I’m back from warm and sunny Italy to cold and rainy Southampton. I’ve been back for two days but I’m still adjusting. I’m wrapped up in my blanket, watching the rain from my window as we speak.
It’s impossible to write just one blog about it due to the sheer volume of pictures, places we’ve seen and things we did, so the first part will be about Florence, part two and maybe three will be on Rome and the last one is dedicated to food.
So, let’s start from 9 days ago, Tuesday, 5th of September. I was packed and ready to get to London after work. I looked forward to it for so long and the work day felt super long, even longer than usual. I finished all the things I could before I was ready to go, although I was sad I didn’t get to say goodbye to my bestie, because a colleague had a query a minute before I had to go.
I had no umbrella or waterproof with me and, yes, it started raining as soon as I walked out the door, on my way to the train station and got soaking wet by the time I reached it. I spent a quiet, relaxing night at a hotel near Gatwick airport, although my taxi driver tried hard to persuade me to go out in Brighton.
I was worried whether my sisters will make it to Rome, so I didn’t sleep much. I got up around 4am and by 10:15am I made it to Rome and finally met my sisters, who flew there a bit earlier, although they nearly missed their flight because they went to the wrong gate, typical!
After a quick bite we went to get our train tickets to Florence. I should have done my research but I didn’t. The cashier at the Trenitalia desk was very rude. He didn’t explain to us that apparently in Italy there are only two main train services: high-speed, which are faster but more expensive and regionale, which have more stops but are cheaper (I only found out about it from a lovely Italian we met on the train later on).
He didn’t even give us the option to choose which train service we wanted to catch. And we had to choose a specific time. So we bought the more expensive but fast one, only because we didn’t know. Although retrospectively, it was the right decision. None of us slept much and we were already very tired. But we were still shocked by the sheer rudeness of the cashier.
On our way to Florence we met Fabio, the lovely Italian I mentioned earlier (we think his name was Fabio, none of us were sure we heard right, if you happen to read it please comment!), an Italian musician, living in London. One of my sisters, Stella fell asleep almost immediately but Fabio, Anna and I chatted the whole way to Florence. We talked about life in the UK, the cultural differences of Italy and Cyprus compared to the UK, music of course, loving what you do for a living vs just having a job and Yoga (he goes to a yoga retreat in India every year for a month, I know right!). He also told us we would love Florence, ‘it is like a walking museum’ he said.
After 2 and a half hours, around 2:30pm we said goodbye to Fabio and reached Firenze Santa Maria Novella, the main train station in Florence. Our hotel, Ottaviani, was pretty close, and fortunately not as bad as some reviews I read the night before made it to be (it was old, the lift was tiny so we decided not to use it at all, we had a proper laugh about the glass sliding bathroom door and the beds were not the comfiest but it was clean and OK for two nights) after checking in and resting for a bit off we went to explore this gorgeous city!
The lovely hotel owner provided us with a map and circled the main attractions for us. I haven’t used a paper map for ages! But I’m amazed how well we managed to use it (minus a couple of arguments!) and saved me a lot of phone data.
We passed by Piazza Santa Maria Novella and Santa Maria Novella basilica, which was the first great basilica in Florence, and headed towards the San Lorenzo market for dinner.
After a delicious meal (more details on the food blog) we wandered around the market. I’ve never seen so many leather bags in my life!
The San Lorenzo indoors market was amazing! The ground floor where the food market is set was closed but the 1st floor gourmet food court was open and oh my we wished we hadn’t just had dinner! Lots of photos to share on my food blog from this market.
After admiring the San Lorenzo church we sat down to Piazza san Marco for a rest.
We then headed to Piazza Del Duomo, the centre of Florence, home of the Florence Cathedral, Il Duomo di Firenze. We were in awe, to say the least!
After a short stop for dessert we walked down towards river Arno, just in time for the sunset. I remembered what Fabio said, Florence is a walking museum! And that’s when I realised I was in love with Florence.
And that was the end of day one.
On our second and last day in Florence, we had breakfast in the sunshine at Piazza del Duomo and then headed to get bus 12 as our BnB owner advised us, to get to Piazzale Michelangelo and admire the panoramic views.
The views from Piazzale Michelangelo were breathtaking!
Before we left we visited the San Salvatore al Monte church, so peaceful and simple but elegant.
We would have explored the area more but we were exhausted so we headed back to the city centre. We missed our stop so the bus took us around the whole city!
We were starving at this point so sat at a restaurant in Piazza della Repubblica, another amazing area in central Florence.
After lunch we headed to Ponte Vecchio, one of the most famous bridges in Florence.
By this time we were knackered. So we rested for a bit at the hotel before going out for dinner, to try the infamous Bistecca alla Fiorentina. After our scrummy dinner we went back to the hotel.
And that’s how our day and Florence adventure ended. The following day we caught the train to Rome.
The city was full of tourists that made it hard to move at times or take better pictures and there were a lot of illegal ‘painting’ and other street sellers, appearing out of nowhere which I didn’t expect. And there were a couple of rude cashiers and waiters, something I’m not used to. But Florence still impressed me more than any other city I visited.
I loved Rome but I fell in love with Florence. And my sisters did too. What a breathtakingly beautiful, amazing place. I feel blessed and grateful I’m lucky enough I got to see and explore it. It’s probably the only place I’ve been I would like to visit again.
Next blog on Rome!