Melancholic Musings on Florence

Whoever says that Americans don’t travel outside of their own country has clearly never been to Florence in June. I promise I’m not exaggerating when I say that literally every corner, every alleyway, every piazza, every museum, and every bridge was teeming with Americans. Generally packs of them, likely freshly sprung from recently docked cruise...

Whoever says that Americans don’t travel outside of their own country has clearly never been to Florence in June. I promise I’m not exaggerating when I say that literally every corner, every alleyway, every piazza, every museum, and every bridge was teeming with Americans. Generally packs of them, likely freshly sprung from recently docked cruise ships, outfitted in socks and sports sandals and floppy-brimmed bucket hats, and just being so very loud. I can’t tell you how many conversations we (and countless others) overheard, held as they were between parties often on two different corners of a square and seemingly incapable of moving any closer to each other than anything less than shouting distance.

I have to admit this was quite the shock to the system because, up to this point in our travels, we haven’t encountered all that many U.S. travelers, but those that we have met have generally been well-behaved and done their country proud. We thought that perhaps the era of the “Ugly American” stereotype had finally passed.

Ponte Vecchio

But it was alive and well during our visit to Florence, much to our dismay—and to the city’s detriment too, I might add. In defense of Yanks abroad, I’ll say that some of the dumpier (but no less obnoxious) tourists we spied could just as easily have been fellow Canadians (and some of them certainly were), and the throngs of visitors that choked Florence’s pretty cobbled lanes came from all corners of the globe, not just the States. Florence is a popular place and, if we’ve learned anything in our travels, it’s that no one country has the monopoly on behaving badly or looking idiotic while abroad.

I’ve said before that—well-behaved or not—crowds aren’t really my jam, and Florence proved to be no exception this. Annoyingly, the thing that was most maddening about our visit to Florence is that it’s so easy to see why it appeals to the people that descend upon it en masse. It’s an insanely beautiful city that positively oozes charm and fills your head with daydreams of la dolce vita at every turn. Like Paris before it, we wandered through the city and felt a bit like we’d fallen into a movie set: Every view—from the river Arno and the Ponte Vecchio, to the massive Duomo that dwarfs its surrounding square—is gloriously Italian and larger than life. Even with the widest lens, its impossible to get the Duomo in its entirety into a single photo, but despite this, it’s also equally impossible to take a bad photo anywhere in the historic heart of the city.

The Duomo, Florence

Florence is also home to some of the best art collections in the world, including one of the most famous statues, Michelangelo’s David. Even though there are replicas scattered around the town and the rest of the Accademia’s collection (largely medieval religious works) is one you breeze right by, it’s worth the admission just to gaze up at Michelangelo’s mindboggling original. The proportions are all wrong—the penis is embarrassingly tiny, and the hands gargantuan—but somehow when taken as a whole, David stands on his pedestal and is the embodiment of the human form perfected. We paid €6,50 each to go stand in front of this statue for half an hour, and we felt it was money well spent.

But through it all, we were constantly battling the crowds of people, and it was exhausting.

We felt we couldn’t take Tony’s first trip to Italy and not visit Florence. Unfortunately, everyone seems to think the same way and they flock to the city in never-ending droves, effectively smothering a city that could otherwise be so alluring. Because travelers can’t seem to resist Florence’s charms, we found the city significantly less charming than we had anticipated and hoped. Unlike Pisa, we felt we could never get a moment’s respite from the crowds, could never find a sliver of peace, no matter how far from the main attractions we strayed. The touts selling irrelevant crafts and clutter (Rastafarian crocheted caps, anyone?) were oppressive, and it was at times hard to appreciate the beauty of the city that surrounded us due to the claustrophobic tides of people that were forever swarming around us.

The streets of Florence
Inside the Ufizzi, Florence

We were sad to find that Florence seems to be succumbing to the decline that many small cities seem to experience following a huge surge in popularity with undiscerning travelers, as if crushed by the weight of the demand. For instance, the much touted Uffizi gallery may have a tremendous collection, but the museum itself is a joke, with terrible lighting and laughable labels for the works themselves—some of them were seriously just printed on regular paper and crookedly pasted/taped to the wall. Surely Botticelli deserves better?

