I slept on and off for about 6 hours, Dan only slept 2 or 3. I was up around 5am, did some work until 6:30 or so when we got dressed, finished packing and headed down for breakfast around 7. We caught a boat at 8:15 to the train station, and had about a 40 minute wait until we could board for a 9:25 departure.
The train ride was uneventful but a little late. Because I’m still fighting a cold in a major way – probably worse than yesterday – we caved and took a taxi to the hotel. It was a good choice. We got there just after Noon and our room was ready so we went on up. The hotel has a shuttle that drops you off at the train station but there was a lunch break and the next one wasn’t leaving until 2:15pm so we went up to the lounge for some snacks then both took little naps. (And had we known that we could’ve saved about €20 on the cab, because it picks you up from there, too! Oh well.)
We stopped at the pharmacy in the train station to get cold medicine and tissue for me. I saw the shelf that had cold stuff on it and started to walk towards it, not realizing I had entered the pharmacists’ area and got shooed away. Even what we would call over-the-counter drugs here had to go through the pharmacist. So we took a number and ended up with the same guy who shooed me. I asked if he spoke English. “Little bit.” Just like in Germany, everyone’s favorite answer to that question! (In Belgium and The Netherlands it’s “of course” with a shake of the head like “who doesn’t?”) I asked for a decongestant. Of course the box was all in Italian so we couldn’t tell what it was, but it was Johnson & Johnson and somehow that made us feel better. Dan asked him if it would make you drowsy, he says “little bit.” Later I mused: maybe that’s the only English he knows and he uses it for all questions?
So we were off again. New city, better weather. It was about 43 degrees when we headed out – 10 degrees warmer than Venice this morning or most of yesterday. And it wasn’t raining. Very happy about that. And as soon as we took a walk down our first street outside of the train station we were like “ah, this feels so much better.” Our admission for the day is: we really didn’t care for Venice all that much. I know, blasphemous to some, but for us it was a lot like Bruges: all tourists, all the time. It’s beautiful, it needs to be seen, but like Bruges it felt more like a theme park than a city where people actually live. 24 hours was enough and we wouldn’t go back. The whole time we were there we kept saying: if it’s this crowded in 35 degree rainy weather in January, can you imagine how bad it must be during the high season? Yeah, no. Not our cup of tea.
Florence, on the other hand, felt great to us from the first block. We like places that feel lived in and have some things to offer tourists to boot. Florence had that feel for it from the beginning: you couldn’t really tell the tourists from the locals, there were businessmen walking about in suits with briefcases (never saw that in Venice for sure!), bicycles, motorcycles, cars, pedestrians, a nice mix of all. And wide streets. Well, relatively wide. I didn’t realize until Florence how much my claustrophobia had kicked in in Venice!
And Florence is no slouch in the art, history, banking and political worlds: home of the Medici family and Michelangelo, birthplace of Leonardo and the Renaissance. Lots of history, lots to see. So let’s get started.
Above and below are the same spot from different angles. I just liked the look and feel of this, especially the curved alleyway.
So this was our goal: Piazza della Signoria. A big plaza that has all the masterpiece sculptures bordering it. Pretty amazing. There’s a balcony that has more on it but it was closed for the day already, although free to the public.