1 May 2017

#BreadLife Backpacking: Florence


I think my first trip to Italy got totally ruined by the bad weather, so the second time in Florence definitely opened my eyes to see how beautiful the city can be under a sunny day. 



we here! we here!
Getting to Florence
We got here by train, and alighted at the Santa Maria Novella Station, which is like their central station. It took us around 2 hours to get from Venice Santa Lucia to Florence via a Frecciargento Train (which is like their high speed train)

Our train tickets for our Italy leg of the trip were all pre-booked. It was really convenient as we just had to show the ticket officer onboard the train our print-out tickets (that were emailed to us), and that was it! We didn't have to queue at the machine, or validate anything. It was so convenient. 

To book tickets, head to the Trenitalia website
*Do note that the spelling of the city names are all in Italian format, e.g. Venice is Venezia, Florence is Firenze, Milan is Milano. If you were to search "Florence", there is no such station. The term "Tutte La Stazioni" means "All Stations". 

To solve your impending confusion, this website provides a very good guide to travelling Italy by train, and a rundown of the types of trains and the type of tickets available. However, they did not touch much on the e-ticket, so that part you can just follow what I said above ;)

Getting Around Florence
We got around Florence by bus. The local bus companies are namely "ATAF" and "LI-NEA", but we only made use of the lines run by ATAF (we remembered this name so significantly because we made up our own acronym from the letters, like AT as f**k, go figure what AT stands for but some of my friends should know what it means, hehe yeah I know I'm a rude girl.)

As we spent just a mere 1 1/2 days in Florence, we bought two multiple-ride tickets for ourselves. Each multiple-ride ticket is €4.70, and it is valid for 4 90 minute rides. A single ride ticket costs €1.20. You can buy these tickets from any ATAF office (can be a convenience store with the ATAF logo on the window), or any bus drivers (but do note that buying it on the bus costs more, like €2.00/single trip ticket, and they may run out)

Everytime you board the bus, validate your ticket on the machine. There will be like this 1, 2, 3, 4 on the ticket's face so make sure you insert your ticket correctly in the right direction, if its your 1st, 2nd, or whatever trip that is. The bus driver does not check your ticket, so feel free to cheat fares if you want to be a cheapo. But do note, they do conduct random checks, and the fine is minimum €40. You could buy a two way train ticket from Florence to Cinque Terre with that money + some spare change for a pizza. So don't waste it.

We reserved two trips on the bus, to and from Santa Maria Novella, and two trips when we wanted to go to/come back from the city when we are feeling lazy. The duomo was a 30 min walk away so... sometimes we walked. We walked, a lot. Till my jelly thighs became hard by the end of that 2 weeks backpacking trip.


Accomodation
We stayed at the Gallo d'Oro Hostel. "Gallo d'Oro" means Golden Chicken, but uh, we didnt see any chickens in the hostel, if we did, they are probably roasted.

But anyways, this hostel is not too bad, though it was in a quiet part of the city, and to go to the dorms from the main activity rooms of the hostel, you need to pass this dark stairwell place that is completely pitch dark at night... a little unsettling to be if you're alone. Oh, but they have free breakfast!!!! And also, free refreshments at ANY POINT OF THE DAY. So, if you come back to the hostel and you're still hungry, you still have food waiting for you! Yay.

There were these group of french female backpackers that stayed in our room for a night (and thank God only for a night) whom I played a game called "Switch the Aircon On and Off" with. Idk why but Europeans seem to LOVE sleeping in stuffy rooms? *sarcasm alert* They were like turning the aircon off when I turned it on. And so I thought maybe I was pushing it a little by switching the temperature to 18ºC, so I made it warmer at 25ºC, but they still turned it off in the middle of the night. I woke up in a puddle of my own sweat (yuck) at 3am, and turned it back on. And at 7am when I woke up in a puddle of my own sweat (again, yuck), it was off.

This happens frequently, I have no idea why but they just seem to really HATE the cold and the aircon. Like "Bitch I came here to sleep in my own sweat, not to freeze". Don't you find it uncomfortable?

Places to Visit

1. The Florence Duomo


The Baptistery (did not go in)
The Duomo
The oculus from the inside of the Duomo, at the altar.
The Cupola in the foreground. See the people at the terrace?

The Florence Duomo offers visitors two of their roofs to climb. The Giotto Bell Tower (which I climbed) with 414 steps, the top of the Cupola, with 463 steps. No lift! Just steps! There were warnings to people who have weak hearts, vertigo and claustrophobia to not climb these stuff. Almost died when I reached the top but yay I survived!!!!! We took around 30 mins to take photos along the way and climb slowly to reach the top. The views are great, and you could see the crowd at the top of the Cupola from the Bell Tower, hehe. The crowd there was insaaaane.

