Florence 2nd – 4th Feb

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My last morning in Rome I spent by the Trevi fountain – it really was the place I loved the most in Rome – it just made it feel like I was in Rome so much!  I had a cappuccino (yes it was ok to in the morning) and then made my way to the train station to catch my train to Florence.  I had a little drama in getting to my train as they announced the platform number only 10 mins before it had to depart.  The only problem was that the passageway to get to it was extremely complicated and the stairs to platform 3 were blocked and there was only a sign in Italian which I couldn’t read.  Feeling a little anxious that I would miss my train and with no one else around I started panicking before running up to another platform and seeing a small walkway which linked to platform 3.  Got there just as the guard was calling for final passengers and when he saw me he waited and let me on – a very close call indeed!!  The train ride was very pretty and I got into Florence in the afternoon.  My hotel was really close to the train station so I dropped off my luggage and then found the visitors centre where I got a map.  I walked into the centre of town along a typical city street with shops on either side but after going around a slight bend in the street I found myself in an enormous open plaza where I seriously stopped in my tracks and laughed out loud to myself ‘wow!!!’  For before me was the Bell Tower, Baptistery and Cathedral in the Piazza de Duomo.  It was breathtaking – so ornately decorated and big and just in the middle of a street of shops!!  I walked around in awe of them and then sat down in a café overlooking them and wrote some postcards.   Had another delicious Italian meal of Pesto gnocchi for dinner at a lovely little restaurant   I then did some researching of things to see in Florence.  Went to bed but couldn’t really sleep – I had bought a book earlier that day so I stayed up reading til quite late.

Day two in Florence started with the included breakfast at my hotel – a different experience but nice. There was such a change in the weather – a really chilly day – I wore all my layers but still my face was so cold all day!  I had planned to go on a walking tour in the morning so went to the meeting spot but no one ever turned up for it so I went to the info centre and bought a self-guided book and walked around myself.  Went in the big Cathedral in the piazza and looked inside, walked around the baptistery and read all about the bronze doors with panelling of New Testament stories.  Then I went to the Duomo and paid 8 euros to climb to the top.  It was a long climb – but half way up we walked around half of the dome at the base of the decorated level which was so cool as it gave a brilliant view of the painted mural depicting heaven and hell.  From the ground level when I looked up at the dome I through ‘what pretty paintings’ but when I was at eye level with it I thought ‘how horrible and gross’ (as part of it showed people getting eaten and burnt!)  Continued walking up the spiral staircase – the walls were covered in graffiti despite the numerous signs saying not to write on the walls.  The view from the top was simply amazing and totally worth the 463 step climb as I got a 360 degree view of Florence and the surrounding mountains area.  The houses were all terracotta with flat roofs and there were scattered among them big cathedrals, domes and other towers.  It was so cool to see how big Florence was and how the city merged into the mountains.  I stayed up there for about 20 mins just enjoying the view – I was there to hear the bells chime at noon.

I then walked to San Lorenzo Piazza where there was another Basilica church and some outdoor markets.  After browsing for a little bit I walked up to yet another piazza (they are everywhere!) where I waited for the number 7 bus to Fiesole.  The trip took about 20 mins and it was such an enjoyable ride – the views were so beautiful as it left the city and went up in the mountains.  It was quite a windy road and Fiesole was the last stop at the very top.  It was even colder in Fiesole which was a tiny village and so windy.  Got recommended a place that had a pretty view to have lunch at which was a short walk up San Francesco street where I encountered lots of snow and magnificent views!!  It was an amazing view back over Florence as I was really was so high up!  I could see some of the churches and domes from the morning but they were so tiny now.  The place the lady recommended was shut so after gazing at the view for a while walked back down and found a small cosy place that was open with a fireplace.  Although the menu was in Italian I recognised the word ‘Risotto’ so went with that and it turned out to be a delicious brown rice, spinach and red wine risotto.  Had a walk around the other side of the tiny town before my bus came back – past the cathedral with a strange looking tower, an old roman theatre (which sadly was closed) and along a road which gave views of the opposite direction to Florence – vineyards and villas nestled in the mountains all white with snow.  Took some photos although my face was so frozen it was hard to smile!  Caught the bus back down and walked back into the centre of Florence.  I found an awesome stationary shop and bought some pretty Florentine paper (looking back now I wish I had bought more!) and then because it was still light (even though I was absolutely freezing) I went down to the river and saw the Ponte Vecchio – a bridge that was built up with shops and buildings on it.  Was very cool walking along it (all the shops were jewellery shops and expensive looking ones) as it looked just like a street of shops but from the side you could see that it was a bridge over a river!  Then I went back to my room and had a hot chocolate and snuggled up in bed with my book.    I had such an amazing time in Florence – definitely in my list of top ten favourite places, I wish that I had longer to explore. (I guess I will just have to go back again in the future!!)

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