Category Archives: Travel

Content about my travels.

Italia in 40: Day 7…A Synagogue, Peruvian Mother’s Day, and Crazy Football Fans

Today I walked from my hostel all the way to the Synagogue and Jewish Museum of Florence. The security was crazy insane. I expected that due to terrorism concerns, but you had to leave everything in a locker and walk through a full-body x-ray machine. They didn’t allow any cameras or cell phones, so I don’t really have anything to show you guys, unfortunately. If you go and are under 25, make sure you tell them and you get a ticket for 5 Euros rather than 6.50. I stayed for the English language tour and then bought a couple of postcards. I wanted to go to Ruth’s, a Kosher Vegetarian restaurant right next to the synagogue, but I got there 30 minutes before they closed and they turned me away. It’s Michelin rated and it looked so good. They have a cheese brick with hot pepper jam on the menu and I wanted to try it so bad…I’ll definitely go next time!

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On my way there I passed the former children’s hospital and they are apparently turning it into a museum!

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After leaving the museum, I decided to walk east and then go down toward the river, but right as I was leaving the synagogue area I walked by a church and thought I heard South American indigenous music and so I peaked in and saw some old women dancing in the courtyard of church. I walked in an noticed everyone looked Peruvian, but I just started taking pictures and then walked into the church. I saw a brochure and the Peruvian consulate in Florence was hosting a Mother’s Day celebration!

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It was so neat! After seeing that Peruvian halal store the other day, I wondered if there was a large Peruvian population here, but today answered my question. I wonder how the Peruvians came to Florence and why. According to Peruvians Dispersed: A Global Ethnography of Migration by Karsten Paerregaard there are over 100,000 Peruvians in Italy today, which is astonishing because the tour guide at the Jewish museum said there are only around 30,000 Jews in Italy!

After that I walked all through eastern Florence and down to the Arno, so that I could walk down the river to the street near my hotel and check out the Muslim area. On my way along the Arno, there was a procession of football fans chanting and going nuts because Torino won their match today! There were pockets of fans chanting and marching all over the city!

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I also walked into some awesome churches.

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I realized it’s an Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Somalian area and there were some cool restaurants and markets I wish I could have checked out. There were zero women around though, so I just went back to Via della Scala where my hostel is.

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I ate at this cool place called La Grotta di Leo and I got a large beer, appetizer, a plate of pasta, and sat outside for 15 Euros! Definitely check it out if you are in Florence! I tried liver for the first time by accident and it was actually good, different, but good!

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After eating, I just went back to my room and repacked my bag. I live in North Texas and this semester I met an Italian student that is from Udine. I am going to visit her tomorrow. I will stay with her for two days before heading to my next destination. We will be doing some crazy things, so the next two days should be action packed! 🙂

Italia in 40: Day 6…Laundry, Beer, and a Sunset

Today I woke up and took my laundry to a place right down the street. It said “self service” on the window, but I went in and some lady came in and collected my money and put the soap in. It was 8 Euros for soap and to wash and dry one load! I couldn’t believe it. While I know that you can live anywhere on a budget, I really don’t understand how most people afford to live in Europe. If you just lived a comfortable life, you would have to make at least $100,000 a year and that’s if you didn’t have kids. Most of the restaurants I’ve seen, if you got a full Italian style meal (appetizer, first and second course, dessert, and a drink) it would be 50 Euros per person. Not to mention bills like gas, electric, water, rent, clothes, transportation, and food. I would really love to know how people afford it…if you know, please leave a comment below!

 

While waiting on my laundry, I decided to have lunch at a restaurant. I haven’t been to a restaurant since I’ve been here because I’m trying not to spend a lot of money, but I wanted to eat at one today. I got two beers and a plate of pasta in olive oil and it was 23 Euros. Something you should know if you come to Italy (and probably other places in Europe) is that most places charge a fee to sit and eat. If you are just drinking they usually won’t charge you or it will be less, but if you are eating there is a small fee. My food and beer were delicious and the weather was nice though! I was in a carbohydrate induced coma, so I went back to my room and took a short nap before I went and got my laundry.

