I've been waiting for it since Tuesday. (I normally say Monday, but since I was flying back home on Monday and not at work, Tuesday will have to do.)
And since it is Friday, and I am in the mood for writing, I have to say I am in love.
Yes, boys and girls, I am in love with a city. And that city is Florence. In fact, this Italian town has become one of my favorite places on the planet, right up there with Berlin. And I have seen plenty of towns, believe me.
Florence is a medieval city that is living in modern times. However, because it was built in the Middle Ages, it was not meant to have cars in it. Therefore, there are very few, and you walk everywhere. The fact that everything is nearby is a plus, and you will develop leg muscles like nobody's busines in no time at all.
Our hotel, Il Perseo, was absolutely awesome and, wouldn't you know it, right accross from the venue where the conference was taking place. If we had planned it that way, it would not have been more perfect. Plus the management spoke English and, when they didn't, they went out of their way to help you out and figure out what you needed. They even helped me book some reservations at various museums beforehand, and their prices were reasonable too. Breakfast included and, in the evening, a snack and wine tasting too. (Not that I ever took advantage of the latter, but it is nice to know that it was available.)
Being close to the conference was great. Being a block or two away from the Duomo was even better on account of always been able to find the hotel no matter where I went. You see, the Duomo is a gigantic structure that can be seen basically from anywhere in the city. Therefore, if you find the Duomo, you find the hotel.
Either that, or the underwear store next to it.
"Look! It's the green thong!"
"Yeah! We found our place! Whooo Hoooo!"
(I was determined to buy the green thong as a memento, but alas, I didn't have time to do it. Too much to see, to shop and to eat in too little time.)
(Next time, I promise.)
Eating and drinking in Florence is an exercise in paradoxes. In other words, you can pay very little for food and drink, or you can pay through the nose without even thinking. It all depends on where you go, and becoming a discerning customer.
For instance, on my first day, I managed to buy lunch in the street for the grand total of 2.50 Euro for a yummy panini sandwich, 1 Euro for a bottle of water, and 2.50 for a gelatto in another place. Grand total: 6 Euro.
(Of course, I ate my sandwich sitting on the sidewalk since this was a little street joint, but who cares? Everyone else was doing it so I didn't mind. Besides, it was some damn good panini.)
That same evening, I joined a bunch of other folks who were having dinner at the Piazza della Republica. I had already eaten, so I wasn't hungry. Therefore, I joined them just for a cup of tea. The price of my tea? 7 Euro. Which means that I paid more for a cup of tea at a quaint little cafe at the Piazza, than the full lunch (with dessert!) that I got three blocks from there. (Hey, such is life and the company was great.)
However, when it came to cheap lunch, mstra_margarita and Trephina won the prize for best deal: 1.50 Euro at the Mercado Central. Ladies, I tip my hat to you.
Water, of course, was always a toss. Like it happens in most of Europe, the price of water vs. the price of alcoholic beverages is simply silly. Sometimes you pay as much (or more) for a bottle of water or a soft drink than you do for a glass of wine or a beer. On the other hand, I paid as little of .70 cents for a bottle of water (Palazzo Vecchio vending machine) to 2.50 Euro at a restaurant. It all depends on where you go. All I have to say is, thank goodness for protein bars. They can provide a quick pick-me-up to a tired and hungry tourist when there is no eatery in sight or time to look for one.
As for the people, they were polite and nice, and the place felt so safe it wasn't even funny. For a lone traveller like myself (Marcellus wasn't travelling with me), it made all the difference in the world. Even on Sunday evening, when everyone else had left town, and I had stayed on my own since my flight did not depart until next morning, I felt very confident about walking all over at night, and having dinner by myself at a quaint little restaurant a couple of blocks away from the Piazza.
I soooo want to go back . . .
I will be posting later on the actual conference and the things I have learned from it. Suffice to say that I picked apart my Medici ruff as soon as I came back, and started all over. It looks much better now, and it is currently awaiting starching.
More to come.