Beauty, Renaissance, Culture and Money are all words that spring to mind when envisioning the Italian city of Florence… for most people.
I hated it!
I know I should have been in the majority, swooning over its art and treasures that line every street, very similar to Rome and Venice. I was shocked myself but it really had no positive effect on me at all.
Arriving and locating our hotel down HELL STREET probably didn’t help.
Yes, it was literally named ‘hell’. Which pretty much predetermined the next two days.
The street was more of an alley way, getting narrower the further you went like something from Alice in Wonderland or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the ground floors were home to noisy mechanics garages. The hotel was okay, not the worst room, not the best. Basic. A little grotty but it was spacious, which is a big need after being crammed into hostel rooms full of people, packed train journeys, and hot stuffy hotel rooms. The owner was a pleasant helpful little man.
The first night we ate satisfactory food at a place where we literally pointed to things on the menu as the hostess didn’t speak any English. I had bruschetta, followed by a tomato based pasta. Not the great Italian dish I had hoped for…
Afterwards, we found a lovely little corner bar with odd bright coloured steel tables and chairs. I was immediately attracted to the place as it was mostly open air and it looked busy with everyone sitting outside. We followed suit and ordered a couple of glasses of their Vino Rosso just as the Canadian couple beside our table had done and chatted with them for hours. The lady had exactly the same music taste as me; singers like Otis Reading and Paulo Nutini and their restrained voices. ‘Singing with sorrow’ I think she called it.
All the music talk got us in the mood for a dance. Rosie had picked up a brochure for ‘Space Club’… Which I must admit looked pretty cool with its fish tank bar and after a couple of bright pink cocktails and some funny photos in the teacup style seats we were on our way to having a good night! We had Italians chatting to us, were taken to the VIP area for Prosecco & nibbles and even took part in a tattoo competition…
Drunk, and not able to find Rosie, I settled my bar tab and made my way back to the hotel. I’d assumed Rosie had already left. With not knowing where I was I asked a group of guys where the hotel street was and one kindly walked and pointed it out. Finally! (My feet were tired). But he had other ideas… He followed me down the alley and pinned me up against the wall and tried to kiss me. I screamed, yanked away, and desperately tried to call my friend. Luckily I always keep my phone in my hand when I’m on my own. He answered. I ran.
With me hiding in a door way 2 streets away, he stayed on the phone to me until the guy had finally stopped lingering by the hotel door and I was safe. I was about to let myself into the hotel when Rosie came striding down the street, angry that I haven’t been answering my phone. The last thing I needed. I walked in with Rosie in tail, text my friend to say thank you and went to bed.
I just wanted to leave the city as soon as we could.
Of course there were positives… we saw a string band who were brilliant, I’d found a Botanical Garden on my lone wonders, and generally every where we walked there was proof of the city’s art history… the Ponte di Vecchio (Old Bridge), the Cathedral ‘Santa Maria de Fiore’ with its beautiful Duomo (dome), the busy street markets, the impressive bakery shop displays, the Boar who’s snout you rub to ensure a return to the city, Michelangelo’s David, Palazzo Pitti, more Bacio Gelato, and lots more.
One thing that had a lasting impression on me (other than the shops being lined with Pinocchio which scared the hell out of me) was the view from the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte.
Starting from the Piazza G. Poggi the walk to the top isn’t an easy one but if you go even further, past the panoramic viewpoint of Piazzale Michelangelo designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi, you will find the Church (Basilica di San Miniato al Monte).
Hungover, fed up, and worn out I sipped on my refreshing, and well deserved, cup of Strawberry Granita that I’d purchased from a vendor on the climb…
…and scanned the dreamy Tuscan country side.