After taking half a dozen trips to Europe, we decided to make a few improvements.
First, we decided to rent an apartment instead of a hotel room. We wanted a kitchen where we could cook our own food, we wanted peace and quiet, a washer and dryer, and we wanted to be close to the train and bus station so we could take some day trips. So we booked an Airbnb in Florence for 2 weeks, and that was a great decision, because we were able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in the Central Market, we were able to shop for groceries, and we saved a ton of money by not buying a whole lot of restaurant meals. We’re not big foodies, and we wanted to stay healthy. Besides, everywhere we go, we find the restaurants overrated.
Secondly, every trip we take, we overdo it the first few days and wind up fighting heavy fatigue the rest of the trip, and since we’re retired, we can do a longer term rental and pace ourselves a little more. The hard part, of course, was to force ourselves to take a day off, when we’re right there in a wonderful European city. We had to force ourselves to just sit around for a day in the middle of the trip. It worked out, though, because the weather turned nasty, cold and rainy one day, which made it a lot easier to decide to just sit there and watch Italian TV. And by the way, I think Italian TV is the best foreign TV I have seen. You don’t even need to know Italian to be entertained by Italian TV. Spaghetti westerns, action movies, cooking shows, and political argument shows. All very entertaining. They import a lot of American TV and dub it into Italian. We didn’t watch any of those.
So our overall idea was to slow down. Enjoy the moment. Try to blend in for a few weeks. And that’s what we did. It was great. So many times, we just walked around very slowly, watching the other tourists, taking in the scene. We saw a couple, apparently from the US, with two teenagers, walking past us, and the man says to his wife, very sarcastically, “…well that would have been nice, wouldn’t it?” and angrily stalks on ahead of her. She rolled her eyes and looked disgusted with him. Don’t be those people. Slow down.
The other new thing we did was to take Rick Steves’ advice, buy his Florence guidebook, and tear it apart. When you’re in some Duomo, looking at some work of art that seems very important, and you don’t know what it is, take those 8 pages out of your pocket and read. Who needs a tour guide?
So, here’s my trip report. We got to Florence airport, and took a cab to the apartment. The fares from airport to central Florence are regulated, 22 Euros I think. The host met us at the door, and we settled in. It was a 3rd floor walkup, 51 steps up the stairs. We spent the rest of the first day just walking around Florence. Florence is so compact, you can walk across the historic area in a half hour. But it is so dense with great things to see, when we left at the end of 2 weeks, we felt like we had barely scratched the surface.
Some highlights of our trip: my favorite thing was our day trip to Seina. It’s a little more than an hour by rapid bus, and maybe a half hour more by slow bus. We made the mistake of taking the slow bus back to Florence, but we enjoyed the ride anyway, because after a full day walking around, it was nice to take the slow bus that makes a lot of stops. You see a lot of Tuscany that way. Siena is beautiful. The Duomo in Siena is an overwhelming treasure chest of the greatest art ever. First, the whole church itself is a work of art, from floor to ceiling, including the floor and the ceiling. And it houses some of the greatest works of art you will ever see, including sculptures by Michelangelo, Bernini, and Donatello. No exaggeration, I’ve never seen such a beautiful place in my life.