Florence & Tuscany ’17

 

A Facebook event popped up on our feed one day – a brand new music festival was to take place in Florence in late June, with Aerosmith, System Of A Down and Eddie Vedder headlining each of the 3 nights, respectively.

Name of the festival? Firenze Rocks.

We thought “hell yeah!” and dove into trip planning. Anja was especially looking forward to Florence, since she had gone to art school and Florence is considered a kind of Mecca for artists.

Full festival tickets were out of our price range (neither were we fond of the idea of spending three days inside a venue when we could be exploring the city instead), so we opted for a single day – the last one with Eddie Vedder. One of my biggest regrets is not going to the Pearl Jam gig in Trieste in 2014 (though it will soon be redeemed as we’ve finally got tickets to their June 2018 show in Padova). An acoustic evening with Eddie under the stars along with a 50.000+ crowd? It was looking promising.

We booked an Airbnb room in the suburbs only to find out that it’s owned by Zala, Anja’s classmate from middle school (who met her Italian husband, Marco, at the Rock Otočec music festival, and moved with him to Florence). It’s a small world. :D

Unfortunately, they were out of town during our stay so we never got together. Their place, however, is perfect – located far enough in a quiet neighbourhood, yet a 5-minute walk from the tram station that gets you to the heart of Florence in 15 minutes.

It’s a 5-hour drive to Florence and we arrived early enough to dive straight into sightseeing. First stop, the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral and its huge dome. All the spots to climb the dome were fully booked, so we went up the tower instead – no crowds and identical views.

 

Then straight to Galleria’dell’Academia and the statue of David – it may sound cheesy but there’s no way to imagine just how huge it is until you see it in person. Incredible. There were lots of statues, paintings and churches to see next – I wish I could name some but they all looked the same to me. :)

 

Dinner time next – we found the Borderline restaurant to enjoy some delicious food while downing a bottle of chianti. It’s a relaxed place to say the least – while waiting at the bar for the receipt, one waiter poured three shot glasses of limoncello, the second appeared out of nowhere and before I knew it, we were doing shots. On the house.

We checked the festival grounds afterwards – the wine left us with enough buzz to find an empty spot on the lawn outside the venue and enjoyed Aerosmith’s riffs echoing from inside.

 

Day 2 – even more museums and artworks (Galleria Uffizi and Palazzo Medici). I’m completely clueless when it comes to classic art so I focused on the bizarre – aliens sticking out of necks, Saint Agatha with her chopped-off boobs and so on. Lots of weird stuff to be found.

 

Walking back toward the train station, we ran into the parade of calcio storico teams on their way to the games – it’s a medieval form of football, revived today as an annual tournament mainly for tourists). Nevertheless, the game is far from boring and considerably more physical than the modern equivalent. Wish we could have gone and watch, but there was other stuff to do.

 

Day 3 started the best way possible – with an early lunch stop. Miha insisted we should try the lampredotto (tripe sandwich) at Da’vinattieri – I must admit it smelled amazing while we waited in line, but we played it safe and went with standard options: prosciutto and mortadella. Delicious and cheap food, Tuscan style – I wish we would have gone there more than once.

 

We went over the Ponte Vecchio and into the yuuuuge Palazzo Pitti. More artwork. :D

 

Next, we strolled into the equally huge gardens behind the palace – the Giardino de Boboli. Though beautiful, the sun was beating down hard and the sandy paths didn’t help – I feel better inside a cold stone palace. :)

 

We wrapped it up early since we had a concert to go to – the venue was close enough that reaching it by foot from the apartment was no big deal. I don’t remember much about the opening acts (Glen Hansard was the only one I’ve heard of before) but Eddie was the main deal. The performance was amazing and emotional (with Black dedicated to Vedder’s close friend and recently-deceased Chris Cornell).

Right at the end of Lennon’s cover of Imagine, a huge shooting star appeared to the left of stage at the perfect moment – it was an unreal sight, impossible to catch with a phone camera (an thus much more memorable).

 

That was it for Florence. We had one day left and opted for a change of pace – a quick drive into the countryside to visit the nearby San Gimignano. We fell into a huge traffic jam just outside Florence as there was an accident up ahead. After losing an hour and trying our luck driving around the jam through some tiny villages, we were finally back on the main road. We soon caught our first glimpse of San Gimignano (it’s impossible to miss due to its distinctive towers). It’s a small, cozy town – the towers dominate the cityscape and it’s loaded with small shops, bars and ice cream parlors. We had to visit the Gelateria Dondoli (two-time Gelato World Champion) and were not disappointed.

 

Then a quick ride back through the rolling hills and vineyards (the roads are excellent, by the way), waving to Florence on our way past and 5 hours later, it was all over.

 

We got around the main sights using the FirenzeCard – Florence’s tourist card. It’s not exactly cheap, but it includes fees for all the sights and museums (inside a 72-hour window) and (theoretically) allows you to skip the line without reservations. It worked quite well, actually – the most we’ve had to wait was for the Galleria’dell’Academia, around 20 minutes. Folks with regular tickets were waiting for 2 hours and more. No idea how works in the high season, though.