Since today is our last morning in Rome, we packed up all our suitcases and backpacks and then ate an early breakfast for the last morning on the rooftop patio. We watched the birds that always come to join us for breakfast, and this time a large baby crow-looking bird perched right next to us. The little nuthatches and chickadees were still bold enough to to jump right on the table as we left to get juice or coffee.
Our taxi arrived to bring us to the Roma Termini to take the train from Rome to Florence. We had booked tickets on the Frecciosa Treni, the express train that goes faster and makes fewer stops. On our way in several people asked if we needed any help or information, so we asked one woman the right direction to go, so she walked with us to show us where we would go and explained that the train wouldn’t be assigned a gate until 10-20 minutes before departure time, so we had to stand to wait an hour and then enter and try to figure out which was our train platform. The lady came back a few minutes later with her hands held out, “some money for the information I gave you, please,” she demanded, so I handed her a small bill for her to leave us alone and then she went away. I should have known better that the people offering information weren’t for free. She was even wearing a lanyard that made me think that she was an official train station employee. Oh well.
There were two other 10:20am trains, and their times and gates were posted, but ours still wasn’t showing a platform number even within 5 minutes of the posted time. Then we saw a bunch of people moving purposefully towards a train, and so I scouted the sign next to the train, only to find that it was the correct train towards Milan, with a stop at Firenzi, or Florence.
The train trip was a comfortable hour and a half, with gorgeous views of the Tuscan countryside through the train windows. The train attendant came with a light snack of packaged shortbread and juice/coffee. For most of the trip I worked on just trying to type up all my adventures from the prior days along, check in on our tours and itineraries, with a brief nap.
Arriving at the Florence train station we exited until we found the hotel shuttle driver holding a sign with “Brask” on the sign, standing over by the Pharmacia. He helped us load up his van and we drove through the city to our hotel. When I first saw the Duomo through the rows of buildings, it was then that I knew that I was indeed here in Florence!
We checked into our hotel, a very small and boutique artisanal hotel, a former palace of an influential and wealthy Florence family. The rooms have high ceilings and antique frescos on the walls and ceilings. The window of my room looked out into the hotel inner courtyard, my parents’ room looked out directly at the Duomo!
After checking in and settling, my father and I took time to go explore our neighborhood of Florence, making our way towards a cafe that was recommended by a friend who recently honeymooned here a few weeks ago. The city feels a lot smaller and less crowded than Rome, a little more comfortable and a little more beautiful. We arrived at Pasticciera Deanna and ordered an ice coffee and a cappuccino and we shared a small pastry. We sat outside watching the people walking by from what appeared to be a shopping mall across the street.
On our walk back to the hotel, we stopped at a hat vendor and my father got a small cap and I bought a wide-brimmed visor, very similar to a gardening hat I have at home but without the roof of the hat. We walked a bit more and ducked into a souvenir shop to browse. We returned to the hotel and rested for an hour or two before we caught a taxi to go to our dinner reservation at Il Latini, a small restaurant that serves authentic Florence typical food. This place came highly recommended from a gourmand friend, so we looked forward to the experience.
The place was cozy, feeling like we were in a wine cellar underground, with aging pork hanging from the ceilings. The tables were close together, and we discovered that there were fellow Americans at the table next to us so we chatted with them a few times. For dinner we ordered a pre-fixe Tuscan meal so it included house wine and 4-5 small courses. The first course brought was the tomato and bread soup, which was not just tomato soup with bread on the side, it was tomato soup with bread in it as part of the soup! What an interesting surprise!
Then they brought us three different types of pasta to try and compare which was our favorite. The main course included bistecca fiorentina, or Florentine style beef steak, a very soft cut of meat with savory seasonings and almost like prime rib. My father expressed how this was probably one of the best tasting and most flavorful steaks that he’s had before in his life, and I thought it was pretty good too.
Later they brought out dessert, a combination of a chocolate cake and something called cantucci and visanto. The waiter explained that it is very Florentine tradition to take the biscotti and dip it into the sweet wine before the actual dessert, to prepare the palette for the real desert. It was quite delicious! They brought over another bottle of the house wine but we couldn’t realistically finish it, so we gave it to the table next to us for free and hope they could use it or pass it onto the next party.
We took a taxi back to the hotel after walking around just a little bit outside to take in the piazza duomo at night, with the green and white marble walls all lit up from powerful strobes. Florence at night was actually a little busier and more active than Florence during the day, it seemed. I really liked observing the play of light on the ancient architecture at night. After dropping my father off at the hotel for the night, I continued exploring the city, looking for a wine bar by the name of Obsequiem, but once I found them they were closing. I walked along the river for a bit to take in the colors of dusk and the reflections of the lights on the water. Altogether it had been a wonderful first day in Florence! Tomorrow we are going to a winery and vineyard in the Tuscany countryside!