Destination Florence! We checked out of the Monte Carlo in the morning, and with the continued help of the front desk staff (who were of great assistance with any of our questions, from maps to directions to bus recommendations, etc.) we headed back to Termini Station to grab a train to Florence. As luck, or lack-thereof, would have it, it was torrentially pouring as we walked to Termini. It got so bad on our way to the bus stop that we pulled into a doorway to just get out of the deluge. We dove back into it as it let up for a moment, found our luck was not with us at the bus stop either and decided to just walk the rest of the way to the station (there is a point at which you just can’t get any more soaked).
We were able to find the correct train to Florence, got our tickets and were even able to figure out which car and seats we were in. We settled in for the ride, watching beautiful Italian scenery zip past us along the way.
Just 90 minutes later, we found ourselves standing in the Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station. So exciting! Now we just needed to figure out which bus would get us closest to our hotel. The online directions said there was a bus stop close to the hotel, but they neglected to tell us which bus we needed. This minor absent point managed to blow up into a major issue, which involved us dragging our suitcases all over the station, back and forth, up and down and up again the street in front of the station, asking this person, that bus driver, this station employee, all to no avail. Finally someone told us to take the 30 bus and after more wandering, by which point my tolerance levels were shrinking, we found the bus stop and within a few minutes the bus arrived. About time! So the next 90 minutes of our lives took us on a tour of the outlying suburbs of Florence, into fields and farms, past car dealerships, and lots and lots of apartments and houses. This was wrong, very very wrong.
Ron approached the driver at one stop and attempted to ask if the bus was going to head back to Florence, as it was seeming to head north towards Switzerland. The driver, who was on his mobile phone, couldn’t be bothered with Ron and waved him off. Feeling either extra adventurous, or merely apathetically exhausted, more likely the latter, we opted to just ride the bus and see what happens. After 90 minutes we found ourselves back at the lovely train station, where we took our one and only taxi in Italy. The ride to our hotel took about six minutes. We could have walked there and back about 24 times during our bus ride to nowhere.
We settled in to our room, which, despite the River Hotel being on the Arno river, we had a view of the central courtyard. We then headed out to start wandering. A lot of shops were closed, but the cobbled streets were still charming. We did manage to find two shops open, one in which Ron purchased some Limoncello and I purchased a less-purely-functional winter hat with a little more pizzazz.
We did come upon the Church of Saint Ambrose, which is said to house a vial of miraculous blood. Tradition says, in 1230 AD, a priest did not properly dry the chalice following Mass and later found blood instead of the consecrated wine in it. The church was rather austere compared to the overwhelmingly ornate churches we’d left in Rome, however it did have some amazing frescos.
Our wanderings did bring us to the Duomo, which you practically smack into as you turn a corner. It’s this amazingly enormous stunning structure, seemingly wedged into the middle of Florence. I truly couldn’t get enough of it. It was like a big glorious white and green marble wedding cake. Despite the rain, yes it was raining again, it took my breath away (which was telling, considering how I reacted the following day).
We grabbed dinner at a little restaurant where we were the only customers, then walked back to the hotel for a good rest after a mildly stressful day.