19 February 2016

The Charm, the Confusion, the Food That Is Florence

L and I chose to use  AirBnB for our trip. It was the first time either of us had ever done so and there were definitely some pros and cons. Pros: More bang for your buck-in both places we had 2-bedroom apartments to ourselves for a great deal less than a hotel room, let alone two rooms in the center of the city, would have cost us; it's definitely nice to have laundry facilities, a full refrigerator, etc. Cons: We had to take all our things with us between Rome and Florence then back because there was no luggage room like hotels have; we had to make sure to arrange with the owners to meet them at specific times rather than just showing up, and they're a little trickier to find. Which was an issue in Florence.

My suitcase is wider than the door!
Carousel in Republic Square

Our AirBnB in Florence was supposed to only be a 10 minute walk from the train station and it probably was; but I was having trouble matching streets on the map with streets in real life (really Europe, we need to work on posting street signs more regularly). We finally found the correct street but finding the right number was something else entirely. We were looking for number 77 but out of no where the numbers jumped from 50-something to 100-something. We walked back and forth, back and forth, and finally, after passing 125, found 77. What the frack?! We found out that there are two address numbering systems: one for residential addresses and one for businesses. When we finally did find our AirBnB it was like finding a door into Narnia. The little half-door was so narrow we might have missed it even if we hadn't been confused by the numbering. Because the door, even though narrow, opened into immediate, and super steep concrete stairs the door didn't open all the way so we had a hard time getting our suitcases in and had to turn sideways going in and out. While it was just two floors compared to my five the stairs were so steep it was really tricky getting our cases up and down. Totally worth it though. The apartment was gorgeous. Throw in an oven and I'd never have left.

Santa Croce Square
Santa Croce

I was in Florence in 2000 and my main memory was that I did not like it. What a difference some maturity and different company make because I loved Florence. Loved, loved, loved. More than Rome.  I imagine it was less charming when it was a medieval city but now the remaining medieval elements; narrow, winding streets; beautiful, old buildings; squares, etc. all create an atmosphere that's really hard to put into words. I actually felt pretty chic walking around those streets and I am not a chic person.

The famous Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River

As with Rome, one of my favorite activities in Florence was a food tour. I would have loved to do some wine tours, hello Tuscany!, but L can't drink red wine so that really limited our wine touring abilities. In Florence we booked a tour with Urban Adventures through Winerist. Apparently we were the only ones to sign up for the Sunday tour so we had the privilege of a private tour! Our guide Linda was fantastic. Very knowledgeable about Florentine history, the culture, food, and wine. In addition to running the Florence Urban Adventures she is a certified sommelier and took her certificate in Florence. Unfortunately I was too involved in the tour to make note of all our stops. Needless to say they were fantastic. After the tour I dragged L back to one of the stops to pick up some cheese and a jar of truffle honey. TRUFFLE HONEY IS A THING!!! It's a fracking amazing thing too.

It was while on the food tour, through conversations with Linda that I was suddenly struck by an epiphany both surprising and yet stunningly obvious...I should be a sommelier! [insert dumbfounded face] These last couple years of pretending to know what I'm talking about as I review Turkish wines are actually leading to something! I have no idea why hasn't occurred to me before now. I'll stay in Turkey for the next year to finish up some commitments I have here and do lots and lots of research in order to choose a program and town. I'm not going back to the US for this. Right now I'm undecided between Italy and Serbia. If I manage to successfully complete the program I would like to specialize in Balkan/Georgian/Turkish wines (thus the idea to study in Novi Sad, Serbia) but, Italy. Come on. Does anyone know if there are sommelier scholarships?

On the Ponte Vecchio

I loved Florence. As much as I would like to move there for the sommelier program I highly doubt I could afford the cost of living while paying for language schools and tuition and not working. It's such a beautiful city that we visited it twice! Or at least the train station. On the way back to Rome we boarded the train on the right side of the platform which we did not realize was the wrong train until it started moving. Shouldn't they make the announcement about which train you're on before it pulls out of the station? For people who have been traveling as long as L and I have collectively traveled this was a pretty rookie mistake but surely we can't be the only ones ever to have done this?

So many truffles!

So, Florence. We were blown away by the Duomo, charmed by the city, a little drowned in the sea of art that is the Uffizi, in love with the food, and stunned by personal revelations. Before I wanted to be a pirate when I grew up but that is somewhat impractical these days. I think I could be quite happy as a sommelier though!

I hated to leave Italy but if nothing else had to get home to my cat, Sherlock. Before that could happen though I had to figure out how to get my suitcase down to the allowable 20 kilos. When I packed everything I'd bought I was at a staggering 28 kilos! With some repacking that resulted in insanely heavy carry on bags I was good to go. Although the added weight of duty free had me staggering around the airport. It was worth it though...look at all the goodies I brought home! Maybe I would make a good pirate after all!

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