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I came back to the hostel and folded and put everything away, laid my outfit out for tomorrow, straightened up my bag, and got everything ready to pack tomorrow, then decided to go back across the river since that’s my favorite spot.

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I had the best gelato I have ever had in Italy. I know there is a lot of debate about this hot topic, but I definitely suggest visiting Gelateria La Carraia, if you are ever in Florence.It is conveniently located right by the Ponte alla Carraia, so you can chill on the bridge and watch the river and people.

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I decided I’d watch the sunset, but then I remembered I had all of my cameras in my bag, so I filmed it! It was so beautiful.

[http://youtu.be/Sef9CMLU6Do]

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After leaving the river, I figured I should pick something up for dinner since I hadn’t eaten since 2ish and I didn’t want to go to my room only having had gelato. I went back to my store (it’s called Uno Rosso and here is the link to their Yelp page). On the way there some dumb boy on his bike kept riding around me and trying to spray me with something in this aerosol bottle…it smelled like cologne, but I wasn’t sure and I didn’t want him to spray me in the eyes and try to take my purse or something, so I yelled at him. There is a one block area by my hostel (Via della Scala/Via dell’Albero/Via Palazzuolo/Via Canacci) that is the Muslim area and during the day it’s been fine for me, but the other night I heard some guy yell at this American girl that was walking by about Obama and war and tonight I sensed some hostility and heard a few hisses (I assume because I was over there after dark), so yeah, just be careful. I might go walk over there tomorrow and take some pictures during the day. Once I made it to my store, I got a salad, but he only charged me .90 cents for it because it wasn’t super fresh since it was late, and a bottle of wine and some water and went back to my room.

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SN: There are some awesome Arab markets that are worth checking out on Via Palazzuolo and the area may be larger than a block, but that is the only part I’ve explored.

It’s Saturday night so the street by my room is so busy. There is a pub called Joshua Tree that I can see from my room and it looks so fun. My hair is still wet or I would have tried it out tonight. That’s one of the only things that sucks about being a female, solo traveler…I don’t really feel safe going out to drink or dance at night. I’ve already seen a group of American kids pass by and two guys get into a fight in Arabic, so I’m sure tonight will be action packed.

I want to get up and go to Mass tomorrow, but a lot of the churches have signs that say tourist aren’t allowed and I also don’t have a dress that is church appropriate, so we’ll see! If I don’t go to Mass, then who knows what I’ll do tomorrow. I want to do something fun since it’s my last day in Florence, but I’ve been to all of the museums (except the Accademia) and my Firenze card has expired. I might try to go back to the Jewish museum and synagogue because I saw a really good Kosher, vegetarian restaurant that I wanted to try or I might check out some other gardens.

Anyway, I will talk to y’all tomorrow! 🙂

Italia in 40: Day 5…A Belated Throat Punch, Flying by the Seat of My Pants, and an Argentine

So, I forgot to tell you guys something yesterday. I almost punched this ratchet woman in the throat. In the Church of Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi (Dante’s church) there is a shrine/monument/memorial to Beatrice, of course. Well, apparently people bring letters here and leave them for her. Well, I was in the church, just sitting and admiring and this group of Americans came in and were talking all loud. There was a lady in the group and you could tell she was trying to be the tour guide of her group. So, she starts telling them about Beatrice and Dante and walks over to her monument and there is a basket there full of letters, and what does this bia start doing? PICKING UP THE LETTERS AND READING THEM TO HER FRIENDS. No. Full stop. Tap the brakes lady. Who does that?! Don’t get me wrong, I am always intrigued to read the notes people leave for saints and whatnot, but I would NEVER, ever pick up someone’s intimate letter about their love life and read it like a magazine. I gave her the stink-eye from HELL and walked out.

