I woke up in the morning and bade goodbye to the American couple. Then I had a coffee at the campsite restaurant and a quick shower. I then decided to walk it to the city centre unlike the earlier day when I took the bus. I got a route map from the kind lady at the reception and went on my way. I took a couple of shots at the Pizzale Michelangelo before proceeding down the winding road that led downwards.
The walk to the city centre from Pizzale Michelangelo has been carefully laid out. There are interesting things like a small tower, a fountain, a viaduct etc. on the way. It is also amazing to see the changing views of the beautiful city centre of Florence on the way. I took the road that led along the river and came to the famous bridge named Ponte Vecchio. The Ponte Vecchio has a great past and has been around for centuries. The uniqueness of this bridge is that it is lined on both sides with shops. Outside the shops, we find a number of people selling little things on the street. It is a most enchanting atmosphere reminiscent of the bazars of many countries in Asia. After a pitstop to shoot a few photographs of the river Arno lined with houses on both sides, I proceeded to what is the main city centre in Florence.
The most endearing thing I found about Florence was its streets. The city centre is made of little streets hardly a few feet wide in some places and they often lead into humongous buildings like churches or palaces or museums. One such sight was the Palazzo Vecchio. I was walking along a narrow street when I saw a little alley leading into an open square. Since there were many restaurants there, my hunger suddenly seemed to knock on my head and remind me that I hadn't had much to eat all morning.
The Palazzo Vecchio is a beautiful palace outside which is a large square lined with many restaurants. Most of these restaurants have outdoor seating and the setup is quite enticing. I ordered a pizza which turned out to contain fish. The fact that it is probably the saltiest tasting fish in the world didn't quite help matters. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchovy I didn't mind the pizza though - in fact, I quite liked it. I am not very particular about food anyway, I can eat and appreciate any kind of food unless it has meat or the taste/smell/look of milk. There are a few exceptions of course, as there always are.
My aim for the day was to visit the Duomo and see one of the most famous attractions in Florence - the dome constructed by Brunelleschi. I found my way to the Duomo and was lucky enough to manage to get in amongst the crowd. It has been maintained very well and though the area directly under the dome was cordoned off, it was quite easy to see the paintings made on the inner wall of the dome. Read all about the dome and why it is special -
After that, I started doing what would be the best thing I did in Florence - just roam around the city. I went to a little market which looked like the various 'fashion-streets' we see in cities in India and managed to find exactly what I was looking for - a t-shirt with a print of the Vitruvian Man drawn by Leonardo da Vinci. I haggled for the price and I managed to buy it for Six Euros against an initial quote of Eight. Yay!
I then walked to one of the largest squares in Florence - Piazza della Repubblica. I found a nice cafe with outdoor seating and ordered a coffee. While going through their menu, I read their history. I was at 'Gilli', the oldest café in Florence. Gilli is renowned for is confections and has been around since 1733. YES! To those who think they've read it wrong, let me put it in words - year Seventeen Thirty Three. http://www.gilli.it/
The coffe was brilliant and I couldnt help but shoot a few pictures of the coffee and the square. The service was brilliant and I like the custom where you are served a little biscuit or a couple of them - 'biscotti', with your tea or coffee. I really do not know how much time I spent there but I loved the feeling. I was sitting down in peace, alone, looking at the activity around the square. It almost felt like 'home'. I hardly felt like a tourist.
By the time I could eject myself from the chair, it was turning dark. I started my walk back through the market and came across that Sisley store again. I decided that I should buy that jacket. So I went in and spoke to the same salesgirl that I had spoken to the day before. Since the issue of the jacket being slightly long still existed, I asked her to show me a couple of others. I finally settled on a brown casual two-button jacket. It has that distressed look and when I showed it to my dad recently, he couldn't believe I paid around £130 for it. I was satisfied with my purchase though. I bought a couple of other things and was quite impressed at the cuts and the attention to detail that all the clothes exhibited. I thanked the salesgirl for the help because she helped me a lot with the selection. I spent more than an hour trying to select the jacket. She didn't speak much English so she did try really hard to understand what I wanted. Another example of Italian hospitality, I suppose.
With the day almost over, I walked to the bus station and took the bus back to my campsite.
I saw that I had a new tent-mate. It was a young guy from Belgium. He was in Italy to study Italian and he was going to staying with an Italian family in an exchange programme. He told me that he took the bus from Belgium to Italy which took 20-24 hours. He said he and his girlfriend were a part of an environment consciousness group in their university and they always tried to reduce their carbon footprints on their journeys. The bus, he said, was also a lot cheaper than the flights. I am sure its quite an effort to travel like that. The worst conditions I've travelled in were when I took a train from Pune to Goa and had to get by in the general compartment. It was so packed that people were sleeping on the floor in the ailes, between seats, near the doors and even in the toilet! I was stuck sharing a three person seat with seven other people. To top up the experience, my return journey to Pune a week later was in the exact same condition.
Thus ended another day in Florence - perhaps the best ever of all my days on holiday. There was no rain today but my last night inside that tent brought me a sleep of peace and satisfaction.