We woke up this morning…barely. I would love to tell you all about breakfast at the Auto Park Hotel Florence, but I truly don’t remember it. I can’t even picture in my head what the dining room looked like. In fact, there’s a really good chance that I didn’t make it down to breakfast at all. No idea. For the record, this was no hangover…I hadn’t had much to drink at all the night before. This was pure and utter exhaustion.
I DO remember zombie-dragging my pack to the bus that morning around 7:30 a.m., and groaning as Jon Snow told us all about the leather-making demonstration and Florence walking tour that we were about to experience. I can’t lie to you…I wanted to see Florence, but in that moment, I wanted to see my bed a whole lot more.
We arrived in the heart of Florence for the leather-making demonstration, hosted by Leonardo Leather Works. They showed us a quick demo while talking through the history of leather-making in Italy, and told us how to spot the real thing, etc. The demo itself was fine, but I preferred the free time to shop in their store after. They had so many beautiful things, and I found myself wishing I’d budgeted for a leather jacket.
We had about an hour to kill before the walking tour started, so we zombie-walked to the nearest coffee shop and loaded up on straight espresso shots. Then, we all met in the Piazza della Signoria, where we waited for our tour guide. I was feeling slightly more perky after the espresso, but the two hours of sleep the night before was really starting to get to me. And it looked like I wasn’t the only one. My fellow Contiki-ers looked truly miserable…one was even passed out asleep on the nearest fountain. Thanks Disco.
Our sorry state, combined with the fact that this smart girl forgot to charge the only electronic device still in her possession at this point of the trip, is why I don’t have any photos from that morning.
The walking tour was an included activity (no extra cost), and I would have enjoyed it far more on any other day. Our guide walked us around the city center, including Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio, and finally, to the Florence Cathedral, Il Duomo di Firenze. They told us the history of each landmark, including each of the incredible statues lining the streets in this part of town.
Following Jon Snow around Florence. #Dead. Photo credit: Richard Worgan (Dicky)
After the tour, we had a bit of free time before hitting the bus. I broke off into a group with Pat, Dicky, Kieran, Chris and Ashlee, and a few others. As we stood in line to enter the Duomo, we recalled the dress code restrictions Jon Snow had warned us about. In Italy, to enter a church, ladies and gentleman must have both their shoulders and knees covered. I had a t-shirt on, but I was wearing short-ish shorts. I figured they wouldn’t be too strict about it. Wrong! As we got to the front of the line, the guard told me that I wouldn’t be able to enter without covering my knees. We scrounged around and finally found a spare sweatshirt that someone wasn’t using, and I was able to tie it around my legs to cover my knees. Janky, but it did the trick!
Duomo. Photo Credit: Richard Worgan (Dicky)
The Duomo was absolutely beautiful. This was the first church we’d visited on the tour, and it was one of the most buildings I’d ever seen. I lit a candle inside and said a quick prayer (my Catholic grandmothers would have been so proud), before heading out into the bright Florence sunshine.
As a group, we wandered over to Pizzeria A Taglio, a small pizza shop in the same piazza as the Duomo. Here, I had the single best pizza I’ve ever had in my life. I highly, highly recommend stopping in here if you ever make it to Florence.
Finally, we jumped back on the bus, where I fell asleep on Pat’s shoulder within a matter of minutes. After that, we made only one rest stop before finding ourselves in Rome!
Our first stop in Rome was an Italian cooking class. I had been most looking forward to this optional extra (Cost: 48€, or$65 USD), since I absolutely love to cook, and I figured where better to pick up a few techniques than Roma?
We arrived at the class location and walked down into a basement room where the class would take place. They gave us all aprons and work stations and we got to work! First up, we made the dough for our pasta from scratch using water and flour or egg and flour. After the dough was ready, we began shaping it into pastas of all shapes and sizes. My favorite to make was the ravioli. We rolled the dough repeatedly through a pasta press until it was ultra-thin, and then we got to make the cuts and add the filling. Such a fun process!
After the pasta making, we sat down to be served the food we had cooked. Overall, the dinner was just okay. We got appetizers, but the main course was only the pasta we had made, with a few pre-made sauces. No protein or anything, which I was really craving at that point in the day. However, there was plenty of wine. (Are you noticing a pattern? Wine, wine, wine.)
After dinner, we checked into the Hotel Princess Roma. This hotel was nothing fancy, but it was clean and slightly more modern than the hotel in Florence. I slept so soundly that night, so no complaints here.
This day was a bit of a ho-hum day on tour for me. We were all so exhausted from the night before, that we never really got to enjoy some of the activities we did on this day. The next day in Rome would be far more exciting…and my camera would be charged and ready to go!