Italy: Florence

When I was 17, I was lucky enough to have gone to Italy on a family holiday. We visited Venice and Rome, and I have fond memories of huge slices of pizza, crazy drivers to rival the Vietnamese and waiting in line 3 hours to get inside the Vatican.

I always wanted to go back, and so did Paul, who had been in Italy before Croatia. He’d visited Rome already too, and so we decided to make Florence the next stop. As mentioned in my previous post, we booked a ticket on a ferry (63 Euros) and crossed the Adriatic sea, disembarking at a town called Ancona.

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We only had a few days in Italy, and so we only stayed a night in Ancona. We walked around and checked out the town for a few hours, stopping to indulge in some Italian pasta, of course.

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The next morning we took a 9am bus out to Florence, which is a trip that takes just under five hours. I took the opportunity to get some much needed sleep, but Paul mentioned that the landscape reminded him of New Zealand.

In Florence we checked into what is probably the largest accommodation I’ve stayed at on this trip, a complex called Plus Hostel. It has over 200 rooms with 800 beds, a bar, pool and common room. The food here was excellent too. Would recommend.

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Had to post this photo of this pleb mixing without anything plugged in… tsk tsk, DJ’s these days.

We had two and a half days here in Florence, so there was a lot to see, but first on the agenda was food. This is a country which has no shortage of fantastic food, and on the recommendation of another backpacker, Effy, we visited a local food court, which proved to be a tad more lush than what I’m used to. It was like being in a cheaper version of Ponsonby in Auckland, yet with better food and a third of the cost.

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Florence is well known for its art, architecture and museums, a lot of it displaying catholic influence as you’d expect. While I’m not one for hanging out for hours on end in churches and museums, it is important to check out certain things in certain places and there were a couple of spots I definitely wanted to see. Paul, fresh from a 3 hour wait in the line to the Vatican, was keen as mustard to book tickets ahead and I’m rather glad that we did. If you’re visiting Florence, I’d recommend doing the same, even if it’s just to skip the line to climb up the Duomo, which is always busier than a cucumber in a woman’s prison. It costs 15 Euros online to get tickets to five attractions around the Cathedral of Florence, 3 of which you can reserve entrance times to skip the lines and walk past the hoards of people outside waiting in the 32 degree sun. Do it.

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As mentioned above, the line to go to the top of the Duomo is big for a reason. As well as being a very impressive construction, the view from the top is amazing.

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Thanks to Kim for her recommendation of lunch at this panini joint, which is on the square. It’s like a really upper class subway. The owner takes groups of 6 or so inside at a time, and gives a taste testing of the cheese and meats so you can make an educated decision on what you’d like in your panini. Exquisite.

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When in Italy and it’s 30 degrees, you must consume gelato at least once a day. Minimum.

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Only in Italy can you walk past a random glass window on a random side street and see that the room is filled with nothing other than a mannequin covered in leaves. Art.

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This bridge is also a main tourist spot. It’s lined with jewellers and hawkers as you’d expect, but cool nonetheless.

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We also booked a visit to the Uffizi Gallery, a huge place with a lot of ancient art and statues, some by famous names like Da Vinci. To be honest I didn’t know what I was looking at most of the time but a lot of it was very impressive. There are loads of corridors with restored pieces from hundreds of years ago, and also paintings of things like devils impaling people with tridents.

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After 3 nights in Florence walking, shopping, sightseeing and eating pizzas the size of a house we left Florence to go and visit Pisa. Look out for the upcoming post on that trip and how bizarre that city is!

Thanks for reading!

– Damo

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