My second day in the city I was lucky enough to find a Couchsurfing host willing to put me up for a few days. I thought I'd buy my ticket to the Duomo early in the morning and since there was no visible line, decided to visit as well. Despite the short line it still took over an hour, with narrow hallways, steep staircases and eventually beautiful views, both inside and out. Despite the cool morning temperatures the inside was still warm, and we were sometimes squeezed shoulder to shoulder in the narrow stairways, I can't imagine what visiting mid-day in August would be like, terrible to say the least.
Around lunch, after some quiet time in a cafe I met up with my host Roberto. His apartment wasn't too far from the train station which made it easy to get to and put me in the center of town. I could immediately tell Roberto (and his roommates) would provide me with the genuine Italian experience I was hoping for. I was first fed an enormous home-cooked lunch of meatballs, salad and bread (of which I apparently did not eat enough of), followed by coffee and homemade limoncello. I was about to enter a post-lunch food coma when I overheard Roberto on the phone arranging our dinner plans, more food! I managed to avoid falling into a coma and instead made my way back to the duomo so I could use the rest of my ticket, I still had the cathedral, basilica, and bell tower to see.
Roberto met up with me around 5 pm and we took a walk along the river, crossing to the opposite side (where I had roamed earlier that morning) and eventually back to his place. In the evening we drove out to his friends house for dinner, drinks and games. There were already appetizers of bread, cheese and meats on the table which were soon followed with three courses of pasta, risotto, and more pasta. The amount of carbs consumed in one meal was baffling and I'm still trying to figure out why more Italians aren't fat. The walking? Portion control? After dinner we shared a few bottles of wine and played Uno and Memory (yes the same Memory game I played a 5 year old - surprisingly still fun).
Roberto had to work the next day so I was on my own, planning to maybe visit one of the iconic museums. I started the day slow but was in no hurry to get going as I woke to gray skies and pockets of rain. I ventured back across the river (where there were less tourists roaming) and found a cafe to duck into while waiting out the weather. Lunch was the only real plan I had for the day, so after some wandering around the neighborhoods and past the Boboli gardens. I had a brief moment of hesitation dining solo, but that wasn't going to stop me from delicious pizza. Even if the group I had to share my table with (two American couples) felt the need to comment on my gumption in doing so.
I wandered the city for the majority of the afternoon, letting the essence of Italy embrace me. People watching, trying to get lost, and sampling the local 'daily life' are some of my favorite ways to experience a new city. I had the best intentions to visit the Uffizi that afternoon and was relieved when I arrived and the line wasn't all that long, but then I overheard the couple in front of me talking about the 2-hour wait and left shortly after. Instead, I ventured through a few markets and more side streets before ultimately deciding to pay a return visit to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a night view of the city.
My final day in Florence was a short one, Roberto showed me one of his favorite cafes in town where I started my day with a traditional breakfast of coffee and carbs - something Europe and I can agree on - before getting ready for my afternoon bus ride. Sadly my time in Florence was coming to an end and I should be moving on. I grabbed a fresh-made sandwich, said my goodbyes to my host and ventured to the Megabus stop. Time for another bus adventure, thankfully this one was short though, only a few hours until Milan!
Although I didn't visit the famous galleries and museums I'm perfectly happy with my visit to Florence. Thanks to Couchsurfing I was able to experience some real life, avoiding the masses of tourists and eating good food. Clearly, that's all this trip was really about, even my pictures prove it. Besides, I can see the galleries next time because we all know I'll be heading back to Italy some day.