[This is a story back when I was doing study abroad in Paris. We took a week trip to Italy, with our second stop being Florence. We stayed a few nights, touring, walking around the pretty spots, checking out a few bars, and taking a nine mile run up a mountain. Two of the folks on the trip, Matthew and Nick, are Italian-Americans with connections to the city. This bit’s somewhat lengthy so I divvied it up into two parts. Again, it’s always fun to note what you thought was important to note. Old writings can be commented upon on their own merit, even separately from the topic at hand. In any case, enjoy!]
Me and Matty one morning both wanted to go for a run and to see Fiorentina’s stadium so we killed two birds with one stone and headed out that way. Probably the most underwhelming stadium I’ve seen for a big club. Italian stadiums seem to be really old in general, and many are fixing up or trying to get new stadiums or have them: Milan, Juve, Roma in particular.
After getting to there, Matty looks up and goes, “wanna go there?” and points to the highest point on this hill. Sure. So we started running up this winding road up the mountain, and we’d eventually reach a spot that overlooked the city. Thinking it was the best we’d find, we’d reluctantly say let’s go a little further, unexpected to find more goodies.
Well a little further each time lead to us getting to the very top of this mountain to a town called Fiesole. All in all, the run was about nine miles. The top was absolutely stunning though, and the little church had this odd collection of East Asian and Egyptian goods in the basement, all quite old. It started raining and getting cold however so we had to head down. My legs were dead tired.
Having gone to the bar last night, we were a bit thirsty by then. At one point on the jog, we came to a fork in the right. Right or left? Right or left? After much deliberation we picked right, went up this hill and discovered a small park. Upset we chose wrong, we nearly turned around; a small stone object caught our attention.
We serendipitously found a public well. My lord the cold water was heaven sent, and I realized that at least in Rome, Florence, and Paris there’s all sorts of really decorative public fountains with potable water. It’s probably a remnant of the old Roman waterworks, but it’s nice having water all over the city. Pretty convenient.
And to end, I’ll rattle off a litany of smaller moments, per usual:
1) Since there are so many tourists, some of the salesmen are quite aggressive. One of their tricks is such: they ask you if you want something, you say no, they ask you to hold it, then they make you pay for it if you grab it. They tried it on us, we said no and then immediately saw another group get screwed by it.
2) There are these very pretty gardens called the Boboli Gardens you can walk through. There’s a Japanese garden, as well as some of the old city walls, and it’s just a really relaxing place to go. Every city needs green space.
3) I was pretty let down my some piss poor graffiti in the city. I really like good graffiti but it seemed like it was just names and tags, no real murals. A lot of Italy had just names and stuff graffitied on, while Paris seems to have more of a culture for it.
4) There’s also a really cool silk market, a vestige of the times when Florence was a crossroads of Europe, and Marco Polo was roaming the Earth. They had all sorts of leather and silk goods in outdoor tents, which weren’t brand name but were all genuine products, supposedly. Right next to this spot were the folks with counterfeit goods on blankets, ready to pack up if the cops came by.
5) We were by the river one night, and it was extremely pretty with the lights all reflecting off, even though (just like Paris) we knew the river water itself is quite dirty and gross. The water level also seemed quite low, as with more than a few rivers I’ve seen. The water levels were definitely higher years ago given the markings on the retaining walls. Anyways we saw a river otter just swimming around in it, probably drinking polluted water.
6) The city is also known for its statues, as Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, and Brunelleschi (so the ninja turtles) all plied their trade. So there’s a few squares just littered with massive marble and bronze statues. One’s really famous called David and it is just a naked biblical figure. So a really popular tourist item is a tight pair of spandex with an Italian flag, and a picture David’s manhood just front and center. Go figure.
7) And lastly, the food. One place we went to was a college type pizza place, but obviously just much more delicious. We got simple margherita pizzas (basil, mozz, and tomatoes) and it was just holy, and they give you their house red wine for dirt cheap. 5 euro for a whole pizza pie and three glasses of wine.
8) We went to this place famous for steak smothered in blueberry sauce, so obviously ordered that. It was an extremely weird mix, but it was salty and sweet, fruity and meaty. Incredible mix. We all got pasta dishes, and the pasta in Italy is way different. Just fresher, al dente perfection. Unbelievable. We don’t need another American student extolling Italian pizza and pasta any further.
9) We also found a panini place that’s super famous. We went for lunch: sorta a bad choice. You wait half an hour for just a sandwich, but it’s absolutely worth it. There are two storefronts but only one has the kitchen, so the one on the left just constantly shuttles fresh bread across the street. The meats, the cheeses, the sauces, the oils, the wine. Really simple on the surface but indescribable. I just got salami, some smoked cheese, a mustard sauce and some mushrooms, and a glass of red wine. Definitely worth the wait and definitely worth following up with Matty’s favorite flavor of gelato: caramel.
After this three day adventure, we hopped on a high speed train and off to Rome we were. The train actually wasn’t too bad. 25 euro, went 180MPH and took only an hour or so. Comfy seats, four chairs facing inward to a table.
This is a two part series on my trip to Florence. If you missed the first part, you can catch up here.
Like what you’re reading on Italy? Check out some other related articles in: The Italy Chronicles!!