Florence: No Agenda, Just Exploring.

"You're only going to need a day and a half, maybe two, in Venice."

These were the words of Pilot, a nerdy friend from high school who used to live in Venice as a child. I heed the advice of people who have trudged paths before me (usually), so I booked two days in Florence to break up the four days I initially planned to spend in Venice.

So off I was early one morning (though, nearly missing my train taking me to Florence) to the city two hours (by high speed train) from Venice.

I honestly had no idea what to do and see in Florence. I hadn't really planned anything, other than to just "play it by ear" when I got there. I knew it was a small-enough "walkable" city, like Boston. So if I went and saw one thing, got bored with it, I could easily carry on to the next thing. And my theory proved correct.

I got to the train station and easily walked the five minutes to my hotel tucked down a street near the Florence Cathedral. And soon enough, I was out the door walking to this area. Right away, Florence felt more touristy than other cities I had been to in the previous week. Even more so than Paris!

But it was stunning with the architecture...

The colors of the cathedral  were amazing. The pink and green marble? It was so lively! The cathedral looked like a lovely dessert!

But the lines... The lines of people and the crowds made had me lacking any desire whatsoever to actually go inside the place.

"I'll just enjoy the view from out here," I said.

And so I walked, not going anywhere in particular, except to find a cappuccino. It was nearly 11am, and I hadn't had anything yet that morning.

I soon found myself in the Piazza della Repubblica...

The beautiful archway, leading to rows of luxury designer stores... How could I not enjoy this little space? Plus, it was less crowded than other areas.

I sat down in a sweet little caffe that I'd found on Google, and proceeded to have a delicious cappuccino and view of the piazza. I sat and wrote for an hour, then ordered lunch there.

After that, I was on my feet to explore some more.

Getting off the main areas made things much more walkable, with less congestion. There were many more areas to simply sit down and rest on stairs and walls, unlike Venice. In Venice, if you want to sit, and you're not in one of the Piazzas, you are pretty much limited to a caffe. But in Florence, there was grass to lie down in, and places to rest and write.

I crossed a bridge and admired the statues lining the entrance...

A mini sculpture garden to enjoy on a typical walk. I crossed back over the bridge and tucked into the main area of the city. I soon found myself in front of another cathedral... The Opera of Santa Maria del Fiore.

I tucked inside and took a tour of the place for about an hour, learning about the history of it all. The architecture was a wonder...

Archways and ceilings... And the art and detail that went into the place...

Stunning. So many beautiful and large paintings. And the frescoes...

I'm glad I didn't follow the typical pattern of following the crowds. Almost no one was in this cathedral. I didn't feel rushed. It was a lovely surprise to come up on, and a lovely way to wrap up my first day in Florence.