It’s early when we get on the train in Rome to go to Florence. We are also hungry and for some reason, regardless of the time of day, I will crave an Amtrak cheeseburger when I board a train. Here’s a secret: If you ever crave an Amtrak cheeseburger you should probably seek help, immediately. A quick nap, rolling hills passing by, and rather quickly we arrive in Florence. Across from the train station we are greeted with a McDonald’s. Interesting is that there are no Starbucks in Italy. With no hesitation or discussion we grab a taxi and travel approximately 500 feet to our hotel. Our hotel is a Best Western that has to be one of the nicest of the chain, located a stones throw from The Duomo, and complete with a rooftop terrace and nightly wine tasting.
It’s early so we leave our luggage and head to The Duomo and we grab a quick breakfast (ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast? Why Not?) and tour the inside of the chapel and do NOT wait in line to climb stairs to the top. Initial impression of Florence: Lots of tourists and lots of children. Around the corner from the Duomo area is a street with several pizzerias, including one named O’ Vesuvio which is where The Jersey Shore gang is currently filming and “working”. This particular day it appeared they were filming. We came to this conclusion from the shaved head security outside and the losers signing release forms in the side alley which could only look more degrading (and regrettable) if the clipboard said Taxi Cab Confessions.
The Piazza della Signoria is where you will find replica statues, including David as well as several museums surrounding the area. We gawk and then go to La Terrazza at La Rinascente, a rooftop terrace overlooking The Duomo and city of Florence. We drink wine and eat pasta and drink a little more wine and then go back and take another look at the statues and then walk through the markets where there is a wild boar. Put a coin in the boar’s mouth, if falls into the grate below you will someday come back to Florence. If not, a man comes out and cuts you with a knife. Actually that is not true; actually I don’t think any of it is true. With more time to kill before our reservation to see David at Museo de Accademia we decide it is time to try this must have Gelato that we see on every corner of this city. We order a small chocolate to share. It doesn’t take long to see why everyone (who isn’t smoking) is eating gelato. Then it happens. The ice cream is messy so Beth reaches in her bag for a “Wet Ones” wipe to clean off the ice cream from her face and hands. Instead she grabs an OFF mosquito repellent wipe (I am allergic to mosquitoes) and wipes her hands and face. Well it doesn’t take long before there is a mild allergic reaction and we are running down the street trying to find a bathroom. After stops at McDonald’s, a pharmacy, and several F bombs we arrive at the museum. Here’s a secret: Don’t wipe your mouth with OFF! Here’s another secret: Get your tickets ahead of time for a reserved time slot, or else you won’t get in. We go in and take pictures of David. Here’s another secret: Pictures are not allowed, but they aren’t really watching that closely. Is David as impressive as heard? It’s pretty close. The features are astounding and there is a presence to this statue that is missing in others. I have yet to rank the art I have seen in my lifetime, but when I do I will definitely put David ahead of the Mona Lisa. Italy 1 France 0.
Lost again, we end up by Ponte Santa Trinita, a bridge built in 1252 that has houses built into the side and shops lining the inside. We cross, drink wine and watch birds land on tables and knock off glasses, crashing to the ground into many shards. Our dinner reservation is at a restaurant called Golden View, given because of the view of the Ponte Santa Trinita and no relation to Golden Showers. It is really a bad name for a great restaurant that pours Prosecco as you wait for you table. We enjoy excellent pasta, chicken, and vegetables along with lots of wine and a waiter who may be a little bit insane. At this point we have realized how to get back to our hotel – follow the giant MARTINI sign – which is easy to remember. After dinner we walk through Piazza della Republlica and drink more Prosecco and then find a small café near our hotel for one more glass of Prosecco. At this point we have cut back the attempts at the language to Gratzie and Prego (Thanks and Your Welcome) except for when drinking, continuing to rape the language, often to laughter. It is late and we have to get up early because we have a car picking us up for wine tasting (SEE TUSCAN ROAD TRIP - CHIANTI REGION), followed by a trip to Pisa (SEE PISA). So we have one more glass of Prosecco.
After our Tuscan road trip and Pisa train rides we are back the next night in Florence walking through Santa Croce Plaza where there is a live concert of rock/pop/opera, and then lost, and then we fine the only Mexican restaurant in Italy (Tijuana), drink Margaritas (almost thought we were getting shut out for not being locals-but was not the case: Italy 2 France 0), and then are lost again (unable to see MARTINI sign) until we find Piazza della Signoria where we have more wine and look out at the statues lining the square.
The next morning there is a trip to the top of the tower next to The Duomo, a big breakfast, shopping in the market place that specializes in leather and souvenirs. Everyone says “Negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate” with the vendors, but I am not a good salesman and we end up paying full price for our little David statues and other junk we will give to people so they can place it in their junk drawers at home. Armed with our now over 130lb of luggage due to increasing souvenir purchases we arrange for a taxi and he drives us 500 feet from our hotel to the train station where we are headed to Venice. Important to note that up to this point I have not seen one ponytail.
David S. Grant is the author of several books. His latest, The Italia Diary: A Travel Narrative with Inspired Fiction is now available. For more information go to http://www.davidsgrant.com. Follow David on Twitter @david_s_grant