A nine-hour flight from Manila and a connecting flight translated to 4 inflight movies and a sleepless night. Arriving early morn in Aeroporto Fiumicino, we went about our business of buying train tickets to Florence then back via Rome Tiburtina to Viterbo. That done, we sipped our first cup of cappuccino and macchiato paired with cornetto and the sugar-loaded cannoli. The sudden sweet dose perked us enough to last till our 11am train to the Renaissance city of Firenze.
Our hotel is just 250 meters from the Santa Maria Novella Station. We only needed to cross the street and we were there with a skip and a hop. The hotel owner Florio was out for lunch but he came as soon as I called. A quick registration and stowing our bags inside, we immediately stepped out to catch the 2pm walking tour of Medici sites. Met our guide in front of the Santa Maria Novella Church then walked towards the Medici Chapel around the Piazza San Lorenzo and Mercato Centrale.
We covered many of Firenze’s must-destinations, a “repeat tour” for me yet I always manage to learn something new from the local guide. In this case, I discovered non-touristy Oltrarno on our way to Pitti Palace. Oltrarno’s charm lies in its quiet alleyways and small, family-run cafe bars, shops and tiny squares where kids play while babies in strollers are “parked” with Mama just a few steps away. Oltrarno literally translates to “beyond the Arno”. You’ll find it after crossing Ponte Vecchio which is teeming with tourists and err… pickpockets.
I like this area of Florence just across the Arno — away from the historic center where the Duomo dominates the skyline. During our visit, the area around the Duomo, Baptistery, Giotto’s Tower, Santa Croce, Piazza Della Signoria and Republica were all teeming with tourists, many of whom with selfie sticks that almost always get in the way. But in Oltrarno, it’s quiet with many mom-and-pop pizzeria, cafes, gelaterias and osterias. Far more Italian than the tourist sites in the city center. This is truly Firenze. I like 😘. Much. Che bello.