… to enjoy a 1h36min train ride to Florence. And starving (luckily I am on a LCHF diet so starving is not as bad as if I was on a SAD diet or any carb filled diet) because as we got lost in Bologna train station we did not have time toeat or buy anything to take with us.
Luckily the train takes only 1h36 to Florence. I was all excited because traveling by train is one of my favorite ways of traveling. I like the vibe, the freedom to walk around, and the laid back atmosphere. And the trains in Italy do not disappoint. I bought my ticket in advance and got a great price for a first class ticket, but to be honest, 2nd class is equally fine and comfortable. As my friend is terrible in planning, she bought the ticket at the train station and prices were much higher, so totally worth planning ahead. It’s very easy to buy the ticket online, and the discounts can be as good as 50%. I paid 19 Euros for my one way Bologne – Firenze in 1st class.
Off we went me in the 1st class and her on 2nd, so we were communicating by cell phone during the trip (seriously? Yes LOL).
We arrived at Florence Santa Maria Novella late afternoon and what a relief it was to see how easy it is to move around the station, compared with the nightmare Bologne was. We stopped for a coffee and…YES a gelato, at Venchi inside the train station (well, I found out later that there are many other gelateries in Italy and many much better than Venchi.
From the station we took a taxi to our accommodation (I will write about accommodation in a separate post), and it took us 16 euros for a trip that by bus costs only 2 euros. Well, mistakes first timers make, and that serve as a lesson for future occasions.
Dropped the luggage at the B&B Mariana (Lucca is very helpful and kind), got on the bus and to the historical center we go! It was late in the afternoon but we really wanted to enjoy Florence to the most. The bus ticket costs 2 euros, and you can reuse it for 90min. It’s pricey and our accommodation was far from the historical center, so two trips a day makes it a cost you can avoid by staying in the historical center or surroundings. Stupidly we only found out our Firenze Card covered transport after 3 days, so smart of us isn’t it? Another lesson, and will talk about Firenze Card later.
We decided to exit at Piazza Della Indipendenza (it haunts me, Indipendenza in Bologne and Indipendenza in Florence lol), and walk to the historical center. We walked down Via Montanelli, turned left in Via Guelfa, then Via Panicale and ended up in a piazza, full of street vendors where the Mercatto Centrale is located. The many leather goods for sale and the vendors can be quite overwhelming and after stopping in some of them we decided not to waste time on shopping and walked around, ending in Piazza del San Lorenzo and its magnificent basilica de San Lorenzo, which is one of the largest churches of Florence, and guess what? Where ALL principal members of the Medici family are buried. It was consecrated in the late 300’s and for 300 years it was the Cathedral of Florence.
From there we walked back (duhhh) to Piazza de San Marco, a small piazza, where a 18th century facade of the San Marco church dominates the piazza; The piazza is also home to the Museum of San Marco (we did not go there), a former Dominican convent that was rehabilitated and expanded in the 14th century. Next to the Church there is also de Chiostro di Sant’ Antonino. Still on the same Piazza, in the confluence with Via Ricasole it’s the Academy of Fine Arts.
We were awed by the beautiful architecture and buildings we found along all roads, I mean, each and every single small street is beautiful, from colors to textures, truly beautiful.
Walking down Via Ricasoli suddenly just in front is us, there was the Duomo, the Firenze Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. What a magnificent building that is, no picture can do it justice. It occupies a huge piazza, and the delicacy, intricacy, detail, colours and magnificence of the building makes it truly unforgettable. I wish there was more room between the Duomo and the surrounding buildings to give a clear perspective of its magnificence in a picture. It is surrounded by small streets, buildings, museums, the baptistery, small cafes, restaurants and gelateries such as Don Nino, where you can have an amazing strong, full bodied espresso literally at the feet of the Duomo. Sun was already setting and the vibe of the surroundings, the street artists and music players (someone playing Vivaldi right there in front of the Duomo’s main entrance), the tourists, the smells of fresh baked cakes, pizzas and pastas, the multitude of people and languages were amazing.
After walking around in awe like two children in a chocolate factory, we were starving and tired enough to sit and have a proper meal. We decided to choose a restaurant just in front of the Duomo, Le Botteghe di Donatello. The place has a truly Italian vibe and decoration, good to sit down and relax and enjoy the spectacular view of the Duomo. The food was good but not great, and as in many other restaurants in Italy, the service was not the friendliest. I chose Antipasto and it was a really good selection of cold cuts, and then a petto di pollo alla principessa (chicken breast with ham, asparagus and cream) while my friend had a seafood risotto. They had a good gluten free selection of dishes (something I found impressive in Firenze, many options for gluten free people like us). The prices are not cheap, but hey, the view and it being a totally tourist place makes it expected.
After dinner, we still walked around the Duomo, and then as we were totally drained and tired, we took the bus home, got a nice sleep, and got ready for another day in Florence