This month was an emotional rollercoaster. We arrived really happy after hanging out with friends in Belgium and attending Ayreon concert in the Netherlands together. Then, I spent the first week of our stay in Florence stressing out, panicking and being anxious 24/7 while waiting for the answer from the-Estonia-job-that-fell-through.
And while we were enjoying being back in Italy and eating all the amazing things, there was that underlying sadness that this is indeed the last month of our slow travel adventure.
Our neighbourhood & accommodation
In theory, the apartment and location were ticking all the boxes. We were in a residential area, in a big, good-looking apartment with decent internet, big balcony and dishwasher.
But in reality, we were about 25 minutes bus ride from the old town area, on the outskirts of Florence. “Crazy” bus ride may I add – Italian drivers plus narrow, bumpy roads are a thrilling combination. It was too far for a casual walk (yes, even for me) and rather boring.
We had two supermarkets within walking distance, one cafe, a bakery, one gelato shop and some restaurants, which was nice. Hubby mastered his bakery-Italian during almost daily visits in the bakery across the road and people working at the closer supermarket were recognising us from week 2. Other than that, we didn’t really have much interaction with locals.
Impressions about Florence – likes & dislikes
Who would have thought I’d be struggling with mosquitos in Florence of all places? We didn’t have that problem in Finland, where we expected it to happen. They got me in Italy though. They were big and hungry. Every time I wanted to eat dinner on the balcony I had to use my Finnish-strength repellent. Hubby was fine as long as I was around. Mozzies just love me.
Where’s the greenery?
There aren’t many parks and green spots in the city. There are two big gardens on the south side of the river – Giardino di Boboli and Giardino Bardini – but they cost €10 to enter so you wouldn’t choose them for casual daily walks.
The biggest park in Florence, Parco delle Cascine, is free and even has a Tuesday market. Unfortunately, it was on the opposite side of town from where we were staying (about 1h 30 by multiple buses) so we gave it a pass.
Oh, dear. Florence is seriously overcrowded. I couldn’t stand the Old Town after 10am. If you want to have any pleasure of walking around, enjoying the stunning architecture and not being nagged by tourist-crap-sellers, go early in the morning.
And when I thought the other side of the river, past Ponte Vecchio, would be more quaint I had a major disappointment waiting for me.
It’s hard to find “real” Florence in the sea of useless and ugly souvenirs while trying to squeeze in between large groups that come for a day to tick off another famous town off their list. Also, the way people treat you in the shops/bars/restaurants was way different than in Bologna, where almost everyone was friendly towards tourists.
As a result, every time we visited the Old Town we liked it less and less.
There wasn’t much in the street art department (which makes sense, you wouldn’t slap a mural on a historical building) but for those who look there are things to find. Street signs! Similar to the ones in Madrid but designed by Clet.
Going to two museums – Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’Accademia – was a must for me. I pre-booked my tickets, just like I did in Madrid, wanting to avoid long lines. And while my Uffizi visit was rather smooth, Galleria dell’Accademia was a mess. 40 minutes in line to get the pre-booked ticket, even though it was for a specific time. Then another line to get in with the pre-booked ticket – which I skipped by simply asking the security guard to let me in.
Both museums were full of people, mostly around the famous paintings or sculptures. Although there was one mysterious line to one of the rooms in Uffizi and when I asked people at the end of the line what is there, they had no idea but apparently everyone was lining up so they joined. I decided to walk around and find an explanation, only to discover there was another entrance to the same area – you probably guessed it now, there was no line on the other side.
One thing I found weird, especially after visiting many museums all over Europe is the fact you need to leave your ID when you take the audio guide and that to get it back you need to return the audio guide to the same spot – that involves standing in the same line twice.
There’s absolutely no denying Florence is beautiful. The buildings of the Old Town, the views from various lookouts on the south side, the river that often acts like a mirror, the afternoon light which makes everything glow with golden warmth. I felt inspired and my creativity was flowing. Especially when I was looking at the city from afar where you don’t see the hordes of tourists.
