Europe · Travel

Interrailing Italy: Bologna to Florence

It’s been over a month since the last post on one of the most amazing trips I have ever had. Sorry for the delay. But I am a bit of a mind wanderer thinking of topics to post about then not being able to find the time to note down the million and one other things I want to tell you about. That reminds me, I may give you a bit more of a run down on my Eurotrip up to Sweden and back! I experienced lots of lovely places that may just fuel others Wanderlust.

So let’s go back to 2011, early September. We are back on the train trudging on from Venice to Bologna, it’s terribly hot, sticky and the only means of ‘air con’ is opening the window to be hit in the face by fast warm air. Even though inside the train was less than pleasant the landscape outside was magnificent – and this hasn’t even got to the best train journeys. I would recommend anyone to travel Italy, well anywhere by train. You get a feel for the countryside and may spot a few places along the way that you wish to tick off on another adventure.

We arrived at Bologna Central station to which we trekked around three bus stops, upon finally finding the correct one for us. Unfortunately the bus we required only travelled once every 2 hours, which had left just prior to us finding the stop. So we took to a small cafe opposite for soft drinks and ice cream whilst people watching.

A fun fact you may not know is that the dish of Bologna Bolognese is not traditionally served with spaghetti but tagliatelle!

Once the bus finally arrived we wound through the streets and out of the city centre to our camp site. We settled in put the air con on in our room and trudged tiredly to dinner on site. Sitting outside in the warm summer sun we ordered freshly made pizza and our beloved lemon soda! – I know Italy is the birth place of pizza, but by golly is it good! For the same price anywhere else you would never get the quality that you would in Italy.

Our second day in Bologna we dedicated to sightseeing and exploring the city. We set off towards the two towers, a feature point of Bologna. It was believed that similar tours of this stature crowded the city in the 12th to 13th Century. Like a later day New York full of sky scrappers, each family trying to out do the next with their towers. The two remaining are relatively sturdy. P & I climbed Asinelli tower, as Garisenda was a leaning just a tad too much for my liking. We ascended on creaky wooden stairs winding around in a spiral with a hollow centre seeing right down to the bottom, making you very aware of how high up you get. Once we arrived at the top it was well worth it for the fantastic view across the city that we were greeted with.

Once we (well more just me) gained the courage to make our way back down the winding stairs we whiled away the afternoon around the ancient churches of Bologna. Including Santo StefanoCattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro and San Petronio Basilica. All with old fashioned relatively modest exteriors and lavishly decorated interiors, full of sculptures, ornate paintings and gold leaf.

The streets of Bologna are lined by porticoes and is often referred to as the city’s umbrellas, offering shelter as and when required. For us it was more from the sun than any rain.

We scuttled back to the bus and along the roads to the camp site to change, relax and allow the weather to cool before it was dinner time. This time we headed into Bologna to a lovely restaurant called Il moro. Simple delicious food and could not recommend it enough to anyone visiting Bologna. This was one of our favourite meals thus far!

The plan for the following day was to go around a few museums. However, the museums were not open. So we bought a magazine each and spent some time in the tourist office till we could catch our bus back. We got back and immediately jumped in the pool to cool off. After we had enough of swimming and sun bathing, we made our way back to our plot, where an extremely friendly ginger cat awaited us. All he wanted to do was play and try to sneak in to our room. So we sat outside and kept him company for a bit. Once our stomachs started grumbling we bid him adieu and scrambled across the patio to the outdoor restaurant to fill ourselves with pizza and tortellini.

It was now time to pack up and move on with our adventure so early the next morning we checked out and headed to the station to catch our train to Florence. a beautifully scenic journey. Whereby I proceeded to act like a child moving my vision from one window to the opposite determined not to miss out on a single view. One of the stops along with way was a place called Prato, with a divine little church that looked like it was made of origami! Shortly after we were in Florence. We hurried down cobbled streets across a main road and down a narrow street to our hotel, dumped our bags and went off to explore the new city that lay ahead of us. We followed our noses to a great restaurant behind the duomo, which was surprisingly reasonable with a great house white! Finishing off the meal the only way Italians know how with lemoncello and gelato – Bellisima.