Anyway, today was AMAZING! I didn’t know what I was going to do when I woke up this morning. I had planned to go to Pisa, but last night two of my friends on Facebook said I should go to Cinque Terre instead; I took their suggestion. I woke up at about 9 and left my place about 10. My hostel is literally 200 yards from the train station, so it is REALLY convenient. I went to the station and got my ticket to Cinque Terre and I bought the return ticket too because I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to get a return ticket later on. I had to go from Firenze S.M.N. to Pisa Centrale to La Spezia to Riomaggiore. Now, mind you, I have only seen Cinque Terre in magazines and books and recently saw a classmate give a presentation about it-that’s it.

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So I successfully navigated my way through the train stations, but I realized why I have had such trouble. I have never had to read a train ticket or schedule and I just had to learn it on the fly. So, here’s a tip for any other naive travelers like me: when you look at your ticket and it says your destination, that may or may not be the destination of the train your supposed to get on. Like, you may be going to stop 23 of 35, so the train your supposed to get on will be called/listed as the final destination on that line, not the destination on your ticket. So, when you get off your train at a connecting station, don’t look for a train going to your destination, look for the train going to the final stop on the line you need to be on. Also, they have paper schedules printed at all stations in Italy, but make sure you pay attention because the holiday, weekend, and weekday schedules are all jumbled together on one page, with a very confusing key at the bottom.

I arrived in Riomaggiore and bought a Cinque Terre Card for 12 Euro. You get unlimited access to the trains in the area and the national park and walking trails, so it’s definitely worth it (if you get caught w/o a metro ticket the charge is 50 Euros)-you can also purchase WiFi access if you want it. After purchasing that I decided to go to the most northern village. I went to Monterosso al Mare and walked down to the beach.

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I found a few pieces of sea glass and put my feet in the ocean, but this village was realllllly tourist-y. There were a bunch of women on the beach charging for massages and I thought that was such a smart idea! I hadn’t eaten and it was like 2, so I got a gelato and an espresso, before heading back down the coast.

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I didn’t stop at Vernazza or Corniglia, but I went onto Manarola since it was closer to Riomaggiore and I was paranoid about missing my train to Florence. I wish I would have spent the entire day in Manarola. On the train to Manarola I met a Korean woman that had gone to Georgetown. I knew she was Korean because I saw her guidebook, but she asked me where I was from and after I told her, I asked her the same and she said she was Korean so I said, “Anyonghasaeyo” and she was all happy.

Manarola is PHENOMENAL.

Everything you think about Cinque Terre is Manarola. When I got to Manarola I walked to the center of the town and started up this trail near a cemetery (I want to be buried there-seriously), but broke away from the group and just started walking up random steps. I got to an area with all these private vineyards and gardens and kept walking on any trail I could find.

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I finally joined back up to the actual trail and went into the Church of San Lorenzo. There was a list of men on the bell tower, whom I assume were killed at sea.

On the trail to the church there was a crucifix on the mountain and all of these old people were hanging out around it and leaving flowers and chatting.

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Little did I know, that was just the start of the Jesus! There were all of these stations of the cross on the mountain and apparently at certain times of the year they light up at night! It was so interesting. You may think you love Jesus, but Manarola loves Jesus more than you, haha!

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After the church I walked back down towards the sea and decided to get some food. I just put it all in my bag and caught the train to Riomaggiore. Once I arrived at Riomaggiore I ate part of my dinner and then hopped the train back to Florence.

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On the train I met this Argentine guy that was visiting Italy with 7 of his family members (wife, kids, brother, dad). His dad had immigrated to Argentina after the war and they were all back to visit for the first time. I spoke to him in Spanish for 40 minutes and even used the ‘vosotros’ form! First he asked me what the next stop on the train was and I accurately told him. He thought I was Italian, but I told him I was from Texas and he said that I didn’t look Texan, but that I looked Italian…my response: QUE BUENO! His accent was really difficult to understand, but I was able to respond pretty accurately, and say “…y vosotros?” a lot, hahaha! I couldn’t remember past tense very well, but I was super proud of myself for remembering vosotros form.