And the Duomo which is so majestic and commanding from the outside is kind of a huge let-down once you’re inside. There’s some nice fresco action happening up on the ceiling of the dome itself, but for the most part, it’s just a big empty cavern within. I have never seen a more disappointed face than the one Tony displayed when we first wandered inside; all told, we spent less than 10 minutes poking around inside, and were mostly thankful we hadn’t had to wait in an hour-long line for the experience but had just been able to pop in.

We also found the food scene seriously lacking in Florence. Apart from the gelato, which was a delight, I’m devastated to report that we had zero memorable food in Florence, and not for lack of trying. I was actually really excited to eat our way through the city in between all the gelato, as Florence is known for having many unique specialties. It didn’t seem to matter whether we ate at the city’s main food market, San Lorenzo, or tiny osterias, the food was always bland and disappointing. We tried the Florentine delicacies that others raved about—panzanella, lampredotto, trippa alla fiorentina, ribolita soup—and were underwhelmed by them all because they just had no flavor whatsoever.

Our best meal was a splurge lunch where Tony had wild boar pasta, and I had a set menu with soup, a grilled pork chop and beans. The meat was good, the soup was hearty if underseasoned, and the beans woefully overcooked (apparently this is a thing in Tuscany?). Tony’s pasta was fine, but nothing special. We did our research and were assured this was a non-touristy restaurant that served up impeccable Italian fare. For €31, I expect a meal that is more than ok, but I actually always forget about this one until I look at our photos. (In comparison, I still remember visiting the city 9 years ago and having one of the best pizzas of my life; it was simple—just cheese & tomato—but packed with so much flavor.) We never ate anything in Florence that was flat out bad, but the site of Italian culinary excellence it was not. We wound up resorting, once again, to self-catered picnics of bread, meat & cheese, because we just couldn’t handle the disappointment of dining out.

The hills around Florence

There’s a lot to love about Florence—the swarms of visitors, both new and repeat, attest to that—but we unfortunately found a lot of it left us cold. We wanted to love the city, but just couldn’t get there. I found myself wondering whether the city has changed so much from the one I loved when I first visited or whether it has always been this way and I am simply the one who is different. I suspect it’s a little bit of both. When last I visited, it was my first trip to Italy and I doubt I noticed the crowds because I was part of them, wandering around in wide-eyed wonder and unflattering travel gear. In the last two years, the world has revealed so much of its magic to me, I suppose it’s only fair that some places would lose a bit of theirs to compensate.

Underneath it all, Florence might still be the city that enchanted me at 22, and perhaps we’ll return one day far off in the future and give it another shot. But it certainly won’t be in June, or any summer months, for that matter. That’s when the other tourists—even the Americans—can have it.

Tell Us: Have you ever visited somewhere and been completely overwhelmed and underwhelmed by it all at once? What’s the most crowded destination you’ve ever traveled to?

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41 comments Leave a comment

  1. This is how I feel about Venice, SOOO many tourists (a lot of Americans also). Florence was pretty packed when I went in 2006 but Venice was so much worse. It’s such a shame when this happens as it really can ruin a place if you are experiencing it while being crowded out by other people.

    Dec. 4 2014 @ 9:54 pm
    1. Katie @ The World on my Necklace author

      During our time in Italy, everyone kept asking us why we weren’t visiting Venice—it’s a place I would love to visit one day, but given how insane we found the crowds in Florence, I can only imagine how hellish Venice would have been. One day we will certainly visit, but not during peak season, that’s for sure!

      Dec. 5 2014 @ 2:16 pm
  2. I think every traveler can completely relate to this feeling. I’ve never been to Florence but I feel like everybody I know has been there. And when I say everybody I know I’m talking about all those people back home in the US who don’t do much traveling. For a lot of Americans, Italy is pretty much the only international destination they’ll consider going to. I blame it on the movies: Eat, Pray, Love and Under the Tuscan Sun were huge in kick starting this trend of traveling to Italy. My family seems to be particularly obsessed with Italy. I have a lot of partial Italians in my family who have gotten completely wrapped up in the getting-in-touch-with-your-Italian-roots mentality. So basically every time anyone in my family travels they only go to Italy; they’d never consider branching out to, let’s say, France or Spain. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but I’m not sure I could go on one of these family trips to Italy. I’ve heard stories and I’m pretty sure they are those people who are annoying the crap out of every other tourist. They can be a loud bunch which is why I love them, but I’m not sure complete strangers would appreciate it 🙂 Anyway, I think that’s why places like Florence are just so overrun by obnoxious tourists. A lot of Americans just don’t think outside of the box when it comes to international travel and, for many, Italy is the only country on their radar.

