Ciao Firenze! Our first night in Florence was short and sweet. After a ride on the high speed train from Rome, we reached Hotel Victoria.
Immediately after arriving, we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat dinner at a lovely restaurant. We were served four types of pastas and the best bread sticks I have ever eaten, along with the best balsamic vinegar I have ever tasted. It was so sweet and thick. I am pretty sure I could have eaten just the bread and vinegar and have been content with the meal.
The next morning, we had a great breakfast at our hostel, which included hot chocolate, chocolate-stuffed croissants and some Nutella on the side, among fruits, cheeses and meat. For me, it was a chocolate dream and it made me look forward to each breakfast to come.
After breakfast, we met with a professor that Professor Hillebrand knows, who gave us a tour around his treasured side of Florence. It was interesting because as soon as we met him, he basically disdained the busy side of Florence where “all the tourists stay” and applauded the East side of the bank, which is where he lives. Our walk around Florence with him basically involved many stops at war memorials. It was an interesting perspective I did not expect to see.
After our short tour, we had a free afternoon. All of us decided to shop around at the outdoor markets, where I ended up splurging on a genuine leather bag. We then went our separate ways as we got lost in the shops. A few of us stayed with Jordan, our Bus2Alps guide for the weekend, who showed us around a bit. We of course visited Piazza del Duomo, and then saw the Piazza della Signoria and Piazza della Repubblica, which is famous for its markets and merry-go-round.
We also crossed over the medieval Ponte Vecchio bridge, renowned for the shops built right on top of it and because it was pardoned from destruction by Hitler during WWII. Jordan also showed us an indoor market and brought us to Gelateria Dei Neri, which has the best gelato I have ever tasted in my life. One flavor was pure Nutella, I think. It was heavenly. I also got cookies and cream, which was so rich and creamy. I could have eaten there every day.
Unfortunately, we did not have the time or reservations to visit the big spots, such as the Statue of David in the Galleria dell’Accademia or the Uffizi. Luckily, I have been to both before, so I was not too bitter about missing such great sights.
After our very long stroll through Florence, we had a dinner reservation at Tenuta Torciano Winery. By dinner, I mean a wine tasting with some cheese, bread, balsamic vinegar and oil, and meat thrown in. The man who lead the tasting told us all about the different types of glasses needed and showed us how to observe, smell and taste the wine. It gave me a better appreciation for the wine I was drinking, and I think that made me actually enjoy the taste of it a bit, as well.
A lovely and informational dinner was followed by a walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo, which is a square with a panoramic view of Florence. We missed the sunset, but the view of the city lit up by streetlights and buildings was gorgeous. The place was filled with chattering people, live music and people selling touristy items. We actually met a nice Australian couple, who I talked to about traveling and politics. I could not have been more at ease gazing at one of the most famous cities in Italy while talking to a couple from one of my dream destinations and learning about new views on the world.
We ended the night by going to a very cute bar with some delicious sangria and then Red Garter, a karaoke bar that Jordan recommended. We all had an incredible time at the karaoke bar, singing and dancing with each other. We even made it up on stage to sing “What Dreams Are Made Of,” which is a (very touristy) memory I will cherish forever.