolts whizzing through the clouds. Luckily enough, we had passed the worst of the weather an hour and a half later finally arriving in Rome.
|Train to Rome|
By this time it was completely dark and I was contemplating on going back to my hotel to end the day but I chose to go to the café I was at last night at the Pantheon. Before I knew it I arrived at the café and I was welcomed by the workers there as a friend. The women who I met last night weren’t there but I had a great chat to one of the waitresses telling her about my day to Florence. I then mentioned to her that I was planning on going to Istanbul soon and she was telling me her story of the time she was there. She shared her food with me too and it was quite delicious as it was Italian brioche with sliced tomatoes on top. It was starting to get really late at this point so I headed back to my hotel constantly thinking about Florence and thinking that I finally been to such a picturesque city and seen the places I wanted to see. The pain in my legs was nothing compared to the soothing comfort in my heart of this beautiful place of Italy.