Florence is so unbelievably different from Rome, and I’m not sure which I prefer. I think being from a small town Florence is more my style. Although it’s still a city, there is much less hustle and bustle. In Rome there is public transportation everywhere and although there are a lot of cute back roads, there are also a lot of busier main roads. In Florence, however, everything feels like a back road and there is much less public transportation because it is so easy to walk from one side to the other. Much to my surprise, almost everyone I met in Florence spoke at least a little bit of English.
After exploring the city a little we stopped at Gustapizza for lunch, which I highly recommend if you find yourself in Fiorenza.
I spent most of the day in/on the Duomo, which was absolutely amazing from the exterior, architecture, interior design, and paintings on the ceilings, all the way down to the catacombs underneath of the church. But the real attraction was the climb to the top. We climbed 463 stairs (that date back hundreds of years in a small enclosed space to the top) where we got the most spectacular view of the entire city. On the walk up there are spots where the path leads you out of the walls and back into the church where you are basically hovering around the inside of the church, looking down at the entire church – it was the most terrifying part of the climb. There is nothing to hold onto, you simply are on a piece of wood in an enclosed space; the ceiling that we were just admiring from the bottom was now almost within arm’s reach.
We went out to dinner to a restaurant that was recommended to us called “ZaZa’s”, which was absolutely amazing. Then we decided to walk to the bridge (Ponte Vecchio) again to see it at night, which was extremely peaceful. I was surprised by the lack of people on the bridge at night. Looking out at the reflection of the lights on the calm water, lined with beautiful buildings, was serene.
The next morning we met with our group (Bus2alps) at the train station at 6 AM to catch a bus to Cinque Terre (literally means ‘five towns’). We stopped in two towns (the second and fourth) by train on our way up to the beach, and at the fourth town we took a hiking trail to the fifth town, which was a beach town. The hike was about thirty minutes uphill then an hour around the mountain and twenty minutes back down, which was a great experience in itself.
The view was breathtaking and I kept thinking it couldn’t get better, but it kept getting better. When we finally finished our hike we grabbed a drink and went down onto the beach. We spent a couple of minutes on the beach and then decided to swim out to the rocks a couple hundred yards out, where we spent the rest of the day laying, laughing, and enjoying the view.
We spent most of Sunday walking around the Boboli Gardens and the outskirts of Florence, just enjoying the culture and talking to the locals.