[Editor’s Note: I was too stupified by our flight and overwhelmed by the city to write in Florence. I recapped this on the ride to Naples.]
Our first day in Florence was a travel day, meaning that we had been up since 5 a.m. the day prior. We arrived at noon, so that means we were up for how many hours? I took football math in college (along with my well-retained French) so I have no idea. Anyway, we got a taxi to our apartment, then headed out to explore the city and avoid the post-flight day-wasting crash.
Florence defied our expectations, in both positive and negative ways. First, our apartment. From the pictures on the internet, we were expecting a tiny terrace, if at all. Instead we got, amazing views, vine covered trellises, red brick pavers, window boxes and planters filled with color.
It was definitely our oasis in the middle of chaos. I say chaos because that’s how it felt. Imagine the frantic pace and drive of the New York Streets — combine that with the condensed feel of Charleston & New Orleans, then up the ante by throwing in a foreign language (or 12) and thousands of Euroteens on holiday. Oh, and add Vespas, careening cars, and cyclists. Let’s just say that Florence should not be described as peaceful. That being said, it was not without it’s merits — and major ones at that.
First and foremost — the Duomo.
It’s absolutely incredible in person. Stepping out of our doorway was like arriving at the bottom of a canyon, with walls made of four story palazzos. But peering down the canyon, where you’d expect to see a bright splinter of blue sky, instead looms the Duomo in all its red-tiled glory. Seriously, that sucker is HUGE! We’d be meandering down side streets, turn a corner, and WHAM! There’d be the Duomo, rising in front of us like some theatrical parody of the moon. I totally gasped every time I saw it. I will never forget that.
If I recall correctly, our first foray into Florence involved stopping at a supermarket to buy some snacks. Hello language barrier. My altercation at the deli counter was a perfect Squirrel storm of communication dysfunction. The language barrier and metric system combined in a magnificent clusterfuck that resulted in me leaving with well over a pound of mystery cheese. At least it turned out to taste good. We retreated back to the terrace to enjoy our spoils, which included a $3 bottle of Prosecco (WORD!), foccacia, Sicilian tomatoes and some meats.
Needless to say a nap was on the horizon. I think we slept for 2 hours then got up to find dinner. We tried in vain to find a restaurant recommended by our apartment guy, Emanuelle, but we were unsuccessful. Finally, hungry and tired we parked ourselves at a street-side ristorante to eat.
I can’t recall the menu but I do remember ordering mussels. Not sure what kind of Ambien-haze I was in thinking that mussels would be good in land-locked Florence but they were wretched. David ordered best, his lasagna was delicious. I panic-ordered risotto with porcini mushrooms — delicious — cooked absolutely perfectly, but lacking in punch and texture. Not awful, just not awe inspiring. I chalked it up to panic and jet-lag. After dinner we made our way to the Duomo, which was awe inspiring, especially at night with its red roof muted but fantastically up-lit. I’ll say this about the Italians, there may be poop in the street and chaos around every corner but they do know how to up-light a church.
Nighttime wine and Peroni on the terrace, then off to bed with our windows open to the terrace and the sounds of the night. Make that cacophony of the night. We forgot about the Irish pub downstairs. Cobblestone streets + stone buildings = megaphone. Fortunately we were so tired it hardly mattered.