I didn’t get back to Florence until 9:30. I left the station and stopped at this pastry shop and go two mini Nutella Cannolis and went back to my room. I had an awesome day and feel so confident now, since I was able to successfully navigate and talk to people! So happy I went  to Cinque Terre. Today was EPIC!

(here’s the sunset from the train…this picture is horrible doesn’t do it justice, but it was the prettiest sunset I’ve ever seen)

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Italia in 40: Day 4…Police Violence, A Synagogue, and Johnny Cash

There was party on the street outside my hostel last night and they were going hard in the paint until like 3 in the morning and I couldn’t sleep after that, so I got a LATE start. Last night I washed my hair and I put it in a nice twisted bun to dry because I didn’t want to use my hairdryer at such a late hour in the hostel.

Well, this morning after I got dressed and did my makeup, I decided to straighten my hair and so I plugged my straightener in. I have a CHI and I’ve used different CHIs overseas before and they worked pretty good. Not. This. Morning. I am pretty sure I fried my straightener. I plugged it in and let it heat up while I finished getting dressed and I thought I smelled something. I went over to the sink and it was SMOKING!  I unplugged it immediately, but that meant that I had to wear my hair “curly” today…aka frizz central!

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After that, I busted out my map and decided to explore the area around Santa Croce.

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I’ve been to the Santa Croce 3 times, but I only went there and back to the area around the Duomo. I left my hostel and went to Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi. I’d seen all these posters around Florence for an exhibit that was going on, but I didn’t know it was there. It was really beautiful. It was comparing and contrasting the works of Pontormo and Rosso (I got in for free with my FirenzeCard). It was funny because yesterday I wrote about my inability to decipher art and appreciate it, but this exhibit was awesome! It compared the two artists works from early on, throughout their careers.  One of them was loyal to the Medici family and the other was funded by Florentine aristocrats. Although they were part of the same artistic school, they evolved very differently overtime. It was really neat to see. I think Rosso was the better illustrator, but Pontromo was the better painter and his use of color was RIDICULOUS!

I couldn’t take pictures, but here is a video for the exhibit:

After that, I walked through Piazza della Repubblica and stumbled upon Museo Casa di Dante. I went to Dante’s home and his personal chapel! I haven’t read the Divine Comedy all the way through, but I recently bought a copy and read about 50 pages. I really liked seeing his personal chapel!

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While I was there, I saw this place that was selling tripe sandwiches and I wanted to try one so bad, but was afraid of getting sick before starting my day. I might go back and get one on Saturday so that if it’s bad I will have time to recover! 😛

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After seeing Dante’s home and chapel, I walked to Santa Croce. Thankfully, I got to skip the entrance line because I had a FirenzeCard so I got in really quick and walked around and took lots of pictures!

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After Santa Croce I walked to the Jewish synagogue and museum (it was closed), then to the Basilica della SS. Annunziata. Walking through the streets on that side of town was so interesting! There were all these posters about police violence and there was a political rally going on (elections are coming up at the end of this month)!

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I saw some cool street art and some other cool stuff!

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It was absolutely GORGEOUS. It is within sight of the Duomo, which I couldn’t believe. I have never been their before and it is definitely one of my favorite churches I have ever been to in Italy! I would definitely suggest going to SS. Annuziata if you ever visit Florence. After the Bell Tower and the Accademia, this is definitely the best thing to see in this city! These women were in there praying and it was beautiful to hear.

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After that church I walked back towards my hostel and got a gelato because I hadn’t eaten all day.

