As you’ll have seen from my profile/Gravatar I’m a travel writer (as well as being a deafened entrepreneur). Recently, I was in Florence, Italy and not having the best time of it because of the noise pollution and my hyperacusis. My only remaining hearing is in the mid-to high range in one ear and without my hearing aid, I can still hear very loud, very high sounds. (Like anyone with Otosclerosis, my audiogram is like an upside-down version of most people’s and my hearing deteriorated from the lower frequencies first.) This, coupled with my sensitivity to certain frequencies, meant I found the traffic noise in Florence particularly difficult to bear. I did however find some quiet attractions that I thought I’d share with you here.
Open top bus tours
Now, bear with me on this one: while in and of itself, being on an open top bus is not the quietest place to be with your hearing aids in, sitting on the top deck with my hearing aids in my pocket was the ultimate in relaxation for me after three days of almost constant excruciating noise. I could relax and just use my eyes. I no longer needed to be on ‘high alert’ (in case of being run over) and the longer I was on the bus, the more I felt my shoulders relax and I started to enjoy myself. My husband took advantage of the audio tour and said it was ‘very informative’. I’d booked us a two-day pass for the open top bus as it offers different routes. On the first day of the pass we did the short ‘inner’ tour which is ideal for hopping on and off at key visitor attractions in the city.
On the second day of our pass, we did one of the longer routes, which led us to the most peaceful attraction we visited…
Fiesole is a hilltop town about twenty minutes out of the centre of Florence. As the bus spirals up the hill, you are treated to some stunning views of olive groves and of the city beyond. The Duomo looks particularly splendid from this vantage point.
I was listening to the audio tour on the way up. (All passengers receive their own ear buds and the volume went high enough for me to be able to hear the commentary in my right ear.) On arrival at the piazza, the audio tour described the Etruscan-Roman Archaeological area dating back to the 9th-8th century BC, and told of a museum. We decided to hop off the bus and pay them a visit. And I am so glad we did, for it proved to provide the most peaceful haven.
We visited the museum first. It’s a modern building which had ‘accessibility’ at its core: there were lifts to each level to ensure guests with mobility issues were able to access all exhibits. The museum boasts a collection of over 150 pieces of ceramics from ancient Greece and Etruria and we learned that although the Etruscan settlement dates back to the 8th or 9th Century BC, there is evidence of a settlement there dating back to the 2nd Century BC.
We then explored the Roman Amphitheatre and the excavated remains of the Temple(s) and Roman Baths. The sights were breath-taking and the excavations, fascinating, and for me, above all, there was peace and quiet. I wandered around the remains of the Baths and marvelled at how similar my local spa is in design. Then I joined my husband on one of the front rows of the amphitheatre and imagined the performances which must have been played out there all that time ago.
We timed our return journey to the city so that we could enjoy watching the sun set as the bus wended its way back down the hillside. The colours were as spectacular as any of the Renaissance art we’d seen in the galleries and I returned to the city feeling relaxed and refreshed.
Dine in a Florentine home
We’d booked this treat in advance via the Experience Florence website: a five course meal in a Florentine home, prepared by the professional chef who lived there and hosted by her husband for a group of up to ten guests.
While meeting new people in social situations can be potentially difficult for those of us with profound/severe hearing loss, I sometimes feel I need to rise to the challenge and try and do some of the things I enjoyed before I lost my hearing — and dining out and meeting new people used to be two of my favourite things. So, while I realised I wouldn’t know the nationality (and therefore the accents) of the other diners or the potential to lipread them easily, I decided to give it a go. I figured it would be a quieter, calmer and altogether more controlled environment than in a restaurant and, thankfully, I was right.
Obviously, the mix of guests is totally pot luck — you might get lots of men with beards or people who mumble — but of the seven guests, there were only two who were softly spoken to the point of me not being able to hear them. As they were seated furthest away from me, however, it didn’t matter too much. The relaxed set up allowed for ‘whole party’ conversations or a series of tête-à-têtes so, if you give it a go, you can manage your communication as best suits you.
I’m happy to say that the food was delicious and was made with local produce too.