Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Break Part 2 of 4: FLORENCE

So my internship started today at Irish Arts Review magazine and it went really well! I'm down for any job that incorporates tea breaks into the normal work day. I may have had a bit too much today, though, I was a bit jittery. Tomorrow, I will pace myself! Now back to spring break...


We left Rome proud of our ability to have three successful and relatively stress free days of sightseeing without encountering any problems. Our morning train ride to Florence was equally carefree and we arrived safely at our cozy little hostel, where we each got our own non-bunked bed!

The man at reception for the hostel was by far the most helpful person we encountered that week. He drew all over our map, pointing out the must-see museums, churches and restaurants. He suggested Mario's for lunch and our stomachs are all forever grateful.

It is a quaint little eatery (but bustling and crowded on the inside) which fits in perfectly with Florence's adorable and charming streets. It's so busy that the guests all share tables, so we were sitting next to an Italian family who gave us reassuring grins when we botched the pronunciations of our lunch orders. We all split a litre of white wine because for 3.50 Euros, it was cheaper than all of us ordering water. Have I mentioned how much I love Italy? Then I ordered a delicious plate of pasta with meat sauce and cheese, and a questionable bowl of vegetable soup. It was more pasty than soupy, so this marked the only time during the whole week that I did not clean my plate.

We got directions from the Mario's owner to a bakery with good cannolis and we were on our way to find it when we stumbled upon the leather market. Stands lined the street, selling leather EVERYTHING, pashmina scarves and glass jewelry.

Colleen, Molly and I started out by buying leather bracelets for one Euro each. Then we each picked out a scarf (3 for 12 Euro!) and I started talking to leather jacket salesmen for fun.

Me: How much for this jacket?
Them: Well, I usually charge 350 Euro, but I will give you 60% off for a student discount. Oh, you have such pretty eyes! 60 percent off just for you!

I passed a few stands like this one, slightly just curious and slightly dying to buy a genuine Italian leather jacket. I was just blown away by how soft they were! I gave in to one salesman and tried on quite a few before I found The One. After talking down the price a lot, I was able to score it for 100 Euro. Not too shabby for a chocolate brown leather jacket from Florence.

Here's Colleen, me and Molly with our purchases:

After shopping around for a while, we finally made our way to the cannoli shop. It was delicious, of course. They even added little gummy bears to the cream filling.

I must say though, that the cannolis from Mike's Pastry in the North End in Boston are totally on this level. I'm excited that I will be able to get little tastes of really delicious Italian pastries when I'm back home.

Florence is pretty compact, so we kept stumbling upon landmarks, which relieved us of some map reading stress. We walked down one street and the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore stood in front of us. It's known as the Duomo for its huge dome, which of course we paid to climb. The architecture is so impressive and the inside, surprise surprise, is just as intricate and elaborate.

A measly 463 steps later and we reached the top.

The wind was whipping and stinging our cheeks, but the view....oh the view...

Being outside in the cold all day put us dangerously close to what Colleen dubbed "the crank point" when we all get a little grouchy and tense, so we headed back to the hostel for some naps. But not before I grabbed a hot sugar waffle from a street vendor.

We went out that night to meet up with Molly's friend Giacomo, who is studying in Florence. We spent the night talking to a group of football fanatics in town to see a match, though their first language was German, second Italian and third English. The conversation was riveting, as I'm sure you can imagine. One of them told Colleen he liked her shoes. Five minutes later, he said it to me. Clearly, this line must have been successful at one point as he never learned a better one. But hey, my shoes were pretty cute, so maybe he just had good taste. Nevertheless, it was fun to have two conversations pretty independent of each other. Colleen and I had quite the laughs.


We awoke to snow flurries, so we bundled up and headed out to brave the freezing cold. It was like a winter day in Boston and we didn't exactly pack for that, so we all had on several cardigans to try to keep warm. Colleen, Molly and I headed out towards the river. On the way, we walked by an Italian man selling scarves, who yelled to us, "Hey, you dropped something!" Naturally, we all turned around to see what we dropped, and when we couldn't find anything, he said, "My phone number!" Oh, Italian men. They're quite forward and it was pretty funny.

We walked through several squares with statues, as it's not an uncommon sight. My favorite was one where the woman was being a total diva as she got a manicure.

We made it to the Ponte Veccheo bridge, which Colleen's grandfather had seen during World War II, so she was excited to take pictures to show him.

We then climbed up the first free stairs we had seen in a while to the Piazzale de Michaelangelo, which was a place to overlook the whole city. Colleen was so excited about the free steps that she decided to run, leaving Molly and I in the dust.

It was spectacular at the top, but it was also so cold, I could barely take pictures. We tried to use self timer, but the wind blew my camera right over and down a flight of stone steps. No worries, she's a trooper.

Heading back into the city, we crossed over a bridge where we saw a bunch of padlocks connected to each other. Couples come, sign the locks, lock them to the bridge and then throw the key into the water.

The next stop was for food. I know, shocker! Molly and I got pizzettes, which are tiny pizzas on flaky, croissant-like bread.

We then met Caroline and Tara at the Uffizi Museum, the oldest museum in the world, and home to the Birth of Venus painting. We waited for over an hour outside in line, but made friends with some mothers and grandmothers from Kentucky, who were so excited to chat with us and learn all about our studies and travels. They even took our picture to show their grandkids.

We were all teetering on the edge of the crank point after walking around the museum for a while, so, naturally, we got more food. Giacomo introduced us to a deli, Salumeria Verdi, with 3 Euro sandwiches. I got roast beef, fresh mozzarella, pesto, roasted peppers and roasted eggplant. Oh, and a bag of Teenagers. Tasty.

And because that wasn't enough food, a vanilla and dark chocolate gelato was in order.

For our last stop of the day, we headed to the Piazza del Bella Arti to see Michaelangelo's David. He was so much larger in person than I expected. I was only able to get one picture before the guard told me to put away my camera, unfortunately. I wish I could have shown you the crowd that gathered behind him to, well, check out his behind. It's hard as a rock.

We called it a night really early in order to be rested for our 3:45 a.m. cab to our 4:41 a.m. train to Venice. Oh, what a day that was...

Check back tomorrow!

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