The next day we headed straight to the market to get our bearings. We quickly located the legendary Nerbones and decided that was where we would have our lunch. We popped outside to the nearby church (Santissima Annuziata), which was absolutley stunning as all of their churches are in Italy. Every single one you step into you are in awe of what effort and craftsmanship has gone into it. We thought we would earn our lunch so walked along to dell’Academia, but there was a long queue so we settled for the archaeological museum, which used to be a nunnery.  After we had our fill of culture it was time to fill our bellies, so we scuttled back to Nerbones and by golly were we glad for it. We both got a huge stewed beef sandwiches, dossed in their own gravy – just thinking about it I’m getting food envy of my past self.

San Lorenzo was across from the market, so we thought it rude not to visit. It was a nice church, but a bit ‘museumy’ So we went back to wandering our way through town. This is when we stumbled upon a used book store, an English used book store!!! I got terribly over excited in finding the new Kate Morton book that I was unable to source at the airport and P managed to sort through and choose a book to his liking. We made our way towards the river and stopped in on Bargello. This gave off the feel of a castle with statues, fountains and plaques miscellaneously strewn across it.

After all this walking about we thought we’d best head to dinner and found a little osteria on the way between the Duomo and the market. Then finished off the night with Granitas on our walk to the hotel.

Today dell’Academia would be conquered, so we got up and marched straight there. Although there was a bit of a queue even in the morning it was much better than any other time of day and would recommend that you go then. There were so many amazing works of art through out, but of course David was the main man. standing in prime position. Much larger than you expect – P noted his hands were disproportionately large. Which once I did a second glance, I could not help but notice and really started to bug me.

We slowly made our way down to Ponte Vecchio stopping at a lovely farmers market, selling all manor of good from dried chillies to cured meats and a merry-go-round beside it. Once you reach Ponte Vecchio you realise it is much more than a wide bridge, it’s like its own high street, with shops lining it. With not being able to see the water from it you would never guess it was a bridge. Just along from Ponte Vecchio was a shoe shop called Wilma, which I found exceedingly funny and made a note that I must tell Wilma about it on my return. we took to wandering through the narrow streets and then came upon the clearing to Santa Croce. The most decadent marble faced church you may ever see, until you go to either side and realise it is literally just the façade that  is made of marble – apparently they ran out of money mid-building and never completed it. There was some kind of concert set to occur here, but unfortunately not during our time in Florence.

Dinner that night was at a lovely little ristorante behind the duomo advertising German beer – random fact I know, but caught my attention and has stuck with me as a defining feature of this tiny ristorante.

Our final day in Florence was spent venturing across the Arno to Palazzo Pitti. We went inside to take a peak at the costume gallery – more like me all giddy at the pretty dresses with P sighing asking when we could go outside and enjoy the walks. Soon wnough I gave in and we stepped out into the Boboli gardens. At the top of the Boboli gardens, close to the porcelain museum there was a panoramic view over the Tuscan countryside. Lemon trees lined the walk ways, fountains were around every corner and Cyprus trees were aplenty. Then arriving in the Bardini gardens, with its beautiful apple orchard and view across Florence – absolutely stunning. After what seemed like miles worth of walking we came to a cafe and picked up some sweet treats.

After having a suitable break we headed for the Ufizzi. The queue was long, but we were sure it was worth it so joined on and quickly started moving along – here was where we saw two of P’s friends from Uni. hundreds of miles away from home and we managed to bump into people we knew is always a crazy experience. Soon after we gained entry and snaked our way through the horseshoe shaped museum oogling and beautiful works of art, sculptures and a pretty good view from its cafe.

Our evening consisted of trekking up Piazzalle MichelAngelo to soak up the magnificent views of the city. Street artists were spray painting the views on canvas’ to music and there was a buzzing atmosphere. When we crossed over the Arno, we found a little place by Bargello to stop and have dinner – this was really cheap and really good!

That drew this section of our journey to a close. I promise to post the next interrailing Italy post soon, so you can follow where our adventures took us next.

All the pictures in this post are from Pinterest, for more pictures of the lovely places we visited please visit my pinterest here.


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