I first went to Florence about 20 years ago and I don’t recall a single thing. No, I wasn’t smoking the whacky tobaccy. I did the Contiki Tour thing – you know, the whole of Europe and all the famous tourist spots in 9 days or less. I guess we’ve all done this sort of embarrassingly kitsch tour. I vaguely recall getting some group photo taken whilst the bus stopped atop some hill for two nanoseconds to show us a scenic view of Florence. Actually, I must dig out that photo – I’ve seen it recently in a box we shipped over from Oz. That photo should provide us all with a few laughs for the day.

So I went to Florence for the weekend, taking the 5.45pm Trenitalia train from Termini and arriving in Florence about 1 hour 20 minutes or so later. The first thing I’m going to say about Florence is it’s GAW-JUS. The second thing? The people there are super-friendly, unlike the citizens of Rome. I told you a few posts back about the Roman attitude. I’ve been living in Rome for one month now and I’m afraid I have to say the Romans are a pretty rude bunch. Okay, it’s a capital city; it’s a big city; yeah I get it. But what does it take to be civil to people? Despite the rudeness, I still love Italy.

In contrast, Florence was a breath of fresh air. It’s a much smaller scale. Easy to walk around. And the Florence Cathedral (known as The Duomo) is simply the most stunning building I’ve ever seen. I’m sure I saw it 20 years ago. I can’t have been that young and stupid to have missed it. But then again – it was a Contiki tour.

The other thing about Florentians (better not call them Florentines, after some biscuit) is that most, if not all, the people I came across had a very good command of English. Unlike the people of Rome. For some reason, the people in shops and cafes I walk into in Rome don’t speak English. I strongly suspect they do in fact speak English, even if it’s just a little – but don’t wish to speak it for whatever reason.

The taxi driver who picked me up at the train station in Florence (a curious example of a building built in the 1930s but not following the Art Deco style of the time), went out of his way to explain the piazza over there, or the building over here, or the statue across the road. He didn’t take me on some circuit of the city. We merely went from Point A (station) to Point B (hotel). But along the way, he was happy to show a foreigner his city.

Florence (or Firenze in Italian) has the most amazing handbags and jewellery. It’s that Italian sense of style again. The attention to detail. Everything is beautifully made and presented. I had to be very firm with myself because you could end up buying a lot of things in Florence. All I bought was a pink T-shirt that cost Euro 19.00 or around NZ$32.00. It will remind me of this very beautiful city. So for today, some shots of Firenze – capital city of the Tuscany region.