Mr Smith is not your traditional tourist, but there is one place in Italy he had always wanted to visit, Florence. There was no logical reason why it was Florence rather than Rome, Pisa, Milan, etc, just one of this things. This is what he thought after a flying 4 day visit…
The first impressions at Florence airport is that it is small! Any ambition to walk to the hotel, less than 3 miles, were put out of the window when there was no obvious path to take and Mr Smith did not fancy taking on the traffic with a big case!
So back to the airport and request the only Uber taxi in town. Got to say he was good and with any luck the service will expand in Florence. Definitely good from a customers point of view.
Arriving at the hotel wad good, a great welcome from the staff and being pointed in the direction of places to eat.
A brief walk round, and more importantly, some food, lead to a fairly early night, with a view to a run in the morning. Well, that view was not good, the fog had come in and the view around the park was limited, at best. The good thing though, although Mr Smtih could not see the sights, the park was good for running.
Anyway the fog cleared and there were then a good 2 1/2 days of pretty much glorious sunshine. It must be remembered that Mr Smith was there in January, not a time you would expect great weather, but it was glorious for the majority of the time and not overly cold.
There was lots of walking, eating and a few sights taken in. Mr Smith is not one to go for the major attractions, yes if they are stumbled across, but generally it is all about wandering and seeing what he comes across.
As part of the random walks all sorts of things can be seen. The queues for the major tourist places, the empty spaces of the interesting back streets and the lack of queues at what turned out to be the very interesting Palace de Vecchio, especially the views from the tower. Very little waiting and hardly anyone else around. Definitely seemed to be the best view in town.
There was a stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, which looks good from the outside but walking across the bridge is disappointing. Just rows of shops selling jewellery, oh well.
Anyway, another random walk took Mr Smith high above the city, close to the Mount of Michelangelo. As soon as the tourist were seen Mr Smith headed back down, but before then he had stumbled across a comparatively quiet church, the XXXXX. It was a bit of a steep climb up, but worth it. The way the light was streaming through the windows was incredible and instantly one of Mr Smith’s favourite films came to mind, but he resisted repeating the lines from it, “Yes, yes, Jesus H. go damned Christ, I have seen the light!” for some reason this did not seem appropriate!
The down side to Florence, it is not pedestrian or runner friendly in the city. The pavements are awful and as for the morning after New Years Eve they are full of bottles and glass. When wet they are lethal. The driving is as to be expected, mad, but you get used to it. There is a a bit of a game of chicken on the pedestrian crossings. Mr Smith soon got used to not actually waiting for them to stop, you just find half a gap and walk. As for driving out of the town in the hire car, well, you just have to act like a Florentine driver and all is fine, see a gap and go, no gap, just go anyway!
Having said that, although there were numerous possible ankle breakers when running, it is a stunning city to run round and very strange running at sunrise on New Years Day. The street cleaners are doing their best to clear up all the bottles, some drunks are still going home, some parts stink of lager, there was still one party going and the biggest surprise was seeing a few tourists out. The sunrise was lovely and definitely the best time to see the city.
Mr Smith thinks the place that sums up Florence nicely is the central market, chaos & mad, but a good chaos & mad. The place is buzzing, some great things to see, eat and do, but you do not have to do the traditional tourist things if you do not want to. Stumble across them by accident by just walking and seeing what you find, a Mr Smith way of tourism. See tourists, go the other way!
Has the Florence itch been scratched? Possibly, but that is not ruling out a return visit.