Following my stay in Venice, I was dropped off by the Germans I carpooled with at the Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station. It was already kind of late by then, so I just walked around a bit, spending the rest of the evening scoping out where I would sleep for the night.
I ended up staying right where I was dropped off at – right in the parking garage for the train station for the next three nights. It was an underground parking garage, and I simply walked in via the vehicle entrance and went all the way down to the bottom floor. Figuring that most people would park in the higher levels, I laid out my cardboard roll at the bottom of the stairwell and went to sleep.
*Pro-tip: while not necessarily the safest places, parking garages have proven to be excellent sleeping locations in a bind!
I woke up the next morning without any incidents and set out to check out Florence. I emerged from the depths of the parking garage to an overcast morning. Not sure of where to go first, I simply walked up and down the streets until I came upon the Arno river.
From this bridge, you could see the Ponte Vecchio, the classic bridge lined with a bunch of shops. I decided to stay on the north side of the river for the time being and I went back to some church that I had seen earlier.
The church that I saw was the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. In front of it, though, was the Baptistery of St. John.
The baptistery is a minor basilica while the cathedral is the main church for Florence.
There was a line to go in one of the buildings (I think it was the cathedral, but I am no longer sure), and I remember one of the tourists in the line was absentmindedly pouring his (many 1€ and 2€) coins from one hand to another.
It was a gross display of wealth, and obviously made quite a bit of noise as the coins clanged against each other as they tumbled from one hand to the other.
An older woman approached him and, quite forcefully, begged him for money, showing a picture of some children who she claimed to be hers. He obviously didn’t want to give her any, but he realized the fallacy of his actions and reluctantly dropped a couple coins into her cup. She then got aggressive, demanding more coins from him. He looked a little shocked that she would ask for more after he had just given her some, and he had to repeatedly deny her rapidly aggressive demands for more of his coins. After a few more attempts at getting more coins from him, she quickly turned away, cursing at him as she stomped away while he looked after her with mild disbelief. It was an interesting interaction to witness.
I then walked back and crossed the river. Walking around a bit more, I saw the Forte di Belvedere which is the largest fort in Florence.
When I stumbled upon it, I didn’t stumble upon the entrance, but rather a minute or two walk to the side. Had I gone left along the wall, I would have rapidly reached the entrance. Instead, I took off in the wrong direction, forcing me to walk around the entire fortress before I came upon the entrance. After the walk around the fortress and finally reaching the entrance, I never even went in. I believe it cost more money than I could afford to spend at the time, so I just kept walking around, not looking for anything in particular.
Not far from the fortress, I found the Piazza Pitti.
It was here that I ran into my friend that was also doing the same trip. We walked around with each other for a bit, but I could tell that I was already starting to stink after about 4 days of sleeping in the streets and not showering. As such, I made a conscious effort to keep a little distance between me and her group. Partially because they wanted to go elsewhere and partially because I was afraid of my odor reaching them, we parted again after talking for only a few minutes.
I then crossed back to the other side of the river via the Ponte Vecchio. It had lots of various shops, but it seemed like it was mostly souvenirs and jewelry, and it all looked too expensive for me. I, unfortunately, apparently didn’t even get a picture while on the bridge. I think I felt out of place and too poor so I actually just rapidly crossed over the bridge. It sure looks cool from the side, though!
I returned to the north side of the city and saw some cool statues and other sites as I strolled through the city.
I then went into some museum, but I can’t recall which one. I am ninety-percent sure that it was the Palazzo Vecchio Museum, but in any case, it had a lot of impressive art.
The cutest minibus I have ever seen. Like… a third of the bus is the door itself! How neat is that?
More wandering ensued, and I finally went into the cathedral now that the line has dissipated.
I did all that in one day, and since I had already purchased my train ticket for two days later, I was kind of stuck with not too much to do. But it was a long night and already the evening, so I slept for another night at the bottom of the parking garage.
With not much else to do the following day, I walked up the hill on the south side of the river. I spent my time going up the hill and getting lost on various pathways before I managed to reach the Piazzale Michelangelo and get a nice view of the city.
Otherwise, the rest of that day and the following day were more or less spent just walking around and looking at the same things again. I am not the best about meeting people when traveling (at least when I don’t have somewhere like a hostel to meet others at, and especially when I was so stinky), and I didn’t have too much money for anything expensive (hence no hostels/hotels), so it was pretty boring to say the least.
I don’t know why, but I can’t honestly say that I liked Florence that much. It’s one of the first time I have gone to a city and thought “meh.” I feel that there wasn’t too much to do on my limited budget, and what I did see pretty much only took me a day, making me feel like I wasted my two other days there. When I tell people about my time in Italy, I of course have no problem remembering the names Venice and Rome, but I honestly sometimes forget Florence’s name, it just left such a lasting lack of an impression on me.
I also didn’t realize how close I was to Pisa (only about an hour away), and I wish I would have gone there to see the leaning tower. I unfortunately only discovered how near I was after the fact.
I woke up the last morning to people stepping over me in the parking garage. I guess it was a busier day and people needed to park at the bottom. I was super exhausted for some reason, though, so I remained there in everyone’s way. After the twentieth or so person had to step over me, though, I finally decided it was time to get up and get out of their way. I simply strolled around for a bit until my train departed, which I then took to Rome, which was a city unlike any other.