After such a great, albeit late, night, we lolled in the luxury of sleeping in a little bit. Javi and Shannon had to leave early to catch a flight, so we were able to eat breakfast at the hotel in their place, as well as check out later. It was so nice to sleep in, eat the most amazing breakfast spread (and probably the nicest one we will have on this trip), and take our time to get ready.
The breakfast was incredible. There was literally everything you could imagine for breakfast, including a bottle of champagne with an array of juices to make your own mimosas. It was so fancy, I had to try a little of just about everything. We agreed to stuff ourselves because we probably wouldn't get another feast like this one in the coming month and a half.
We checked out around noon, and met up with our friend who had hosted us the night before (where I had left my "cocoon" travel sheet). Then he led us around the town a little bit, showing us some places we would have probably missed otherwise. We offered to take him for a coffee, so he showed us a pretty cool roof-top cafe. We decided not to stay because the prices were so high, and none of us really felt like a coffee!
Instead, we walked towards the Piazza de Michelangelo, which leads to amazing views of Florence. Our friend Ken left us at that point, so we ventured on alone. We made our way across the river and up to the steps that lead to the piazza. It was a fun and leisurely walk. We goofed around and took some silly photos and had a good time.
When we got to the top, the view was astounding. Really breathtaking. We tried about a hundred photos to get the perfect ones of each of us, as well as some together. I sneakily offered to take a woman's photo for her (seeing her struggle to do the selfie on the iPhone), and she kindly returned the favor for us. She had a wire-hair terrier with her whom she introduced as Frazier. They were from San Francisco, and would be here for 2 months. Frazier was so sweet but very shy; for some reason, he was more interested in Romeo than in me.
After spending time taking photos, we made our way down, continuing to take some photos and acting silly. We finally made it to a pizzeria that our friend recommended, only to find we were 30 minutes late; they close after lunch and before dinner. We ended up having a pizza at the same restaurant where we had eaten with Javi and Shannon the night before. We got it with mozzarella, spicy salami, and shredded zucchini. It was very tasty!
After that, we headed back to the hotel to get our bags. I made a pitstop at HnM for some cheap sneakers (my boots that I ordered for the trip aren't cutting it!) We picked up our bags from the hotel and made our way to the train station. We bought tickets at a kiosk and had to run to make our train headed for the town of Pontedera, about 40 miles from Florence.
|Left: in the morning. Right: in the late afternoon. Incredible street artists.|
We ended up chatting a bit with her and it turned out that she was going to Pontedera too. When she found out that we would be walking to our Couchsurfing host's home, and we weren't exactly sure of the way, she offered to have her husband (who was picking her up at the station) drive us there. He was from the area, so she said he should be able to find the way. We thanked her profusely, breathed a sigh of relief, and began to relax.
A couple seated across the aisle from us began to chat with us. It turned out they were from Dallas. Yet again, I'm amazed at how small the world is! They were on a cruise around the Mediterranean, and had spent the day in Florence. We chatted about how amazing Italy is, some of the interesting things in Florence, and I shared with them about our plans for the coming trip. They were so nice and had that Southern hospitality and friendliness. If you're reading this, guys, it was great to meet y'all! Always a pleasure meeting a friendly face on the other side of the world!
When the train began slowing down to roll into Pontedera, we went to stand by the door. I noticed a woman who had been seated across from the couple we chatted with, whom I had noticed was listening to our conversation, and I apologized to her if we had disturbed her. She quickly said, "Not at all! It was very interesting. It's great to hear people who appreciate Italy!" For some reason, her kindness and friendliness really lifted my mood (which wasn't low to begin with, but was even higher after that brief conversation).
We got off the train and followed our new Italian friend from the train to her husband's car. He greeted us warmly, despite obviously not knowing he was going to play cheuffeur to some American tourists! We showed him the map of where we were going, and he managed to find the area. We had to call our host, Dario, and find our exactly where, but it all worked out.
So, we finally arrived at our first (official) Couchsurfer's place: Dario and Martina's. It was pretty awkward initially, not knowing exactly what to say. Dario was interesting and a little quiet, and we were also pretty exhausted from a long day. Martina got home a little later, and we all had dinner together. We had some delicious sausage, fresh cut prosciutto, mozzarella, crusty bread, and delicious wine. When we found out they were big Simpson's (the TV show) fans, we began to bond and find some topics of mutual interest to talk about. It eventually smoothed out into a natural flow of conversation, and I have to say it was quite an education. Romeo had more in common, but I learned about cosplay and the didgeridoo (which Dario plays), and even some philosophy/music theory.
We decided to watch a movie: I voted for the Simpson's movie, but Romeo chose The Jacket, so we watched that. Well, they watched; I fell asleep. I have been getting sick and I was feeling pretty exhausted, so sleep took over. We eventually called it a night around midnight.
|Only Romeo will understand the hilariousness of this series of photos....|