We left Venice in the morning to depart for Florence. On our way, we stopped in Pisa to see the famous leaning tower. It had been raining off and on all morning and we were basically just stopping for photos. It was alright. I got a few good pictures. However, it wasn’t a very nice area and there were so many pushy vendors. It was cool to go to a spot that is photographed so often, but you can’t go on the grass. The cathedral was actually a bit more impressive to me. A cool place to say I’ve been, but not somewhere that I’d care about visiting again. We just had a super quick lunch at McDonalds and I had a cheeseburger happy meal that came with pineapple instead of apple slices.
We got to Florence around 3:30ish and checked in to our hotel. It was very dated and the shower was soooo tiny. I’ve literally never seen a shower that small before. Like to the point where if you dropped something, you couldn’t bend over to fetch it because your head would hit the door. You had to squat haha. Now that you’ve all moved past the image of me squatting in the shower, I will continue with telling you about the city…
We drove in to the city and had about an hour and 15 mins to wander around before dinner. We found a market and I bought a green, quilted, leather purse. Similar in style to a Chanel classic flap bag. Florence is known for its beef and leather, so I was excited to invest in a classic piece like this from Florence. It is so soft and I just love it. I also bought some flavoured olive oils and a bruschetta spice mix from a specialty store. I also got a variety pack of pasta and bruschetta spices for Mom.
We went for our included dinner at a nice restaurant where we had focaccia, garden salad, spaghetti with meatballs and tiramisu for dessert. Jacinda and I split a bottle of chianti wine and I loved it.
After dinner, we went to a bar called Red Garter for karaoke. They sold 2 litre mixed drinks! Jacinda and I split one of sex on the beach. I think they were something like 27 euros haha. A better price than buying regular mixed drinks in Europe, though. By this point we’d learned. Jacinda, Lauren, Kelsie, Chloe, and I sang Wannabe by the Spice Girls in Karaoke and then later I actually went up to sing by myself (first time doing karaoke solo ever and I was in Italy! Woo!) and sang one of my classic faves, The Sign by Ace of Base. After the wine and a litre of cocktails I was ready to hit the hay, so I opted to leave on the coach at 10:45. The coach ride was really fun, we just sang along to music the whole back.
In the morning we went to a leather and jewelry shop and had a presentation about leather and leather making. Then we had a chance to shop around. I tried on a few jackets and they were nice but I did not like any of them enough for how expensive they were. They also sold Florentine puzzle rings. Alex (our tour manager) had one and I had looked at it many times and thought they were really cool. They were invented so that a man could tell if his wife took off the ring because she wouldn’t be able to get it back together. I really love the look of them, so I bought one in sterling silver. Needless to say, Florence was my most expensive city for souvenirs.
After that, we had a walking tour of Florence. We saw the town hall, the many statues in the gallery beside it, the Pontevecchio bridge, which had beautiful views of the river, the countryside and buildings, and we saw the Duomo. After that, we all went for lunch at a restaurant where I had a very unimpressive pizza.
After that, Kelsie, Lauren, Jacinda, Mae and I walked back to the Florence Cathedral/Duomo to go look inside. The outside of the building is spectacular, in green, white, and pink marble. The cathedral and the Duomo is SO huge. I could not believe it. It took 200 years to build! Can you imagine? The paintings inside the dome were just gorgeous as well.
I REALLY wanted to see the Piazza Santa Maria and the Santa Maria Novella (A cathedral and plaza surrounding it) because I had just finished playing Lisabetta in our DalTheatre adaptation of The Decameron. In the play, the characters depart from the Santa Maria Novella, and the Piazza is mentioned in one of the stories. AKA it was a special place to me that I knew I needed to see in person. The other girls wanted to go to the market and we didn’t have much time left, AND it was on the other side of the city. I almost didn’t go, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t, and it was very important to me, so I set off on my own. That was pretty cool being able to explore on my own for a little bit, after always being with a group. I have become a lot more comfortable in my traveling skills. It was a relatively small piazza with shops and restaurants and a nice green space. The Santa Maria Novella was very big and pretty and similar in colouring and style to the Cathedral. I tried to go inside, but the line was way too long (and I could not convince the workers to just let me poke my head in to get a peek, as desperate as I was) and I only had 40 mins to walk back to the meeting spot in Piazza Santa Croce, and I was not sure how long it would take.
I made my way back and stopped to ask for directions from a police officer about half-way through, but I think I would have been fine on my own with my map. I just wanted to make sure I was on the right track. Florence was very beautiful and it was nice to walk around and see more of the city this way. I made it back in time and bought a print of the Duomo.
We went back to the hotel at 4pm to get ready for our dinner and night out. We went to take our group photo at a lookout over the city and then we went for dinner at a very nice place called La Certosa. We had canapes and meats to start, ravioli and penne as our pasta and then a thinly sliced steak with sea salt and parmesan with arugula and potatoes for our main, and a peach cake for dessert. Everything was absolutely delicious and I have since re-created the steak dish several times at home. We had red and white wine, and champagne. Dinner was really fun because they had us up dancing to songs like YMCA, the Macarena, the chicken dance, and they taught us the Zorba. They had singers as well, and the main older male singer, Andrea, was flirting with all the girls, but especially took a liking to Jacinda and me. It was a little awkward at times, but more fun than anything. We both danced with him haha.
After dinner, we went to a nightclub called Space Disco where we did karaoke downstairs for a bit and then we went upstairs to dance. At times we were a bit goofy, but all of us contikis were in a big circle dancing in the middle and passing an imaginary ball around like the theatre warm up haha. I don’t know how that happened (…ahem, alcohol!) but it was fun and silly. The drinks are MUCH stronger in Europe than at home. They free pour rather than measure with shot glasses and to me it seems like the drinks are almost straight vodka. More for your money…? I took a cab back to the hotel around 12:30. I was starting to get sick by this point, and so was everyone else. The Contiki cough is real.