Postcards from Florence: Don’t Repeat My Mistakes

During our Easter visit to Rome we wanted to get the most of our journey and decided to take a day trip to Florence. Especially, after finding out that the new train line allowed to reach it in just 1,5 hours. I visited Florence once, on my 5-day trip through Italy, some 7 years ago, but that was the time when a train ride took almost three hours ( I enjoyed it a lot, listening to Eros Ramazzoti on my iPod and watching the Italian fields flow by). This time I googled  day-trips from Rome and was lucky to find a blog that recommended Florence and Italo trains that take you there. Because this new speed train takes just one and a half hour, which makes it perfect for a day trip. The blog said that they are punctual too (we had a different experience with it, as you will see). Why not go?

Because it was Easter and there were tourists everywhere, I proposed to go on Monday, when the crowds would start to go back to their homes. But this Easter Rome got really unlucky with the weather (you can find my report on it here) and we had to change our plans. I was checking the weather forecast every three hours – and saw that Easter Sunday was due to be rainy in Rome. But not in Florence. This is how our decision was made. We escape the rain and go to the beautiful Florence. Yuhuu! (that was my most stupid idea ever, as you will also see)

postcards from Florence
pastel colors and Michelangelo skies

The train took us to the station with the lovely name Firenze Santa Maria Novella. I just love how pretty and long names Italians give to their train stations! Nothing predicted bad luck then. We got out with some crowds (normal after Rome), walked up to Santa Maria Novella church, peeked inside – and started our away towards the Duomo. The Duomo was in white clubs of smoke and the bells were ringing unstoppably. I even wondered if that was a call to the Easter mass – or rather a fire alarm. But crowds were moving steadily and surely that way, no panic, so we followed. Until we found out that following was tough, it was like walking in the line. After taking another little street we came to the Duomo – just to find steady crowds that were clinging to each other and Duomo like football fans. There was no possibility to walk around or through the crowd  and so we left, hoping to come back when the mass was over. Slowly and bitterly I started to realize that going to Florence on the Easter Sunday was a very very bad idea. Cuz people were everywhere. I quickly calculated how hard it would be to find a place to eat, a place to pee, and if some accidence happens we are all doomed here (I am forever a teacher and a control freak. Carles was like: “Who ever thinks of it?” Well, me. I always have to be aware of where the emergency exits are). (click on the images to view them in gallery).

Everywhere we went, there were a lot of people. A LOT. We passed along the banks of the river, brushing besides Ponte Vecchio that was photographed by masses like it was some royal wedding, passing Galleria de Uffizi with more fans. I proposed to walk up the hill, to the Piazzale de Michelangelo, with the view over the river and the city, and later into the day to try our luck in the centre again. Truly, the longer from centre, the smaller were the crowds. I was kind of pissed and asked myself angrily what all those Italians were doing there. On the Easter Sunday Germans and Austrians eat Easter breakfast and go out searching for Easter eggs in their garden. Norwegians leave cities for their mountain cabins where they ski, read detective stories and enjoy their silence or family time. If you know that your city would be packed, why go there? No, it seems that Italians were like: “Gonna be crowds on Easter Sunday? And the tourist masses too? Then we come, of course! And we pack our three kids and two dogs with us!” You could see ladies on high heels, kids in prams, several dogs, and big families. All mixing with the selfie sticks of tourists. And we were no better, we were tourists too. But can someone explain me, please, who are these Italians, coming to Florence on Easter Sunday and fighting for the lunch tables with other crowds?

On the other side of the river, before the crescent towards the Piazzale, we found a sunny table of a restaurant and took our chance for the lunch. That was our best decision. People were keeping on coming and asking for a table, on this nice corner before the arch, where all the crowds were passing on their way to or back, with Fiats and Vespas making slowly their way. And we were sitting in the sun, lingering over the lunch, not knowing what to order more, drinking coffee. That was the highlight of the our visit, maybe.

Another bad mistake was buying an ice cream in a very touristy place – just across Ponte Vecchio. Carles was repeating the whole way down the hill: “I want ice cream, I want ice cream” and there at last I said: “Here you go!” First tourist advice – “don’t take the first you see” – was forgotten. And we payed the price for it. Another mistake – not asking about the price. It all looked like a setup cuz a girl started pushing ice cream on us without letting us think. “Cup or cornetto? This one? How many tastes?” – it all reminded gypsy talk (and I was tricked by gypsies in Ukraine, mind you).  And suddenly we stood with a bit oversized ice creams and she said: “Pay inside”. Inside was a guy and he said: “20 euros”. Whaaat? For two ice creams? I mean, come on, I live in a very expensive Norway and even there I have never paid this much for an ice cream. But there you could see prices – not outside where the girl was. So I didn’t start fighting (my Norwegian conflict avoidance, dammit) and got out with a very sour face. On the top of that all, ice cream was of a cheap taste you buy in a supermarket. How I once thought that, of course, I will buy an ice cream in Italy, that is the place! That dream broke to pieces 🙂 My man, however, took it cool: “Come on, so you got tricked – let it go. At least you got something. Sometimes I got tricked for nothing. Let people live”. While I was steaming with anger and the world’s expensive ice cream didn’t taste according its heavenly price :)))

