Free city walking tour, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza Michelangelo and Procellino
I stayed for 3 nights in Florence and didn’t want to leave. I wasn’t too enthralled with the central areas (so touristy – I thought London was bad!) but it was easy enough to become familiar with (and Google Maps showing you where you are is a total godsend) everyone was friendly, the vibe was chilled out with a tinge of excitement in the air but it also seemed very safe and I didn’t have any issues walking around with my camera and phone on full display, even later in the evenings. I kept my wits about me though; walked confidently and put on a slight ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ face whilst still being open and friendly. It probably helps that it is so busy and things stay open late so you’re never really alone. I also really liked my hostel, spending two nights in a private room and then a third in a 4-bed female dorm, which had been converted into a 5-bed female dorm when I checked in, which actually was fine as the other girls were very lovely and respectful.
So, what did I do? What did I see?
On the first day I decided to join a free walking tour of the city. Figured I might meet some people, get my bearings of the city and also learn a bit about the history and culture of Florence. I joined a VERY large group of people by Santa Maria Novella Church (aka Basilica di Santa Maria Novella) at 11am where we were split into two more manageable sized groups and were led away by the very informative tour guide, Daniele on the ‘Renaissance’ tour. We were shown where Carlo Collodi, the writer of Pinnochio lived, Michelangelo’s house, Da Vinci’s house and a maker in Piazza di Santa Croce that shows how far under water Florence had been (about 7ft!) in the 1966 flood. There were people from all over the world on the tour and one girl in particular received a special chorus from the group wishing her a happy birthday, which was fun and rather lovely.
After that, I was famished and set out to find Veg & Veg, the place I couldn’t find the night before. I found the food market but circled several times without success. But sheer determination and complete stubborness (and a helpful guide on trip advisor) won the day and finally located it on the first floor. A very tasty burger was consumed very quickly.
Come the evening and a walk to Ponte Vecchio beckoned followed by a ‘trek’ up to Piazza Michelangelo. Luckily I arrived just as the clouds started to thin out allowing the the sun cast a glowing orange over the city’s rooftops and affording a quick photo opportunity. It’s an interesting place, a little touristy but not too bad at this time of day. People were sat on steps just chilling and admiring the view, there was some live music and a beautiful melody from a pianist formed a nice soundtrack to the elegance of the views.
After this I went in search of Brac – libreria di arte contemporanea, a very cool artist’s book shop/cafe/restaurant that serves vegan food and was recommended on HappyCow, but somehow I walked right passed the turning and continued following Google Maps to some unknown point in the centre of Piazza della Signoria, where there was nothing for me to eat! Oops! Not always good to rely on GoogleMaps, better to follow your instincts sometimes! However this did lead to into the path of some more live music, a little jazzy brass band where I stopped to listen for a moment or two. I then stumbled across Il Porcellino, a bronze fountain boar who is believed to provide good luck if you put a coin in his mouth and a return to Florence if you stroke his snout. I didn’t do either (too many people!) but was good to find him anyway.
Still hungry and getting a little tired from all the walking, I decided to head back towards the hostel and eat at a local place I’ve wanted to try as it was recommended for vegan options; Trattoria Enzo & Piero. It’s a 2 minute walk from the hostel so I knew I could roll back with a full tummy straight into bed without worrying about finding my way back! A very warm and helpful service welcomed me in, with good English from the staff and delicious food. I had a very comforting bowl of vegetable and bread soup (and ate the side basket of bread too!) followed by a scrumptious grape tart (generous size) washed down with a glass of Chianti Classico. Was a very nice treat after a day filled with walking, walking, walking…. and there will be more walking tomorrow so I needed to replenish the energy levels!
And here again, I got chatting to one of the restaurant members as I was leaving. Turns out he is the grandson of one of the founders – so nice it has been kept in the family. And again, I was invited out for a drink when he finishes…. Am wondering, is it cos I is dining alone?!
And in case you’re wondering, no I didn’t go back for the drink. But am now wishing I had, as am sure it was very innocent and would have been nice finding out about life for the local, but again, full belly, needed sleep!