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Crowded and Busy Florence

Sunday, October 13, 2013 @ 04:16 pm from Italy Italy
Day 109

Wine time last night was another success. There were about 8 of us and we went through 6 liters of wine through the course of the night. I went to bed around 1:15am and got up around 9am.

After breakfast I thought I'd give walking around town another shot to see if maybe it wasn't going to be as crowded today. One thing I didn't account for was some sort of 5k charity run/walk that seemed to bring in thousands of people. The entire city was filled with people wearing these yellow shirts and who had just finished a run. Between all of those people and the normal tourists, the city was mobbed.

I walked around a little bit more but didn't feel like dealing with the mess of people so I found a park and relaxed there for a bit and had lunch before coming back to the hostel. Back at the hostel I've just been doing work and more research on Paris information as well as where to visit when I'm in Naples starting tomorrow afternoon.

Florence is a beautiful city but with these kinds of crowds I just can't enjoy it. I didn't even make it into any of the museums that contain some world famous artwork and statues because the lines were taking an hour and a half just to get inside, then you have to contend with tour groups and tourists all trying to see the same things. I'm really hoping Pompeii and Herculaneum down by Naples aren't as crowded.

People Everywhere!

Saturday, October 12, 2013 @ 06:58 pm from Italy Italy
Day 108

Last night everyone stayed up pretty late talking, eating snacks and drinking the free wine produced by the hostel owner's grandpa. It's really nice to be in a small hostel full of fellow travelers instead of giant groups of people.

I didn't set an alarm this morning and got up around 9am, ate and then hung out at the hostel for a while. The forecast was calling for rain all day which is why I wasn't really in a hurry. When it looked like it wasn't actually going to rain I went out and started to walk around Florence.

Florence itself is pretty big but most of the big sights are within the old city walls and within easy walking distance. The closer I got to the Piazza del Duomo, the more and more people were out. By the time I got there it was basically wall to wall tourists everywhere. I walked around the leather markets where there were more massive amounts of people, then headed over to the Ponte Vecchio (the famous old bridge) and again, tons and tons of people.

It was a big mix of huge tour groups, people randomly stopping or changing direction in front of you, people trying to get photos across extremely busy walkways, street vendors trying to sell you stuff, mopeds and bicyclists flying all over the place and police and other random vehicles making their way through the streets.

I was thinking about getting a leather jacket here since Florence is supposed to be famous for its leather work but all of the stalls in the leather market had the same stuff and the stores just seemed to be filled with pushy sales people. If I had a better idea of what I was looking for it might have been easier but instead I didn't want to deal with the mess.

In order to avoid some of the crowds I walked up a big hill overlooking the city called the Piazza Michelangelo. It had some great views of Florence so I hung out there for a little while before heading down. On the way down I ran into one of the guys from the hostel who told me about a really good gelato place up the street. Since I hadn't had any gelato in Italy yet I decided to go get some.

I had some kind of dark sesame flavor and another flavor named after their establishment. I ate the gelato by the river then plowed my way back through the crowds to get to the grocery and then back to the hostel.

I answered some emails and read a little while before making dinner. A few new people showed up at the hostel so tonight I'm sure we'll have another good wine time.

The weather tomorrow is supposed to be really nice but I really don't want to deal with more tour groups and clogged up streets so I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet.
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Ponte Vecchio
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Baptistry of St John
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Florence from Piazza Michelangelo
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Gelato from Santa Trinita

Back to Florence

Friday, October 11, 2013 @ 07:26 pm from Italy Italy
Day 107

I arrived in Florence on my flight from Vienna but immediately jumped on a train to Lucca so I didn't really get to see any of the city other than from the air and train.

My train from Riomaggiore today didn't leave until 10:45am so I took my time getting ready. I had breakfast, packed up, bought a few pieces of artwork from the guy named Oliver who lives at the hostel for 5 months out of the year to sell his paintings, then had a real early lunch of focaccia bread with cheese and pesto which was abnormally delicious. I'm going to have to start making that when I get home.

The train went from Riomaggiore to La Spezia, then from La Spezia to Pisa and finally from Pisa to Florence. All of the trains were pretty much on time and I arrived to a nice sunny day in Florence around 2:00pm.

It was only about a mile walk to the hostel so I did that rather than take a bus. The hostel doesn't really have any sign out other than the name on a door buzzer but it was easy to find. I checked in and the staff gave some great suggestions on where to visit in the city and highlighted a bunch of spots on a map.

The hostel itself is really small and has some great vibes. There are only enough beds for 12 people split among a couple rooms which is also nice. Another great thing about this hostel is every night at 9pm they do a Tuscan wine tasting with some snacks for free. There's also a book exchange which I've been missing the last several places I've stayed. I still think you can tell the character of a hostel based on the kind of books it has in its exchange (if there even is one).

I went down to the grocery and bought some food for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next couple of nights. There isn't a full kitchen here but they have a refrigerator and a microwave/oven combo which is more than enough for me.

The market had some pre-made spaghetti that I could microwave so I had that with some sauce, bread as well as some peas and carrots that I could microwave.

Since then I've been doing more research into Paris and making sure all loose ends are tied up for when Holly arrives.

The forecast is calling for rain all day tomorrow which is a shame. Fortunately on Sunday it's supposed to be perfect so that'll be at least one full day of exploring. I'm planning on heading down to the leather markets tomorrow if the rain lets up to check out the supposedly world famous markets. I've been jonesing for a leather jacket for years so I might buy one if I can find one for a good deal.

No pics today since it was just a travel day and I didn't get to see any of the sights in my walk to the hostel. It also feels liberating to have access to wifi and a data connection again. It's funny how reliant we are on a constant connection to the world, whether it's for maps, researching destinations, running language translations or just keeping up with Facebook and my blog.

Where I've been:

Good Evening… Planet Earth
All the countries I visited on this trip (in yellow).

What's this about?

Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.

Who am I?

My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.


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