Saturday, October 28, 2006

Welcome to Florence

The vacation ends in Florence, which, unfortunately, isn't a city that makes a very good first impression. The thing is, it's a bit of a dump, it's dark and crowded, pretty much everyone here is an American, and I sort see Florence as more of a literati chore than a vacation spot. My hotel here is a government rated two-star, and for sixty euros a night less than the Venice hotel, I get the distinct feeling I'm back in my college dorm room. It's small and functional, clean but not sparkling, and I can hear a group of French tourists through the walls. Nothing really against the hotel, but again, not a good first impression. It's on a street that sees practically no sunlight, even in the middle of the morning, on the third floor of a very, very institutionalized gray building. It's really a perfect example of how switching from fluorescent lights to incandescent lights can make a room so much more comforting, all while killing the environment. I'll deal; I'm just saying that if they brightened up the rooms, maybe painted the ground floor entry (the hotel is on the third floor of what's apparently otherwise an apartment building), and put up a few pictures, they could easily get themselves at least another half-star.

I think my main gripe with Florence, however, is that it's ridiculously crowded and touristy. Think of Disney World in the middle of July, and then imagine if they let college kids ride their motorcycles through Fantasyland, and that's what the tourist situation in Florence is like. I hear the lines to get into the Uffizi and the Accademia (where Michelangelo's statue of David lives) can be several hours long, but mostly I'm just annoyed by having to navigate around throngs of tour groups.

On the plus side, the Duomo is gorgeous, and its dome sort of sneaks up on you as you're walking around the narrow sidestreets. And also, once the sun goes down and hides the city's scuzziness, it's pretty nice to walk down the cobblestone streets and stop at one gelateria after another. It's weird how the city – not the street that my hotel is on, but most of the city – is brighter at night than during the day. I kind of like it, but once I get snapshots of all the major Renaissance art attractions, I don't see myself coming back here.

Piazza della Repubblica.