When we told our family and friends that we were headed to Florence, everyone that had been there told us how great the city was. Needless to say our expectations for the city were extremely high.
Megabus to Florence
Italy has a really great rail system throughout the country. Before we arrived I was very excited to take the bullet train, which travels 188 miles from Milan to Florence in just 1 hour 40 minutes. What I didn’t expect was the hefty price tag of 58E or $65 per passenger for this train.
Since we have more time than money, we took the budget option – the 9E or $10 Megabus which took 5 hours instead. This wasn’t our first experience using the Megabus, we previously took it to Madison over New Year’s Eve when car rentals were extremely expensive. Our experience was good so we didn’t think too much about taking the same company in Europe.
When the bus arrived, it was pretty chaotic. Since there were no assigned seats, everyone was pushing to get towards the front of the bus so they could scope out good seats. Once on board, we noticed that the seats were extremely close together. While it wasn’t the most pleasant seating arrangement, for a 5 hour bus ride, it was completely fine.
The best part about the Megabus was that there was free wifi on board. It wasn’t the fastest, but we both enjoyed being able to get online to help pass the time on the road.
Galleria dell Accademia
One of the biggest tourist attractions in Florence is Michelangelo’s statue of David. Since our apartment was located nearby, we decided to get in line before the museum opened in hope that we could get some great pictures before too many tourists arrived.
There was an option to purchase tickets online before we arrived, but we decided that we did not want to pay a fee of 1.50E or $1.68 and decided to chance it. Fortunately, when we arrived the line was not too long and moved quickly. We paid 15E or $17 each for our tickets. This seemed a bit expensive to me, but I know that art galleries typically have relatively high admission fees.
Knowing that tour groups always move a little slow because the guides talk a lot, we headed directly to the statue of David when we arrived. We were able to beat all of the groups and got some amazing pictures before people arrived. Andy and I were both surprised that the statue was as large as it was. We both expected that it would be smaller.
After we saw the statue, we walked around the rest of the museum. While things were nice, we are neither museum nor art people, so it wasn’t overly interesting for us.
Pizzale Michelangelo Viewpoint
One of Andy’s favorite things is going to the highest part of town to get a bird’s eye view of a city. When we did some research online, we found the Piazzale Michelangelo viewpoint. While a lot of people take tour buses or taxis to the top, we hiked up from town. The walk was about 25 minutes and not overly challenging.
Once at the top, we were surprised that there were so many people around. Since it was low season and we didn’t see many other people hiking up, we assumed that it would be less crowded than it was. We set up our tripod and were able to get some great shots before we headed back down.
Later in the evening, we returned to watch the sunset. It was disappointing when we realized that the sun did not set where we thought it would, illuminating a nearby hill, not the city. We were also frustrated that two older men were taking up a good amount of the space along the railing for the entire time that we were there. They appeared to be filming some sort of promotional video, with their crew telling people to move when they got too close to the men.
Duomo – Florence Cathedral
The Duomo is probably the most iconic site in all of Florence. This large church was particularly beautiful to me since it was made with colored marble instead of the traditional stone that most churches use.
It was hard to get many pictures at the Duomo as there were people all over the place. Luckily, we were able to set up the tripod to get a few shots of us when there were not too many people around.
We considered going inside but decided against it. While I am sure that it would have been interesting, we decided not to because of all the groups around and figured that we would have to pay to go inside. It wasn’t until after we left Florence that we realized the admission was free.
To finish up our time in Florence, we walked around a lot of the plazas around town. From the Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza della Signoria and Piazza Santa Croce, we saw them all. While they were interesting, there was nothing that was extremely noteworthy that we saw.
We really wanted to love Florence but it didn’t happen for us. I think one of the biggest frustrations was the lack of good food. Before you tell me I’m crazy, hear me out. Of all of the places that we were going to visit on our trip, I was most excited about the food in Italy. Once we arrived, it wasn’t quite what I expected. The quick and easy lunch options were pizza and sandwiches sitting in a glass case without any heating or cooling. This made me nervous about consuming it from a food safety perspective.
When we told friends who had traveled around Italy about our disappointing food, they told us that we were not spending enough. We upped our budget and bought fresh pasta at restaurants for 9E or $10 for a very small portion of pasta with tomato sauce. While it was fine, the price was astronomically high for what we got.
I feel that we may have not been going to the right places, but everyone I talked to kept telling me about how amazing their food in Italy was and how it was impossible to eat bad in Italy. I always left restaurants in Florence feeling upset and frustrated.
We had a good time in Florence and saw a lot of really interesting things. Between the high prices of things, overly touristy streets and disappointing food, we were ready to move on. I had my fingers crossed that Rome would be a city that we would like more.