Monday, June 13, 2011

Fire in Firenze

I've just returned from a 3 day mini-stay (or, gita) in Florence where I visited an old friend from college, ogled at old, beautiful things that were admittedly far beyond my ability to appreciate, and inhaled busloads of gelato (one of which cost me an offensive 5 euro). Three days is enough to grab hold of Firenze's facade, but not nearly sufficient to indulge in its interior and underground art. For those looking to become totally submerged by David's bits and bobs, I recommend 5 days.  If you're an art historian and or fanatic, then I just suggest moving there.

Getting there from Milan:
I bought my train ticket in advance through Trenitalia which even boasts a clickable GB flag allowing for the near flawless cyber conversion to ahem, british english. I was surprised to learn that there are in fact over one dozen trains to Florence every day- roughly 30 euro each way for the pitifully slow (3-3.5 hour) steerage vessel or 50 euro for the lightening fast, swarovski encrusted, 2 hour magic bullet. In light of aforementioned abusive gelato habit, I opted to save the 20 euro and go for the scenic route. Purchasing and using my billete through Trenitalia was easy as pie- if you opt to have your ticket emailed to you, you can simply write down your confirmation code on the back of your palm and wave it at the clerk when he stares at you (tapping his foot, waiting for your travel documents while you stare back at him blankly wondering who the hell he is and what the hell he just barked at you in 4speed Italian, until finally realizing he's with them.) I've learned that Italian bureaucracy is approached the same way as Italian lifestyle- leisurely. I was never questioned for ignoring the explicit instructions to print the confirmation email and on the way home, I flashed a smile along with my iphone (articulating a typed, though miniscule confirmation code), which was more than acceptable documentation of my entitlement to be there.

Navigating Florence
GET A MAP. Know which way the river runs (East/West). Use the location of the sun and the location of the river to orient yourself, this is not a joke! Florence is small but convoluted and you'll do yourself a favor if you heed this advice. Stay far away from any gelateria on the river bank as they are commercial, crap, and insultingly expensive. Most of the tourist traps are on the north side as this is where resides the famous Duomo and Giotto's Campanile, but there are some very lovely shops as you traverse south of l'Arno. For the ladies: be advised that although I was never harassed or made uncomfortable, the men were much more brazen with their gazes than what I'm used to in Milan... I've heard this is an exponential trend the further south one roams but have yet to test this hypothesis myself. 

The Jersey Shore
This disgusting, MTV reality program that glorifies much of what is wrong with America happens to be filming in Florence at the moment. YES I saw the camera crews, and YES I scurried off in the opposite direction.

The Sites
I stayed out of all museums and all conventional "must-sees" with the exception of Giotto's Campanile which came highly recommended to me by the locals. It's adjacent to the Duomo, 417 steps to the top (clearly articulating that there is "NO LIFT"), and in my opinion, is far better a final visual than its counterpart as you get to see the Duomo from this angle and without having to wait in a queue). 

Ponte Vecchio- Firenze's oldest standing bridge

the false impression that i'm not engulfed by tourists

l'Arno- your compass

local Tuscan produce

supreme view from Giotto's Campanile

Never too hurried to stop for a cappuccino

1 comment:

The Schumanator said...

What a practical and hilarious guide to Florence! Well done indeed!