Awkwardly wheeling my suitcase across the cobblestone alleyways from the train station, it’s immediately obvious that Firenze is very different to Roma. The speed of the superfast Trenitalia train distorts the distance between the two cities as I comfortably made the trip in an hour and a half as the Italian countryside blurred by. Now I’m here and see that a maze of alleyways wind in between ancient Chiese (churches) as colourful yellow, brown and cream apartment buildings look down at you with their quaint shuttered windows.
To me, this is the real Italy. This is how I remember italy from 10 years ago. I use my phone as a GPS to find my hotel – ‘Hotel Della Signora’ but even the GPS gets confused at the multiple possible routes I could take – all valid to my destination. So I improvised and wound my way through the streets, occasionally getting stuck with my suitcase on a larger than normal stone paving the ‘street’ or is it a footpath or a piazza? It’s hard to tell here, until you almost get clipped by a passing Vespa.
I come down an alley and know I need to turn right, however just ahead I get a glimpse of ‘Il Duomo’. The giant dome with its elaborate statues and carvings stands at the end of the street. Obscured by the bending alley and people, it’s still amazing. I don’t take my turn, but instead keep walking. I drag my suitcase a little further in to ‘Piazza del Duomo’. I stand there looking up at it, trying to take it all in. It’s bigger and more impressive than I remember. I snap a quick photo with my phone before taking a breath and turning back towards my hotel. I’m already composing the photos I’m going to take in my mind. Everywhere I turn is a photo opportunity. Every alley, every street, every shop is so quintessentially Italian that it’s simply overwhelming.
Finally I arrive at my hotel and am pleased that the staff do not speak English. Finally a chance to truly practice my Italian without people responding in English. She explains that my room ‘non e ancora pronta’ (is not ready yet) but I can leave my suitcase and return at 2 o’clock. I unload my baggage and head back out to the street, feeling much lighter without my Samsonite that was designed for tilled airport corridors and pavement, not ancient Italian streets.
I make my way immediately back to the Duomo and begin snapping pictures. I’m thankful for my wide-angle lens as there’s just so much to take in.
I’ve only been here not even 24 hours, but already I feel at home. I feel I’m in real Italy. Last night I spent hours sitting on the stairs of the Duomo with my bottle of red wine and plastic cup I bought from the bar opposite and watched the people go by as I stared up at the giant lit up Duomo behind me. I wandered in to local bars, where people sat with their dogs and drank birre. I walked along the river next to the Ponte Vecchio. At night the tired and worn out tourists retreat back to their hotels, leaving the city to recover. It’s then when I find it’s best to wander the sights and take it all in without the madness of ‘tanti turisti’.
Here is a gallery of my first day and night in Firenze! As well as my GPS track of my wanderings!
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