This morning we're up and at 'em, packing our bags and leaving our sweet Rome apartment for Florence. We have a train reservation (in business class, no less!) from Rome Termini station at 10am, so that means leave the apartment at 8am, roll our luggage for 10 minutes over the cobblestones to the bus stop and ride for another 20 minutes to the train station.
It was really easy to go to the Italian Rail website and reserve seats for our journey. Even though they offer a railpass, it turned out that the point-to-point tickets were less expensive, especially since I booked them a couple of months ago. However, when I looked at the Rome to Florence leg, all of the discount 2nd class tickets were sold out, but there were some discount tickets for business class seats that were exactly the same price as the 2nd class seats that were left. So, when Susie and I boarded the train in Rome, we were traveling in style!
What's the difference between 2nd class and business class, you might ask? Well, frankly, not a lot. The seats are a bit wider (two seats on one side of the aisle and one on the other side) and you get free drinks and snacks. But the best thing that these business class seats came with was a new friend!
As Susie and I found our seats and were trying to determine the best place to stow our luggage, we were greeted by an English speaking voice! Not American English, nor even British English, but Australian English. Music to our ears after so much Italian! Ross was a former vineyard owner from outside of Melbourne who was traveling to Tuscany to meet some friends. Over the next hour and a half of train ride, we shared stories over blood orange juice and prosecco. He was taking several months to travel around Europe and to me, was a kindred spirit. We promised to share emails about our respective adventures as we parted at the Florence station.
Since it was only noon and we couldn't check into the apartment yet, Susie and I dragged our bags over to the Bargello Museum of art. The museum had a place to store our luggage so we were able to enjoy this beautiful place unencumbered. Besides the porcelain, tapestries, and paintings, there was our first encounter with the Florentian idea of David. There were several sculptures of him there, all very feminine looking until you looked, uh, down.
After a quick pizza lunch, we dragged the bags across the River Arno to meet Alessandro and check in to our apartment. It was four floors up (no elevator), but had a wonderful view of the rooftops. The apartment was a two-bedroom (we had one bedroom, another couple had the other) with a shared bathroom, kitchen, and living area. Alessandro had a great map (which he downloaded as a PDF file to my iPad and iPhone) and a list of recommendations of places to eat, things to do, and even places to go for fabulous views.
So, after settling in for a bit, we head to Golden View Open Bar for dinner. On the River Arno with a view of the famous Ponte Vecchio, it's a perfect place to chill. We're not eating in the restaurant, however, we're in the bar. For an 8euro glass of wine (or a 10euro Campari spritzer) we have the run of the all-you-can-eat appetizers and an unobstructed view of the bridge and the Uffizi Gallery across the river. Beautiful!
We head back through the main square, where there's a Gelato Festival going on. Earlier today we got a free sample of a gelato mojito cocktail and we're looking for more. Unfortunately, the cocktail guy is gone, but we are still able to get some mighty fine gelato across the square. The sun sets as we head back to the apartment. Tomorrow, we have a date with David!