We hit our first rough patch of having a small spending budget, we got lost on the way to the apartment (by walking way past it), it was very, very hot, we were pestered a fair bit in this city by professional-tourist-chasers and this is when the mosquito buffet really got going. All of this added up to a lack of sleep and general disquiet for us. Plus a few places we had wanted to see happened to be closed for maintenance on the days we were visiting.
All of that aside - Florence is truly gorgeous...
When we arrived it was extremely hot, but just more humid than anything which made it very tiring to walk around with backpacks. It was also very busy. To get to our apartment we had to walk through the most tourist congested parts of the city (as first time visitors we really had to go by the mini map straightest route we could find). I'm not one for crowds in general. We'd also tried to do as much as possible in Venice in the morning which meant we were already pretty shattered. Travelling on a budget is OK, and we're so lucky to have been able to go at all, but there are moments on your honeymoon when you are sitting on a bench exhausted, sweat drenched, being bitten and not sure where the hell your apartment is that you just want to go get a nice cold pint at the open air bar 10 metres away - but can't because you're on a tightrope budget. THEN I wished I had a credit card. But we didn't.
So we (finally) made it to the apartment. We had walked past it because the outside looked a bit too grand and Italian street numbers work differently than UK (we jump back and forth with odd numbers on one side with even on the opposite where as Italy just goes all along one side.) Our map only had the touristy bits, not the real bits with street names like you would actually need. Lesson learned re map buying - do not rely on guide book pull out. Our host was very nice and had left us coffee and a bottle of wine. He wasn't as detailed as our Venice host, but Florence is not too complicated (once you know where you are and you're no longer carrying backpacks).
The apartment... well have you seen Suspiria? This is basically what Florence on the whole reminded me of. Less pink, but still. The apartment was more like some other Giallo movies, full of weird art like a Cabinet of curiosities. It was cosy enough, but kind of underground (literally) with some unusual decor choices. Mostly we were sort of on board with it because much like Lydia Deetz, I myself am stange and unusual. But the less sleep I got, the more I was wishing for something a little less stimulating...
A fair bit of time in Florence was dedicated to watching MTV Italy, slapping away mosquitos (so many were getting into the house even with all the windows shut and were apparently undaunted by mosquito repellent, urgh) and hiding from the heat. I don't regret the TV part as I'd never actually heard Macklemore before and now Downtown has benefited both mine and Roys lives immeasurably.
We did make it into the city though and yes we saw the Duomo, and yes you should absolutely check it out. The exterior is breathtaking. We had a nice time wandering about although tourist grifters were hard to shake and always serve to ruin the mood. Our firm, but polite repeated no thanks while walking away did nothing to deter the hard sell, which quickly got more and more aggressive (them, not us). In Glasgow random people talk to you all the time and mostly it's fine. They usually want a high-five (no, really, this happens to Roy all the damn time), or to actually just chat to you and if they do want something like cash if you're polite and say no they'll wish you a good day and leave you alone. Usually they'll tell you straight up and honestly what they want the money for which is easier to engage with. I hate being sold to and lied just because you've sat down on a bench for two seconds. Only very occasionally in the years I've lived here have I had nasty negative experiences. They do happen of course and the city has it's scary grimey moments, but I find Glasgow pretty friendly overall.
The Glasgow chat is NOT how it works in other places. There are exceptions in Glasgow - you need some experience and confidence to handle your drunks at the weekend, but 90% of the time its fine (though you may be delayed and/or bored). Charity collectors are a slightly different kettle of fish. Thing of it is, I know people have a hard time all around the world making a living, but while in Italy we didn't carry any cash unless we were taking some coins to buy pasta from our tiny budget. We didn't have anything to take out of the ATM anyway. And I didn't want to buy anything, not roses, not crap crafts, not banter, nothing. I wanted to be left alone to enjoy the view with my husband.
Probably there are people much better at brushing off strangers being agressive, but it really bothers me. I don't plan to try and reprogramme myself to be tougher and more nonchalant though, I just acknowledge it and go on living my life as who I am.
Enough of the bad mood stuff - a few of our best moments in Florence...
- Roy dancing and cooking in his pants to Downtown - joyful memory for me! I laughed, but with love.
- Seeing the full stretch of the Arno from Piazzale Michaengelo for first time
- The Duomo revealing itself fully when we turned a street corner
- Watching one of the five dvds in the flat 2010's Centurion about the massacre of the 9th legion and going 'oh, doesn't that deadly frozen wasteland (Scotland) look lovely'.
- Taking pictures of the beautful the carousel in Piazza Della Repubblica
Rome's up next!