Gargoyle
Grand Staircase Opera House

Intro | Arriving/Getting Around | Lodging | Eating| Shopping | Museums | Entertainment| Travel Store

Introduction

Once again I would like to extend a warm welcome to GoingEuro.com. I have included a list of guidebooks I prefer to use; in addition to, restaurants, accommodations and shops that I am partial to along with other web sites I found useful or just interesting.     

One of the fondness memories of Florence is waking up one morning around 8:00 am to the sound of church bells and looking out a bright glorious Spring morning. Another wonderful experience I had was when I spent a delightful afternoon exploring the Boboli Gardens. I had such a wonderful time. The roses were in bloom, the birds were chirping and life seemed so - perfect. I also have to say the Florentine people were extremely auspicious.  At one restaurant, the owner/chef uncorked the wine for our table and afterwards presented each table with a signed copy of his cookbook. He was extremely proud of his restaurant. Given the food and service I could understand why. These little moments are what makes a trip truly wonderful and memorable. I hope your trip is as wonderful and memorable.

I would like to thank you in advance if you purchase any books or other products through GoingEuro.com Your support is much appreciated. Bon Voyage!

I could not find a direct flight from the United States to Florence, so my options were to fly into Rome, Milan or Paris and from one of those cities catch either a flight into Florence or a the train. On my last trip, I found flying out of New York City that Air France offered the best fare. I flew into Paris (Charles de Gaulle) and from there I caught  a intercity flight to Florence. The flight from Paris to Florence was approximately an hour and forty minutes. I would like to mention when inquiring about the flights,  I found it was cheaper to book the flights separately versus booking them as one. I also made sure there was plenty of time between flights in case of delays. I am not sure what the policy of airlines if you miss your connecting flight when you book the flights separately. On my trip home from Florence, I saved time by arranging with the airline to have them transfer my luggage in Paris from the Florence flight to the flight home to New York. By doing this I avoided having to recheck my luggage in Paris for the flight to New York.  Now if I would have booked the flights together I would not have had to do this because the airline would have automatically transferred my luggage

Arriving and Getting Around Florence

When arrived by air I found the easiest way to get from the airport into Florence was by taxi. The cost was reasonable and the alternative would have been to take a bus to the bus terminal and from the bus terminal to either walk to my hotel or take another bus or taxi.

The narrow streets of Florence are quite lovely explore. Most of the main attractions are in the historic center of town within easy walking distance of one another, but just in case there are  buses that run throughout the city. The bus system is operated by ATAF. Tickets are available at tobacconist shops, newsstands and at the bus terminal. For more information such as routes and timetables click on the  link. The site has an English version.

I pre-booked (time entry) tickets to some of the museums I wanted to visit through a company called Select Italy. Florence attracts a large number of  people, some of the more popular museums such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia (home of the magnificent David) can have long lines especially during the high season. Given the popularity of Florence and since I was going in May I thought it was a good idea to make reservations for both the Uffizi and the Accademia in advance. As it turns out it was a good idea. For example I made a 10:00 am reservation on a Tuesday for the Uffizi Gallery. I arrived a little before my entry time to pick up the ticket at the ticket office and as I was walking to the entrance I passed a rather long line for those who did not pre-book their tickets. I walked in without waiting in a  line. I had a similar experience at the Accademia.

The Florentine, a free weekly newspaper for the English speaking community Florence is filled with helpful information. The newspaper keeps the  ex-pat community and visitors informed on what’s going on. It’s distributed on Thursdays throughout the city.

Intotheweb, Via de’ Conti 23r (San Lorenzo) Tele: 055 2645628 offers Internet access, faxing (sending and receiving), cell phone rentals and sells phone cards. Open daily from 10:00 am to midnight. Varies cafes around Florence offer WiFi. The Hotel Torre Guelfa offers WiFi in the guest’s main lounge.

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Lodging

The Hotel Torre Guelfa, Borgo S.S. Apostoli 8 Tele: (0039) 055 2396338.  The rooms are comfortable and pleasantly decorated and the bathrooms are  up-to-date. I found the cost of my room quite reasonable. Located on a quiet side street not far from the major attractions including The Palazzo Vecchio, The Uffizi, The Pitti Palace and The Accademia.  The Ponte Vecchio is a few minutes walk away. Amenities include a large and beautifully furnished public Lounge to relax in along with a charming Breakfast Room (a continental breakfast is included with the price of the room). There is a public roof deck with a great birds-eye view of the city. Some mornings I would go up to read for a while before breakfast or take my guidebook to plan the day. I also would like to add the staff were courteous, knowledgeable and helpful especially if you needed assistance making reservations for dinner or help finding a restaurant. The following photos I took from the roof deck. Just a side note the building the hotel is housed in was originally part of a medieval watch tower.

When I find a hotel I like, I check on PricelineEurope just to make sure I am getting the best price out there. Sometimes you can find some real bargains. PricelineEurope.com - Discount Hotels in 53Countries Worldwide  

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Restaurants

Below are some of my favorite restaurants in Florence. I selected moderately priced restaurants. Florence like Venice is a tourist destination, so the prices tend to be a higher then in other parts of Italy. I hope you will enjoy eating at these places as much as I have and that my “dining out” tips are helpful. Bon Appetito!

