Falling in Love with Italy

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Jul 18, 2012

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Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thursday December 1, 2011

This past weekend Megan and I challenged ourselves to a trip to Italy all by ourselves! We had an overnight train leaving from Vienna at 7:30pm, and had to leave Linz to catch it around 5pm. The Vienna train system is currently under renovation we found out and was a little confusing, but we made it alright and on time. We came into the Wien Meidling station and had to take the subway to get to Westbahnhoff where our Italian train was leaving from. When we were at the platform waiting for the train we could tell we were going to Italy! There were so many Italians and it made us even more excited for the Italian getaway!

I didn't sleep a whole lot on the train which was suprising because usually I fall right to sleep, but I think it was because I was so excited about this trip. Italy has always been one of the top places I've wanted to visit. When we first got on there were three other people in our cabin, but luckily two of them got off at the first stop so we had a little more room. The only other person with us was a middle aged man who turned out to be really nice. He helped us with our big suitcases and we found out later he spoke English so we chatted for a while. We guessed that he was a dad.. He acted "dad-like". Megan and I brought food with us to have "dinner" on the train as well. After a while we started to get tired though and decided to finally lay the seats down to try and get some sleep. I couldn't sleep at all for some reason. I had my sleep mask on too so I couldn't see anything and one time when I rolled over I think I put my foot on the man's leg and didn't realize it until I moved and felt that it hadn't been on the seat.... awkward.... But he didn't say anything, he just scooted over for me. I thought it would be really really weird to have a sleeper cabin with people you don't know, but we got lucky and only had this really nice man with us who didn't make us feel uncomfortable and kept his distance in his seat. I'm really glad we didn't get some creeper. His stop was around midnight and we said, "Auf Wiedersehen!" to him and then tried to sleep some more. After a while though we had some creeper guy who kept walking past our cabin and staring in and it was really uncomfortable. We were wishing our nice "dad" was with us again! Probably the guy was just going to the bathroom or something and maybe not even noticing he was looking in as he walked by, but it was just really weird... especially at night on a train.

I finally fell asleep after a while for a couple hours and then got woken up by the ticket lady and the police who were checking passports. After they left we fell asleep for a while and then got woke up again at about 5am saying we now had to put the seats up because it was no longer a "night train" and other passengers boarding would need the seats. Ugh. However, we didn't have much longer on the train and arrived in Florence at about 6:15. The train ride suprisingly went by really fast even if I didn't sleep much.

As soon as we walked out of the train station the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella was right there in front of us. However, I had all my luggage with me and didn't feel like digging out my camera to take a picture of it. Sadly, I never did get a photo of it because I always had all of my junk with me when we were at the station.

Once we got into Florence we had about two hours to kill before the hotel reception opened at 8:30. Everything in the city was still pretty much closed and the sun was only just coming up. We found one cafe open that we decided to go into and ordered a pastry. However, it didn't take long to eat it and we figured we couldn't stay there without buying more. So, we decided to go ahead and walk to our hotel to see if we'd get lucky and it would be open. Not so much luck. We contemplated for a while on what to do and eventually decided to find another cafe to go to. We walked for about 10 minutes and finally found another cafe. The stereotype of Italian men and them liking to cat-call at the women... Yeah, that's definitely true. I think we got either whistled or hollared at about 5 times on our walk to the cafe and it wasn't even 8am yet.

Once we got to the cafe it was so... Italian. This time we both ordered drinks so we could take up some more time sipping them. The man working was very friendly as well as the other customers in the shop. When people left everyone would say, "Ciao!" and it just had a real "Italian" vibe to it. I found out the Italians were very friendly and willing to help if you needed it and overall very nice people. When we finally killed enough time and decided to leave we went up to the counter to pay and the man didn't even make us pay full price for my cappaccino and Megan's hot chocolate.

After we left we were finally able to get into our hotel after ringing the door bell a few times. It took us a while to figure out where to go because the hotel was in an apartment complex type building and we had to go through a courtyard and everything. After climbing a few flights of stairs with our luggage we finally got to the actual hotel door which we again had to ring the bell to get in. The hotel and our room was nothing special, but the man at the reception was very nice though. After we mapped out all the sights we were going to see we headed out to see the city of Florence!

