Skip to main content

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.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Beers in Kenya: A sober opinion

Note: This is a dated post and has since been mostly passed by events. SAB Miller beers including Castle and Peroni are no longer widely available in Kenya after their exist. Sirville Brewery was bought out by Brew Bistro before being permanently shut in a tax dispute. Kenya is a land of milk, honey, beaches and taxes. I have penned, or is typed, a newer post here

I have had a short beer swigging stint in my life. It has however been long enough for me to share my opinion of Kenyan beer. Interestingly, over the course of sharing such opinions with other drunkards connoisseurs,  I have found that we all have different views as to what beer is the best, which one makes you too drunk, or which one gives one free, extra hangover for every hangover you get from it.
For starters, like everyone else, I discovered that beer isn’t as sweet as it looks like in those adverts that show golden barley swaying in breezes, happy men smiling and toasting chilled, foaming glasses of beer as a deep voi…

The bitter story of the downfall of Mumias Sugar company

Have you heard the bitter story of Mumias Sugar?

Regarded by many as Kenya's most successful sugar miller, Mumias Sugar Company was a disaster waiting to happen.

Many pointed out how Mumias Sugar Company was a fortress in the wreck that is Kenya's sugar industry, only unaware that it was just a matter of time. As the old wise men said, "Ukiona cha mwenzako cha nyolewa, tia chako maji".

The proverb means that if you see your neighbour's head getting shaved, your head will soon be undergoing the same - you'd therefore better wet your head for a smoother shave, otherwise you will be forced to undergo a painful, dry, shave.

But what ails Kenya's sugar industry?

The Kenya sugar industry is under legal siege. The typical Kenyan issue of coming up with laws to tackle a problem is evident here.

Many of Kenya's sugar factories are owned by the government, and have slowly declined under mismanagement and corruption. The appointing of political cronies and trib…

The Bible. Why you should read your Bible.

After reading what The Candid Tin man had to say about the Bible on his blog, I felt a disappointed man. In my opinion, the candid Tin man had committed the same errors of omission and commission that have plagued the Bible for centuries.

In the beginning, the Roman Catholic church was the dominant church worldwide, and the bible existed in Latin language which common folk like me and you did not understand. Latin was a dead language used by the priests of the roman Catholic church and perhaps a few scholars.

The Roman Catholic church aimed at controlling the public's opinion , as the church still does today, and especially their opinion of what was God's word. Therefore, back then, if you needed to understand God's word, you had to consult the Roman Catholic Priests to read the Bible for youa nd then tell you what it said. How well they did this and their intentions remained questionable, with accusations directed at the Roman Catholic Church for mistranslating The Bible…

Why do people vote for Cruel Leaders?

Why do Kenyans, or any other electorate for that matter, vote for cruel politicians or so-called leaders?
The common argument is that the voters are ignorant, or were “misled” or had “no option”. But this is not true.

People know who and what they are voting for. People intentionally vote for cruel politicians especially when the voters form part of a majority - clan, tribe, race, nation, class or other majority.
It is not that they do not know the politicians are cruel. They simply assume that the cruelty will be experienced by others - the minority - and will never be experienced by them. They deal with the conscience by arguing that those experiencing cruelty must have done something wrong to deserve it.

Kenyan products: The art of punishing your consumer

This post was written in 2011. Facts may have and indeed have changed - but the conclusion has not. 
Peanut butter used to taste so good, but you could not afford it on the pocket money that you got back in school.

A few years later, you have your first real job and your first "disposable" income. You buy your first real tub of peanut butter, probably the first in your life. You feel proud that Dominion peanut butter is manufactured in Ruiru, a town that you visited in your campus days to withdraw your pocket money, it was the nearest bank ATM to your campus. 
This was before Equity bank became a mainstream bank and decided to open an ATM in your campus, and before M-Pesa meant that you could withdraw your pocket money next to the kibanda where you had your one meal of the day.
The peanut butter though is a far cry from the peanut butter you remember. It does not taste that good, and turns into some sort of stone barely third way through the jar. The stone is not the kind that …