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I was so thirsty and grabbed a water too, but I took a big gulp and realized it was the fizzy water…BLEH! I went back to my hostel and dropped off my stuff and then ventured to that eatery I went to yesterday. That guy is so nice and it is so reasonable. It is on the corner of Via dell’Albero and Via Palazzuolo! I got a bottle of wine, a salad, some pasta, and a liter of water for 14 Euros!

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I came back to my room and realized there is a club under my room (that explains the partying last night) and there was an Italian band down there playing Folsom Prison Blues! So, now I’m tipsy and listening to some Italian dudes cover Neil Young and Johnny Cash, which is pretty rad. I will definitely venture down to this bar tomorrow night, since it’s literally underneath my bed!

I didn’t meet any new people today, but I did get into 3 more places for free with my FirenzeCard and took a lot of pictures.

Today was a slow, but a beautiful day. Tomorrow I am leaving Florence. I don’t know if I am going to Pisa or Cinque Terre! It should be more action packed than today.

Thanks for reading folks and sorry for the boring material today! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Italia in 40: Day 3…Museums, Wax Genitalia, and A Pet Hippo!

Today was a lot more calm than yesterday, but I am so overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I saw.

I went back across the river en route to Giardino Boboli. I went to the entrance I saw marked on my map and tried to use my Firenzecard, but the lady directed me to the main entrance through Palazzo Pitti. I went there and saw that I could get all of these other tickets for free with my card, so I decided to go for it. I got a voucher for 5 museums and the gardens. I passed the palace yesterday, but I wasn’t really interested…I’m glad I went today!

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First I went to the Museo di Argenti that houses a large number of “treasures” from the Medici family. You weren’t supposed to take pictures, but I snapped a few with my phone (shhh, it’s a secret). It was really beautiful and there was so much beautiful jewelry! There were also lots of things from Mexico, China, and Japan that had been given to or bought by the Medici! It was so crazy to think that noble families from that time period were collecting luxury goods from Asia, at random.

I can just imagine all of these noble families gathering for random events. Sitting around a grand room presenting each other with gifts form all the places they’ve either directly conquered or helped conquer by funding or supplying forces. I knew about Italy’s relationship with Japan, just barely, because I read an account of a Japanese ambassador visiting Venice in the 16th or 17th century. The Jesuits also went to Japan for a period of time, so I’m sure that served as a bridge between the two places. I thought the Mexican “treasures” were really random and interesting…obviously given by Spain, but still…

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After that, I went to the Costume Museum. I wasn’t exactly impressed, but it was still neat! It showcased the work of a lot of the pioneers of Italian fashion from the early to mid twentieth century. They did have 3 pieces of really old clothing from members of the Medici family, which was my favorite part. If you are interested in hats, they have a HUGE display!

Once I finished with the costumes, I went to the Palatine Gallery, the royal apartments, and the Gallery of Modern Art. The royal apartments were really beautiful and it was intriguing to see how each room was decorated. The furniture was insane!

The Palatine Gallery and Museum of Modern Art were amazing! There were SO many paintings that I got really overwhelmed. I don’t know much about art, so it’s hard for me to get excited about it, but I was amazed to see the beautiful paintings still coming out of Italy in the early 20th century. Modern American  art (i.e. Cubism)  is really repulsive to me, so I was glad to see artists were still painting beautiful scenery into the 1920s!

IMG_2293<If you can’t tell, that is future Saint Agatha getting her nipples clamped…painted by Sebastiano del Piombo>

I really hate going to places like this because I know for a fact I have seen awesome stuff and famous works by great artists, but if you put a gun to my head right now, I couldn’t tell you what I saw or why any of them were special. Although I obviously find it beautiful, I feel like I take seeing all of this art for granted because, due to my own ignorance, I can’t fully appreciate it. If you are interested in Art or History or just want to look at some cool stuff, I highly suggest cruising the Polo Museale Fiorentino website! They have catalogs and digital archives of everything featured in all of their museums in Florence…which means you have free access to thousands of works of art and historical documents!