    Dec. 5 2014 @ 12:48 am
    1. Justine author

      I agree that Italy definitely seems to be the European destination that most American travelers are most comfortable visiting—we certainly felt we saw the most Americans during our time there. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that (I’m always happy to see people exhibit a global curiosity), but we did find the flood of tourists overwhelming at times. Like I said, I don’t fault anyone for wanting to visit Florence because it’s really pretty and has many draws, but it is always amazing to me that certain cities (or countries) just get absolutely pounded by tourists, and other ones that are equally nice see practically no foreign traffic whatsoever.

      Dec. 5 2014 @ 2:21 pm
  3. Beautiful photos of Florence! I have to say, I have mixed feelings on Florence – it is crowded and touristy, and it’s on the small side so there aren’t really other areas you can escape to catch a break from all the people (at least in Paris there are plenty of neighborhoods you can go to lose the tourists). But despite that, I still love Florence. Maybe it’s because the two times I went were special in ways. The first was my first trip to Italy, and Michael was showing me all the places he loved from when he studied abroad there. And the second was with my mom – she had always dreamed of going to Florence (she loves Italian Renaissance art), and we did a girls’ trip together. Though I have never gone in the height of summer – I’m sure that would tarnish my experience a bit!

    I am sad to hear that your food experience wasn’t memorable. I remember Florence having some of the best food I’ve had in Italy – but maybe it’s changed in the past few years…

    Dec. 5 2014 @ 4:38 am
    1. Sara @ Simply Sara Travel author

      I totally understand why Florence is somewhere you treasure deeply and I also remember really loving the city on my first visit, but I guess maybe the things I look for in my travel experiences are different from what they used to be and I tend to prioritize places that give us a more local insight into a country rather than the ones that seem to cater so strongly to foreign visitors. I completely understand why so many people want to visit Florence (after all, we did too!), but for us the crazy crowds really did detract from the overall experience and the things that the city does do well. I think you’re right that because the city itself is so small, it is quite challenging to escape from the crowds, whereas in a popular yet large cities like Rome or Paris or London, there are so many places to go that it’s easier to find pockets to yourself.

      Dec. 5 2014 @ 2:30 pm
  4. I too loved Florence on my first visit—but it was in March, not June. I do remember some tourist groups (and the tacky markets with reggae inspired items — what’s up with that?) but it still charmed and impressed me.

    I have only been to Europe in the summer twice, and both times it was to off-the-beaten path areas of France (Le Puy en Vallee and Alsace). You’ve strengthened my opinion that it’s best to keep it that way! Even though it seems a little hypocritical to complain about tourists when I am one of them, I agree that it’s not as fun to visit a town when it the visitors outnumber the residents. Even in October, I felt like that about the Isle of Capri. Beautiful, but a total tourist trap, and without the cultural attractions that are present in towns like Florence. I can’t imagine what it would have been like in the summer!

    Dec. 5 2014 @ 9:28 am
    1. Trisha author

      I feel like Florence in shoulder or off season would be a vastly different experience than visiting during peak season. Weirdly, I’m sure the last time I visited was in July, but maybe the crowds actually dip down during the height of summer because it gets so hot.

      I think I mentioned to you the last time we talked that there were a few things that we did wrong during our time in Europe and one of them was certainly going on a “greatest hits & capital cities” tour of the countries we visited. Given that we were there during peak season, I really think we would have been better off visiting more offbeat destinations that people generally don’t visit. Those tend to be the kind of places we enjoy the most as it is, regardless the time of year!

