I heart Florence. Day 3


The Day:
I have discovered that I am made for sleeping in a hostel, one of my many talents has always been the gift of being able to sleep anywhere and through almost everything. This statement is clearly illustrated by the fact that for the second morning in a row, I have woken up to an empty AND cleaned room.

I walk out to reception and the lovely American girl, Caillie, is there. So we go for a coffee, talk loads, and discover we are very similar. She is in her 20s, nannying in Sienna, but loves Florence, so is also trying to find work here, and completely immerse herself in all that is Florence.

Talking to her I am also thinking nannying could be another option... We talk about how much we love traveling, how small the world gets when you travel, and the fact that when you meet people, they are generally 'the better version' of themselves.

Yes there can be some douches along the way; like the Aussie guy who just said "so I said to these Mexican guys the other day, wanna go for a drink this avo?" - which would have come out like "wanna gofura drink thisaarvo?" and he was shocked that they didn't understand him. Or another American girl who is claiming she hates typical Americans, but is very soon the loud obnoxious American who starts talking politics and how if she were president she would make such a difference to the world…

But as I said, on the whole, you meet the better version of people, and are the better version of yourself. For example, you chat to anyone, invite the person standing at the bar alone to have dinner with you, invite the struggling traveller to crash on your couch, or to stay at your apartment in Sienna just because. You go out of your way to help people because you are all doing the same thing. Travellers are like an extended family. You share stories, experiences and you end up knowing more about someone in the first half hour of meeting them, than you do about the person you have worked next to in the office for a year. It is these small moments, kindnesses and gestures that stay with you long after you have left. Yes the first time you see the Eiffel Tower sparkle to life at night is amazing, or when you stand at the top of the Jungfrau looking out over the snow-capped peaks of the Alps against the perfect blue skies really is (excuse the cliché) a breath-taking moment… but it is the genuine kind smile of a stranger, or the hand that passes back your wallet that just fell out of your bag that is what travelling is really all about. Miriam Beard put it best when she said: “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the idea of living.”

Anyway, we carry on walking to a famous pizza place that Kelly knows of. 5euro and 10minutes later and we have the most gorgeous heart shaped pizzas sitting in front of us. Literally, heart shaped pizzas.

As we go to collect our pizzas the guys in the kitchen cheekily look up and say “ciao bella” as they see the look on our faces when we first notice our pizzas are shaped like hearts. We walk to an empty table in the restaurant, with smiles on our faces like the Cheshire cat. Upon glancing around the room, we can’t help but notice that we are the only ones with pizzas shaped as hearts; not to mention hearing a few girls muttering low under their breath, “that’s not fair”… Is it wrong to say that this makes the pizza taste even better?...

But in all seriousness, this is actually the  most heavenly pizza that I have ever had. Now I know what you are thinking – ‘calm down, it’s just pizza right?’ Wrong. This is not your typical flat, thin crusted, baked on ingredients pizza… this pizza is a fluffy, puffy, light mouthful of amazingness! The flavours are so simple, but fresh, and the cheese is threatening to slide off the sides – so you have to eat it quickly not caring that it definitely isn’t the most attractive look darting your face around the slice of pizza you hold up, trying to work out what angle to attack it from. Again wait for another cliché.. this really does do a tap-dance over the taste-buds that Billy Elliot would be jealous of. And, at this point in time, I would happily have this over sex, and according to my new rules, maybe this will be my guilty pleasure instead.

Now again in normal everyday life, I would never order a pizza and have the whole thing to myself, but here it would seem like sacrilege to share this. So we don't leave until we have devoured every mouthful, and leave, happy and dazed in a slight food coma.

The Night:
We spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool (and yes I am still aware that I have no job), then it gets to that point in the late afternoon, where nothing is going to satisfy better than an ice cold beer. We have a couple, get ready then wander back into town, as I have decided that although I don't really want to have a big one, I should go in to the owners of some bars and restaurants and start trying to forge some contacts. And one drink won’t hurt right?...

On the walk in we pick up a couple big bottles of beer, to be our companions as we wander the streets of Florence (because you can drink on the street here). We weave our way through the streets with our beers in hand, deciding not to look at a map because we know the general direction, besides we are just content soaking it all in – the romantic notion of being in Florence still not having worn off. We still seem to carry with us that same foolish Cheshire grin too.

