After feeling very glad to be leaving Rome (read My Rome Story here), I was on my way to Florence.
I traveled all around Italy and down to Croatia using Flixbus – they were cheap, clean, comfy coaches that came with free wifi.
What more could I ask for?
If you’re planning to travel around Europe, I’d highly recommend checking them out.
Whilst I was on the coach, I was hoping that Florence wasn’t going to be anything like Rome.
If you read my previous story post, you’ll know that I didn’t have the best experience in Rome and I was just hoping that the two cities weren’t going to be similar.
Once we got to the bus stop, I disembarked and loaded myself up with my backpack and luggage ready for my 40 min walk to my hostel, 7 Santi.
I was starting to get used to walking whilst loaded up like a pack-horse and I loved what it was doing for my waistline!
Whilst I was making my way, I started to notice just how chilled out and laid-back Florence was. It gave off a very relaxing vibe – which was a great start.
This might sound like a crazy thing to say…but it felt Italian.
Food and fails
I reached the gates of the hostel and my first impressions were of a courtyard with tables and chairs, a bar, music playing, a table filled with pasta, chicken, salad, and veg, and people just sitting back, relaxing, chatting, and generally having a good time.
…and I now had a backup plan in case I didn’t like Florence either – I could happily chill out in the hostel courtyard all day!
As I checked in I asked about the food in the courtyard. I was informed that they do an evening buffet for €7 per person.
Up until this point, I had lived off pizza and paninis (and the odd cannoli), so I was excited to have the opportunity to eat some chicken and vegetables.
I headed up to my room, dropped off my luggage, and headed straight back down the buffet.
I managed 3 plate-fulls before I had to surrender. This then became my benchmark and I tried to beat it every evening.
As much as I loved the slim waist from the backpack trekking, I was on a very strict budget and was trying to get as much value as I could out of my €7 – plus everything tasted soooo good!
After stuffing my face, I headed back upstairs, had a shower, got changed into my pj’s, and sat on my top bunk bed with my laptop, feeling very satisfied whilst keeping on top of my emails.
Once I had finished my work, I went to jump off the top bunk to put my laptop away. But as I did, I got my shorts stuck!
I heard them rip at the same time as I got the mother-of-all-wedgies.
My roommate on the bottom bunk, a guy from Turkey, must have got a real eye-full!
It was a funny moment that I laughed off whilst going to change into a new pair of shorts.
Feet and Florence
The next morning, I was ready to explore, but my feet had other ideas.
Flip flops are great for sunny weather, but with the distance that I was walking on a daily basis, they were not suitable, and by this point, I had lost huge chunks of skin and my feet were very tender to touch.
P.S. I hope you’re not eating whilst ready this.
I didn’t want to stay in the hostel all day, so decided to switch my sandals and flip-flops for my trainers. But I had to plan this carefully – I only had so many outfits that would go with trainers. At some point, I would have to make the move back to my sandals. #girlproblems
(Those trainers I bought from Primark for some silly cheap price. They were unbelievably comfy and ideal for walking around in the heat all day)
With my trainers hugging my sore feet, off into the streets of Florence I went. And thank goodness, it was not like Rome.
Well, there were some similarities, for example, everyone spoke Italian, there were numerous gelato and pizza shops, and there was always someone selling selfie sticks and artwork.
But I felt safe! And the sights, sculptures, and architecture were beautiful. (I’ll detail the not-to-miss attractions in a later post coming soon.)
As I was wandering through the town I heard a familiar tune. It was one that I liked and that I associated good thoughts with, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly that it was.
I kept following the music until I found a string trio with a large crowd gathered around.
They were playing the Pirates of the Caribbean theme tune!
I thought I took a photograph to show you, but I can’t seem to find it.
I wish you could have felt the atmosphere that was created at that moment with the sound echoing through the streets.
Time to step it up
My Maps.me app (which I frigging love) has a cool little feature that shows you all the attractions that are around you. Whilst browsing the local sights, I saw one for a viewpoint and I do love a good view, so I followed it.
It took me to the bottom of some steps.
Correction: It took me to the bottom of A LOT of steps.
About halfway up, my thighs were burning and I felt as though I need to stop for food and water.
There were people stranded on the sides that were struggling to continue. They had taken up a step as a seat and were recuperating before continuing their journey to the top of what felt like Mount Everest.
As I climbed the last step, I lifted my head and thought wow – those steps were worth it!
I was too red in the face and sweaty to take a selfie straight off the bat. I had to wait around at least 20min before I recovered and transformed back into a presentable human being …but this was the view that I was faced with.
Sadly, the pictures do not do the view justice.
Just take my word for it, it was awesome.
On my way back down (which was much easier) I was pleasantly getting lost through Florence’s side streets.
I was gazing at the houses, the architecture, the window shutters, the colors, and the flower boxes when I could hear music.
Inside one of the houses, someone was practicing the piano.
What a delightful moment. Wandering along through the streets of Tuscany without a care in the world listening to piano music echoing out of one of the windows.
I have said this before…. but, it felt very Italian.
Pissing down in Pisa
(Not sure if that sub-heading is appropriate, but I’m going with it)
The next day I decided to take a trip to Pisa. It was only an hour away on the train and I couldn’t miss seeing the world-famous Leaning Tower.
I planned for the usual 30°C (86°F) weather and dressed in a playsuit (with trainers again whilst my feet were in recovery mode) but once we got into Pisa, the heavens opened and the thunderstorms began.
How am I supposed to get a picture of me holding up the leaning tower whilst there’s torrential rain?
I managed to wedge myself into the corner of a building to miss the majority of the downpour.
Whilst waiting for the rain to pass, I found it amusing to see how quickly the street sellers went from selling sun hats to selling umbrellas. In all fairness to them, they were making a killing with those umbrellas. People were lining up to buy.
Lucking, the rain had a brief pause, which gave me enough time to snap this pic before it started again.
It’s not the famous tourist pose, but I think it’s quite artistic. And it’s always good to be a little different.
Every day’s a school day!
On my last night in the hostel, an American couple checked in and were sharing the room with me. I got to know them well and I joined them at the €7 buffet in the evening (which by this point I managed a record 5 plate-fulls).
It was interesting to hear more about American culture.
I have not been outside of Europe (yet) and although America is similar to the UK in many ways, I found it fascinating to hear about their federal laws as well as the differences that they have from state to state.
I still have the idea of going on an American road-trip in the back of my mind. Simply hiring a campervan and visiting all 50 states, national parks, and main attractions over the course of several months. So, it was super handy to be able to pick their brains about what is a good idea, what’s not a good idea, and what’s just a plain stupid idea.
The journey continues
My time in Florence had come to an end and I was catching my Flixbus to Venice.
I had to make a change halfway which meant that it was going to be a full day of traveling. I, therefore, opted for the €5 breakfast buffet and loaded myself up for the day – stuffing a few cakes and croissants into my backpack to keep me going for the day.
(If the Hostel 7 Santi ever reads this post, I don’t think that I’ll ever be allowed back after eating so much food!)
Overall, I was so pleased to have had a positive experience in Florence and it had changed my whole view of Italy.
Whilst I was laying back listing to some music on the coach, I had so many thoughts about what Venice could be like and I was expecting another totally different experience of Italy.
Stay tuned for my next adventure installment.
P.S. Want to know what happened next? Check out My Venice Story – Compliments, Canals, and Dancing