Eurotrip Part 7: Florence Half-Day 1

High speed trains are cool.

After a hasty jog through the streets of Rome, two metro stations, and a train station, I was able to cool down, relax, and look at some Italian countryside.  Since I got onto the train after most everyone else was seated, there was limited overhead luggage storage.  I probably could have found space if I were willing to hunt through a few cars, but I wasn’t willing to leave my stuff out of my sight, so the backpack went under the four-person table and the duffel bag stayed on my lap.

Having studied many maps before leaving on the trip, I knew the direction I needed to travel and what the front of the hotel looked like.  Italy has lots of small streets that may not be easily located on maps, but it wasn’t a problem.  I didn’t take the most direct route, instead detouring past the Duomo before turning back to the Hotel Davanzati. Both this hotel and my B&B in Rome provided a PC for guest use in the room, which I used to transfer my photos from the memory cards onto USB flash drives (I didn’t bring my laptop or portable hard drives to save weight and space).  I would have also liked to upload the photos to online cloud storage as an extra backup, but there wasn’t enough bandwidth or speed.

Hotel Davanzati is a nice boutique hotel with excellent reviews and a good location.  Less than a one kilometer walk to Santa Maria Novella railway station and 500 meters to the Duomo, the hotel also provides wireless internet, satellite television (with an English language package), happy hour drinks and snacks, and free continental breakfast.  The private bathroom has a heated towel rack and slippers, the uncarpeted floor is quite dirty and dusty.  Italy also loves their street shopping, the hotel lies next to a beauty shop and many clothing and shoe shops are in the immediate vicinity, and a few cafes (not a lot of souvenir shops).

Time for more walking and sightseeing while I hunt and/or gather food.  I journey across the Ponte Vecchio and back, then wander all the way around the Duomo, noticing that its color palette reminds me of a Mahjong tile.  Christmas is long past, but there are still some holiday-esque decorations about, unless the buildings always look like this at night.


Ponte Vecchio from outside; notice the bus just fitting down the ancient street

Museo di Palazzo Vecchio in Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria and some statues on display

The Duomo at night; compare to a group of Mahjong tiles

True Story: While walking all the way around the Duomo, I found a cafe nearly at the back of the piazza (if the front of the cathedral was 6 on a clock face, this bar was at the 10:50 position) with an outdoor sandwich board promoting hamburgers and other American-sounding fare, with reasonable prices.  It was the other side of the board that I found most amusing.

It was tempting to wait the 90 minutes until game time to see how many Americans show up to eat and drink in the literal shadow (if it were daytime) of one of the most famous churches in the world.  However, I didn’t feel like waiting that long to eat (traveler needs food, badly), so I kept moving, with the thought of returning for the game if I were that bored.

I eventually settled on Caffe Giotto for takeaway dinner, seeing as it was busy, and even its location in Piazza del Duomo, which also counts Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (aka The Duomo) as a resident, didn’t bother me as a possible tourist trap.  This was the best spaghetti carbonara I have ever had.  Their panna cotta wasn’t bad either, though being takeaway, I didn’t get the rest of the berries/fruits and sauces that a dine-in patron would get.

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