I met Antonia, Gary and James in Florence on Thursday. We spent a couple of days walking the city, filling the time in between legitimate eating hours with sight seeing. We climbed the 436 steps to the top of the Duomo di Santa Maria.
436 steps sounds fairly straightforward but remember that there are 193 steps at Covent Garden station and you only ever make the mistake of walking those once. It took an age and the stairways were narrow, hot and had a very low ceiling but it was 100% worth it for the view from the top.
On our descent we got stuck behind a family with three young boys: Joshy, Ollie and Benji - a brief teacher assessment would place them as 5, 7 and 9 years old. We were entirely at their mercy for the 25 minutes it took us to climb back down. After a slow start Benji decided that he didn't want to be in front of his brothers incase they fell on him and knocked him down the stairs. Joshy was not sympathetic to this argument and refused to move from his position at the back. Leading from behind was Dad who, to be fair, would probably have had an easier job herding cattle. He reeled of the various things Joshy wouldn't be allowed if he carried on "no iPad for you Joshy", "Right no ice cream for you Joshy" (most of the things seemed to begin with 'I'.) Ollie got involved in the debate by contributing a friendly kick to his younger brother which also lost him iPad rights. This may all seem fairly standard but put into the context of a Renaissance Cathedral with 436 narrow steps and a similar number of tourists trying to get up and down the same low tunnels at 39 degree heat this event, and all involved, became quite hysterical.
Getting stuck half way down the Duomo aside, Florence was wonderful. We ate some good food, walked miles and learnt a fair amount about the Renaissance courtesy of the free walking tour - we're beginning to accept we now go on the sorts of holidays out parents would like. This means we didn't really fit in at our hostel - a place where the party never stops. Me and my friends are fun, don't get me wrong, we're just quite happy for that fun to end at a reasonable hour so we can 'get a good night's sleep before the walking tour.'
We've come a long way since our first holiday together aged 18: a week in Salou playing bingo by the pool, drinking whiskey slush puppies and going on 'booze cruises.' Our next stop is a farmhouse in Siena - our parents will be so jealous...