Two Nights in Florence


My stay in Florence was good but could have been better. I endured a series of unlucky happenings which dragged me down.

As my train pulled into Florence from Rovereto, the staple holding my Italy guidebook pages together fell off. The tourist office at the train station was closed. I couldn’t find the lockers to store my bag for the next few hours. All the while, I continued sweating profusely (I have the whole trip) since the heat continues to pound down on Europe.

After resolving all of these issues I made my way to the tour bus. I had calculated that doing the tour bus would be a smart move since it hit all the places I wanted to go to (easier than public transit) and would take me up into an adjoining town which has splendid views of Florence. After boarding the tour bus I was informed that Florence’s most famous art museum the Uffizi  – and arguably one of the three most important in the world – happened to be closed for the day. Shit! I intended to spend my afternoon exploring the museum and not save it for the last minute when I’d be rushed for time.

So I hopped on the one hour bus tour, got a basic orientation of the City of Florence, and then made my way to the galeria academe where Michelango’s David is held. When I asked somebody how to get to the “David” she asked me if I wanted to see the original or the replica. It raised an interesting question – does it matter? I decided to see the original, since I was in Florence anyway. This decision meant a 1.75 hour wait. Ugh. A group of Santa Cruz, CA based girls were behind me in line (second time in a row I’ve stood next to Santa Cruz people). They were annoyingly loud and talkative.

After waiting in line all that time, I got the front ticket window and only then do they describe all the security rules. I had to take my laptop out of my bag and turn it own and show that it was operational. The airport doesn’t even require that! Inquiring minds want to know why they didn’t bother to describe the security and ticket prices to people while they were in waiting in line, instead of furthering the bottleneck at the front. The staff throughout the museum were not friendly.

Once inside, everyone feigns interest in the paintings (we’re here for the David!). I, too, took a gander at the paintings and random statues. Not very interesting. I finally made my way to the main hall where The Man stood. Wow! It’s so much bigger than I expected. And so much more perfect than I expected. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, unfortunately. Seeing David probably made the wait worth it.

I spent the night at a Servas house. This is only Servas house I booked for the whole trip – many weren’t available. And frankly, it didn’t work out too well, for a variety of reasons. I ditched after the one night and the following morning checked into a hotel. For 100 euros I got two full breakfasts, a clean room and bath, wi-fi in the room, and easy walking distance to train station, laundry, and a gym. If you’re in Florence Hotel Kraft is a good bet.

Florence Day 2 included the bus and more great Tuscany views, but mostly some logistical stuff I needed to catch up. Did my laundry, worked out for a couple hours, did email and RSS. It was Monday, so no museums. In the evening I went to a cooking class (described on main blog).

On the morning of my final day in Florence, I set off for the famous museum which had been closed my first two days. Some of the most famous Renaissance art is housed here. Guidebooks say “Expect a 2-4 hour queue to get in.” With a 2 PM train to Rome, I left my hotel at 9:30 AM for the 15 minute walk. If I got there by 10, I could afford a 2 hour wait, an hour at the museum, and then time to walk back to the train station. Sure, I could have woken up earlier, but the whole reason I went to the hotel was b/c I’ve been on low sleep. Of course, I got lost on the way to the museum. I was told to “walk along the river” – unfortunately I walked the wrong way. 45 minutes later I arrived at the museum. The queue was painfully long (though a good chat with some Texans behind me and reading my book made it acceptable). As I approached the ticket window I looked at my watch. It was 12:45 PM. I knew that by now any time I would spend in this museum would be purely to say I’ve been there. Once inside, I spent a laughably short amount of time. No time for audioguide or sitting or reflecting, just racing through the hallways and try to draw 30 seconds of meaning from, say, Botticelli’s “Venus” painting.

Someday in the future I’ll return to Florence with more time, more luck, and several art history books at my side!

Ben Casnocha
Ben Casnocha is the author of the bestselling business book
'My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley", which the New York Times called "precocious, informative, and entertaining." He founded Comcate, Inc., an e-government software company, at age 14. Ben's work has been featured in dozens of international media including CNN, USA Today, CNBC, and ABC's 20/20. At a conference in Paris PoliticsOnline named him one of the "25 most influential people in the world of internet and politics".

BusinessWeek recently named Ben "one of America's top young entrepreneurs." He writes prolifically on his blog which the San Jose Business Journal called one of the "Top 25 Blogs in Silicon Valley." He's also a commentator for public radio's "Marketplace."

In addition, Ben has given speeches at dozens of universities and organizations around the world. He has traveled to more than 25 countries and he also co-runs the Silicon Valley Junto, an intellectual discussion society for business and technology executives. In his free time Ben enjoys playing chess, ping-pong, reading, and writing.

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