We began walking around the tiny little streets and went to different "plazas" which are just open areas throughout the city where usually a church, fountain, musuem or something is at. Since it was still cloudy in the morning we decided it would be best to do "inside stuff" and save the outdoors for when it cleared up to have pretty pictures. We got a little distracted on the way with shops, but we first went to the Galleria dell' Accademia where the David statue is held. This is a really popular statue made by Michelangelo of David from David and Goliath, but we weren't allowed to take pictures inside so I can't show it. It was a lot bigger than what I had expected. Suprisingly, the museum wasn't that crowded. I was expecting it to be like the Louvre in Paris was, but it wasn't and I'm glad. Maybe it was because it was early and in the off-season. After we saw the David we walked around looking at other paintings, sculptures, and statues (the originals) from the Renaissance era. We didn't stay too long because neither of us are really into art or museums much and basically just wanted to see the David, so we left after about 45 minutes.

We then walked over to see the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore which is one of the most popular sites to see in Florence and containes the large Duomo as well. It was quite large and had beautiful architecture. We walked around outside of it for a while, and there were artisans' booths set up and all of them were either trying to get you to buy a painting or have a self portrait done of you.

Next to the cathedral we saw another building that was either a Basilica for John the Baptist, or an opera house. I'm still not sure, but, nonetheless, it was still pretty.

After we explored this area for a while we continued down to the Piazza Santa Croce where we found another basilica and outdoor market set up. We walked through the market and each little booth had different items from different countries. I didn't buy anything though because I wanted only to buy Italian items in Italy, not other places. We walked along the river for a while and took some pictures, but it was still a little hazy.

Luckily, Florence was a lot more compact than what I thought and didn't take us too long to walk to all of these places. We are used to the large US cities which take forever to get somewhere, but I'm finding in Europe even if it's a "big" city it's still acutally pretty small, comparatively.

Next we walked over to the Piazza della Signoria where the town hall of Florence (Palazzo Vecchio) is located. Th town hall also includes a museum with a replica of the David statue outside and then other artoworks inside. There was also a fountain and different statues in the area as well. Nearby was the Ponte Vecchio which was our next site to see. After a short five minute walk we were at the famous arched bridge of Florence. It was such a pretty site! There were several bridges across the river in Florence, but this one is special because it's from the Medieval times and still has shops built along it which was common from that time. The shops were our next stop. This area is popular for the gold and silver shops selling jewelry as well as having more art dealers.

By this point we were starting to get hungry and decided to get some lunch so we went back to the Piazza della Signoria where we chose a restaurant. It was right in the plazza center and each of us ordered a pasta dish. Megan got plain spaghetti and I order Penne with peas. I thought mine was pretty good, but Megan said she wasn't impressed with her spaghetti. We had a nice older gentleman as our waiter and he was so sweet. He kept patting us on the back telling us he hoped we enjoyed our stay in Florence. After lunch, since we were in the area where the town hall/museum was, we walked inside for a while and took some photos, but again didn't stay long. We just walked around the outside part of the dome. Afterward, we had one more mission before it turned dark.

We walked back over to where the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore was and bought a ticket to climb to the top of the tower. There were 400 something stairs that were tiny, close together, steep, and had no hand rail. It was quite exhausting getting up them, but it was so worth it once we made it. The view was incredible. We could see the whole city of Florence, and it was at sunset which provided pretty purple skies. We got up there just in time before the sun went down. We took several pictures and then made our journey back down the crazy set of stairs.

By this time it was dark and we headed back to our hostel. We relaxed for a while after our tiring day and then went out to get dinner. Our Italian friend in Linz recommended a pizza place to go to while in Florence, and we decided to go there for dinner. It was only about a 10 minute walk from the hostel and was very good! When we got there it was very crowded and we barely got in so that was a good sign. The pizzas we ordered we amazing!! The pasta we had for lunch weren't anything special, but these pizzas were great. Also, the servers were so friendly and nice as well. After dinner we of course had to make a pit stop for some Italian gelato (which was also very good) and then went back to the hostel to get some sleep before heading to Pisa in the morning!

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