At long last I am able to bring you the second half of the tale of my trip to Italy, because the illustrating photos finally managed to upload after a few weeks, so better get it down before it gets any more patchy in my memory… After a day in Venice (really needed more time there), I caught a train to Florence, propelled along by a highly efficient Italian rail service and some good tunes from Spotify – my Kindle was broken, most likely from over-use 😦
When I got to Florence, two things immediately struck me. Firstly, it was WAY more tourist-dense than I was expecting. I thought I had come during the “off-season”, my primary reason for coming at the time, but apparently I was wrong. This would cast a bit of a shadow over the trip for me, but I was determined to take full advantage of being in such a stunning place.
And the second thing… it was stunning. Coming out of every narrow alleyway (not quite as narrow as Venice) you would happen upon some amazing standing testament to the Renaissance – Florence being the cradle of the Renaissance, it was quite fitting. I didn’t even try to capture how impressive the architecture was there, because I couldn’t do it justice, plus everything was surrounded by hawkers of cheap tourist memorabilia…
Besides taking it all in, on the first full day, in a bid to break the solitude I went on a bike ride with the Tuscany Bike Tours company for the best part of a Sunday. We got a ride from the guys running the tour to the “typical Tuscan countryside”, where we were shown a pre-medieval castle where the regional wine is made. We got to sample said wine in the courtyard before the ride…
After some briefing, we got going, and what a welcome contrast to the throngs of the city it turned out to be. Good company, but just the right amount of it, and the sun came out to say hello, which lent an idyllic touch to the day.
After that, I was on my own again… having seriously underestimated how expensive Italy alone would be, this would rule out further travel for the time being, so I just decided to soak in this quintessentially Italian place.
For a lone vegan, there was a double challenge to finding an eating solution which didn’t just involve snaffling fruit in my hostel room like a squirrel after hibernation, but I was lucky to find a couple of vegan-friendly joints just round the corner from where I was staying. They were VERY busy but if I hung around long enough at least I didn’t starve…
Brac Libreria di Arte Contemporanea
(I don’t do food selfies, sorry. But I’m sure you can imagine what vegan Italian cuisine looks like. So above, here’s the place setting for a cool wee cafe I chanced upon…)
But the thing about Florence, and probably all of Italy, is that its essence is found in being in company. Couples, friends, groups, were everywhere. There were probably the odd lone stragglers but they did a good job blending in. Essentially, the place was made for “amici” and “amore”.
I picked up upon a curious aspect of the city. Not only is it famous for Renaissance art and architecture, but it has something of a modern art scene, in the form of street ornaments and graffiti. There were mosaics dotted around the place like this one,
and something of a guerrilla feel-good campaign going on,
The graffiti was far more prolific in Venice, but that alone would take up a whole essay-size article. The time I spent in Florence was both too much and too little. But I wanted to see Italy (and very clumsily practice the language) and Italy I got to see, and Italy I will definitely be returning to in the future.
I would return Venice for one final evening before flying home, almost broke and still travel-hungry, and make one last bid to fit in with the locals before making a firm point to take up Italian lessons again. I hung my socks out to dry on the balcony,
as the example was perfectly set for me from the beginning: