We took the train from Roma to Florence after much mix-up at the station (our train number was wrong even though the arrival times were right).
We arrived in the early afternoon, less exhausted than arriving in Rome by plane. It was beautiful to pass the sunflower fields and grassy countryside and Becca’s first time on the train.
We unloaded our luggage at Plaza Hotel Lucchesie and took a peak out our high, curtained windows. It overlooks a bell tower, rooftops and the Duomo (the tip peeks through). It’s a high quality view and a high quality room, that’s for sure.
Starving, we walked down the street by the Arno River and crossed by the Biblioteca down to Santa Croce square, which is just a few minutes walk. We passed a little lunch snack bar — something we could not find in Rome. It had little refiridgerators with bottles of water and soda, along with a pastry counter. We kept looking further into Santa Croce, past the market stalls with tiny leather purses.
Adjacent to Santa Croce church is a light restaurant with an outdoor seating area under the shading as well as an indoor area with a black interior. The entrance had a coffee bar and a glass display full of pastries that looked like the fancy ones near my apartment in Paris. Further back into the restaurant was a mini sandwich bar. We decided to eat outside on the patio even though it was hot. Fans with mist cooled us as we enjoyed a shaken iced coffee in a martini glass and I ordered pasta with sausage and mushrooms. It was delicious sauce but the penne itself tasted just like anything I could cook at home. Though it may be homemade, I couldn’t taste it. Once again, like in Rome the food was subpar and the staff was unfriendly. We asked for tap water and they only brought one glass (as in one individual’s cup). You have to buy water in Italy.
This was part of the Renaissance Walk in Florence that led us by the Santa Croce church — which has a similar exterior to the Duomo with green striped décor along the white rectangular church. I remember it was very hot outside, like Rome, but still felt cooler.
It was time to return to the hotel to freshen up. Becca and I went up to the rooftop outdoor pool. This was the best part of the four-star hotel: the roof and the view. There was a bar with little tables around. The pool in the center of the roof was two-feet deep, perfect for just lightly hanging out while resting my elbows on the cement border. But the view spanned 360 degrees from the Arno River to the Duomo to the church bells of Santa Croce. All around I could see the red brick rooftops of Florence in the little houses with the big duomo standing above it all. It was my first view and taste of the dome and what a view it was. One of the day’s highlights was cooling off in the pool surrounding by the best view of Florence.
In the evening when it was cooler, we continued our Renaissance Walk up the street from us up Corso dei Tintore which seemed to be the root from which everything we accessed sprouted from. We walked up the medieval streets, awing at the flat buildings that are all a varied shade of beige and brown, in search of dinner (notice how everything revolved around meals). By chance we picked Ristorante Alfredo for no good reason other than it didn’t look very touristy and it was on the way and we assumed everything closer to the Duomo would only get more touristy.
It ended up being the best restaurant out of all in Florence and Rome. I had tagliata pasta with tartufo fresca. The fresh pasta with fresh truffle blew us away. It was on the daily specials menu, handwritten in, and it’s always good to get the special since it’s most fresh and what the chef recommends. The pasta was so obviously handmade with that fresh lightly chewy taste. It was bathed in the perfect amount of buttery sauce with many curls of truffle sprinkled on top. They weren’t chinsy with the truffle, either. The whole dish was phenomenal in flavor, balance and texture.
Though we didn’t get dessert, holding out for gelato later, we could see the table by the bar housing glass dishes full of dessert waiting to be scooped out — que authentica. The waiter was very friendly and patient, too, which was very rare based on our travels in Rome. Already Florence was better than Rome in food and staff.
It was dusk and we made the journey through the streets slightly uphill towards the Ufizi Gallery, Piazza della Signora and Palazzo Vecchio (where the tower is). The atmosphere was very lively with crowds standing around listening to a woman sing opera — specifically a song from “Cats” the musical and she was very good.
We browsed around the outdoor part of the Uffizi in the Piazza that featured many violent statues (we decided we wouldn’t visit Uffizi because the lines would always be too long). I liked the outdoor statues but knew they wouldn’t be originally kept outdoors like this. The Palazzo Vecchio also had statues outside, including a copy of David. The inside courtyard was nice, too, though we didn’t go up the tower.
It’s hard to describe Florence or explain what we did because the best part of the city isn’t “doing” things or “getting things done” but just wandering around the streets, especially at night, and enjoying the vibes. So we sat on the steps of the Palazzo until it got darker, before continuing diagonally down the main drag Via de te’Calzaiuoli. The wide pedestrian street was lit up with fancy shops at night and full of bustling tourists. It reminds me of the Champs Elysee — everything about Florence reminded me of something in Paris. I continually kept thinking how I could see why many of my friends studied abroad there because it had a wonderful nightlife and artistic culture. It was small enough to get acquainted with fast, with lots of vendors, shops, food, people and music. Wonderful first impression.
At the end of Via de te’Calzaiuoli lies the Duomo which is somewhat lit up at night but just as impressive during the day. The décor around the cathedral is stunning with stars painted on night sky, green and gold doorways and marble. Annoying street vendors tried to sell light up and squishy toys, just like Piazza Navona in Rome.
On the way back we went further west to Piazza della Republica, which had a bright and twinkling carousel in the center and a huge beige arch behind it. It was beautiful and I tried to get some long exposure shots but didn’t want to take too much time photographing instead of enjoying.
My friend had recommended Perche No to us for gelato so we stopped at the little shop off of Via de te’Calzaiuoli. I had chocolate sherbet, rose and strawberry. The strawberry was the best as it packed a huge icey flavor. My gelato was indeed very creamy and delicate, but honestly I’m beginning to not be discerning between different Italian gelati – they’re all delicious!
As we walked back through the piazza (which by the way has a giant metallic sea turtle statue), I kept thinking how wonderful the city is. I can picture my friends strolling down the streets during their study abroad; Florence has so much more culture and atmosphere than Rome, which was great mainly for its impressive monuments.