      Dec. 5 2014 @ 2:34 pm
  5. Yikes. This is such a downer. I love Florence. I’ve been three times. Granted, I never went in June, but it never felt crowded and uninspiring to me. I also liked getting a bit outside the city in the hills, and to me, the gardens are magical. I love Tuscany in general, though, so maybe that’s just part of the allure for me. In fact, Prague is the only other city I’ve been to that really felt similar in scope. Granted, Prague is more sprawling, but the heart of the old town is, to me, very similar to Florence.

    Dec. 5 2014 @ 9:28 am
    1. jenn aka the picky girl author

      The crowds were so oppressive during our visit to Florence that the city really felt like a piece of cake left out at a picnic: incredible but so covered in ants trying to get a bite that it becomes repulsive! It is a beautiful city, no doubt, and with half the number of visitors, I think we would have found it a lot more inspiring. Maybe we should have made more of an effort to get out into the surrounding countryside to enjoy a less claustrophobic side to Tuscany; I know we only saw a very limited aspect of what this part of the country is about and, of course, Tuscany is also just a small part of Italy as well!

      Dec. 5 2014 @ 3:04 pm
  6. ooh – lucky you got to take photos of David – when we went (a decade ago) cameras were a big no-no! (geesh!)

    I remember loving Florence the most out of all the places in Italy we went to, but I also remember thinking it was more packed than Venice which was crawling with people everywhere! I think what made Florence for us was that we experienced our first authentically nice Italian person (we were there in July and so had a terrible run of customer service. Plus, as students, Italy seemed like the only European country that only gave discounts to EU students and not those paying more and coming from farther away!) – she worked at our hostel and gave us amazing tips and seemed to genuinely want us to have a good time.

    Dec. 5 2014 @ 1:01 pm
    1. Emily author

      The only postcard I bought in Florence years ago was a picture of the David because you couldn’t take pictures at that time. I wasn’t anticipating that we would be able to get any shots this time, so that was definitely a nice surprise!

      Interesting that you found Florence more packed than Venice! I’ve always heard that it is the absolute worst when it comes to crowds in Italy. I do want to visit Venice some day, but I’ll definitely be looking into when it’s shoulder/off-peak season so that we can hopefully better enjoy our time.

      Dec. 5 2014 @ 3:09 pm
  7. oh Steph, this post makes me so sad!!! Florence ranks high as one of our favorite cities in Europe. But, to be fair, we haven’t been there since 1995 AND it was off season. Perhaps that, more than anything, is the key to regaining some of the magic. How very disappointing that the food was subpar..not at all what I remember and, sadly, probably a symptom of the hundreds of thousands of tourist who, quite frankly, probably wouldn’t know better. It is, however sad that the residents are not continuing to take pride in their cuisine for themselves. Well…. what can one say. I’ve wanted to return to Firenze, and undoubtedly will someday… but I can assure you it won’t be in peak tourist season!

    Dec. 5 2014 @ 2:36 pm
    1. Rhonda author

      Rhonda, you surely can’t be any more disappointed with our experience in Florence than I was! I had been dreaming of returning for nearly 10 years and I was the one who insisted we needed to spend three days there. To be perfectly honest with you, we struggled in several Italian cities when it came to finding food that we truly found enjoyable and exceptional, so Florence is sadly not alone when it comes to lackluster cuisine.

      We both left Florence thinking we would probably not go out of our way to return, but never say never. Perhaps in a decade or two we’ll return in the off season and give it another chance!

      Dec. 5 2014 @ 3:14 pm
      1. Stephenie Harrison

        I hate to say… I have that fear of going back as well. We were there even longer ago. It was our first trip to Europe and the whole experience was magical. Sometimes we have those moments so built up in our head, that trying to revive the feeling is a disaster. Too bad Tony’s first glimpse of that lovely city wasn’t so lovely 🙁

        Dec. 8 2014 @ 2:44 pm
  8. I know exactly what you mean, Venice was even worse when we visited and we ended up enjoying the midnight (or even later) walks away from the crowds when we could actually enjoy the quite of the city. It’s incredible how this can change the feel of a place and how much we enjoy of it.

