You may choose to fly into Florence (or Firenze as Italians call it). I took the day train from Paris, about a seven hour trip. The Alps were snowbound and gorgeous. It had snowed the night before, and everything was white. No other colors showed on the trees and bushes. Even around Bologna there was snow on the ground. In Florence the sun was shining. After Paris, it was lovely to be in a place where it wasn’t snowing or raining or looking like it would. The Arno was flowing, and even in January the narrow streets were teaming with locals and tourists. I’m sorry to say that somehow I inadvertently deleted from my camera my photos of Florence.
Where to Stay
I booked a room through www.AirBNB.com, the site that lists rooms in people’s homes that they rent on a short term basis. My room was in Leonardo’s house at 4 Via Del Trebbio, Firenze, Toscana 50123. www.leonardohouse.it. It was the bargain of the decade at 25 Euros per night. The room was large, clean and comfortable, as was the bathroom next door that was shared with one other room. It was centrally located in the historic city.
Where to Eat and Drink
I have two restaurant recommendations. Il Cantastorie, a 40-year-old restaurant serving traditional Florentine dishes, at 7/9 Via Della Condotta, not far from Il Duomo. Check out their website at www.cantastorie.net. I had a nice green salad, traditional Tuscan bean soup and veal with mushrooms — delicious! They have an outstanding wine selection.
The other restaurant, more modest in ambiance and cost, was Il Trebbio. Go right out of Leonardo’s and at the end of Via Del Trebbio, make another right and you will see it across the street. I had excellent pasta and salad. Their house wine at two Euros a glass was quite good.
If you are into cocktails I found an outstanding bar with nice ambiance and friendly bartenders who speak English: L’O in the Hotel L’Orologio, 34 Via Delle Belle Donne — www.ilbardelo.com.
For breakfast, turn left out of Leonardo’s, make another left at the end of the block and a few doors down on the left is a café with excellent cappuccino and pastries.
What To See
The sites to see in Florence are well documented and conveniently located in the historic city center, a walker’s paradise. For those who can’t or don’t care to walk a lot, taxi fares are reasonable. An excellent site to see what is available is www.visitflorence.com. My favorites were Il Duomo; of course, the Uffizi Gallery, one of the world’s most famous art galleries housing the great renaissance art in this city known as the cradle of the renaissance; the Ponte Vecchio and its jewelry shops are a must; the two palaces to see are Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Medici, both Fifteenth Century Renaissance palaces; and the Boboli Gardens. I wandered around for hours through the narrow Renaissance streets and lovely plazas. The historical part of the city is so compact that for most people three days is enough.
From Florence I took a taxi to the airport to rent a car (under 20 Euros) and from there drove north to my home for three months Il Mulinello between Monzone and Equi Terme in the hills of northern Tuscany.