Venice and Florence, Italy
I woke up today at 05:40, shaved, showered, dressed, packed my bags, grabbed my camera and tripod, checked out of my room, placed the rest of my luggage in the hotel storage room, and walked out of the hotel, toward Piazza San Marco. I left the hotel at 07:00, with the intention to get to the piazza as early as possible to get as many relatively-crowd-free photographs of the famous square as possible. I followed the signs pointing toward San Marco as best as I could, but I inevitably took a wrong turn and ended up wandering around the streets of Venice for longer than I would’ve cared for. However, Venice, this early in the morning, is a pleasant place, when most people are still sleeping, eating breakfast, or jogging, and when most shops are not yet open; one feels as if the city exists for one’s own pleasure. I highly recommend that all visitors to Venice allot themselves at least one morning to wake up early and start wandering the streets and the piazza no later than 07:00 – the photographs will be worth it. Anyway, I finally made it to the piazza at 07:45 and there were people scattered here and there, but the crowds had yet to arrive and I was able to enjoy the square more than I had the previous days. Once at the square, I pulled out the tripod and got to work taking pictures of all the monumental sites (as well as some old-fashioned selfies) as quick as possible, with little time to waste. Just as I was finishing up capturing all that I desired, the first tour groups began to show up at 08:30; the square was still nowhere near as crowded as it would be in an hour or so when the restaurants, museums, and Saint Mark’s Basilica opened up, but it was no longer the quiet square that greeted me early in the morning. Once I had finished, I walked back toward the hotel, bought some iced tea along the way, and made it back by 09:30. Back at the hotel, I typed out a journal entry and checked my emails. When noon had come, I finally grabbed my bags and left the hotel, and made my way to the railway station. At 12:20, the train bound for Rome was ready to be boarded and I got on (not to go to Rome, but Florence instead). Then, at 12:35, the train departed the station. The views along the way were mostly flat terrain and far too many tunnels, which means I had taken my camera out and placed it in the ready for naught. I did read some during the journey whilst teetering on the brink of slumber.
At 14:40, the train arrived at the Firenze Santa Maria Novella Railway Station. I exited the metallic phallus and the station, and walked in to the city. I then made my way southward to the hostel I booked with a number of nights ago (one must book rooms well in advance while in Italy, since it is a very popular tourist destination). Once I made it to the hostel (located in the Palazzo Martellini), I checked in and dropped my bags off. Then, for the next two hours (while the receptionist was out), I relaxed in my room and came dangerously close to falling asleep. Then, after 17:00, the new receptionist began his shift and I left the hostel to see some of the city. I first walked to the Ponte Vecchio (literally, “old bridge”), the oldest and most famous bridge over the Arno, and made my way to the north side of the river, where a number of Hare Krishna’s were playing instruments, singing, and dancing (there were quite a few out in the streets today). Then, I walked to the Palazzo Vecchio (the old city palace) where a replica of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ stands outside at the entrance. Passing by a street clown performing his craft to the crowds, I reached the Palazzo Vecchio and then walked around the Piazza della Signoria outside. Next, I made my way to the Florence Cathedral (“Duomo di Firenze” or “Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower” or “Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore”), that magnificent Renaissance building located in the Piazza del Duomo. I was disappointed to see the Baptistery covered in scaffolding and being renovated (it seems that wherever I go, there is always at least one important attraction being renovated, thus ruining the chances of taking pure, unspoilt pictures of the monument(s)). I then wandered around the streets of Florence some more, seeking out a functioning ATM. I crossed the Arno, and then crossed it again; finally, I found an ATM inside the Palazzo Vecchio and grabbed some more euros. I then walked back toward my hostel and ate at a restaurant on the south side of the Arno. For dinner I had a thin baked bread (with garlic, olive oil, and salt seasoning), eggplant parmesan, ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach, and a half liter of the house’s red wine (which tasted of blackberries, spices, and green bell peppers). To complete my meal, I had a cappuccino at its end. I then walked to a nearby market, bought some iced tea (I was thirsty) and a bottle of Italian white wine. I then returned to the hostel, inquired about getting tickets to the Calcio Storico Fiorentino (the receptionist called another employee who is certain he can acquire a ticket for me), and got to work typing out journal entries. I eventually managed to go to sleep around 02:00.