    Dec. 5 2014 @ 3:26 pm
    1. Franca author

      I’ve always heard that the crowds are awful in Venice, which is one reason I’ve always been so surprised to hear you guys enjoyed your time there so much! I guess it really must be a pretty special place if, even with wall the people, you were able to see past that. I guess the midnight strolls helped too! Similarly, one of the times I liked Florence best is the day we left—because our train was so early, the buses weren’t running yet, so we had to leave our lodgings at about 5:15am and walk to the train station. It was the one time the city was actually quiet and still (though, I admit, we still saw a few people out at that time too!).

      Dec. 6 2014 @ 8:44 am
  9. Yes yes yes! I totally agree with everything you’ve said here (including Americans – there WERE lots in Florence!!)

    The mistake we made was going to Siena first, then Florence. Siena is really, really gorgeous, and Florence with al its crowds and tourist scene was a bit of a let down. I have since recommended several people to go to Florence first, then to Siena or another smaller, charachter-filled town.

    Dec. 5 2014 @ 11:45 pm
    1. Tim | UrbanDuniya author

      I have always heard such great things about Siena, and it’s a place we’d loved to have visited. Unfortunately, it’s not as well connected in terms of trains and is less convenient to reach, so we decided to do Florence this time instead… which I’m sure accounts for much of the city’s traffic! Next time we visit that part of Italy, we’ll certainly give Siena a try instead.

      Dec. 6 2014 @ 8:46 am
  10. I love your photos. I’m sorry it was a bit of a disappointment though. Obnoxious tourists can do that! I really hope that Florence isn’t a disappointment for us when we go. I know that we can’t fall in love with every place that we visit…but I’ll go in with no expectations and see what happens! Our trip to Italy will be both Justin and mine’s first trip to Europe, so we might be those wide-eyed people marveling at everything. I’ll try to do some research in the food department ahead of time, too! Regardless, I think we’re renting an apartment with a kitchen so if we’re really dissatisfied, maybe we’ll just make our own food!

    Dec. 6 2014 @ 7:23 pm
    1. Lauren author

      I would definitely plan to research food in advance, since although there are certain local specialties that are certainly vegetarian (e.g., panzanella, riboleta), I don’t know if they’re also vegan (I think they are, but we never specifically ask, since we don’t have dietary restrictions). We had did an AirBnB rental so had some access to a kitchen which allowed us to make meals when we wanted to, which was a great help, especially when we were underwhelmed by lackluster meals!

      I think the odds are good that you guys will enjoy your time in Florence—by all accounts, most people do, and we were once again the outliers here. I think that we’ve simply spent so much time in less-touristed destinations that it makes it more difficult to enjoy the ones that everyone else flocks to visit. That doesn’t mean Florence isn’t nice in its own right or worth a visit, but if you can visit not during high season, that would probably be ideal!

      Dec. 7 2014 @ 8:05 am
  11. Embarrassingly tiny? Ouch.

    I’ve been to Florence twice, both in late autumn which was lovely. The flea markets? Meh. But I loved all the little shops that sold all sorts of paper products and leather books. Can totally see how a crush of people would be a downer, though!

    Dec. 7 2014 @ 6:16 am
    1. James author

      It *is* tiny! But maybe that was the style of the time…

      Apparently late autumn is low season in Florence, so I would imagine the crowds were two or three times smaller then and the city far more idyllic. My mother also loves Florence for all the little shops (particularly the gold shops…), but as we don’t tend to do much shopping on our travels (shocking, I know!), those rarely appeal to us. This is one of the reasons that I think we generally disliked Hoi An too!

      Dec. 7 2014 @ 8:16 am
  12. I’m sad to hear that the city – and in particular – the food let you down. Florence is a place I long to visit one day but you’ve persuaded me to do so out of season; perhaps we’d have a better experience then. I remember the summer crowds in Rome being pretty painful too.

    Dec. 9 2014 @ 7:35 am
    1. Amy author

      I’ll be writing about our experiences in Rome next and, interestingly, we didn’t find the crowds there too horrific (except when we were on the Metro). I think it’s that Rome is a much larger city that is far less concentrated than Florence, so it’s much easier to escape from the crowds and find some space to yourself when you need it. Definitely make time to visit Florence, but if you can do it between October and April, so much the better!

