Bella Firenze

When our train pulled into the Firenze Santa Maria Novella station, we walked briskly to our hotel. The sidewalks rarely surpassed two feet in width, and the streets puzzled us grid-reliant Americans. Still, we found our tiny hotel with relative ease and took a brief breather, enjoying a moment without our heavy bags.

Our day was rigidly scheduled with our activities starting an hour after our arrival. We wandered around the city center in search of food. Cloud 59, a restaurant promising delicious burgers with fresh tuscany beef, caught our eye. Inside, the entrance was elaborately painted with clouds and blue skies, while one wall housed a number of different liquors. The owner picked us out as Americans right away and didn’t even bother with Italian.  He welcomed us in with a thick Boston accent, which, after seeing our curious looks, he explained. He was born in Italy but lived, studied and worked in Boston for 13 years. After some chatter, we each ordered a burger and partook in a beverage. Our food arrived fresh a short while later, and I do not hesitate at all in saying that it was the best burger I have ever had in my entire life. I don’t remember which menu item it was, but I couldn’t get enough of it. The avocado, mushrooms, bacon, prosciutto, and cheese all perfectly complemented the beef, which dissolved perfectly with each bite. I quickly transformed from a tourist simply craving a burger after countless pasta/seafood meals to a true believer that Cloud 59 is the best burger in the world. I did (and would) get it again and again.

The Accademia Gallery walls are lined with priceless art and sculpture and artifacts, each more intriguing than the last. Perhaps my experience with the burger just minutes before tapered my enthusiasm, because I slowly glazed over much of the art, occasionally shifting my weight to relieve my feet of their heavy load or sitting down on a fortunately-placed bench. My exhaustion subsided swiftly, however, when we rounded a corner and saw Michelangelo’s David at the end of the hall.

Saying David is breathtaking would be a glorious understatement. The statue towers higher than you’d ever imagine. The sculpture commands the attention of anyone in the vicinity; entire tour groups stared up at it, completely oblivious to the ramblings of their guides just feet away. We admired the statue for 20 minutes or so, explored more of the museum, and ventured back to the David for one last look before leaving.

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Once again exhausted, we indulged in espresso at a nearby cafe and headed to the Leonardo Da Vinci museum. The storefront sold various Da Vinci related wares, and the exhibit entrance, a black curtain, looked much more ominous than it had any right to look. We crossed the threshold into a room filled with contraptions and poorly translated placards. A few of the inventions were interactive, a few stationary, and a few broken. Regardless, it was fascinating to read about Da Vinci’s inventions and see them replicated. Most troubling, though, was the urinal in the bathroom:

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Unsure of how to tackle this rare bathroom beast, I simply stood on the foot-shaped platforms and relieved myself.

Erin and I snapped a few photos in Da Vinci’s mirror room in what could be the ultimate pair of mirror selfies, and we left.

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We geared up for our next and final tourist activity of the day: a Segway Tour. Our guide was a charming and funny Italian woman who carefully dictated years and years of history along the way. We zipped through city streets and side alleys in the middle of a perpetual cold drizzle. And boy did we look good doing it:

Out tour set the stage for the rest of our stay in Florence. Despite the cold, we ate a cup of gelato, rode in style back to the tour center, and enjoyed pizza, wine and pasta in a hearth-warmed rustic restaurant. We walked our meal off on the way back home, enjoying the slightly more familiar city, and went to bed.

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