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EuroTrip - Florence in 2 Days: The Young Meet the Renaissance

Firenze is the city that the Renaissance is said to have sprung from, though it is even disputed whether a renaissance actually existed or it merely exists in our imaginations, given the benefit of hindsight. The renaissance was supposedly this period where Europe began prospering economically thanks to the emergence of trading and literature. It is said to have begun with the rich textile trading families of Florence.

My journey from Rome to Florence was meant to be on a train, probably Trenitalia (You can read about my experience in Rome by clicking here). But then, there is Rail Europe’s badly designed website which increases the possibility of making a wrong booking time when you are booking a series of rides. And so it happened I had booked an evening rather than morning train.

Luckily, I had discovered the GoEuro app and also found that for less than 10 Euros, precisely 8.99 Euros, I could grab a large, blue BusCenter bus from Rome to Florence. The ride would take just under three hours from the Rome Tiburtina bus station.

One shocking thing I found with the bus stations in Italy is that they were few people milling around and they were effortless to use. In Nairobi, the main country bus station is a place I really try to avoid - teeming with criminals, overcrowded, and usually with mounds of garbage here and there. I was therefore expecting crowds and pickpockets at the regional bus station, but much to my surprise, found the train stations were in fact more crowded than the bus stations.


The Scandicci Bus Station in Florence
The journey from Rome to Florence was quite easy, save for the realisation that the bus drops you off at a bus park along the Autostrada (Italy’s toll expressways that link the cities). Well, Autostrade(the firm that manages the expressways) does try to make the bus park as convenient as possible complete with a restaurant, and there is a tram link into the city. 

I took the relatively new metro into Florence, before picking a bus to my hotel which was just outside the city centre. The city is quite clean and walkable, though it had decided to rain yet again. One of the things I first noticed was that Florence has quite incredible restaurants. I got to finally enjoy a proper serving of Risotto, unlike the small and misleadingly-priced servings I had had in Rome and Venice.

So, yes, Florence is a friendlier town with a lot of young and friendly people in it. The main attractions in the city are its rich history complete with iconic buildings - they aren't ruins, yet - magnificent chapels, and the museums that I avoided to save on my Euros.

Besides the buildings, there’s also the Arno river that snakes its way around Florence and the historic Ponte Vecchio. This is a bridge across the Arno river which plays host to a row of decades-old buildings on either side. The buildings do have a more interesting history compared to their current fate as a tourist photo backdrop and tourist shops. As for the city, it probably does owe its existence to this river.

Beyond the bridge, there is the Piazzale Michelangelo, which is set on a hill across the Arno River, and from where you have excellent and picturesque views of the city. It is recommended to catch at least one sunset from this vantage location as you watch the summer sunset bathe the city in its golden colours. You can walk to the location - think of it as a walking tour, though you can also catch one of the city’s public buses to the point.


My second attempt at Risotto at Ristorante Pizzeria Senzanome was quite rewarding and satisfying.
I found it interesting that the town has adopted the city buses such that some of the routes are served by vans rather than buses, probably because the demand is not as high for a regular bus.

Talking of transport, there was a lot of ongoing construction as the metro train was a recent addition and was therefore still undergoing expansion to serve more places around the city.

Unlike Italy’s capital of Rome, Florence is a city that is equally alive at night, which we can attribute to the significant population of young people. This is not to say older people can not party, but yeah.

Popular spots include the Babylon Club (the name says it, it is packed), the more hospitable il Vinile, if you are looking to talk, and the Green Street Bar if you are a hip hop head looking to party.

It would be a waste if you were to travel all the way to Florence without trying out the uniquely Italian sandwiches at Osteria All'antico vinaio. These consist of cured meats and a hard bread, and you can have them with a bottle of wine, a beer, or even a soft drink. The restaurant is hugely popular and has queues snaking all the way outside. On top of that, it is quite affordable and the servings are very generous. This is an experience you will definitely want to try more than once.


The Florence Cathedral with the characteristic stand-out architecture of Florentine structures
And then, there is what I missed. There is the wine country tour, and again, the grapevines around Florence are quite picturesque. If you are not looking to spend more than 100 euros for this trip, you could catch the bus to Chianti, but I’d suggest you do it before 11:30 AM so you have enough time for your tour and to catch the bus back. I overslept and therefore could not run my tour, also given that it was a rainy day. For the wine tour, see details here.

All-in-all, Florence does have lots to offer and is highly recommended, but make sure to plan well.


The Santa Maria Novella Basilica just round from the Florence SMN Train Station
From Florence, my next stop was the so-called “fashion capital” of Milan, which happened to be the most boring destination in my trip. I will let you in on a tip - unless you are an architect interested in some unique buildings, you will want to skip Milan. It is expensive and boring without much to see. If you want fashion - go to Austria unless you are really a fashion industry industry.

Florence from the Michelangelo Plaza
I caught a high-speed train from the Florence Santa Maria Novella(SMN) station to the Porta Garibaldi station in Milan. This was one of my best train rides on my trip with comfortable and spacious seats.


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