Europe, Italy

Back to Florence, Italy

Back in 2015 I traveled alone for the first time. I spent an entire month backpacking Italy, and Florence had been on my bucket list my entire life. I fell madly in love with this magic city, so by the time I had to leave I made the promise I would be back to Florence one day. Never really thought I would be able to go back so soon, but after a year I was back in Florence and ready to eat all the pasta and gelato and feel like an Italian again.

After making a dream come true by exploring the Cinque Terre, I caught a train from Pisa. I didn’t know it then, but I was about to get my ass kicked by Florence. As soon as I arrive in Florence the sky got dark and it started raining like I hadn’t seen in a while. Another one of those signs remembering me I had packed all the wrong clothes this time, and I was bound to feel cold and wet during my entire month in Europe. The rain didn’t stop and after 15 minutes walking under it, I got to my hostel soaking wet. Dear Florence, thank you so much for the wet ‘welcome back’.

As soon as the weather cleared, I grabbed my camera and almost ran to the city center. When I reached the Duomo I felt overwhelmed with the amount of people in the streets. I had never seen anything like this before. There were thousands of people in the streets, selfie sticks all over the place, tourists in groups of fifty. I almost got an umbrella in my eye! I passed by a strike with police all over the square, and I even had a lady almost ripping my bag out of my back in a tiny pizza place. I’m a short girl, so crowds really aren’t my thing because they make me feel invisible.

I tried to ran away from all those people by getting myself in narrow streets, but it was useless. People were EVERYWHERE! I was freaking out, so I decided that my only goal of that afternoon would be to find cheap and amazing pizza slices. How hard could it be? I’m in Florence! Well, something happened since my last visit, because every single place that I found had pizza slices for 4€ or more. What?? The hunger eventually beat my patience to search, so I ended up getting a huge pepperoni pizza slice right next to the Duomo, forgetting about the money and paying those expensive 4€. If you ever get a pepperoni pizza in Italy, make sure you have some water with you, or you will turn into a dragon with all that spice! I had to run inside and buy a water as my entire mouth was on fire! Oh Italy, I’ve missed you with all my heart!

On my second morning I woke up determined. I paid the ridiculous 5€ to have breakfast at the hostel at 7am, and I was out before 8am to explore. I was confident that since it was early I could avoid the crowds and actually have some quality time exploring Florence. Oh boy, was I wrong! Early in the morning, with the birds still waking up, there were already groups of tourists packing the streets around the Duomo, and it didn’t take long for me to have some kind of plan to avoid the mess. The amount of people in Florence at the time of my visit was starting to piss me off!

With plan A down the toilet, I took plan B out of my sleeve: pass by all the main sites without spending too much time there and avoid going crazy, follow narrow streets, get lost, find ‘La Carraia‘ for the best gelato and pizzeria Totò for the best pizza, make my way up to Piazzale Michelangelo for the best view over the city and head back to the hostel.

The best way to run away from the crowds, usually all between the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio, is to follow the river and cross it from one of the other three bridges that usually don’t have many people. Everyone is so eager to take a photo on Ponte Vecchio that they forget you can actually take amazing photos of the bridge itself if you’re not standing on it. My first stop was that gelato I was going nuts to eat and I just didn’t seem to be able to. When I finally found La Carraia, it was closed and it would still be about two hours to open. No matter how many plans I came up with, things never went as I expect. ‘I’ll come back later’ – I said to myself. I never did!

As you may all know by now, I get lost, like a lot. This time was no different, and it happened more than once. Finding the best pizza was no easy task, and it took me a very long time to get there. Considering the two places were pretty close to each other, I think it’s safe to say I suck at directions!

When I got to Totò I noticed something that would warm my heart. You see, during my first visit to Florence I had been to Totò, one of the best pizzerias in Florence, and I ended up there by pure accident. This time it was no accident, and I ended up where I started the first visit! The coincidence got me thinking that I was doing something right, for a change.

Again, never trust me to lead you to a place. I will get lost and bring you with me to the weirdest paths possible. Tummy full and a happy smile on my face, it was time to head to Piazzale Michangelo to finally get to witness that amazing view with my own eyes. Now, I don’t know what happened, but I saw myself going up an endless hill with no people around, with no idea where I was going. I kept wishing I was on the right path, but at some point I realized I was too far away from the city, but had no other choice but to see where that street would lead me.

Once  I reached the top I was on what seemed like a highway and no signs on where the viewpoint was. Oh boy, I was lost. In my horrible Italian,  I asked help to two ladies. They said “1km that way. 20 minutes walking” and I thought that wasn’t so bad. Then it started raining. I walked for 20 minutes under rain and no viewpoint, only a highway on one side and trees and bushes on the other. Where the hell am I? Stopped to ask help to another lady and she says “1km that way“. I told her someone told me that twenty minutes ago and if she was sure. Eventually  I got there. I was exhausted, my feet and legs were hurting, the sky was getting dark, and there was way too many people at the viewpoint. Not exactly what I was hoping for.

