I spent my weekend in Florence and Pisa which meant I spent my weekend enjoying good food, good company and a small taste of the Italian way of life.
Per the usual, my weekend started bright and early; 1am Saturday morning I was off to the airport. A few planes, trains and automobiles later I was happy to be in Florence surrounded by the unfamiliar and back in beautiful weather.
This trip was made even more enjoyable by the fact that we had hosts. I stayed with other students studying abroad and they guided me to all the best locations every step of the way.
Their apartment was beautiful, several steps up from my little cookie cutter flat in London. They had big windows with big green shutters, always kept open so the fresh breeze could come through. They even had a terrace; what more could you ask for.
I could have stayed on that terrence enjoying the view forever, but why do that when there is a whole city to experience…
The next two days I ate more crossants, pizza and delicious food than I have in a very long time. Each morning we started our day at a local café, where I never hesitated to order a classic cappuccino and two bakery items that were overly decadent for breakfast.
After some perfectly enjoyable mornings our days led us through Florence’s windy, uneven stone streets past building upon building stacked together. With the brightly painted shutters and classic orange tiled roofs it was impossible to miss the simple yet worn beauty just walking the streets.
Stepping beyond more simplistic beauties, Florence did not disappoint in the impressive church category. Although I didn’t go into either, both the Santa Croce and the Duomo of Florence stopped me dead in my tracks. We walked by both churches time and time again and I never ceased to be amazing by their grandeur.
Going one step beyond the beauty of the churches found in Florence is the beauty of the view from the Piazzale Michelangelo. After ascending up four levels of stairs and hills I had reached the summit.
If the trek to the top doesn’t leave you winded, this view will easily take your breath away. A picture cannot do it justice. From here you can see every rooftop, every orange piece of tile stacked on top of one another, every church steeple all framed perfectly by the mountains in the distance. Standing up there, just taking it all in was the highlight of my trip.
There were several other notable sights – here the number of impressive, historic statues was almost overwhelming. Below are a few of my favorites, but there were about 7 others I could have easily included.
Another landmark that we wandered past was the Ponte Vecchio, the only bridge that survived WWII in Florence. Today it’s lined with expensive, extraordinary jewelry stores that I didn’t dare set foot in, window shopping was enough.
Beyond taking in the history, we took in plenty of gelato, pizza and pasta throughly enjoying all that this part of Italy had to offer. I even experienced a secret bakery…
I was led down a back alley, turn right, then up to the sketchy door – here I was presented with a fresh crossant for 1 Euro. No one can say for sure where or when a secret bakery might open up, but I would say it’s worth the risk of wandering into dark, unfamiliar places. This may be one of the coolest traditions I can imagine a city having, and I felt like a such a rebel (even though I was basically being really touristy).
Sadly, as all trips do, our time came to an end and we headed out of Florence. We then caught a train back to where we began this journey – Pisa.
We were here for one reason and one reason only, for which I am not ashamed. I wanted the classic, touristy, once in a lifetime Leaning Tower of Pisa picture. And I got it. One plate of pasta later and that’s how I ended my time in Italy – with backpack on my back and embracing my role as tourist.