12 December - Early Night

It was sunny with bright blue sky when we got up this morning, which was both appreciated and yet infuriating at the same time.  Justin walked around very briefly to get some photos with the blue sky before we had to leave.  We cleaned cups and dishes in the room and left the hotel around 09:20.  We walked over to the Rialto station, and got on an express boat (it doesn’t go any faster, it just makes fewer stops) towards the train station.  There was a nice blue sky with wispy white clouds, and Justin sat on the front of the boat, taking some photos and videos.  Pretty much any of the photos were better than anything from the previous two days.

We didn’t get off where we should have (Ferrovía station), since we were expecting to see Santa Lucía, which is the name of the train station (on the video below, you can hear Crystal ask Justin if we should've gotten off at Ferrovia, only for him to confidently say no).  Fortunately the very next stop (Roma) was very close, and we’d allotted some extra time just in case.  All we had to do was walk over a newish bridge to get to the train station.  Inside, at the ticket office, we had to wait a while, and it was very hot in the office.  Fortunately our train was delayed about 5 minutes, so we weren’t cutting it too tight time-wise.  We needed our passports, since we were getting seat assignments on this train.  With our tickets, we waited about 5-10 minutes in front of the departures screen to find out which track to head to.

On board, our car was fairly empty, and everyone chilled out and relaxed.  Outside, the snow-capped mountains and blue bay were quite nice.  Justin listened to a TWG (The Wurst Guide) podcast about Vienna Christmas markets that was hilarious, as you could hear them getting drunker from stop to stop.  He took down some ideas for places to check out once we arrived in Vienna.  We tried to match the podcast hosts by drinking our own train wine.  After all the issues getting from Hallstatt to Trento, and Trento to Venice, today we had a nice easy ride to Florence.

We had left early, and did not have any “day trip” stops this time, because we wanted to get a Firenze Card from the tourist office right by our hotel in Florence, and it closed at 15:00…or so we thought.  We double checked whilst on the train, and saw the office actually closed at 13:00, and we weren’t arriving in Florence until after 12:30.  Crystal had the good sense to think there was probably an office in the Florence train station, and sure enough she was correct, and it stayed open much later.  So when we arrived in Florence, we looked for that ticket office, and it was just across the street from the station, where getting the cards for the four of us was simple and straightforward.

The hotel wasn’t that far away, and since Justin was wheeling Clarita’s bag, Crystal led the navigation…for about 2-3 blocks, before giving up and putting Justin back in charge, and taking the roller bag.  Google Maps worked infinitely better in Florence than in Venice - no doubt because the streets were further apart from one another.  We got to the hotel (Arte Boutique Hotel) with no issues.  Stevie Wonder was playing on the speakers at check-in - his music must be the unofficial trip theme.  Our room was tiny, like a hotel in Manhattan, but on the other hand we could see the Duomo out our window, and it was just a block or two away (you can see it in the windows in the picture below).  Additionally, the Accademia Gallery, where David is located, is also just a block or two away.

After getting situated we met Dewey and Clarita to head to lunch.  We tried for Trattoria Mario, which was quite close, but they were completely full.  So we walked one or two blocks over and went to Osteria Il Basilico.  It wasn’t busy at all, so we wondered if we’d made a good choice, but we quickly realized we had.  Justin had a tomato soup that could be eaten with a fork, Clarita had minestrone, Crystal had sausage and beans, Dewey had a calzone that looked incredible, and after his tomato soup, Justin had something that looked and tasted better than any goulash he’d ever had, but it wasn’t goulash.

After lunch we separated from Crystal’s parents.  Crystal had a Hungarian lesson at 16:00, so Justin went walking around town for a bit.  First he walked around the Duomo, and then he headed southeast to Basilica di Santa Croce, where he noticed a nice looking Christmas Market.  Somewhere along his walk he noticed a viewpoint across the river, where he could see lots of people looking back.  So he decided to cross the river and head up there as well.  The skies weren’t exactly clear, but the clouds were higher and less dense than the past several days.  The views back towards central Florence were great.  There were tons of people up at the viewpoint, but there was also plenty of room for everyone to get a good vantage point.  Justin walked around to different vantage points and then came back down the hill.  

He was back to the river when Crystal’s class ended at 17:00, and we texted each other regarding where to meet, deciding on Ponte Vecchio, the ancient bridge built over 1000 years ago, and the only bridge over the Arno River spared during WWII.  We checked out the shops on the bridge, then headed east, through Piazza della Signoria and past all of its statues (including the replica of David that replaced the original when it was moved), until we got to Santa Croce.  We meandered through the market, and noticed it had stands that were themed from various European countries, including Poland, Hungary, Ireland, France, England, Austria, Germany, and perhaps one or two others that we can’t remember.  We grabbed a mango punsch, and it wasn’t exactly what we expected, but hey, it had alcohol in it.

We didn’t make any plans for dinner, as we had no reservations anyway, and we were still stuffed from lunch, but we wanted a little something before getting to sleep early for once, and we ended up at an Argentine place we’d seen earlier (7 Secoli), figuring we’d grab a little something.  The place was almost empty, and we met the owner, Willy, with whom we conversed in Spanish for a bit.  He told us to make sure to check out the Medusa painting by Caravaggio at the Uffizi Gallery.  We drank our bottle of wine, and eventually asked for a food menu.  Once we saw the menu, Justin couldn’t pass up the Patagonian cordero, Crystal ordered two empanadas, and we split some papas fritas.  

It still wasn’t that late, despite us staying at 7 Secoli far longer than we originally anticipated.  So we were still on track to get to sleep earlier.  But then we happened to walk by a place called Tijuana Tacos that was having Margarita Monday specials…well, we couldn’t pass that up.  We chatted a bit with the proprietor, who originally was from Brazil, and was surprised to hear that we lived only 25 kilometers from Tijuana.  The margaritas were good, but not great - but probably great for Florence.  We said we’d have one round, but we ended up having two, but then eventually got home, after checking out the Duomo and its lit Christmas tree one more time.  Our planned-to-be early night ended a little after midnight.

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