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     Even on the way to Florence I knew it would be a much different city. Through mountain villages and beautiful valleys our train sped ever closer to our second destination in Italia. Arriving in Santa Maria Novella station was a little rough since I didn’t have directions to the Hostel (Paula booked it, I expected her to print them.) Just one reason it sucks being the only man in this group lol. It’s okay though, my tiny hand-drawn map (just in case) with a grand total of three streets on it led me in the right direction.

When we finally found Archi Rossi Hostel we were impressed with its quality.  The room was acceptable, the bathroom clean and usable, and the outdoor terrace and garden stunning.  Compared to Rome this place was heaven, and it was definitely the best hostel I’d been in so far.  After a brief rest we headed to the leather market around San Lorenzo where we walked among hundreds of stalls selling purses, belts, scarves, jewelry, and all number of other trinkets.  Sadly boots were in short supply, and the only cheap ones were not in my size.  I looked throughout our stay in Florence but unless I was willing to pay upwards of $100 boots were out of my reach.  Oh well.  Probably for the best anyways, seeing as I was broke by the time I returned to Denmark.

Next on our tour was the Galleria Accademia, site of Michelangelo’s famous David.  The museum had a decent collection of artistic works, but the David is definitely the centerpiece here.  Standing approximately 17 feet tall the sculpture is physically imposing.  As with all such things seeing is believing, and I highly recommend anyone in Florence visit this wondrous piece.  We grabbed an excellent dinner at a little restaurant near our hostel.  Spaghetti carbonara and wine, complete with some garlic bread we got for free when the restaurant accidentally doubled someone’s order.  Perfect.  Afterwards we checked out the Duomo by night, a beautiful sight.  Some hours later, after wandering the streets and snapping some photos of the river at night, we finally returned and fell into surprisingly comfortable bunks.

Wednesday began with a free guided tour of the old city provided by the hostel.  The two-hour experience was infinitely insightful and I felt a lot more knowledgeable about the city when we finished.  I especially enjoyed stories of the Medicci family, as they ruled Florence almost interpreted for over 300 years and commissioned one of the greatest art collections in the history of the world.  We saw all the big sites: The Basilica of San Lorenzo, the Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo), Palazzo Vecchio, and the Little Pig, among others.  Afterwards we ventured to the Uffizi where we were greeted by a collection of sculptures depicting the most famous men of Florence.  Sadly, photography was not allowed within the museum and the only shots I snagged were looking out from windows on the upper floor.  By this point we had already had quite the sophisticated day, but we continued our adventures at the Duomo.  Rather plain inside, the true beauty of the Duomo lies in its unbelievable dome.  A wonder of a construction (read its story online), the Dome was the largest dome of its time and built entirely without outside supports! The dome itself is beautiful, and the views from atop its outer terrace are to die for!

Thursday was only a half day, but we managed to get in another excellent tour, this time of slightly more obscure locales such as the justice building and an amazing gelateria.  Although I felt infinitely more intelligent after these tours there is still so much to learn!  I want to return to Florence one day and give it the time it truly deserves!

Florence was my favorite city for any number of reasons.  It is everything Rome is not: quiet, quaint, and beautiful. I love the city and I never feel overwhelmed by tourism. Even the galleries were different, having a more solemn and personal feel rather than a “see everything and take pictures to prove we were here and acted as much like annoying tourists as possible” vibe.  People actually stopped to appreciate the art and I never felt overwhelmed by never-ending throngs of people.  Florence is indeed a beautiful place.