In our time in Florence we hadn't seen much of the city after dark, due to a combination of staying the suburbs, being tired from how much walking we were doing, the ungodly heat, and having a plenitude of great local restaurants and gelaterias at hand. Plus, there had been ongoing construction work that had sent the bus network on strange routes at unreliable times, making after dark excursions just not happen. Until now, that is, as we find our heroes tearing through the streets after dark, one checking his phone, the other looking pallid...
That's enough in medias res for now, so we'll fade out to a flashback. In our fifth day here, we had basically run out of things to do. We'd walked the city in every direction, well and truly seen the history and tasted the food, and had little left on our to-do lists. A final swipe of the Firenze Card got us into the Cappelle Medicee - its 72 hours commence at the time of your first visit, so we had the morning too - which is a tall church. Half its walls inside had been covered internally in scaffolding for, apparently, 13 years now after some marble fell off and they discovered the whole thing was in urgent need of structural repair. Nice to know they're doing quality work, I guess.
We wandered and found ourselves at the Ponte Vecchio again after some meandering for Sam to find an electric shaver. It was a quest that had taken two days and unfortunately when someone finally pointed us in the right direction the €90 price tag was a bit much. Tomorrow, the hunt for a manual razor begins. After a panini for lunch that included lettuce and tomato - vegetables, Mum! - I convinced an ambivalent companion to climb the steep hills to Piazzale Michelangelo. A healthy trot later, and we were staring at this city from a fantastic new perspective. Seeing all the landmarks dotted between the terracotta rooftops, it felt like a nice capper to our stay. On the way down the slopes we checked into a bottleshop to pick up a bottle of thank you vino for Roberto and noted that the Barossa Valley was featured. Can't escape SA, even in Italy.
We passed the restaurant that we had eaten at last night. A sister restaurant of one recommended by Roberto, the homemade pasta and homely location made the bus trip worth it. A subsequent twenty minute walk to the best gelati in Florence proved a great choice; the unassuming front and deep freeze cylinders hiding the product instead of garishly piling it high for passers-by reflected total confidence in their product.
And then we realised no one had looked at how to get home at this time of night. What buses were still operating, and how frequently? Where was the nearest stop? A quick check of Google maps, a life-saver thanks to its inclusion of public transport options, revealed a bus departing across the river in about fifteen minutes. Only trouble was we were nowhere near the river. Cut to us setting a brisk pace en route to a distant bus stop. Halfway through we emerged onto a bridge with a beautiful dusk scene, and had to stop to take a photo. But then it was six blocks in six minutes! Was it even possible? Sam, unused to the amount of walking and queasy from gelati, started to fade. Four blocks, three, two...
What a way to experience Florence at night, though. A flurry of sounds, smells, colours and chatter blurring past you. A pure snapshot of the experience of an Italian evening. The weather had eased, a breeze picked up, and the darkening sky was fought off by the dusty yellow street lamps. The pizza, sorry, pizze places were still open, of course, but so too were the kebap delis and beer gardens. It felt more like a melting pot, with the Americans retreating and the subcultures emerging, be they the black population, the Indians, whoever was running the kebap stores, and more. Chatter echoed through the alleys and the traffic had died down. In a word: brilliant.
One block to go, and then a sharp left onto the street. It's that time many uni students will know well - that last stretch where you dread seeing a bus pass right in front of you, or turning the corner to see it depart the stop. One minute. Sam had lagged, and ducked into a store to buy water. As I made it round the intersection, I saw... nothing. No bus, but had we missed it or beat it there? I kept at it until I was at the stop, which, like many in Florence, had a digital readout of estimated arrival times for the next bus. And it said we had nine minutes to wait. 'Oh yeah,' I thought, 'construction works.' New schedule. Sam arrived and promptly threw up.
Chekhov's gun, bitches.
(Okay, Sam didn't throw up, but it would have been nice for the story.)