Monday, December 17, 2007
Under the Tuscan sun
The ambience of Florence, Italy (Firenze in Italian), the capital of Tuscany, is very different from that in Venice. This made it an even lovelier experience for first time tourists like me and Gino. Florence is busier, bigger than Venice and looks more like a normal city because of road traffic and narrow streets--except that it is so rich in history and beauty. After all, this is where Italian Renaissance was born. I needed more than 3 days to soak it all in.
We stayed at Ostello Archi Rossi located in the historic centre of Florence. It was quite affordable at 20 euros per day per person including a yummy, big breakfast. With such a good breakfast, we ate lightly throughout the day.
Our room was dorm type again but this time men and women were mixed, which was fine by me. I would probably hesitate to get this kind of accommodation if Gino and I weren't together. We shared one of the 8 double-deckers in a big room that had two restrooms. We had individual lockers with keys. The washrooms had hairdryers! I thought this was a very good hostel, and it is.
The lobby of Ostello Archi Rossi. Look at the original
frescoes by local art students. There were more in
the hallways and dining room.
The hostel was walking distance to important tourist sites, and, oh boy, did we do a lot of walking! We were out most of the day into the night. My legs and my feet were starting to get sore. I began contemplating on getting a good pair of Italian leather walking shoes.
On our first full day in Florence, we joined a free 3-hour walking tour done daily by our hostel for its patrons. The guide brought us around the city centre and across the Arno River. It is very educational to join tours like this. I learned so much about medieval history, culture, politics, architecture... It's like going back to school but far more exciting! I was awed to be in same region where da Vinci and Michelangelo and many other great artists and writers were born and nurtured and expressed their genius. By the way, Carlo Collodi, the creator of Pinocchio was also born in Florence.
There are several walking tours you can join in Florence as in other tourist places. In Florence, the tours I saw in brochures cost about 20 euros. I was happy with our hostel's free tour.
Our tour guide. I admired her brave fashion sense and beautiful Italian accent. I loved the Italian accent and manner of speaking.
Agnieszi(?), or Agnes, our guide showed us churches and palaces or mansions of the rich and powerful of the Middle Ages. I would not have appreciated those buildings without knowing their histories.
Inside and outside palazzi, or palaces. Click on any picture to enlarge.
I was imagining how it must have felt to live in one of these mansions with exquisite furniture and furnishings and outdoor scenery painted on the walls. How wonderful! And then our guide said there was only one mansion that actually had a toilet! So how did they relieve themselves? Agnes said in those days people were not as keen on hygiene as they are today. So how did they do it? Be careful when you are walking on the streets because of what might be thrown out the window, Agnes joked. Uggh! I will not exchange my old townhouse for a palace...
I had to take a picture of the
only toilet in so many palaces.
The next day, Gino and I did not join the hostel's walking tour covering a different part of the city. Gino wanted to explore the city by ourselves, check out galleries and historic places. I wanted to check out markets.
To be continued...