The view was fantastic, but it was raining, there were too many people trying to snap photos and selfies and because of that I didn’t really feel the magic right away. It took me about 2h to get there (yes, you read it right…TWO HOURS), so I wanted to make the most of it, and I did my best to not let the tourists annoy me. I know I sound harsh and that I’m also a tourist, but for some reason I don’t identify with them in any action that I take when I’m traveling, and people just seem to go wild and crazy when they are traveling to these really touristic cities. I get it, but I don’t enjoy it at all.

Making my way down, already exhausted and ready to call it a day, I found out that I had basically gone all the way around a huge hill to get there, when all I needed to do was go up a few dozens of stairs. I am officially the worst person ever with a map. I think I’ll just stick to what I’m good at: being lost.

The next morning I was suppose to catch a bus to Milan, but once I opened my eyes and got out of bed I was a wreck. My entire body was in pain, my head was hurting bad, my eyes were crying every ten seconds and I kept thinking I was going to vomit. I was sick, and I wasn’t well to carry my heavy backpacks to the bus station, endure 5h on a bus, then have to catch two public transports and walk to my hostel in Milan. So, I made a hard decision that made me loose a lot of money. I cancelled my plans to Milan and decided to stay in Florence for the next two nights. I had already paid for my hostel in Milan and my bus, which meant I lost 50€ right there, plus the 50€ I had to pay to stay in Florence. In total, getting sick made me loose 100€, and if you are on a tight budget you know how much 100€ can hurt.

This day was all about bed rest and getting back in shape so that I would be strong enough to travel for another three weeks. So, I only left the hostel to grab some food. I could have gone to anywhere, but I wanted to make it special. I had been wanting to go to Mercato Centrale for a very long time, so, since I couldn’t go sightseeing, I decided that I would have to kick my body all the way to the market and grab some healthier food, staying away from pizza while I was sick. I have a thing for markets, so as soon as I entered the huge building I was giggling my way around. I ended up eating at an Italian/Brazilian little place inside the market. It cost me 10€ which was a little stretch for me, but the meat and backed potatoes were worth it.

I wanted to make the most out of my last day in Florence, but my body was killing me and making my life hard. Still, I was in Florence. I had been working for 9 months to be there, and I was not going to waste another day in bed while I should be exploring. Florence has something that made me smile from the first second I laid eyes on it, and even being sick, I was wandering the streets and feeling happy and seeing the magic in every corner! Even when it started raining I made an effort to stay in the streets and see as much as I could, even if that meant the next day I would have a rough 6h on a bus to Slovenia.

I found THE BEST Panini in the city at I Due Fratellini, where you have around 30 different panini to choose from, costing only 4€ each. I was in Panini Heaven at first bite and once I finished I actually went back to thank them and tell them that was the best panini I had ever eaten in my life, in Italian! AH!

I said goodbye to Florence, as my body was wrecked, my mouth on fire with pepperoni pizza, melting mozzarella in my tongue, a cannoli being eaten by pigeons, being lost more times than I can count, almost getting an umbrella in my eye, a fight with the Chinese girl in my dorm over the heat she would turn on during the night, getting locked up in a terrace, canceling travel plans, a machine keeping my money, and to finish in beauty, because I had to, my brand new Iphone fell on the floor on the day of my departure and I broke the entire screen. Florence, you really tested my patience in every way possible, you truly kicked my ass, and still, I love you like never before. I’ll be back!

I stayed at Wow Florence Hostel, one of the best rated hostels in the city. The year before I had stayed at Plus Florence and loved it, but I wanted to try a different hostel this time.

My 4-bed female dorm at Wow Florence Hostel

I booked an 8-bed mix dorm, but I was upgraded, for free, to a 4-bed female dorm, which was perfect! This hostel is HUGE, with a caring staff that kept making sure I would have a good time even after things were all going wrong. From buying my bus ticket online to offering me tea when I was sick, and even saving me when I got locked up on the terrace. The location is actually pretty good, taking you just 10 minutes walking to the Duomo, and in an area that’s not very touristic, which means there are no giant crowds packing the streets.

Downsides: getting wifi connection was a battle for the four nights I was there, in the room and in the common areas. The room only had two plugs, one right next to my bed (because I was lucky to be the first one to check-in and got to choose the bed) and a second one right next to the door of the dorm. I saw the other three girls battling to charge their phones and computers, and if it was me I would not feel safe about it, as I don’t like the idea of leaving my computer, camera and iPhone charging next to the door away from my sight.

To book your accommodation in Florence, click HERE!

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