Our travel companions set off early to explore Florence together until we were scheduled to catch up at the Uffizi later in the afternoon. As such, my beloved and I took the opportunity to enjoy a later start to the day, leaving our B&B at 9:30am.
The previous day, I had contacted one of my two best girlfriends who spent some time studying in Italy. She recommended two eateries in Florence and the first seemed like an excellent place for breakfast - Gilli. Having learnt from our experience the previous day, we opted to drink our coffees at the bar (no table service charges, thank you very much!) and ordered our pastries "to go". The service at the café was rather abrasive. There seemed to be about three processes/queues that one had to navigate their way through to order an item - all very confusing. The hostility and lack of patience demonstrated by the staff didn't help either! I have to admit that the coffee was excellent and my doughnut was exceptional. Worth the rudeness though? Hmmm...
While digesting, we wandered around the nearby streets and the leather markets (when in Florence, right?!). My beloved found a great pair of shoes and I walked away with a beautifully soft leather belt. We also picked up a few scarves for our friends and family. As noted in my previous post, I wasn't entirely blown away by the leather markets. Each stall seemed to stock very similar goods (in terms of colours and styles), with no ostensible thought given to design. Being a fairly regular traveller to Asia, I also didn't feel entirely confident that the goods were locally made. Nonetheless, we had a good time shopping.
We continued to wander the streets of Florence, heading across the Ponte Vecchio and towards Piazzale Michelangelo. We trekked up the numerous steps to the lookout (quite exhausting given the hot weather) and rewarded ourselves with a gelato each, while we took in the stunning views.
My beloved and I then headed to my friend's second Florence eating recommendation - I Fratellini.
This charming hole-in-the-wall panini bar was a resounding success - talk about a different experience to breakfast - this was service with a smile! We each grabbed a roll and a glass of wine and sat ourselves down on the curb to devour and watch the world go by. Soon after sitting, we were surprised to see a film crew, along with some *cough* stars *cough* from Jersey Shore pass down the lane way (we were to see them in the same location later in the day also). As someone who has never seen an episode of the show, I had to ask some nearby tourists to explain who these people were and why they were famous (I'm sure my entire generation is cringing at my lack of "cultural" knowledge right now!).
Shortly after devouring my delicious panini, I received a phone call from the parents of my other best girlfriend (i.e. not the one who studied in Italy), who informed me that they were just around the corner, finishing up at the Uffizi. We dashed towards the gallery and had a very surreal reunion. It was lovely to see my "second parents" (who I see nearly weekly in Melbourne), but so odd, given the location!
The timing proved to be perfect, as our tickets for the Uffizi had been booked for mid-afternoon. Accordingly, we said our goodbyes and walked straight into the gallery (ah, the joys of pre-booking at major tourist attractions). The Uffizi was a little too cluttered for my liking (i.e. I felt overwhelmed by the number of paintings hanging on each wall). However I must admit that I was thrilled to finally see many of the illustrious works of Botticelli in the flesh.
After seeing most of the gallery's collection, it was time for another visit to i Fratellini for a light dinner, before wandering back to our B&B for a relatively early night.
Overall, I have to confess that my time in Florence was not what I had anticipated. I think that a number of my friends had, in a sense, over-hyped the city and, consequently, I was expecting more (my soon-to-be brother-in-law had the same experience of Berlin, thanks to my gushing about the city!). I didn't have a bad time in Florence - quite the reverse, but it wasn't quite as special as I thought the experience would be. Would I return to Florence? Maybe. Would I return to Tuscany more broadly? Hell yes! Find out why in my next post.