Accommodation follies and some fine architecture: Florence part II

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15th century Villa Camerata in Fiesole: an unlikely hostel

I sure was in a sticky situation when I woke up on my first morning in Florence.  Events from the night before having impeded me from booking a hostel for the next night, and my morning scouring of the internet having been unsuccessful, I hauled my tired and panic-y self and implausibly heavy little suitcase off to the tourist information office.

Florence was not forgiving on that first morning.  I hadn’t been prepared for the narrow streets, and it was with some dismay that I noted the sheer amount other people dragging around suitcases on that Saturday morning.  It seemed as if hostelworld.com hadn’t been lying to me after all, and the city really was full to capacity.  Not wanting to stay too far out of the city, or in another criminally bad hostel I was even psyching myself up that this may in fact be the time for a hotel room.  Ouch!

On arriving at the tourist information office the man behind the reservation desk eyed my luggage sadly, apologised, and confirmed that the city was indeed booked out due to an international conference.  When I asked about hotels he regrettably informed me that the cheapest he had was €130 a night, and that, even in his personal opinion, was too much.  For me it wasn’t just too much but just totally out of the question.  I was swimming in panic and cold sweat at this point as I crossed the road to the train station to think.  It was at this time that I started musing on how nice it be to not have to solve this problem ALONE.  Travelling alone might have a plethora benefits, but two heads are always better than one in a crisis.

I considered getting a train to another town close by (Pisa is not too far) but realised of course I would be in the same situation there – nothing booked.  Or, I could give in to my fears and book one of those forgotten-or-undesireable-even-on-the-busiest-weekend-EVER hostels I had been avoiding.  I ducked into a cafe with wifi (luggage in tow) and made my peace with this decision.  The clock was ticking and it was mid afternoon by this point, the ONLY priority for the day was to have somewhere to sleep.  It was with tearful reluctance that I got a taxi to hostel 5km out of town.

I was dismayed beyond belief when the taxi turned off onto a endless potholed drive that led up to the hostel, past campsite and vineyards.  I felt liked I had been deposited in the middle of nowhere, and all my defences had well and truly been worn down to the point where I couldn’t even appreciate the beautiful entrance hall (shown above).  I feel quite sheepish admitting to this now, especially considering my warm and tender feelings towards this place by the end, but after I’d checked in and gone to my room I cried for the first and only time during my independent travels.  Aw.  I briefly convinced myself that I would leave Florence on the first train I could get the next day, and draw a line under the whole nightmare.  But luckily, food, a shower, a nap, some new friends and quite a lot of wine are great revivers of weary travellers spirit and in just a few short hours I decided that I would stick around after all and absorb all Florence had to offer.

After initial scepticism about its distance from the city centre I fell completely in love with Villa Camerata and ended up staying almost a week before finally switching another hostel in the centre so I could enjoy some city nightlife.  For a girl who likes her architecture this was an absolute delight to come home to every night:

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I couldn’t help myself from doing some research on the building (it’s prime dissertation material, if you want my opinion – I’ll be waiting – History of Architecture students) , but I wasn’t able to turn up that much.  Apparently the villa was a meeting place for the Accademia degli Svogliati, a 17th century association of writers in Florence.  I couldn’t have thought of a better base for my stay in the city.  Aside from the stunning marble in the entrance hall, the peaceful veranda with occasional sketching artist, the nearby vineyards, the manicured gardens, what I will remember most about this hostel will probably be the people.  I met some wonderful people here, and I really was very sad leave in the end.  I think this is a tribute to an unconventional choice gone right (as opposed to wrong, which has also happened a multitude of times).  Villa Camerata would not have been my first choice, but it will be next time.

Would you like to stay at Villa Camerata?  Summer months are highly recommended so you can drink wine and draw on the veranda.  Bring insect repellent.  I can assure you 100% that I am not being paid for such shameless advertising (more’s the pity) but you can book here.

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