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Piazza Republika and River Arno in Florence

After arriving in Florence Santa Maria Novella train station at 6am my first task was to find Plus Florence Hostel, the place I’d be staying for the next 3 nights.  It was easy to find the hostel, a 10 minute walk away from the station using the Here Maps application on my Nokia phone with pre-loaded offline walking directions. Unfortunately when I arrived I was told that I can leave my luggage in the luggage store and only check in after 2:30pm. I asked the receptionist if I could go to the roof to get a view of sunrise and he said that would be fine.

I found a “squatter” on the roof in his sleeping bag when I got there.

florence plus hostel roof

I relaxed for about 45 minutes on the roof. The skies of Florence were overcast that morning so I couldn’t see the sunrise. There’s free WiFi available throughout the hostel so I looked up the main shopping areas within the city.

Around 8 am I started heading towards Piazza Republika. Most of the vendors were closed on this Sunday morning. I wondered if any would actually open…

piazza florence

Still, it was a nice site to see this Italian city slowly waking up, with some vendors starting to open up their stores around 9am.

flea market florence leather

Exhaustion was creeping in so I decided that I should get a full breakfast and a large cappuccino to try and counter it. I found a nice outdoor café and was their first customer for the day. I’m not used to being the early-bird first in line in the morning.

restaurant florence breakfast

I checked out the river Arno.

river arno florence day

I remember seeing the signpost to the statue of Michaelangelo but I can’t recall if I actually saw the statue. In hindsight I know that it’s something I definitely deserved a special visit but at the time I was quite ignorant on this marvel of art. I’m not really an arty person (on my first visit to the Louvre I didn’t think of seeing the Mona Lisa).

At 10am most of the stores opened (although stores like Zara remained closed all day). I checked out the prices but they were quite steep. Nothing caught my eye.

souvenir cart florence

By 12pm I was totally drowsy. I slowly headed back to Plus Florence Hostel, reached the lobby by 1pm and waited there until 2:30pm. It was ridiculous to see so many people waiting to check in. There rule was that check in for all starts at 2:30pm, no matter whether a room was available or not.

I finally got the keys for my en-suite private room in another building across from the main hostel building at 1440. After a quick shower I was in a deep sleep until 1700. I then started making arrangements to meet up with South African friends who had also arrived in Florence that day. I initially planned to visit Berlin from Munich but once I learned that my friends were in Italy I changed my itinerary to meet up with them. A good decision in hindsight as I did most of my shopping at the Florence outlet stores in the next 2 days.

I left Plus Florence at 1900, set my phones navigation to my friends’ hotel and got there by 1945 on foot.

We ate at a fancy Italian side-street restaurant.

restaurant pizza florence

The food was truly unexceptional. Italians are supposed to make world-class pizzas. Not in Florence though.

We purchased gelato after dinner.

gelato florence

I had a pistachio and chocolate hazelnut gelato. We then took a stroll on the 1000 year old Ponte Vecchio bridge with shops on it, that goes across the River Arno.

river arno florence

There was some nice live entertainment taking place at the time.

Ponte Vecchio in Florence

I then headed off on my 45 minute walk to my hostel, and reached it around midnight.

About Zaid

Zaid is an intrepid traveler from South Africa that has traveled to all 7 continents. He loves to explore new destinations, experience new activities and go off the beaten path.
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