Live Florence: 181 Espressos

It truly is no understatement that coffee is the lifeblood of Italians. Every second shop is a cafe selling you the greatest coffee in the world and every action in life can be interrupted for the quintessential espresso.

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On numerous occasions while in Florence when we would never think of having coffee or we are just too busy the Italian people stop and make room for just that – a relaxing coffee.

While waiting in the queue for my Permesso di Soggiorno I was advised by the official that I had plenty of waiting time to duck out and grab a coffee – to save me waiting at the Questura uncaffeinated.

I am a lover of the Italian espresso in its purest form, so much so that in Italy I can order a ‘caffé normale’ – which westerners would call simply an espresso or at times a short black. The very term ‘normale‘ makes you feel like you fit in. And standing at the bar with all of the locals dropping in for the daily – or presumably hourly caffeine fix – makes you feel like one of the crowd.

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For as little as 80 euro cents you can start your day with espresso, just follow the locals.

Really the best part of living in Florence was finding the local cafe that would have your coffee order on the counter before you had even entered the cafe. For us we found one across the Piazza d’Indipendenza – on the corner of Via National and Piazza d’Indipendenza – this became our daily ritual. The cafe owners would see us crossing the piazza and our coffee was there ready and waiting  when we stepped inside.

Another bonus of the coffee loving Italians is the more than reasonable price of coffee. Travel anywhere in the world and your coffee can average around $5 – that’s Aussie dollars. In Italy no matter where we went an espresso was one euro. We even found one place in Rome where it was 80 euro centimes. If you find it for more don’t pay and move onto somewhere else and also don’t sit down and have your coffee at a table, you’ll pay three time as much for table service.

So we have established that coffee is an institution, a way of life in Italy and Florence is no different. But no matter where I went foreigners always told me never order a cappuccino after 11am. I don’t drink milk so this was never an issue for me and you can freely drink espresso at any time of day you please.

I have to disagree with the comments about cappuccinos though, even though I never ordered a cappuccino I never saw any cafe owner refuse to serve one after 11am. Really all that you are giving away by ordering one is that you are not Italian and chances are they already knew that when you walked in the door anyway.

As long as the cafe is open it is serving coffee, so you should be able to order whatever type of coffee you desire – well save for a Starbucks pumpkin latte. The problem might be running into closed doors, we often found that cafes would be closed on Sundays and there are many Italian public holidays where cafes are shut as well. The cafe at piazza d’indipendenza was open every day though – perhaps closed on christmas day though.

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Italian colazione.

On a side note though as I have many coffee loving Melburnians tell me that they don’t like coffee in Italy, which I can’t seem to understand. It is worth mentioning that Italian coffee is for espressos and not for milky coffee. Even cappuccinos in Italy are not as milky as you can get them in Melbourne. So keep in mind the coffee in Italy is served the Italian way.

An escape for all of the senses in suburban Florence

For me travel has always been my escape, my escape from normal life. You can go anywhere as long as it is not home, not routine and not normal. So I can make my happy place almost anywhere that is far from home and free of all of my belongings.

It doesn’t have to be rural or serene, I can find my escape anywhere that is different. Preferably where English can be left behind. You can simply watch life, see it pass you by and only understand what you choose from the situation.

Taking a long escape from reality I found myself in suburban Florence, what looks like something non-descript is actually an experience for all of the senses and as much as I love photography, I have found that it is not completely able to capture the experience that this photo conveys to me.

Here in this neighbourhood late on a Sunday morning something wonderful happens. You can’t see it but it is there, filling your nose. It is the wonderful smell of fresh sugo cooking; it comes from everywhere and fills the courtyard.

And if that is not enough on any given day – often early in the morning or late in the afternoon you can hear singing – singing echoing through the courtyard; singing in the street; singing on the bus. Usually from a man and he can be young or old. Is he so deliriously happy that he can’t contain his song or is he simply just content with life.

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To simply watch the passers-by taking part in life that is so foreign to your own is a wonderful visual experience. Life and routine that revolves around customs and cultures that are so different to your everyday life have a calming effect.

For as little as 80 euro cents you can start your day with espresso, just follow the locals.
For as little as 80 euro cents you can start your day with espresso, just follow the locals.

What better place to watch life pass you by than on your very own balcony – a birds-eye view of the life below. And it is here that I can feel the warm Tuscan sun simply kissing my skin making me feel warm and welcome.

And to end this escape of the senses in suburban Florence we are left to taste the wonders of Italian food. Consuming that awesome sugo that you have smelled cooking all morning warms the soul like nothing else.

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Balinese motion

In Bali cultural tradition is extremely important, this photo captures the motion of a parade that we stumbled upon whilst travelling through traffic. What I love the most is that traffic stopped still around the parade – in Bali cultural motion brings bustling traffic to a stand still.

See more of my time in Bali.

All Bali – No Kuta

The Balinese make Bali – without a doubt!

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Throughout my ‘travel career’ Bali has remained off the list. Until an impromptu stop over on my round about way to a family wedding in Perth. Budget airlines and their ridiculously low fares have done a lot to open up my travel destination list.

To be upfront I don’t begrudge anybody for enjoying the ‘traditional’ Aussie escape to Bali and enjoying all of the spectacle that destinations like Kuta have to offer – but for me this is just not what I look for in a travel destination.

Thankfully my travel planner (aka my husband) had done plenty of research in his attempts to convince me that there was more to Bali than tourist-laden beaches.

We stayed in Ungasan, almost right in the middle of South Kuta – that’s right South Kuta. I was hesitant because of the Kuta in South Kuta, but I trusted my planner and held my breath and waited to see what South Kuta had to offer – I expected something along the lines of Phuket or Montego Bay in Jamaica ( I had only ventured to these places to meet friends ).

Wow! Ungasan was nothing like Kuta – well not like the Kuta that I had in mind. There were no resort lined beaches spotted with bars and umbrellas , or worse drunken tourists behaving badly.

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It was full of Balinese people going about their day, with a mere dotting of a tourist here and there. Whether this was seasonal or due to the location I cannot say but I was definitely preparing for a better trip than I had thought.

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Having heard so much about how the Balinese people were so friendly my expectations were high. I was pleasantly surprised as what I found far exceeded my expectations. The Balinese seem to have an embedded service culture, nothing was too much to ask for – I fear this is how the scenes of Kuta may have started.

We walked the main street and side streets of Ungasan, scooted across all of South Kuta and enjoyed every moment. A tropical Asian paradise. A steamy one too – oh my Bali is hot and humid and I am fairly certain it was not the peak of the summer either. I rarely get hot but I was melting.

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Shout out to our AirBnB hosts – we had a wonderful experience and our hosts were always there to help, one night after returning without our scooter – abandoned on the side of the road with a flat tyre. We were greeted to an open gate (a usual occurrence) and questions of where is the scooter. Our hosts were extremely obliging and helped us fix it, and by help us I mean we showed them where we had abandoned the scooter on the side of the road and the next morning we found it on our doorstep, repaired and ready to go.

Food and coffee is easy to find in Bali, with a spattering of restaurants run by international chefs you can enjoy any cuisine at all different price levels.

We did spend a couple of evenings at the Ayana resort for seafood and Italian dinners – I needed to allow my husband his little indulgences.

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My favourite meals though were the Italian Trattorias sprinkled around as well as the Thai meals from Kat’s Kitchen.

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Thank you Bali what an amazing experience, local culture is always what makes a destination fantastic and there is local culture by the bucket load to be had in Bali. An amazing mix of traditional culture and an inspiring service culture to make you feel at home.
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