To visit the inside of the Duomo, climb the towers and visit the crypt, the one-price-for-all admission fee is €15. 

The opening hours are as follows:
Duomo (Cupola)
Monday-Friday: 8:30am - 7pm
Saturday: 8:30am - 5:40pm
Sundays 1-4pm

Giotto Bell Tower
Monday - Sunday:  8:15am to 6:50pm

Duomo
Generally open from 10am - 5pm
Thursdays: 10am - 4/55pm (varies on season)
Saturdays: 10am - 4:45pm
Sundays and religious holidays: 1:30 - 4:45pm

During Holy week -
Holy Thursday: 12:30 - 4:30pm
Good Friday: 10:30am - 4:30pm
Holy Saturday: 11am - 4:45pm

2. Ponte Vecchio


The Ponte Vecchio (Ponte means bridge in Italian), contains shops and probably residences?

As this is a bridge, it is opened all year round, 24/7. No admission fees required. Just be careful that as it is a tourist hotspot, there might be pickpockets all over. And also people may try to scam you by selling you selfie sticks when its sunny, umbrellas when its rainy, yeah I know I repeated it again.


I think I should be compiling a list of tourist traps/scams that are commonly seen in Italy. The most plausible places such scams would take place are normally in front of the duomos, or at the piazzas (Plazas).

List of Scams:
- Sell Selfie Sticks/Keychains/Umbrellas/Pigeon Feed/Scarves/Italian Flags/Idk what other absurd things they can sell/fake Pradas maybe?
- Offer to take your picture, with a very basic, out-of-fashion digital camera
- Friendship Bands (they may even tie it on your wrist or put it on your shoulder without you noticing or unwarranted. DON'T TOUCH IT. Just shake it off and walk away fast. If you have a scissors, cut it off... or at least that's what my friend did.)
- Street Artists with painted faces and costumes running into your photo. Once you take a photo WITH them, they will ask for tips. (I've personally encountered this and trust me it happened too fast for me to react, I seriously thought that the dude was just a friendly Italian...)

But yeah I took that photo on that bridge in the distance with Sheri and some painted face dude just ran into our photo like that.... Geez. He asked for €2, since there were 2 of us... /rolls eyes/

Oh and also be careful of people asking you for directions, or trying to collect your signatures for something, asking you where is the socket in the cafe, or asking you to fill up a survey. As they may be just pickpockets trying to distract your attention from your valuables.

3. Uffizi Gallery



 

Being good students of ADM, we had to go pay Botticelli's Birth of Venus a visit, and see all the other Old Masters' works. Uh, of course I had lots of fun creating rubbish captions for random sculptures and art pieces along the way to make the museum visit more interesting.... But nonetheless, the paintings were absolutely stunning and we appreciated our visit very much, especially so with some knowledge of western Art History and their painting techniques.

Admission:
Full € 8,00 (€ 12,50 during exhibits)
Reduced € 4,00 (€ 6,25 during exhibits)
+ € 4 prebooking fee + online commissions

Hours: 
8:15 a.m. to 6:50 p.m. (Tues-Sun), entrance every 15 min
Closed on Mondays, Jan 1, May 1, Dec 25.

4. Galleria dell' Accademia (Hi David)




Being good students of ADM, we had to give our old friend, David, a visit while we're in Florence. David was a big part of our lives in Y1S1 in this module called Western Art History. So yeah, to the Galleria dell' Accademia we go! And damn, David is HUGE. We just sat by the seats next to him and admired his guns from a distance, and left after a good 15 mins.

Admission: 
Full € 8,00 (€ 12,50 during exhibits)
Reduced € 4,00 (€ 6,25 during exhibits)
+ € 4 prebooking fee + online commissions
(Ticket office closes at 6:20pm, museum starts closing at 6:40pm.)
(we bought our tickets at the door)

Hours: 
8:15 a.m. to 6:50 p.m. (Tues-Sun), entrance every 15 min
Closed on Mondays, Jan 1, May 1, Dec 25.
----------------------

BONUS!!


A good place to have your meals, is next to the Duomo. All the restaurants would normally have some alfresco-dining sorta thing, for you to savour your food while savouring the Duomo's beauty at the same time. I recommend this restaurant/cafe called "Cafe Duomo". They serve really value-for-money set meals with pizzas, pastas, paninis and fries, all below €10! Not too bad... and actually the most decent we could find in the vicinity. 

- yum - 


So after two nights in Florence, we moved on to our next destination, which is the long-awaited Cinque Terre!!!!!! Stay tuned for the next post ;)

xx,
M.

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