After the visit with Briana’s sisters and Kristina, it was time to start being a little more frugal. Entertaining can get a little costly when you are traveling from city to city. We decided to spend the next few weeks having local outings and taking advantage of all the free activities the city offers.
The heat had been pretty intense the last two months with a huge spike in temperatures in the last two weeks. We thought we could beat the heat with trip to a Tuscan beach. Viareggio is just over an hour drive from our home so we ventured out that way. When we were 10 minutes from arriving, dark storm clouds rolled in overhead and it started to drizzle, wonderful. We figured we had driven this far, why not try to make the most of it.
Luckily the rain dissipated quickly and the storm did not move in our direction. Aside from the sun occasionally disappearing behind dark clouds, it was hot enough for us to enjoy a dip in the sea. We had both greatly missed swimming, especially in the sea, so we definitely took advantage and refreshed ourselves in the cool water. The only real downside of the day was an expensive underwhelming lunch we ate in town but other than that, we had a great time.
A few days later we decided to explore the festivities along the Arno river. During the summer months, beach areas are set up alongside the famous river that runs through Florence. In the evening these areas include food stalls, beer gardens and live music. We headed to one popular location called Molo5 and enjoyed some tasty food. Italians are very proud of their food so finding other cuisines can sometimes be a challenge. Lucky for us Molo5 had a food stall selling Bao steam buns with braised short ribs, which made us very happy.
In all our time in Florence we had not visited Piazzale Michelangelo for sunset, mostly because of the obscene number of tourist. We had been up there quite often but never when the sun was setting so we invited our friend Rachel to join us. We went to the monument, wine in hand, and managed to find a place to sit amongst the throngs of people.
While we enjoyed the vanishing sun I struck up a conversation with a traveler from the states and gave him tips on the city. While Rachel and Briana were immersed in their own conversation I found myself going on and on about all there is to see in this magical city. It was refreshing to realize I was now a local and could share my insights into all things Florence.
Something he said as we parted ways resonated with me, “I’m a traveler, not a tourist” he said. I totally understood what he meant as I consider Briana and I to be the same. Tourist tend to have a checklist of things to see just to say they’ve been there and want all the amenities of home whereas a traveler is looking to immerse themselves in the culture of wherever they visit. I’m not knocking tourist, to each their own, but with all our amazing travel opportunities we’ve had, we try our best to see the world through the eyes of locals.
The last few months we have been becoming more immersed in Italian culture and are proud to call Italy our home. Mark Twain said it best, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”. Although I don’t believe I was narrow-minded or a bigot, living in a new country has completely opened my mind in ways I could have never imagined.