After the art, fashion, interior design, jewelry, and “treasure” viewing, I was going to explore the Boboli Garden. I started walking around and realized I could go back to the original entrance I was at earlier that morning and start from there. As I was walking, I noticed another building with an open gate and decided to go see what it was. It was the Museum of Natural History aka La Specola! I had passed it earlier in the morning when I was going back to Palazzo Pitti to get my tickets, but there were hoards of school kids out front, so I decided to wait until another time. I got there about 2:30 and I was the only person there until the very end!

I got in for free with my FirenzeCard and…

IT WAS THE COOLEST MUSEUM I HAVE EVER BEEN TO!

It’s 20 or so rooms with ceramic floors and floor-to-ceiling wooden cabinets with rolled glass windows, chocked FULL of preserved birds, fish, animals (including the Medici family’s former pet Hippopotamus O___0), sea creatures and bugs, plus a huge collection of anatomically correct wax figures from early medical researchers! Most of the stuff dates back to the 18th and 19th century. That’s right, there are dead animals older than the United States of America in there! Rather than explaining further, here are some pictures:

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Heyyyyy, sexy ladyyyy
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Where they do that at?!
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#NOPE
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The struggle has been real since 1788!

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I stayed there until the curator kicked me out because they were closing. I was going to go back into the Boboli Garden, but it was closed by then too. From what I saw, I think the garden I saw yesterday was prettier, but this one may have been more historic since it was a royal garden and not the garden of a private family…at least I’ll have something to see the next time I come here!

After leaving the last museum, I was walking towards the river when I saw the Church of San Felice and decided to stop. It turns out there is an altar piece painted by Giotto in there and from what I gathered, a lot of miracles are attributed to that church! I left a candle offering and prayed a little bit, before getting back on my way.

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I stopped and sat on the steps of the Basilica of Santo Spirito to take some footage for a video and then went back across the river. I saw this cool bar called Volume while I was filming. I might go check it out Friday night. I don’t want to go out at night alone, but it looked really chill, the Yelp reviews were good, and it’s a straight-shot across the river from my hostel, so I think it will be fine!  I stopped on the bridge to take some pictures before crossing:

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Once on the other side, I walked past Chiesa di Santa Trinita and went inside for a minute. Some old women had gathered for their daily rosary recitation and it was really beautiful to listen to. Afterwards, I headed toward my hotel again and ended up going through the Muslim sector of town. I found this awesome, small shop by my hostel that was super reasonable! I bought a small bottle of wine, a sandwich, chips, and a fresh salad for only 11 Euros. I told the man I would be back everyday! If you are ever in Florence it is between Via Della Scalla and Via Palazzuolo on Via dell’Albero or Via del Canacci (I’ll let you know tomorrow)!

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Other than the SWEET natural history  museum and walking my feet to the bone, nothing really crazy happened today. If you are planning a trip to Florence I have a few suggestions though! After visiting the other side of the river, I would definitely suggest staying there.   The Otro Arno as it’s called, is surprisingly awesome and much more quiet and clean than the other side of the river (it is probably cheaper too). You could EASILY spend a full day at the Palazzo Pitti and Specola, and another full day exploring the gardens, then just take a few hours to go to the major attractions on the other side (bell tower, Santa Croce, dome, accademia). In the Otro Arno, there are so many beautiful things to see, it is less tourist dense, and it’s just more chill. If you are young and want to party, then disregard the suggestion. Also, dress in dark colors, don’t carry a backpack, wear comfortable leather shoes, and you’ll fit right in!

I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow, yet. I might go explore the area around Santa Croce because I really like it there and my FirenzeCard will expire tomorrow, since it’s the third day. I also might go to Pisa since I’ve never been. If I don’t go to Pisa tomorrow, I will probably go Friday. Saturday is going to be spent going to the laundry, repacking, and more walking (probably over to Otro Arno again)!

 

Talk to you guys tomorrow!