      Dec. 9 2014 @ 9:10 am
  13. Laura

    So…who is this David guy??

    Ha! Remember when we heard that girl ask that?! I’m sorry to hear that Florence wasn’t as spectacular as when we went years ago. I loved that walk/hike we did up the hill (I believe there was gelato at the top!) and I remember that pizza place with the wood burning oven vividly. Isn’t that the place where the owner gave us fresh tomatoes? My parents went to Florence in September and loved it, so maybe the summer tourists have a major impact on it’s atmosphere. We were only there for one crazy day so maybe I was a bit dazed by it all!

    Dec. 9 2014 @ 9:31 pm
    1. Laura author

      Ha ha! I do remember all of those things, from the clueless girl, to the hike up the hill (“Climber’s Legs!”), to the pizzeria owner who was excited we were from Canada and gave us those fresh tomatoes. I loved our whirlwind day in Florence, which is why I was so excited to return and spend more time there. We didn’t have a terrible time (even if we visited more museums! 😉 ), but it wasn’t as magical as our visit during the Extravaganza!

      Dec. 13 2014 @ 9:47 am
  14. Awww, this makes me sad. I visited Florence (albeit 20 years ago) and loved it. My husband has never been to Italy and we are currently planning a trip there, and Florence is being given a priority. But I totally get what you’re saying about crowds. Especially after China, I want some peace and quiet to enjoy things at my own pace. That’s why I refuse to travel to any of the popular European destinations during the summer months. There’s just too. many. people. (We’re also scheduling around the Chinese holidays, avoiding places like Paris and Rome during those weeks.) I wonder if you would have enjoyed your time there more if you’d gone in, say, February. I’m hoping that will be the case for us!

    Dec. 12 2014 @ 6:07 am
    1. Heather author

      I think visiting in February will be a lot more pleasant than visiting in June, to be perfectly honest. I think you can visit big cities like Paris or Rome at any time of year and, unless all you do is the standard tourist stuff, the crowds are manageable because those are much larger cities where there are places to escape. But Florence is really very small and for all its alleyways, it’s really hard to escape the crowds for any length of time. We visited Rome immediately after Florence and found the crowds there to be much more manageable (except when visiting the Vatican, but we also went in the middle of the day when crowds are probably at their peak). I’m sure you guys will have a great time… and if you have better luck with the food, you’ll have to let us know!

      Dec. 13 2014 @ 9:49 am
  15. Oh no, sounds a bit like our expectations of Bologna food wise 🙁 Still don’t know what happened there, but the local corner shop and its panzerotti redeemed it.

    I must confess we skipped Florence – not really into art, and crowds, and I’ve never regretted it.

    Dec. 16 2014 @ 6:25 pm
    1. NZ Muse author

      Interesting to hear your take on the food situation in Italy, Esther, simply because it sounds like the opposite of ours! Bologna was our final stop in Italy and wound up being our favorite, in part because we felt the food we tried there was the best. True, we were CouchSurfing and the one meal we had out came recommended by our host, but it was the only city in Italy where the food we tried really impressed us! Your comment makes me wonder if we had been there on our own if we would have been underwhelmed just as we were in Florence and Rome.

      There’s definitely more to Florence than crowds & art (although it may be hard to appreciate this in peak season), so I do think it’s worth visiting. As I have written many times before, I’m a fairly disinterested art viewer, but some of the pieces we saw in Europe (like the David in Florence) impressed even me! Still, you can’t go everywhere and if you ever decide to visit Florence one day, it will certainly be there.

      Dec. 17 2014 @ 7:22 am
  16. That’s why we avoid visiting European cities during peak summer time – as beautiful as they are they are hard to love because of too much criowd. The first time I visited Florence was during late autumn and it was not crowded. The last visit was in early September. It was more crowded than the first time but not overrun and still pleasant. Traveling off-peak truly has its rewards.

    Dec. 18 2014 @ 4:39 pm
    1. Marisol@TravelingSolemates author

      Completely agree, Marisol! We are all about shoulder season travel, and prefer it whenever possible. Given our deadline to return home, we didn’t have much wiggle room in when we visited Europe this time around, but the next time we return, I will make it a priority to visit during any season but the summer!

