I got ripped off by a money changer, bartered my way into a beautiful painting for pennies and joined a Japanese tour group all within an hour of being in Florence, Italy.
We were given some free time to explore different parts of the town away from the group. I turned it into an adventure to see what kind of stories I could get out of it.
First, I needed to get more Euros for bartering purposes, but I feel victim to the "fine print" of a money changer. My $40 suddenly turned into €13 after the fees were taken out. My attempts to reverse the transaction were simply met by an angry women seated behind bulletproof glass. After 20 minutes of getting nowhere, I moved on to find my way into a museum that required reservation for entry.
Getting in was not a problem. I simply "joined" a Japanese tour group. Since I am at least a head taller than every Japanese person I have ever met, I slouched slightly and wore the hood of my rain jacket up to try to disguise my appearance as best as possible. Somehow it worked. The group was to busy taking photos to realize I was with them, but the security guards counted me as part of the group. I went off on my own as soon as I was past the entrance.
After leaving the museum, I ran straight into a street vendor selling beautiful paintings of the Duomo. His price was roughly $45 at the start. When all was said and done, I got it for $7. It was a steal that made me feel better about my previous money changing encounter.
I had my fun while I was in Florence. As I walked through the streets of Florence, I realized you cannot help but feel smarter. Being surrounded by beautiful statues and historic locations can brighten the mood of anyone.
Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo all lived in Florence, Italy within 100 years of each other? The great minds, artists, and important people that we study today were all contemporaries of each other. Pretty neat if you think about it.