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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I hesitate to write it, but I'm not totally enamoured with Florence. Yes, it has glorous architecture and views and amazing art galleries, but it's also chronically crowded, overrun with tourists and a bit smelly. I thought this ten years ago, when I first visited, and my feelings are a bit stronger now. A few people I've spoken with agree that Florence doesn't seem like an Italian city; it's a city of foreigners and tourists. And thousands of damn annoying African immigrants crowding every piece of pavement trying to sell you fake designer handbags and bad commercial artwork. And yet, if you purchase their goods, it's you who will face trouble! A local told us there are signs up (??) around the city informing visitors that it is illegal to purcahse from these street-sellers and you will face a fine if caught. Hmm.
My photos of Florence tend to be filled with thousands of tourists. In the end I gave up and just started photographing the crowds of people. I think Belinda took a great shot of the queue to get onto the Ponte Vecchio! The photo above wasn't taken by me (I was probably ogling David's bottom at the time), but a friend who decided to go for a wander, and found a place selling excellent almond brittle; toasted almonds in toffee, that had enough smokiness to cut through the sugar. Yum! It was late afternoon, and evidently she'd found a quiet spot away from the crowds.

It was a hot day when we were there, and had chosen to spend some time sightseeing before our concert at the English church, not far from the Ponte Vecchio (just near the Ponte Santa Trinitas). Just off the Piazza del Duomo is a place selling pizza by the slice. It's not terribly cheap, but it was pretty good quality, particularly if you got one that had just come out of the oven. The tuna pizza on the left was really excellent; hot, juicy on top and crispy on the bottom with fresh basil and good tomato. The vegetable one on the right was not as succesful. It didn't have cheese and had been sitting around a bit, so it was lukewarm and dry - a bit like foccaccia with a few veggies on top. Didn't finish that one.

We were taken out for dinner by a group of eccentric expat Australians living in Florence, to a very good local restaurant that none of us would be able to find again, because we all got lost numerous times trying to find it! And, as we were eating another 5 course dinner at 11pm, after a day sightseeing in the sun, and a big concert, nobody took photos. What a shame - the fresh skinless salami we tried were incredible, as was the chicken liver crostini and perfect prosciutto. To live in my memory only...



  • I recently came back from a trip through Italy (we did Siena/Florence/Bologna/Venice), and I couldn't agree with you more about Florence.

    It was pretty, but I hated the jostling crowds. My favourite part was seeing Boboli Gardens, with all of its cats and ancient statues.

    BTW- those street sellers are even worse in Venice!

    By Blogger s'kat, at 11/30/2006 01:50:00 am  

  • S'kat - It's almost sacreligious to dislike Florence isn't it? A shame to hear about Venice; I was there 10 years ago, and don't remember the sellers at that time. It's sad that so many come from ex-Italian colonies, but the Italians treat them very badly.
    What did you think of Siena? I really loved it, as did many others who didn't like Florence so much.

    By Blogger Niki, at 11/30/2006 12:20:00 pm  

  • We love Florence! Admittedly we were travelling at a time when the visitor numbers were low and we spent about 4 days just getting to know the city.

    I think it's hard to enjoy any place when it's overrun with tourists - which may be why Rome doesn't do much for me.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/30/2006 11:00:00 pm  

  • Florence is still on my "to do" list. Maybe the solution is to go in winter? We visited Venice in December 2000 and although there were tourists, you never got he feeling that you were overrun. Street vendors can be a pain - and just how many fake designer handbags does the world really need?!?

    By Blogger Jeanne, at 12/02/2006 12:12:00 am  

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