The European trekking continues as I train into Italy's west coast, trading in the city scenes of Rome for the lush greenery of Tuscan wine country. As per usual with any Italian locale, Tuscan cities promised rich history, culture, and eats- or in this case, drinks.
Florence fits the bill for all of the aforementioned Italian city qualities. Street artists painting away by the Uffizi gallery, bands playing music in alleyways, and meticulously made statues in every piazza- on the surface, Florence was even more beautiful than I could've possibly anticipated. What I didn't expect to find was a deep respect for the city's hustle, warmth, and casual day-to-day rhythms.
I'm a firm believer that you can learn a lot about a city from observing the way it wakes up;
Florence, which is usually peppered with tourists in the summer, is quite a treat to see in this early morning haze with their rocky and narrow streets completely empty. Thanks to a mosquito that bit me around 5 AM, which instilled a deep fear of falling back asleep again, I was wide awake and consequently decided to wander around a sleepy Florence one morning.
Look closely, and you'll find that although this small city is known for Renaissance art, Chianti wine, and rich architecture, that there are some deeply rooted processes, traditions, and camaraderie amongst the locals that help Florence continue chugging onwards day after day.
The people carefully cleaning the streets at 6 AM as street vendors set up their carts for tourists, the waiter that served your pasta who is now laughing and smoking a cigarette in an alleyway with the chef, the families walking home from the mercato centrale with bags of fresh fruits, pastas, and cured meats in tow- they are truly the heart and soul of Florence. The art, wine, and food are just the extras, if you ask me.
In case you ever wanted to escape Florence for a day (with the hordes of tourists, wanting to catch a break from it is all too possible), then head to Siena. And that I did. Along with a group of my friends from school, we hopped onto an hour and a half long train ride to explore the quiet and quaint streets of Siena for more wine- it is still Tuscany after all- a relaxing lunch by the main plaza, and of course, gelato.
Nothing beats new towns with familiar faces that I love. (And a little extra wine never hurts either.)
Until next time, Tuscany.