One of the best things about Florence is that it’s so easy to hop over to other cool places around Italy. I was pretty skeptical about going through a trip planner for the first time, actually; you see a million of those tour groups around Florence, and I had no desire to be one in a herd of sweaty tourists, following a tour guide around and straining to hear about monuments I wasn’t particularly interested in anyway.
I much prefer to wander cities by myself and, with my sense of direction, inevitably get lost – I’ve stumbled upon some of my favorite places in Florence this way, and it’s a good workout to boot. That said though, when I was planning a day trip to Venice I had to balance my desire for independent strolling with my general struggle to get my own act together, so I did eventually try a trip planning agency, rationalizing that now, as a legal adult, I wasn’t duty-bound to participate in any of the prescribed funtivities if I didn’t want to.
And I wasn’t. Hallelujah!
The bundle price of the trip included transport to and from Venice, a boat tour of the Grand Canal, a glass blowing demonstration, and a walking tour of two of the islands; the first two I was all for, as they were both fun and relaxing, but then by simply telling the tour guide that I would be back at the meeting point for the return trip to Florence, I was at liberty to wander the city as I pleased.
The glass-blowing demonstration was unreal though. Venetian glass blowing is a family art that has been passed down father-to-son for centuries, and can only be learned this way – there’s no school for it. The glass-blowers themselves go through a 20-year unpaid apprenticeship before being considered masters in their own right, which I suppose explains the exorbitant prices they were charging for glass figurines and such.
As a Jew, I felt a bit guilty for not going to visit the three supposedly incredible, ancient synagogs in Venice, but to be honest I was focused on more important things, like taking pose-y pictures in a gondola that I planned on uploading to Facebook the second I got my film developed.
Getting to Venice from Florence only takes about three hours, and is totally worth it, if you’re looking for a cool day trip. I took a bus before catching a train to the Venice station, which is the cheapest option, or you can take a train the whole way: prices vary depending on how last-minute you’re trying to book, but check out train times and ticket prices at http://www.trenitalia.com/.
For other day trips (not for Venice, obviously, but in general), you might just want to rent a car, but personally, even though I have an international driving licence, I’m not sure I feel courageous enough to go head-to-head with Italians on motorinos.