So what is life in Florence like? Well, it’s been pretty wonderful. We moved across the river several weeks ago and are now literally steps from the Duomo. On the one hand, this is pretty much the worst place you can be during tourist season. i.e. now. But on the other hand, it’s crazy to take a step outside of our apartment, look to the right, and catch a glimpse of the Duomo. In the mornings and late evenings, the area is fairly quiet and deserted, so it’s lovely to walk around the Duomo during those moments. In the evenings when the crowds have dispersed, the evening sun is pretty and warm, but no longer scorching, and we’re walking home in the Piazza Duomo while the violinist busker serenades us from his usual spot with his usual tune (Ave Maria, of course), we might as well be a postcard.
BUT, back to tourist season, when it is considerably less blissful. We are right in the throes of high season. What’s that like you ask? Every landmark is surrounded by throngs of people and their selfie sticks, people are packed like sardines on the tiny sidewalks to avoid the cars, scooters, and bikes, and the streets are teeming with salmon-colored shorts (seriously, why is this THE summer uniform for guys?). Anyway, the simple of act of walking to get coffee has become a bit treacherous with everyone suddenly developing a habit of moving in a direction they aren’t looking (to be fair, I do this too, but I do it all year long).
With all that said, however, we have found some awesome spots near our apartment that I highly doubt we would have discovered if we would have stayed on the left bank. If you’ve been following our Instagram pictures and stories, you’ve likely seen some of these: the sweet urban garden for lunch or drinks hidden away just steps from the chaos of the Duomo, the coffee shop/bistro/flower shop with industrial-chic décor that I am obsessed with, this amazing fish-focused restaurant that serves ingenious pecorino stuffed octopus, and the gorgeous Palazzo Medici which is a frequent part of our route.
We also went to this huge arts and crafts fair (one of the largest in Europe I hear), went to a plant fair and picked up the cutest little succulents for our apartment, and went to a Gelato festival (yes, that’s a thing) and ate SO MUCH gelato. And the most shocking find at the gelato festival was a Hyderabadi gelato maker serving the completely un-shocking flavor of…you guessed it…mango. He called it Tropical Sunshine and described it as literally “mango, mango…e mango”. Personally, I would have loved a little fusion – maybe ricotta + mango (??) – but boy was it pretty.
In other fun news, a few weeks ago, S’s cousin B (from this amazing tale in Crete) was in town with a friend to attend a wedding. We had an awesome time hanging with them, discovering things we hadn’t heard about (but he had), and sharing some of our favorite spots. We had drinks by the river, he introduced us to a couple of great shops including a delightful concept store where I bought the hat I’ve been sporting in IG, we checked out the rooftop bar at the Westin, drank lots of coffee at our favorite coffee shops, went to several gardens, and climbed to arguably the best viewpoint in the city.
In between all of this awesomeness, S has picked up the camera. He’s taking a ton of pictures now…and uhh, if you haven’t noticed already, that means you’re seeing a LOT of me. And clouds. And buildings. The occasional sunbather. And me again.
I have been pleasantly surprised by how hip Florence is. Interspersed among the old are lots of interesting shops, bars, and restaurants – with retro, industrial, and Brooklyn-esque vibes. And on the more random front, there’s a pretty legit American-style diner complete with bright orange upholstery and mugs, drip coffee, pies and cheesecakes, and eggs any way you like ‘em and a bar called One Eyed Jack, named after Twin Peaks!
On another random note, for some reason – S and I always talk about places in terms of how they remind us of India. I’m not sure why that happens – but “wow, that reminds me of India” is such a common phrase between the two of us and happens often here. People, places, facades…and not least of which has to be the number of times I’m asked my age by near strangers (4 so far, if I’m keeping track) followed by some age-related commentary. I don’t mind it, but that matter-of-fact style of interrogation just feels so Indian. I half expect them to tell me I’ve gained weight since they last saw me…but then I’d know I’m actually in India. Like I always say “Who needs a scale when you’ve got an Indian uncle?” (I don’t always say that. that was the first time, but I’m gonna start).
I know Paris is the city of love and we miss that city dearly, but between the art, architecture, gardens, food, wine, and GELATO, Florence is a strong contender for that nickname. We, at least, have fallen for it.
Here are some completely random pictures from life here.