by Melinda Gallo

Bursting at the seams

I've been walking around centro (downtown area) a lot lately and have finally admitted to myself that Florence is overcrowded with tourists. I avoid the front of the Duomo as much as possible because I can't seem to not ruin someone's picture or bump into people backing up as they look around.

Florence has always had a lot of tourists and the season seems to start around Easter. But, for some reason, this year it just seems exaggerated. There are more people here than I've ever seen before, excluding the summer. But at least in the summer, many locals take off so it doesn't feel as crowded to me.

All last week when we went to all my favorite restaurants, I kept wondering where the tourists are eating. None of the restaurants we went to were all that busy, but still I expected to see more people in the restaurants.

And then I realized that a lot of them must be going to the touristy places sprinkled around town. Maybe they don't know that they are touristy, but they are convenient to get to, so that makes it easy after they've been visiting all day to just plop themselves down and eat.

I assume that most people look at the menu hanging outside, take a peek inside to see if there are people eating, convene with the group, and decide whether to eat there or not. I do the same when I visit different places some times, but I've also learned to ask people in shops to see what they recommend too. Although that's a risk too since it could be their family member or friend and they're just passing people on to it.

I've also noticed that tourists eat a little earlier than those who live here. And, I eat early compared to many locals. My reservations are usually for 8PM or 8.30, while many locals choose 10PM. So maybe the tourists and I just miss each other completely at dinner time. They eat earlier and pick restaurants close to the Duomo and San Lorenzo, while I eat later and pick restaurants all over town.

In the end, the tourists are great for the economy here in Florence, and they are welcomed with open arms. But, the only drawback is that I have to walk around a lot of touristy areas to get to where I want to go or else I'll feel like I'm being gobbled up by the crowds.

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