Location, location, location
One thing I couldn’t understand was why the river and buildings alongside it are not better utilised. It would be perfect for cafes, bars, restaurants and rooftop venues. Instead, you get antique shops, gelaterias in which you don’t see any locals, generic sandwich shops catering to tourists and expensive homewares or jewellery shops.
On one of our last days, we were trying to find a rooftop bar. There are a few in some hotels and one in a shopping centre but they either were too busy or closed or charged more than we were willing to spend.
It turned out we didn’t forget all our Italian in the 3 months since we left Bologna. But not everything we learnt was useful in Firenze and we quickly noticed some language differences in the everyday language – sacchetto vs borsa and da asporto vs porta via.
Apparently the pronunciation is different too but we don’t know Italian good enough to determine this.
In September 2019 100 EUR cost us around 161.40 AUD (at the same time, it would be around 109 USD).
How much do groceries cost in Florence? For example:
- 1.5L sparkling water: €0.23 = 0.38 AUD
- 6 eggs: €1.48 = 2.41 AUD
- 1kg of tomatoes: €1.99 = 3.22 AUD
- 200g bocconcini: €1.80 = 2.94 AUD
- butter: €2.65 = 4.28 AUD
- bottle of decent wine from a supermarket: from €2.98 = 4.81 AUD
How much you should expect to pay for:
- one small flat white in a cafe: €3 = 4.89 AUD
- lunch deal in a restaurant for two: €20 = 32.63 AUD
- pizza and a bottle of wine (including coperto cover charge): €30.50 = 51.19 AUD
- A glass of house wine in a restaurant/bar: €4.50 = 7.34 AUD
How much we spent in 4 weeks (2 people)
Accommodation: €1 783.16 = 2 854.38 AUD
Groceries: €377.78 = 614.37 AUD
Eating out (we went out for meals or snacks 21 times): €418.90 = 681.89 AUD
Coffee: = €53.80 = 87.60 AUD
Alcohol: = €395.36 = 643.23 AUD
Transport (public transport only): €27 = 43.92 AUD
Entertainment (cinema, museums, tours etc): €85 = 137.89 AUD
SIM: still on our Hungarian SIMs
Total: €3 141 = 5 063.28 AUD
After this second month in Italy, I’m sure I couldn’t live there. I do love when public transport is reliable and people inform you of changes in plans. Italy makes catching any form of public transport a rather stressful experience and I don’t cope with that too well.
Trains are often delayed. When we were waiting for info about our train, some that were already up on the board had 70 minutes delay. And speaking of boards – Firenze S. M. Novella, the main train station in Florence, displays departure on a board at the very last minute before the departure. Up until 4 minutes till departure time, you wait with a group of people with your head up and eyes fixed on that one spot. Once it shows the number, it’s a mad rush to the platform.
Lack of information is another thing I didn’t like. I booked us on a bus from Pisa Airport to Florence. The instructions vaguely told us where the stop is. It wasn’t marked with a company logo so we weren’t 100% sure if we’re in the right spot. Especially that nobody was there. 20 minutes after planned departure time I went inside the airport to find the company’s office. And there, on the desk, was the tiniest piece of paper with info about my bus – delayed 25 minutes due to an accident on a highway. So I asked the girl working there, why she didn’t come to tell us this. After all, she knew we had the booking. She only rolled her eyes. When the bus finally arrived, the driver closed the door and disappeared. Almost 30 minutes passed until he was back from his cigarette break. One of the fellow passengers (who heard me swearing at the delay and lack of information) smiled and said “welcome to Italy”.
Happened this month
Wine weekends away
We went on two weekends away. One to Cinque Terre for early wedding anniversary celebrations. We had a lot of wine, we walked a lot and I took some photos I’m quite happy with.
Then, a week later, together with Heli and her husband, we went on a wine road trip around Tuscany. We had a lot of wine, we walked a lot and I took some of my favourite photos this year.