Florence & Destination Disappointment

Florence & Destination Disappointment

Everyone told me I’d hate Venice and love Florence, but that’s not what happened. Instead, I hated Florence and fell instantly in love with Venice.

I wasn’t an intentional honey badger on this one, I promise. In fact, we spent weeks debating whether or not to even go to Venice having heard such lackluster reviews of the place, but Florence was always on the list. It wasn’t even a topic of debate, really, it just was. Of course we’d go to Florence, we said. Because it’s Florence.  Feelings on Florence || terragoes.com

There are a lot of reasons why I didn’t like Florence, but it’s also possible that I just did it wrong. Maybe it’s because we didn’t stay there, didn’t spend any nights in Florence, opting instead to spend our nights on the outskirts of nearby San Gimignano. Maybe it was that we’d just been in Rome and were tired of the mayhem of a big city. Maybe we didn’t see the right things or make enough of a plan before visiting, maybe that’s it.

Or maybe Florence just isn’t my kind of city.

Feelings on Florence || terragoes.com

We started our Florence adventure mid-morning on a Thursday and went straight to the Galleria dell’Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s David since 1873. I knew the line to get in would be long – in 2016, the Accademia was the second most-visited art museum in Italy – but I wanted to see the David. That, like Florence itself, was nonnegotiable.

We spent our first 90 minutes in Florence in that line, waiting to see the David. You can (and should) buy tickets in advance, but we’d kept our plans in Tuscany loose and hadn’t committed to our day in Florence until the last minute.

But then we were inside, finally, and there it was.

I won’t lie.  I hated that line and the people in the line and everything about that line, but when we finally got inside and when we saw the David, it was worth it. I was glad we’d done it, glad we’d waited and hadn’t given up and were able to see this incredible and renowned work of art.

Feelings on Florence || terragoes.com

After taking in the David in all his glory, we wandered around Florence.

We circled the Cathedral, but didn’t go inside, mostly because the lines to get in were all absurdly long and we were in no mood for any more of that bullshit.

Maybe it was at that point that we started to get cranky. Half a day had passed and we’d done little beyond standing in lines and staring at lines, and we were quickly growing sick of the dirty and cramped Florentine streets. I missed the wide avenues of Rome and felt like I was constantly getting jostled in Florence as I squeezed my way along the city’s sidewalks, trying to avoid getting hit by the screaming scooters that kept careening down the street.

Feelings on Florence || terragoes.com

We ate, at some point, and I took exactly one picture of my meal – on my phone, no less – of what I remember to be some quite delicious bruschetta, and then we went to the Basilica di Santa Croce.

Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world, includes 16 chapels and is the final resting place of guys like Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo. Construction started in 1294 and the building was consecrated in 1443 and, according to legend, it was founded by Saint Francis himself. Best of all, seeing it required absolutely zero line-waiting.

After Santa Croce, we headed to Ponte Vecchio to check off one more major Florentine attraction before leaving. Ponte Vecchio is a very old bridge in Florence with shops built along it. Three blocks before we got there, the crowds started to thicken, my anxiety increased and I once again narrowed my eyes at Florence, pissed at yet another foiled attempt to appreciate the city. I rattled off some history facts, tried hard to salvage our adventure, but, as we walked across the bridge, we were not impressed. Yes, Ponte Vecchio is very old and you can buy all sorts of shit on it, but mostly it is packed full of people.

Feelings on Florence || terragoes.com

We crossed the street, turned left and walked a few blocks and then crossed some other bridge and that bridge was the better bridge, in my option, because it was mostly empty and included quite the view.

Feelings on Florence || terragoes.com

We stood there, taking it in from a distance, thinking that maybe that’s how we should have taken in all of Florence. We checked the train schedule, discussed staying longer, wandering more, seeing more, but the thought of pushing through more crowds or standing in more lines was just too much, so we left.

Florence was beautiful, yes, but a day felt like enough for me. By the end, I was tired of being pushed, tired of dodging big groups of tourists, tired of lines, tired of not fitting on the sidewalk. On the train back I thought maybe if we’d done it differently we would have liked it more, maybe if we’d gotten there earlier or stayed the night or visited different things.

Have you ever been to a place that didn’t live up to the hype, that just wasn’t quite what you wanted it to be?

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12 thoughts on “Florence & Destination Disappointment

  1. Aw, I am sorry you had this experience. I am in the midst of doing pre-research on a trip to Italy and was considering staying in Florence. Mostly for art things. And wine things. But also, I hate lines.

    1. There are lots of great art things there for sure, and seeing the David was AMAZING, but the lines man, so many lines. I loved staying outside of a smaller town though. It was much better, at least for me. Plus, you definitely can buy tickets to lots of places and that helps cut your wait time, but in Florence, you’ll still be waiting in lines to see the big things.

  2. Thanks for the honest assessment. Clearly you can kiss goodbye any hopes of getting paid by any Florentine tourism bureau. Just know that straight up reports like this are appreciated.

  3. Florence seems like a city that needs to be visited but it’s not one I’m excited about as I’m planning my trip. I think I might bump it to one day instead of two because there are certainly PLENTY of destinations to choose from! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    1. I’m definitely glad I went, and I’d consider going again in the winter, but it’s just one of those places that is popular to the point of being almost unenjoyable, at least for me.

  4. I know we’ve talked about this before, but after reading this I think that the reason I loved Florence and you didn’t was the time of year we went. I didn’t experience any crowds, even the line at the Accademia was only about 30 min (no reservations) when I was there. Your experience sounds like an overcrowded, commercialized amusement park…. which sounds terrible! It’s no wonder you didn’t love it. Side note: I loved San Gimignano just as much as I loved Florence and am super jealous that you stayed there! Also, miss you love you forever.

    1. MISS YOU, LOVE YOU!!

      I was there in May, which I guess is the beginning of the mayhem. I’d consider going back in the winter, I think, to see if I liked it more, but I can’t imagine being there in the peak summer season. That would be insane.

  5. I am sure all the crowds were a MAJOR factor in your displeasure with Florence. I’ve heard similar things about Cinque Terre, which I would love (!) to see but I am so afraid of the crowds.

    1. It is SO BUSY at Cinque Terre. We hiked between two the villages and it was one of the longer hikes – like 1-2 hours – and the trail was so crowded and I was really surprised that so many people who were not in any sort of shape were attempting it. I’m still glad we went, but it was definitely real, real crowded.

  6. I haven’t been to Florence for about 10 years, but I enjoyed it. I think with any place these days where lots of people like to travel, the keys to survival are 1) finding the off-peak times where people are less likely to visit and 2) going places early in the morning, before the crowds arrive.

    1. We went in May and I was hoping that wouldn’t be too bad, but we were wrong. I’d go again, maybe, if I could go in the winter. Maybe I’d like it better in the winter.

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