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Day 5: Verona to Florence...giant everything!

20 April 2016

sunny 24 °C

Day 4 – Verona to Florence – 20 April 2016

Have you ever been somewhere you know to be beautiful, you know others have loved, has exceptional history, and yet you cannot find the joy in it? That was my experience with Verona. As with many tourists, there’s not much about the history I recall other than the Romeo & Juliet and what I learnt in the movie ‘Letters to Juliet’ (which wasn’t much mind, you). And although it was a charming and pretty city, with historic terraces lining the cobbled streets, nothing resonated with me. Perhaps it was my frustration with the “Pasta Catastrophe of 2016” the day prior, or my exhaustion and ‘come down’ from several exceptional days of utter joy in Venice, but something didn’t gel. So I went with it.
I had a brief wander into town after packing my things to see Juliet’s house and balcony, and take a self-guided walking tour of some of the other sights using the Izi navigation app. The main street to Juliet’s house was lined with the well-known Italian high-fashion brands. I stopped for a quick macchiato and some brekky, a pretty awful ham and cheese toasty, then popped into the famed house which Verona had selected and renovated as Juliet’s, cashing in on the Shakespearean hype. The courtyard was lovely, accessed through a tunnel covered in tens of thousands of graffiti love letters, and paper notes with hand written initials stuck to the walls with old bandaids, miscellaneous strips of sticky stuff, and no doubt a few adhered with pre-loved chewing gum. I think the days of writing letters about unrequited love to Juliet have been replaced with the instant gratification of vandalised initials on the brick-work.
It was nice seeing first hand though the bronze statue of Juliet, with a decidedly shiny right tit (from all the polishing it received having been declared a good-luck-in-love ritual, which I decided not to partake in), under the famed balcony. One wall of the courtyard housed a souvenir shop selling all manner of R&J merchandise, as well as ‘love-locks’ to initial and place onto the grate in the courtyard. I was tempted to buy one and dedicate it to the tiramisu I had in Venice a few nights ago, but decided the investment would never truly reflect the love and admiration I held for that short, but passionate, affair.
I left the house and balcony and ventured towards the bell-tower, through the markets where I found the reddest strawberries I’ve ever seen, and browsed yet more tourist stalls. And no sooner than I’d walked in I found myself doing a u-turn and heading back to the accommodation to make haste to Florence, one of the most anticipated places on my itinerary.

I have now discovered that the cost of train tickets is approximately 3 or 4 times the price (or more!) for tickets purchased at the station compared to those booked a week or more in advance. So compared to the €9 of pre-booking, I forked out €29 for a 1.5 hour one way ticket Verona to Florence. I realised my trip in a few days Florence to Rome would be equally expensive, but decided to book it in anyway just in case, and to check my other impending train trips.

Florence was nothing much to look at arriving at the station, but getting to my hostel was pretty easy by a short bus trip. The hostel itself is pretty shitty really, so I don’t particularly recommend for those wanting comfortable surrounds and a peaceful night’s sleep without the incessant chatter and shouts of 19 year old travellers! I’m not particularly experienced with hostels, but the one in Venice, whilst basic, was full of extremely considerate travellers of all ages, whilst this one seems like what I’d expect of a young hostel crowd. However, I’m so tired I’ll probably sleep anywhere!

I decided, given my lacklustre feeling in Verona, to give myself a break and relax for a couple of hours to recharge. I also had the benefit of time, with three nights and three days planned here.

In my hostel dorm, I met a young electrician from Switzerland – Michael – and a delightful Italian nurse who is currently living in the UK. We decided to head out to dinner together, walking through town first, and I got my first glimpse of the Florence Cathedral (Cattedrale di Snata Maria del Fiore) in the Piazza del Duomo. I have seen pictures of the cathedral, often the aerial views of Florenze with the prominent domes signalling the location in the heart of town, but they did not prepare me for the absolutely mammoth, gargantuan proportions of the Gothic-Renaissance creation. It is more than 150 meters in length, and 114.5 meters at its highest point, and is the most highly decorated piece of architecture I have ever seen or imagined, and it took my breath away. I cannot wait to explore it more tomorrow, climb the dome, and see inside the baptistery with the golden doors known as the Gates of Paradise (thanks once again Dan Brown for giving me the brief history!).
We went to dinner at Il Mercato Centrale, which is like The Mantle in Fremantle…only on a much larger scale. It is a massive market hall whose perimeter houses every manner of Italian food, with a beer and wine bar in the centre. Gourmet butchers serving the large Bistecca alla Fiorentina, thick juicy aged beef in either ribeye cuts or boneless servings, at €45 per kilo (with a kilo minimum for bone-in!). It is a local delicacy, and we’ve decided to share one tomorrow for lunch so as not to end up in a meat-coma.

Wood-fired pizza, a truffle-themed bar (they had a giant truffle worth €330,000!), fresh made pasta, cheese stall (which I bought a few small samples from for brekky with fresh bread), mozzarella stall (not to be confused with the cheese stall!), pastries, seafood, etc. I opted for port ribs having had a general lack of meat since being in Italy, and red wine at €4 a glass. Fresh handmade cannoli were up next, topping off an excellent night out with new friends.
Daily summary:
Pasta consumed – 0
Pizzas consumed – 0
Number of love-locks – 13,450
Weight of the next steak to be consumed – 1kg

Joy of knowing I’ll be waking up to my first Italian cheese-brekky….priceless!

Posted by jenniferhall 13:53 Archived in Italy Tagged italy florence firenze cathedral hostel duomo pizza steak cannoli truffles

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