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–By: Asshur Cunningham 

From boarding at the wrong station to an almost 7-hour train delay, my Florence trip had its fair share of mishaps. Still, I will do it all over again because Florence was pure magic— rolling hills, scrumptious food, wine, and entertaining company. 

Piazzale Michelangelo

As I got off the train and tugged my suitcase through the cobble stoned streets of Florence, the first reality that struck me was the higher presence of black immigrants than I witnessed in Rome. The major distinction was that in Rome, the black people I encountered, aside from tourists, were street vendors while in Florence they were simply residents, strolling with their kids, grocery shopping, and so forth. 

MoBike (a bicycle sharing system) was our convenient mode of transportation, costing only $0.30 every 30 minutes, and shuttling us to restaurants, museums, stores, and local squares. A side note, our Airbnb in Florence was better than our tiny Roman hotel room. The trade-off was that it was not as central to the city as the hotel was in Rome. 

We used the bikes to traverse to sites such as Piazzale Michelangelo where we had a free and spectacular view of the entire city below. This is a view that many people pay for by going atop the highest domes of the city, but Piazzale Michelangelo could be a better choice. 

It was at Piazzale Michelangelo, we officially met Jack late in the afternoon. He is a friend of my friend’s coworker; Jack then introduced us to his girlfriend Christina. He showed us Fort Belvedere, which is a museum and event space, and it’s a bit more elevated than Piazzale Michelangelo. 

Chatting with Jack, Spritz in hand

Coincidentally, a celebrity chef’s event was planned that night. So I saw the spreads of Italian breads, wines and other hot food laid out for this event. While Fort Belvedere is not free, I recommend going there because the crowds are small— I guess that they are deterred by the cost. Which is good because you can get away from the crowds at Piazzale Michelangelo; that place is literally swarming with tourists, buzz, buzz. At Fort Belvedere, we had drinks, I chose spritz, from their bar and engaged in late evening chatter on a plethora of topics, while taking the opportunity to catch the breathtaking sunset. I highly recommend Fort Belvedere because it offers you the city view as well as some other picturesque countryside scene, not offered by Piazzale or any of the city’s domes. BTW, it’s the home of Kanye and Kim K’s wedding! 

Michael Angelo’s Only Canvas Painting

On our last day there, we checked out of our Airbnb and tugged our suitcases again through the streets to get to the Uffizi Gallary. Now, I know we are not all admirers of art, but I recommend it nonetheless, probably for one major work, Michael Angelo’s only known canvas painting. While my friend Kay was distracted with the millions of paintings and sculptures on display, I was a little tired after a few hours, plus my allergy was acting up, I wasn’t in the mood… Also, in my opinion, many of the pieces, had a similar style, especially paintings of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. But after seeing all those paintings and then getting to Michael Angelo’s, it’s literally a breath of fresh air. It’s so different. The guy is good! Additionally, it was on this trip that I learned a bit about the Medici Family. The display of their living room which is as it was back in the 1500s was unbelievable. 

Original Room From Medici Family 

Italy overall is a trip for history and food. The two cities that I visited had so much to see and do and I can’t wait to see more. 

Last Meal in Florence 

Quick tip- if you plan to take a wine tour or see more of Tuscany, I recommend that you book your tickets in advance. I had hoped to do a wine tour, but I didn’t know that tours would sell out as fast as they did. Be sure to book no less than 2 days in advance. 

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