I don’t quite know how it happened that I ended up being a fully fledged tourist in my own town (by adoption admittedly, but twenty years here gives me the right to say “home town” I think).
But I did. A whole day fully immersed in the total tourist experience in Florence. And honestly, it wasn’t that great. Let’s see …
Firstly a train from Pontassieve to Florence. I needed two tickets (I have a pass) and as the ticket office was closed. As one of my small group needed to extra tickest for other days, we purchased 6 tickets from the machine. All six came out printed on a single ticket, rather than six single tickets. First mistake. So we re-purchased each ticket individually from the machine which took forever.
Having finally made it into the Florence we hit some shops and paid some silly prices, but you know that’s going to happen in the centre of town. Dodging beggars prostrate on the floor (however irritating it is, you don’t want to actually step on them), African (et al) street sellers who always set up their tempory shops right in the most concentrated areas of tourist flux, and again not banging into them, or stepping on their tacky wares requires the skills of a trained ballet dancer, and finally over-enthusiastic, over-happy pen-flourishing young Italians who Jehova-witness style beg you to join their (personal?) war on drugs with a signature are all intensely invasive. That’s not very PC I know, but they are. Another major obstacle are the human rivers of sunglassed, labelled, sneakered and ear-plugged tourist groups whose paths it is actually impossibile to cross without gross risk to life and limb.
So on to Rivoire for 2 campari sodas, a glass of water and a freshly squeezed juice for € 29.50. Yeah, I know we know. I know we can read it on the displayed menus. But it still stinks, for mediocre service (read bland, unfriendly) on stained tablecloths. Of course the view is incredible, the sun was shinning, the square was buzzing etc, and that is part of the experience, but the experience within those oh-so-expensive glass walls that define where Rivoire ends and the square begin should be fabulous too shouldn’t it?
More shopping, lots of fun. The Radio DJ 10k marathon and been run that morning, and the centre was buzzing with hyped runners coming down off their winner highs, the Florentine flag throwers were out in force throwing their potentially lethal flags high into the air and then bombing and stampeding the crowds when one went astray in effort to retrieve it (does it bring back luck to Florence for twenty years or something if one falls on the floor?). That bit was good, it was fun (and free) and relaxed.
So onto lunch. First we tried Ristorante Antico Barile just behind Piazza della Signoria
I don’t know it, but the people I was with just wanted to flop into somewhere close to hand. The person from our group who went in to ask for a table is a Florentine. A straight no. It was 12.15, the restaurant (big) was empty except for two tables. “Really?”. Sorry no tables free. So we left, but two doors down the same restaurant has another shop front (connected internally to the previous shop front we stopped at.) So, how could I resist? I sent another member of our group (aged 70, obviously a foreigner) to ask for a table. “Certainly madam, come in staight away”. We left. Antico Barile can be grateful that due to my job I cannot write tripadvisor reviews, but I might have to make sure that someone from the group does… I can be grateful that we didn’t eat there.
So onto a small restaurant on Piazza dei Cimatori. By then our group had reduced to just three. We were seated inside right by the door to the outside area. Three times the staff asked the guest on the chair by the door to move in. “Please move in, you have to move in, we can’t pass, move in now”. When the guest had sucked in their tummy and was pressed against the table in an effort to disappear, I gave up and we left. Nicely. But we left.
Third time lucky? B.Gallo (apparently tripadvisor doesn’t know it…) right by the Baptistry on Piazza del Duomo. Somewhere I would never have chosen myself, but hey, I had tourists in town and they wanted a view. And indeed it was to die for. A pizza margherita, a salad, two spritzers, a bottle of water and two coffees, nearly € 70. Again for an entirely underwhelming experience within those glass walls, whilst outside was buzzing. We nearly lost the waiters altogether once the Fiorentina fans met the Juventus fans in the square and the football chants rang out. We lunched to the sound of Juve m**** sung in chorus (which if you didn’t understand what they were saying was not so bad!) and the muttered comments of the waiters in reply. The food was drab, the service rushed and too impersonal – you know that “everything ok” question that is uttered in haste and no-one bothers to listen to the reply? And it was unpleasant to watch the waiters shooing Japanese tourists away from in front of the terrace who understandably thought they had found a good spot for even more photographs, and by law probably had as they were actually in the square and not in the terrace itself.
Back to those train tickets. I tried to change the multiple single ticket this morning back to singles to be used separately by the individuals.
“No we can’t do that. I can try and see if we are allowed to reimburse you for 80%, but I don’t know how to do it. Can you come back later? Don’t feel bad, it happens all the time. Loads of people use the machine and end up with single tickets for multiple people – everyone’s always complaining.”