An hour or so later (this should only be a 30minute walk) we find ourselves in a Piazza that neither of us recognise – which considering neither of us has been here long I guess this isn’t so difficult to believe, but we consider ourselves quite local already and are shocked by this revelation. So with a hint of reluctance we decide that it is time to consult every travellers friend (or foe), the map. It turns out we have somehow managed to walk on an almost perfect diagonal from one side of the city to the other, we even managed to bypass all of the major sights somehow. However we take consolation in the fact that we are in the right area as such, just the wrong side – so our natural Florence instincts weren’t too far off…

We find our direction and head to a bar where I know the owner (well had met the owner on the training trip). I introduce myself and am met with another kind smiling face (and a big glass of rum and coke) – which all seems promising. But after a few sips on a drink, he tells me what Linda had already warned me of, that unfortunately because of the legal battle going on, and all of the bars closing at 10pm there is no work there at the moment. Sadder still for him and his bar that has been there for 50years, if it carries on things look pretty grim for himself and his staff.

So this is not exactly the best news, but it was to be expected I guess, and this is still only day 3 – ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ right? Anyway, he takes my details, just in case things change or he hears of anything else and gets us another drink.

Side note on drinking in Italy: To drink spirits in Italy one must do one of two things:
1.   Slow down your regular drinking pace, because the spirits here are a charming mix of about ¾ spirit vs ¼ mixer. OR
2.   Pack your dignity neatly away in your purse and say goodnight to the coherent sensible self as you keep drinking spirits at your usual pace

Quiz: which option do you think I opt for this time?

Ding ding ding. With the majority of votes being awarded to option number two this time, let’s have a look and see where this night goes…

A couple more drinks in, and oh, did I forget to mention this is a karaoke bar? Needless to say, with the spirits already magically coursing their way through the blood system and straight to the brain I get up does a couple of award winning renditions of “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor, and then to mix things up “We found Love” by Rhianna… the crowd goes wild… well at least in my mind it did.

There are a couple of tour groups in (from the company that I was supposed to work for, let’s call them TravelX). So I introduce myself to them, and most of them already know my story.

Side note on tour companies: they are very much like high school where rumours and gossip run rampant, one is judged very much instantaneously and there is definitely a social structure, where if you aren’t partaking in these rumours, you will not be hanging out with the cool kids.

I chat to a few of them, but these guys seem to be the ‘cool kids’ and unlike Linda and the crew I met at the hostel who think the story is funny and a bit over the top that I got kicked off, these guys give me a military drilled response – saying “I shouldn’t have broken the rules…” No shit.

Anyway, we have enough of karaoke and the cool kids, so we head back to the hostel. It is only 11pm at this point, and feeling very ‘sensible’ that we are back so early, we decide to head down to the bar just to “have a look”. Walking into the bar area, I know at least one person at every table and feel very at home already – Kelly asks how on earth this is possible as I have only been here for 2 days, and I guess that having sat outside for a near solid 12hour drinking session, you see the majority of people coming and going.

We opt for another drink, some shots, and then clearly the previous spirits from the bar that have been working their way around my system simultaneously attack my senses all at once because my next memory is sitting on the stairwell outside my room devouring a bag of chips and chocolates – having clearly raped my wallet of all of its loose change (classy). But I somehow find my bed and pass out.

random side note: the name game
when traveling, you talk to anyone, you sit down beside the pool, the person next to you says hi, you do the:
  • where are you from?
  • how long have you been here? How long are you staying?
  • Where have you been? Where are you going next?
  • How long are you traveling for?
  • What did you do back home?
And so on and so forth, you can end up talking to someone for half the day, having a beer with them, without asking the question that is normally the first question in real life – what is your name? Then if and when you do finally ask this question, you are so busy priming yourself to say "I'm Tash".. that 2seconds after they have told you their name, you forget. Then it gets to that awkward point a little further on, after more drinks and knowing their life story, that you just can't bring yourself to ask them their name again.

So you play the 'name game', which is basically a waiting game, waiting for someone else to join, hoping they'll do introductions again, and also hoping you remember their name this time. Perfect someone new joins. Introductions. It’s Tim, ok. But shit, you've forgotten the new person’s name... time to start all over again.

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