Florence: Church and Pizza–Italy in a Nutshell

Uri here. Trevor is napping, so I figured I’d sneak in some writing.

One way that we’re trying to save money on this trip–which isn’t going that great, by the way, on account of how much I love Italian food–is by using the website Couch Surfing. Now for those who are unfamiliar with Couch Surfing, the way it works is that you request to stay at somebody’s home while you visit their city. The difference between this and Air BnB is that you don’t have to pay for CS. You also actually stay with your host and get to know them.

It’s a system based on 1) trust and 2) the idea of paying it forward. I’ve been hosted in cities across North America, as well as internationally. However, I also hosted plenty of wonderful souls during my two years in Abu Dhabi.

After a guest leaves their host’s home, they write references for each other so that future guests or hosts can get a better idea of the true character of who this stranger really is. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with all of my guests and hosts. A great host can make your stay in a city a hundred times better, because they show you their city’s true colour and character by either recommending things to do or taking you around to the best restaurants and sites only a local would know. I’m actually excited that I’ll be able to reunite with a few of the guests I’ve hosted in the past while travelling on this trip.

Having said all of that, the one down side to CS is the process of finding somebody to host you. Depending on the city, the time of year, or The timing of a big festival/event, it could be extremely frustrating finding a host. What with it being peak travel time right now, Trevor and I have had a hell of a time finding hosts in Italy. Everybody is either already hosting somebody, or they’re travelling themselves.

Miraculously, we were able to snag a host for our two days in Florence.

And then suddenly we didn’t have a host.

I’d told this gentleman that I’d get a SIM card as soon as I landed in Rome. However, I didn’t end up doing that because the woman at the airport wanted me to pay 130 euros per month for the three months I’d be in Europe. That’s almost 400 Euros for all three months! That’s like $200 CAD per month for 5 GB of data! And I thought Rogers was criminal!

Since I was only spending the night in Rome, I figured I’d find a place to get a SIM card in Pescara.

Nope. Got too busy beaching it up and totally forgot about it until the day before leaving for Florence. No biggy, though; I’d just pick one up in Florence the next day.

I messaged the guy from Michela’s to remind him that I’d be arriving tomorrow, inform him that I’d pick up a SIM card upon arriving in Florence, and inquire about his schedule for the day.

He then responded with an explosive rant about how I hadn’t kept my word regarding acquiring a SIM card on my arrival date, and refused to host me. I have never had this happen. I know from my experience with guests of my own that sometimes things happen. People get lost, delayed, etc. Mistakes and accidents happen. My not having a SIM card did absolutely nothing to throw off his schedule or inconvenience him. Nothing. It didn’t affect him at all.

The thing is, some people on CS take the request process VERY seriously. They might ask that you mention a few details from their profile in your request. They might mention a secret word that they expect you to write in your request to prove that you’ve read the profile. Their motivation for such tactics is usually that they don’t want to accept a guest who is just looking for a free place to stay. They don’t want to host somebody who is copying and pasting a generic message to every potential host. They want to accept people who are true to the CS spirit and want to connect with their host.

I’m fine with that. I generally follow whatever guidelines my potential host provides. This guy’s response, however, was straight up neurotic. I’m sorry to bore you with all of these tedious CS details, but there’s a reason for it, I promise. This jerk ended up having a profound impact on my two-day stay in Florence. I will never forget it. Thing is, if I ever met him, I don’t know if I’d punch him in the face or thank him. I’ll explain later.

With no potential place to stay, I left my bag at the bus terminal, and made my way towards the Duomo. It’s massive. It’s also very unique looking. The colours (or lack thereof) make it look like it’s not quite yet finished. I was also surprised to find that after visiting so many bloody churches in my travels, I’ve come to acquire the skill of identifying a Gothic-styled church when I see one. Didn’t see that coming.

Fun fact: The church is the largest brick dome ever built.

After snagging some pictures, I stood in front of the cathedral and just admired it for a while, walking around it slowly, taking in as many of its delicate intricate details I could. At one point, I remember thinking, “I feel like there’s a patterning Math lesson to be made here.” (Even in summer, teachers are still teachers.)

The abundance of white on the building also made me think, “I wonder if somebody has ever considered making one of those adult colouring books consisting entirely of churches. That would be a really cool gift for a very specific type of person.”

I will say I’m not really big on exploring the inside of churches at this point. They all look the same to me at this point. There’s a dude on a cross, there are people looking sad and mournful in paintings, there’s a lot of gold, candles, arches, you follow. So I walked around inside for a few minutes and then headed outside to find me and Trevor some pizza.

Romantic dinner for two

Time for a Public Service Announcement: I found this awesome travel app called Izi Travel. It’s great for those of us who love to get lost walking around a city all day. It seems to be predominantly based in North America and Europe, but it offers fantastic audio walking tours that will keep you entertained for hours. All you have to do is download the app, search your city, and download the tour. It then gives you a GPS map outlining all of the spots on the tour.

Once you’ve downloaded the tour, you can even put your phone on airplane mode so you don’t use up too much data, and the GPS tracker will still work.

One of the great things about Florence: You don’t need to spend a time to be entertained. There seem to be street performers at every other corner–be it operatic music, an orchestra, or a simple guitar player giving “Hallelujah” a go. (In front of a church, of course.)

We picked up my bag from the station and made it back to the hostel just in time for the 9:30 free pasta dinner. That’s where we met Jun, a university student from South Korea. We talked South Korea for ages. God, I miss South Korea. I wonder if there’s a decent Korean restaurant in Ireland…

At 11:30, this old man was ready for bed. I bid Jun goodnight, and went to my 10-bunk mixed dorm room. And that’s where I found that all of the horny 18-21 year olds had chosen this room as their pre-drinking room. They were just as loud and obnoxious as any drunken 18 year old is while partying in Italy.

I don’t know what time they finally left for the club, but I’m fairly certain it couldn’t have been any earlier than 1:30. By that point, I wasn’t sleeping for the rest of the night.

Thanks, CS jerk.

Now just wait until you hear about the next day..

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