Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Shanghaied in Tuscany!

Florence revisited

As my waking time the previous day seemed to work so well, I left the alarm on the same setting. I'd already checked that the trains to Florence were frequent, even on a Sunday morning, so it wasn't vitally important when I got up. I again had breakfast in the hotel's conservatory and returned to my room to pack. By 0830, I was checked out and on board a taxi bound for Pisa Station. I'd covered the distance easily on foot the previous day, but wasn't about to repeat the experience with luggage in tow. Ticket purchase was easy at the multi-lingual self-service machines and I quickly found my train. The journey passed at a leisurely pace, taking an hour and a half to cover just under 100km. The many station stops, in particular, seemed to involve  pauses of inordinate length. An annoying aspect of the journey came from observing the furtive behaviour of a shockingly sizeable number of passengers. Fare-dodging is clearly rife, and it seemed that looking out for the conductor was something of a national pastime, at least in some sections of society. In one extraordinary example, at one of the intermediate stops, a man came running through my section of the train, exited using the door behind me and then managed to get away from the conductor, who had clearly asked for his ticket at his originally chosen door and was now trying to prevent the offender from leaving the platform. Unfortunately, he got away. At the risk of going to into grumpy-old-man mode on holiday, I reflected that it was a sad comment on present day standards.

On arrival in Florence, I caught a taxi to the Hilton Metropole, which is situated on the edge of town. I was allocated a 14th floor corner Executive Room which, although it was only 1130 in the morning, was ready and waiting for me. Good news indeed! It meant that I had time to settle into my room before catching the hotel's 1230 shuttle bus back into town. On arrival, I had a very quick lunch at a self-service place, as I didn't want to lose any more sightseeing time than was absolutely necessary.

Once I finally got going, my first thought was that I didn't remember Florence (local name Firenze, incidentally) as being quite this busy. It was Sunday, after all, and the city centre was heaving. I think many people were just out walking - and why not, with beautiful weather and such an attractive city to enjoy? I walked around the main central area, taking in the major sights of the cathedral, the Piazza dei Signoria (with its copy of Michangelo's David), the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio. I should probably be ashamed to say that I didn't actually go inside anywhere. I really didn't have the time and, besides, I usually prefer exploring the streets to queuing up for overcrowded attractions, even when these are indisputably world class. I decided to head for the well-known viewpoint, the Piazzale Michelangelo, from where many a photograph of the city has been taken, and I fully intended to add to the collection! The climb was fairly arduous in the afternoon heat, but the view was well worth it.

Eventually, I made my way back to the Hilton on the 1730 shuttle, wondering whether the weather would hold for me. It did. The skies had looked threatening for the previous couple of hours, but I was safely back at base before the heavy rain started. Having had enough walking for one day, I was content to have an excellent dinner in the hotel dining room.