yesterday we went to florence. now that we have the train system figured out, it is a pleasant and relaxing way to get around. the trains are quiet, comfortable and clean. so far, our experience has been that they run on time and even have well maintained bathrooms in each car. the trip to florence took about an hour and twenty minutes and the station is set right in the middle of town, about three blocks from the duomo and all the major sites.
as we walked toward the center of the city, we realized two things. one, it was about eighty-five degrees and two, there were about four hundred thousand tourists in florence that day and it wasn’t even summer yet. we were very spoiled. we had been to florence many times before – many years ago, before it had gotten soooo crowded and often, off season, when tourists were not so much of an issue. yesterday it was really a madhouse. but, in spite of the crowds, nothing can take away from the sheer beauty of that city. we walked around a bit, found a quiet restaurant, down a shady side street, away from the crowds, and had a nice lunch. after lunch we walked along the arno, crossing the ponte vecchio in hopes of finding fewer people on the other side. no luck. and then we decided to go back to our old stomping grounds, the area around the excelsior hotel. there is nothing like block after block of high end stores to calm one’s nerves. there are no crowds where gucci and prada and armani reign. after a good and fun filled hour of window shopping, we fell into an english language book store we we stocked up on a few books (now that i can’t count on my kindle) and then a tiny jewelry store where i bought a really pretty pair of earrings. by this time we had been walking for about four hours and the heat was starting to get to us. we popped into the excelsior for drinks and snacks, then into a cab for a seven minute ride to the train station and we were home by 6:30.
as we walked back into lucca, we both breathed a sigh of relief. it was so good to be home. to be enveloped, once again, in the peace and calm of the walls. while there are tourists here, they are very few and by the end of each day, most are gone. walking home from the train station, we realized we were passing many familiar faces, people were waving good evening to us. the lady in the grocery store, after three weeks, finally gives us a smile when we walk in the door. dinner that night, at our favorite restaurant, one piazza from our apartment, was a dream. the evening was warm and we ate outside – the perfect spot to watch the world go by. the owners and wait staff of the restaurant saved us our favorite table and each came by to say hello and ask about our day.
after dinner, walking the half block back to our apartment, we realized how grateful we were to be home, and then started to laugh at the idea that suddenly, we had started to think of lucca as home.