Our train was due around 9pm and an hour before the train leave I was already tired and didn’t want to walk anymore. The train station was a hell of action, with no benches outside. We left to explore the nearest park we found on the map, but it turned out to be closed. Eventually we ended on the train station again, 20 minutes before departure. Just to see on the timetable that our train was 20 minutes delayed. Thank you very much. That was for the punctuality of Italo trains, yes. The longer we waited, the longer the delay became – in the end it was 40 minutes. Tired after the busy day, overstimulated by the crowds, sights and sounds, I almost exploded with tears. But then I found an only quiet corner on the station, behind the wall (track 1-2), with a little green spot and a rail where one can sit and watch the green grass. Also there was an entrance to a supermarket where I shopped some food, had a salad and calmed down.

When eventually our train came, we sighed out “At least we have our fixed places on it” and rushed on board. Just to find out that on our couch there were no places 52 and 53 that we had. Hello, good luck! We had to find an attendant who informed us that the train had to be changed on its way, and the coaches had different places – “Just go to the coach 6 to 11 and take any place”. It is good that both of us are born in the places used to chaos, so we ran off. If I were a pure Norwegian, I would have a tough time adjusting. I am a Norwegian now and can get demanding too. But when there is little to do, I manage to turn on my Ukrainian heritage and adapt. The Spanish family in front of us, traveling from the previous station, didn’t have the Ukrainian heritage to plunge into, and were complaining: they had to stop on the journey, to wait, to change trains. Even Spain is better than Italy, they concluded. A bit ironic, don’t you think? (A little remark here: I didn’t take so many Italo trains and I don’t want to make a bad publicity for them here. I find their trains comfortable, speedy and a great way to explore Italy. If you read me, guys, I am still your fan 😉 (If you once would want to give me free tickets :)). I suppose, it was just an accident. And we had a bad luck because, maybe, Easter Sunday is more messy in terms of traffic).

So, as it usually happens with the bad mistakes and misadventures, it all becomes a funny story to tell (though I still get angry because of the ice cream, and Carles laughs at me). Florence, my beautiful, feminine, pastel-colored, rosy-cheeked Firenze, turned its unexpected side to me. And left me wonder if something has changed in the past seven years, the tourist crowds grew up and got too many selfie sticks – or we were just very unlucky with the date. I surely have to go back – not during Easter this time! – and find it for myself.

Have you been to Florence? What is your impression of it? Any similar stories that happened to you while traveling? Share them here or on your blog (and let me know) – that would be fun to read (it always feels good when you know you were not the only donkey doing that stupid thing :))

And may you always be able to laugh about your mistakes! 🙂

Singing off,

your explorer team of pathetic travels 🙂

P. S. Firenze reminded me of another city I love (and was going to make a post about, for quite a long time) – can you guess which city is on my mind? See the mystery image below.

riverside in Florence
my mystery place


22 thoughts on “Postcards from Florence: Don’t Repeat My Mistakes

  1. Uhhh, these crowds look tough indeed. I’m not a fan. I’ve just been over the moon at the discovery of a jewel without almost anybody there on a Friday afternoon (Massa Marittima).

    All my life I’ve been on the lookout so that I don’t get tricked and frankly I’m bored now to need to do it in Italy all over again (as you say, the Gypsies have taught us well). Here tourism is a way to get extra money made on suckers and I hate that. I see how locals deal with it – there are more places than not where they simply don’t go.

    I don’t think the church on Easter is one of those things though. 😀 Why wouldn’t locals go to church on that day? To let tourists have the town to themselves?? Have you heard of the proposal to dedicate particular walkways to tourists and some others to locals in Venice? This mass tourism is killing normal life.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have said it before, maybe, but we were lucky this time – no tricks (except for the ice cream trick 🙈). But it looks like Italy lives by this vibe: you always have to watch for yourself. But is it so in rural Italy where you live too? I think, big cities like Rome and Barcelona tend to attract all kind of “businessmen”, but smaller places are safe.