      Dec. 22 2014 @ 12:38 pm
  17. Ah, I’m sorry to hear about this whole thing with the crowds. It’s sort of a catch 22 I guess… these places exist and are popular and worth seeing, but everyone wants to see them. The way I feel about it, not romantic at all, is to see it, tick the box and move on. These kinds of places will never just be a charming Italian town – the tourists will be sure of that. And we are in that category. We just can’t win! Haha. I remember when I lived in Madrid for several weeks in 2011, how enchanted I was, how the very streets swept me away. When I went back in 2013, I was so shocked by the crowds! It didn’t bother me, but I wondered why the difference. I think I was just in my own little happy bubble in 2011 and paid no mind.
    When the food photos came into this post, I thought, at least food to the rescue, but then that was disappointing too. Boo.

    Dec. 19 2014 @ 12:01 pm
    1. Colleen Brynn author

      Interestingly (and as I will get to soon), Madrid was one of our favorite stops during our time in Europe! Many people told us it was there least favorite place in Spain and that we should skip it because it was boring, but I dunno… I guess we kind of like boring? I liked that Madrid didn’t seem too concerned with tourists and it felt that in strolling the streets we were getting an unvarnished look at a real Spanish city (but never having been anywhere else in the country, I could be completely wrong). I just like places that seem like they’re “keeping it real”… Florence feels a bit like a fairy tale town, which is nice for a quick visit but ultimately left us feeling unsatisfied.

      And of all the things to be disappointed by in Florence, it pained me most that the food was so bland and unmemorable.

      Dec. 22 2014 @ 12:42 pm
  18. Finally got around to commenting on this one. lol

    Yep I’ve definitely been to places where the huge crowds spoiled it. Not so much the crowds…the crowds of badly behaved people. There are some places where people do actually behave themselves, and I’m cool with sharing the space with lots of other bodies in that case. But when they’re loud, obnoxious, boorish, drunk and disrespecting the local culture with their immodesty, yeah that I take issue with. Some of the islands in the Andaman Sea and around Phang Nga Bay are like that – absolutely gorgeous most of the time, then a gigantic boat comes and the badly behaved tourists stampede off it like cattle and it’s ruined. In those situations I just wanted to shout at all of them, “Go away! You’re ruining it!” lol

    What a shame that Florence is in this situation because it looks exquisite. Hopefully in shoulder season or off season it’s much better.

    Dec. 23 2014 @ 6:03 am
  19. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I adored Florence when I visited, the city is SO wonderful 😀 You captured it beautifully! I love the photos!

    Dec. 28 2014 @ 9:02 pm
    1. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer author

      Glad to hear you had such a great time in Florence and that you feel our photos did the city justice. If only there had been about half the people there during our visit, I think it really would have been spectacular!

      Dec. 29 2014 @ 12:45 pm
  20. Oh no, you have me worried that that Florence I fell in love with at 19 may have disappeared 🙁 To be fair, at that age I wasn’t at all bothered about crows of tourists whereas I tend to get ragey pretty quickly nowadays. It still looks very beautiful in all of your photos thought and I think Florence has that same mythical persona that Paris does for Americans, you can see why they’d all flock there.

    We’re planning a Tuscan road trip this spring so it will be interesting to find out what we think.

    Jan. 4 2015 @ 1:21 pm
    1. Maddie author

      Perhaps Tuscany in the Spring will be more tranquil and restorative than Tuscany in early summer. I suspect that Florence is kind of bananas no matter the time of year, but so long as you don’t go in June you’ll probably do better than we did!

      Jan. 4 2015 @ 5:24 pm
  21. I am just now reading all about your Italy trip, so forgive the comment on an old post. 🙂 But when I studied abroad in Rome, we visited Florence and I really disliked it. Where I lived in Rome, it was easy to use Italian. In Florence though, they usually (accurately) pegged me as an American and went straight for English. I was turned off by this and really bummed! I just felt like I heard English EVERYWHERE.

    Mar. 24 2015 @ 12:33 pm

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