Just off our flight from Barcelona to Florence, my partner and I waited at the baggage carousel watching the last of the bags tumble down just on the brink panic. You know the one that starts to set in as all the bags have stopped coming out and not much is left going around the carousel and you’re left standing there thinking “you’ve got to be kidding.” When you’re a regular traveler, you’re bound to encounter the hiccup of a missing bag once or twice and usually it’s really not a big deal; most bags turn up within a day or two. So we file the report and head to our hotel..
We were staying at Florence’s amazingly plush Hotel Lungarno, owned by the fashionable family behind the Ferragamo label. It’s a stone’s throw away from the iconic Ponte Vecchio and as I was writing a travel feature on some of Italy’s best ‘honeymoon hotels’ here where we found ourselves generously being hosted at this gorgeous property. As we were informing the concierge of our luggage mishap, we noted a bit of hesitation when we mentioned the airline.
You see, Spain’s Vueling Airlines, particularly when departing from Barcelona, has a terrible, almost laughable record of A. Delivering luggage to its proper destination and B., delivering luggage to its owner once it’s been ‘lost’ at all.
Imagine the quintessential travel tales of Florence and you’ll likely imagine viewing the Renaissance masterpieces, standing in awe of Michalangelo’s David, wandering amongst the amazing architecture, eating gelati in the sunshine, well our Florence was just a three day stay before we departed for Venice to join a cruise ship. So with three days only and little reassurance our bags would arrive before our cruise ship departed, we spend our 3 days a little differently. Our three days in Florence was a mad rush to find ‘affordable clothes’ approved by our travel insurance in the local department stores like Coin and the more familiar H&M’s and Zara (not quite the high end-label shopping recommended to us by concierge.) All our travel cash was spent buying a new wardrobe and basic necessities, all while working out what the very bare minimum was that we’d need to last us not just a 3 days in Florence but 8 days on a ship.
While the travel story I was writing reflected the incredible Michelin-starred dining scene of Italy, we made our way each night to the local grocery or local markets to buy cured meats, amazing cheeses, breads, fruit and an amazing bottle of wine to construct what we began calling our ‘hotel picnic’, returning to our room in the evening and opening the windows to listen to the regular street busker below play the theme to the Godfather (yes, really) over and over.
So while we did wander Florence and enjoy the artworks and architecture, we did it our way, whilst frantically searching for a clothing store that wasn’t Prada, Armani or Versace. We experienced the city views by waking up at 5am (because you’re jet-lagged anyway) and grabbing a camera and getting some of the best images of Florence you’d never get when the tourists wake and fill the streets or hiking up to Piazzale Michelangelo for amazing city views. We did experience the best of the local food, but not in a five star-dining sort of way. We did enjoy the local entertainment, but not at the Opera.
Was it the Florence we expected? Absolutely not, but it was experiencing the city in a way that we won’t forget. The luggage? It was returned to us after our arrival back in Australia 21 days later.