      I am against the idea of leaving the city to tourists – but then again, I would just have my comfort as priority and go to a local church, instead of Duomo. It is like being in Barcelona, I never walk down La Rambla. I just don’t need to be there in all the turmoil.
      Ah yes, mass tourism has changed so much. Have you seen a documentary about Venice, Barcelona and Dubrovnik? It seems that politicians in Bcn try to get some grip on the situation, while the Venice mayor sounded so…”nonchalant” 😆 ahh, Italian management – can we even trust this concept?)) It is sad if they cannot manage tourism to Italy. Such a great country.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, I haven’t seen that documentary, sounds interesting. I say that I live in the country, which is true, but in the two summer months it transforms into a top tourist destination and then I run. Prices are in line with this. I only eat in places that are open all year. By the way, today I saw two Norwegian flags, in the country, alone, without other countries’ flags nearby. Are you taking over Italy? 😮 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • We’ll, that’s bad enough but I tell you what. Still lucky that it is just two months. Barcelona it seems is popular all year long. At least there places where tourists don’t get and this is how locals survive. But there have been protests in Bcn, and some hotel crushing too. People are sick and tired of all those party animals coming to have “fun in Spain”.
        Yepp, we Norwegians want to follow in the step of Roald Amundsen and conquer the world now! I vote for its warmer parts 😆😆

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah yes…definitely way more people on the planet traveling around now. I was last in Florence in July 1968. Still I have vivid memories of the most beautiful city – her architecture, her art (standing ‘this close’ to David), the food…gelato! Not at all what I’d consider ‘crowds’ then. I’ve never felt the need to return. How could I top it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, 1968 must have seen a totally different Florence. No selfie sticks 😆 I always want to come to a place that I liked. I just cannot imagine saying no. Your question “how can I top it?” – wow, never thought of it that way. But are there places you want to come back to and experience again?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mm…not really. Maybe a couple places closer to home. Maybe New Mexico. I do love the desert landscape.


  3. Oh that was some bad luck that you caught! I am not a fan of traveling in very crowded places either. But I do not travel often to big cities anymore, so it’s all good now. The panoramic views of Florence look so beautiful! I have unpleasant memories from the trains in Rome as well. A couple of years ago when we visited, the trains were delayed almost each time we used them. 20 minutes that ended up extending to 40 minutes etc. It was the same with buses. We lost so much time waiting around stations in Rome. Although chaos are a way of life in Nepal, I’ve lived my whole adult life in Finland and Poland – and both of them I found to be much more organized than Italy. 20 Euros for two ice-creams! I know I’d be fuming too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, when Poland becomes more organized than Italy… just joking 😆 Poland seems to be a good example of Eastern Europe, polite and reliable. My home Ukraine was way more messy – but even there I didn’t experience that train chaos. And I come from the poorest country in Europe, come on. Ukrainians tend to look up to Western Europe, but really, Italy is something unique 😆 and it seems that locals are ok with that, while tourists accept it as “this Italian thing” 😆
      And how do you do your traveling now?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hehe. Poland actually I hear has made tremendous strides towards development and prosperity in the last 30 years or so. When I hear how it looked like just 30 years ago when communism had still gripped the country, I am so shocked. Hahah Italy in its own league. I think they just don’t take themselves too seriously 😉 Well I would definitely not like to be a resident there though..
        I usually travel to smaller towns and nature in the past few years as opposed to big cities. Islands and seasides are my favorites! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • I was positively surprised on my first visit to Poland. My brother lives there, so I travelled through Warsaw, to the North. It was much better than I expected, neat, clean, full of young energy. It is like what I’d love my dear Ukraine to be: Slavic heart, modernized, polite people, taking care of their country.
        Yes, Italy has this devil-may-care attitude, very spontaneous and chaotic.
        Oh, I like your travel style. Sounds like less hassle. I am in love with big cities, and since Oslo is so quite I have to get my dose outside, traveling :))

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hehe yes I felt the same when I lived in Finland! But I didnt live in the capital city, it was a really small student town. I live in a big city in Poland now, and I am older so my interests have changed due to those factors 🙂


  4. We had no trouble with trains, and it wasn’t a major holiday or even peak season, but we found the crowds in Florence almost intolerable. I really thought Venice would be the tourist trap, but it was calm and lovely, with only small crowds in the Piazza San Marco. But Florence?! Ugh – we stayed near a main street and we had to fight our way through the pedestrians there, near the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio of course, and even in some side streets. It was a beautiful city, but I could never stay there very long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When was the time you were there? So sad to hear you had a similar experience. Bc I still have memories of being there some 8 years ago, in August, and was easy and breezy. My first time in Venice was in 2002 in June, with German family, and it was way worse, a lot of people in the vacations peak. But in winter Venice was all to myself)) Maybe, I should come to Florence in winter too?😆
      It seems that tourism patterns have changed and it makes a dramatic effect. I hope, city politicians will step in to get some control over it soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was there soon after you. In Italy from mid to late April overall, and Florence was in the middle. Honestly, none of it was as bad as Prague last September! I wanted to break at least a hundred selfie sticks!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, what a shame! I keep reading more and more stories like this from Italy. And my own experience was the same the last time I went there – Cinque Terre via Milano and Genova 2 years ago. Not crowded, but I was treated like crap. While I still remember a perfect summer back in 2003, when I visited soooo many places and always enjoyed myself. Locals always chatted and even opened their homes to me (this was way before air bnb!)… I have great memories from Florence in 2003, what a magical place it was. But your description isn’t! 😳

    Liked by 1 person

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