Friday, November 15, 2013

The Nomads get Hostel

Ah, Florence. What a fine city she is. The train ride from Milan at 300 kph was easy and our apartment was an eclectic mix of old world charm and modern convenience. And huge! Here's the link: We were also just off the beaten path near the famous Ponte Vecchio. And excellent weather continues to follow us. It was sunny and 65 almost every day.

Daily produce market in our neighborhood
Local delivery!
We were on the quiet side of the Arno on a side street just a few blocks from the Pitti Palace and Piazza Santo Spirito (favorite haunts of Michelangelo). The closest bridge into the center was the Ponte Vecchio. We walked up the hills outside the city and we took in views, visited museums large and small, lots of 'duomos', markets, monasteries and more. We ate well at tiny restaurants tucked along side streets and at home.
Mary and I enjoying our Porchetta sandwiches
Santa Croce Duomo - stunning inside and out
Famous opera duets sung to perfection in St. Marks Church
Florence is a living treasure to be explored slowly. We especially enjoyed meandering the narrow side streets that changed during the day depending on what shops and ateliers were open. We found the world's best sandwich shops, artists at work, spontaneous concerts, one-of-a-kind fashion, and delightful hidden courtyards. Highlights included an evening of Opera Love Duets performed in a church just a few doors down - a country western bar with live music across the street, day trips to nearby Bologna and Lucca, and another Italian football (soccer) match for Michael.

Michael's view at the Fiorentina vs Napoli Match
I strongly recommend coming here in the fall. It was warm and breezy instead of hot and humid, and most of the crowds had dispersed so you didn't feel you were being carried along in throngs wearing headphones following harried, flag waving tour guides.

Amazing chalk art in the Uffizi Piazza
My favorite souvenir - but I had to pass.
A great little painting that captured the city
During the second week our daughter Mary joined us for a few days. What a treat for us - and hopefully for her. It was great to see her sleep in and have a  short break from her busy work as a food stylist and mother of two. We had a grand time shopping in the markets and cooking together as always. Her Rick Steve's background was helpful, too.
Michael and Mary from Piazza Michelangelo
We could have stayed in Florence forever. But alas, the time came to move along to Greece. I know, I know, poor us. But seriously, I could have stopped this whole journey in Florence and lived happily in the land of grand art and great food for the rest of time.

Instead we got a move on back to Milan for a quick one-night-stay to make our flight to Athens the next day. This was the one night we would not spend in an airbnb apartment. One night! One night in a now-familiar city knowing where things were and not dealing with the quirks that come with staying in another persons home. Sounds like a good night for a 'Heavenly Bed' - or at least the guaranteed comfort of a nice hotel experience. Nope. Not for these Senior Nomads.

This door looks scary for a reason
Our little love nest at the Monastery
Welcome to room 307 at the Monastery Hostel. For just 45 euros (plus extra for dubious bedding, two scraps of towel, and room tax) you can relive your worst summer camp nightmares. After 127 days of living in all kinds of places, this one is definitely going in the record books as a lesson learned about how low to go. However - it rates high on the "experience" list.

First, neither Michael or I cared to admit how many years it had been since either of us slept in a bunk bed - let alone the one on the top. At our age there are a host of reasons neither of us should sleep too far above terra firma. Michael made the beds under the glaring bare light bulb and after a mediocre dinner around the corner, we settled in. Good thing Kindles glow in the dark. I laid awake worrying if Michael would roll off the bunk to his death - or stumble going down the ladder for a late night visit to the loo. Then we were tossing and turning to find any comfort amongst the lumps in the mattresses - and then, ever so stealthily, a small army of mosquitoes invaded. I sort of wondered what all the tiny little black splotches on the walls were but soon understood that many bite ravaged campers before us also cracked at 3:00 am and went on a killing spree. We got at least a dozen - but knew there were more. We seriously asked ourselves, "should we just go to the airport now?"

We stayed through the night wrapped like mummies and enjoyed the complimentary breakfast downstairs (one croissant each plus coffee from a machine) and headed to the airport to catch our Easy Jet flight to Greece.

See you in Athens!