Y’all, I went against my better judgment and completely subsumed myself in tourist shit today. I took approximately a metric fuckton of pictures during my run as a typical, aggravating American. In light of this, I’m going to intersperse my words with pictures so that you can reevaluate your life choices as you sit behind a desk on a Tuesday. It’s a photo diary (in which the pictures and the words have only a tangential relation to each other) (I’ve been such a literary chameleon lately)! I’m only a little sorry.
This random burst of typicality was brought about by the arrival of a kid from Boston by the name of Stephen. He was no L’Arturo, but he was eager to climb the Duomo and find some good Tuscan food. Stephen is really nerdy, but in an endearingly Northern way, so he was a tolerable travelling companion for the detestable journey ahead.
We first set out to buy an all-inclusive ticket to Il Duomo, which included access to the adjoining bell tower, museum, and baptistery. 15 euros seemed a little steep, but I bit the bullet and got it anyway. We left the ticket booth and immediately got in line for the tower. After waiting for a few minutes, we started to climb the stairs. And holy fuck, were there stairs. I didn’t count exactly, but my rough estimate pegged it at eight hundred thousand individual stairs, give or take. However, the more it hurt, the better the view. There are three terraces on the tower and the higher the terrace, the more incredible the sight lines. The first stop was a success, albeit one that left us panting and starving.
Obviously this meant it was time for food and wine. We walked a while until we hit a decent looking place that had no English on its menu, which we interpreted as a sign of legitimate Italian cuisine. We were not disappointed. I don’t know what he got because I didn’t care that much. But, I stared at the menu until I finally settled on something called lampredotto. It sounded interesting and came with salsa verde so I ordered it blindly. It was not until a quick Google search a few minutes later that I realized that I had just ordered cow stomach. Ambivalence reigned.
The Chianti leveled out my spirits until the food got there and I threw myself into the dish because I figured it would be a formative experience at the very least. Now, I won’t lie and say that it was spectacular or that it was one of my favorite dishes I’ve had in Italy. However, other than it’s really fucking weird texture, it was very savory as it soaked up the broth it was served in. The salsa verde didn’t hurt. Riding on the high of being a real Italian now that I had ingested some weird-ass local delicacy, I blindly ordered a desert while we struck up a conversation with a couple from the Northeast at the table next to us (quick aside: people from the North really need to learn to say thank you. I mean Jesus Christ, these waitresses are not your slaves. When they bring you something, you show gratitude. It’s not that hard and it makes you look like a massive asshole when you don’t do it). As the wife shit-talked Rome, the waitress brought out the deserts and I was ecstatic to discover that I had inadvertently ordered crème brule. It was an incredibly successful plunge.
Waddling back to the Duomo, we stopped by the museum and saw some old Roman shit before queuing for the main event. The steps for that damn church are a fucking class action suit waiting to happen. They are narrow, steep, and basically never-ending. But they yielded to some of the most stunning views I have ever witnessed. However, there was an element of magic missing at the top of this 800 year old church. Maybe it was because I was surrounded by other typical Americans and the throngs of people prevented any intimacy with the landscape. Maybe it seemed too staged to be real. Maybe tearing every ligament in every joint in the lower half of my body didn’t lend me to wonder. Whatever it was, the view of the city from Il Duomo didn’t come near the effect of the views from that random hilltop a few days ago.
Exhausted but undeterred from punctuating the day with a good story, we came back to the hostel and readied ourselves for the night. We went to eat at a nondescript café, where the food was good but unspectacular. We then went on an ill-fated hunt for live jazz, which ended up being a quick bar hopping session around Florence. Eventually giving up on the dream of seeing an Italian Miles Davis, we looked up bars around us and found Superfox. Having no knowledge of this place, we figured it couldn’t be worse than one of the previous bars offering “pre bottled cocktails” for 12 euros a pop (what the fuck is a pre bottled cocktail and why the fuck are you bragging about it? That’s not a good thing. And if you’re going to overcharge me for a drink, you damn well better put in the effort of making that shit fresh. I will have nightmares about pre bottled cocktails for months). We eventually found Superfox whose only two inhabitants were talking by the door. Thinking they might be closed, we inquired in broken Italian if we were in the right place. In a very British accent, the blonde at the door said that we were. And my God, was she correct.
We had somehow stumbled onto an English and American expat bar. We talked with Bria, the bartender, and Freddy, the only Florentine we’d encounter there, for about an hour. This conversation was punctuated by a flood of very well-made old fashioneds and incredible Belgian beers. Around midnight, the usuals started to stream in and the place was just a den of Americans shit talking each other about everything from our accents to our home-cities (no one shit talked New Orleans because none of them were stupid. My constant, completely unintentional use of the word “y’all” came up multiple times though). I felt at home at a bar for the first time since I landed in Milan. We stayed until 3 AM and then trickled out with the rest of them. We all started hugging and drunkenly promising to hit each other up whenever we were in the respective cities. I walked back to the hostel in the freezing wind. Drunk as hell but no throwin up. Half way home, and my pager still blowin up. I didn’t even have to use my A.K…