Firenze had me feelin' some type of way. Some type of, like, real good way.
When we stepped foot off of the train and into the busy station, I'll admit we weren't all that impressed. No fancy gilding, no ornate 'Welcome to Florence' plaque, not even a lone bench on which we could situate ourselves. I distinctly remember Kelly saying (only half-jokingly), "are we sure we got off at the correct stop? It's just, you know, this is Florence. You'd think it'd be a little more... more."
But, guys, I think that's precisely how Florence stole our hearts in the end – its allure comes from how understated it is. How, despite its flurry of tourists, it feels no need to prove anything, to glamorize itself. Very "take me as I am." It is also home to the friendliest people, generally speaking, that we encountered in Europe. And most importantly, the best gelato.
Our insane digs helped, of course. This Airbnb was our temporary home, and goodness. It was wonderfully earthy, with Pinterest-worthy details and the best location on the quieter bank of the Arno, mere steps away from Piazzale Michelangelo, where you find jaw-dropping views of the city. PLUS, if you lock yourself inside by accident (YES that door up there is the offender in question *side eye*), I can confirm that the host barely laughs at you & is the nicest person ever about Americans making typically dumb mistakes. I refuse to stay anywhere else in Florence on my return trips in the future because trust me, I WILL RETURN.
Much to our delight, the good people of Florence were celebrating San Giovanni Day our first night. Every Italian city has a patron saint and one day every year, they have a big ol' party in honor of him. Lucky for us, we caught the tail end of San Giovanni Day, which ended with the most spectacular fireworks display I have ever seen in my entire life. Disneyland, for shame! New Years Eve, step it up! Fourth of July, psshhhtt!! San Giovanni Day is where it's at.
Extra lucky for us, the best view in all the land was actually right from our kitchen window. I was in silenced awe for a whole thirty minutes. And by 'silenced,' I actually mean whisper-yelling DID YA SEE THAT ONE? WHOA! LOOK! OOOH! ARE YOU LOOKING?!
The rest of our time in Florence was spent rather leisurely. Our itinerary remained quite empty outside of our wine tour (priorities, people!) and so mostly we were found strolling the streets, stopping for a sandwich and a Coke here and there, and admiring the sunshine-hued architecture all around us.
I told you the sight from Piazzale Michelangelo was unreal!
Kelly, exhausted from cruising through Tuscan vineyards all day and most likely wanting some peace after spending two weeks with two 22-year-olds, urged us to go take a walk as the sun set over the river Arno.
Ehm... no... we'd rather rest. Friends of ours will know that Caroline and Cassandra's ideal vacation includes food, TV, and naps. 'A walk' sounded a bit ambitious, know what I mean?
Girls... go find some gelato.
Fair point. Who were we to argue with that?
My best friend and I took our time walking alongside the Arno, discussing our favorite moments on the trip so far, all that's left to come, how crazy is it that we're college graduates, and how we were unbelievably fortunate to be watching the sun disappear playfully over the Ponte Vecchio, lighting up the expanse of the sky in purples and corals and peaches.
This is everything we ever dreamed of.
No wait, that is everything we ever dreamed of.
Naturally, we walked in circles around the Ponte Vecchio, going into markets and liquor stores and asking the employees in broken Italian where we could find their favorite gelateria. They pointed us to La Strega because of its close distance, but let me tell ya. My favorite gelato thus far has been at Gelateria Vivaldi, which was super close to our apartment. Uh-mazing.
Our final half-day in Florence, we had reserved for the more typical sightseeing. We'd visit the Accademia Gallery to see the Statue of David, work our calves in ascending the steps of the Duomo, we had grand plans, y'all!
Grand plans that were completely shattered by lines that wrapped around the block, an estimated two hours before even hitting the entrance. Disappointed, we made the best of it and let our feet lead us to wherever they felt like, which ended up being outdoors statue galleries, small markets, and the Ponte Vecchio of course.
CAN YOU JUST.
This is our host's labrador puppy, Pablo, and he was so hot that he refused to budge even a paw from the shady spot he had found. She whisked him into her arms, into the wicker basket attached to her bike, and called a cheerful, "I'm off to see if he can swim!" as a farewell to us.
Needless to say, we took it easy in Florence. Didn't brave the sea of tourists to see any of the more famous landmarks, didn't do anything too touristy at all in fact. For the most part, we chatted with locals, walked the beautiful streets, partook in lovely traditions. Perhaps this played a part in how Florence became a favorite, if not the favorite, city on the trip.
And what with Cassandra doing the honors in rubbing that boar's nose, it looks like we'll be coming back for David and Duomo and all Da gelato.