I find it is best to contact the restaurant directly to confirm opening and closing times. You never know when this information will change. For several restaurants (ones that I could locate a web site for) I have listed the opening and closing times. I have found restaurants generally close Sunday or Monday. Sometimes both days. Pizzerias and some trattorias are open 7 days a week.  Monday is the perfect day (weather permitting) to pick up cheeses, sausage, bread, wine and so fourth from the covered market Mercato Centrale (open Monday - Saturday 7:00 am - 2:00 pm and in the afternoon on Saturdays) and eat al fresco. Sadly picnicking is not allowed in the Boboli Gardens, but the Hotel Torre Guelfa does have a lovely roof deck with great a view of Florence.  And north of the synagogue is the Piazza M. D. Azeglio. One last thing, it is a good idea to make reservations if the restaurant accepts reservations.

L’Accademia, Piazza Samuseo di San Marco 7r (San Marco) Tele: 055 217343. Convenient to the Galleria dell'Accademia (home of Michelangelo's David) and the Fra Angelico frescos in the Museo di San Marco. Extremely touristy. However, the area is pretty desolate when it comes to places eat in. After spending a couple of hours in the morning walking around the Accademia you don’t feel like going in search of a restaurant. Just stick to the basics. I had a pasta dish, which was really good and my friend decided on a pizza and he was happy with his choice. Reasonably priced. 

La Pentola dell’Oro Osteria, Via di Mezzo, angolo Via dei Pepi (Santa Croce)  Tele: 055 241808. Somewhat off the beaten path, but worth it. Near the Piazza di Sant’Ambrogio. A rustic setting with simple yet delicious traditional Tuscan dishes with impeccable service.

I’ Francescano, Largo Bargellini 16r ( Santa Croce) Tele: 055 24 16 05. A lovely little trattoria next to the church of Santa Croce. Serves simple Tuscan fare at reasonable prices.

II Santo Bevitore, Via di Santo Spirito 64/66r, Tele: 055 211264. Located in Oltrarno(across the  Arno), about a 5 to 10 minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio. I love the unique setting, vaulted ceilings (the building was once a stable) with a casual laid back atmosphere. The food is modern Tuscan/Italian with a French twist. It’s hard to categorize the food, but one thing is certain the food is quite good, excellent and attentive staff. Moderately priced with a reasonable and extensive wine list.

Portofino, Viale Mazzin 25-27r (outside city center, near Stazione Campo di Marte). Exceptional fish restaurant. Modern and stylish decor. Moderately priced. About a 10 minute tax ride from the historic center, but worth the trek.

Ristorante Dino, Via Ghibellina 51r (Santa Croce) Tele: 055 241452. North of Piazza di Santa Croce, near the Theatro Verdi in a quiet neighborhood. Regional delicacies including wild boar served in a genteel setting. Moderately priced.

Ruth’s, Via Farini 2A (Santa Croce) Tele: 055 2480888). Near the Synagogue. Kosher vegetarian along with fish dishes. I stumbled upon this little gem by accident. I was leaving the synagogue (which I highly recommend visiting. It’s a beautiful building)and made a left and was walking along the Via Farini and past this restaurant. I was with a friend of mine who is Jewish and likes kosher food. We were hungry, so we thought we would give this restaurant a try. We were very happy with the food, service and the prices. Open Monday - Thursday for lunch (12:30 - 2:30) and dinner (7:30 - 10:30) and on Fridays lunch only. Closed Saturday and Sunday.   

Trattoria Toscana Gozzi Sergio (also know as Da Sergio), Piazza San Lorenzo 8r (San Lorenzo) Tele: 055 281941. Inexpensive trattoria only open for lunch (12:00 0 3:00, Monday - Saturday). You can beat the prices for really mouthwatering food. Arrive early to get a table.

Tre Merli, Via de’ Fossi Tele: 055 287062 (Santa Maria Novella). Near the Piazza Goldoni. Tuscan/Mediterranean cuisine served in a warm and cozy atmosphere. Moderately priced.

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Museums and Art Exhibitions

Most museums are closed on Mondays and the hours vary from museum to museum and sometimes the hours change, so be sure to check before going. Usually in the summer the museums are open longer.

The smaller churches are usually open in the mornings and afternoons and close from around noon to 3:00 pm. The basilicas such as the Duomo, San Lorenzo, San Croce and so fourth are open all day Monday-Saturday.

The following are some of my favorite museums and churches:

Uffizi Gallery (closed on Mondays) not only has one of the world’s best collection of Renaissance paintings, but the museum itself is a work of art.

Galleria dell’Accademia has Michelangelo’s magnificent David. Need I say more?

Museo del Bargello has a fine collection of sculptures including Donatello’s David plus a few sculptures by Michelangelo. 

The Medici Chapels are part of the the Church of San Lorenzo; however, the Chapel has its own entrance not to mention a separate admission charge, but definitely worth the price of admission (as the old saying goes) to see the new Sacristy designed by the one and only Michelangelo. Not only did he design this harmonious space, but he also sculptured the major pieces for the funeral monuments. The Chapel of Princes completed after the New Sacristy is the final resting place of six Grand Dukes of Tuscany and  worth a look just to see the opulence the Medicis thought they deserved in death (at least for their earthly remains). I suppose since they lived in plush and lavish surroundings while alive it only makes sense for them to be interned in a equally lavish and opulent setting. Ironically you have to pass through the over-the-top Chapel of Princes to get to Michelangelo’s simple yet magnificent New  Sacristy.  

Within the Palazzo Pitti there are several museums (each one has its own separate admission fee, but they do offer a combo ticket). The galleries/museums are:

Administered by The Polo Museale Florentino (The State Museums of Florence). For additional information on the museums listed above and for a complete list of The State Museums of Florence click on the link. Museums close from time to time for renovation work, so be sure to check before going.

Museum of the Opera del Duomo has a series of rooms that trace the history and construction of the cathedral. In addition the museum has an interesting Pieta by Michelangelo that he did late in his life. Also on display are some of the original and quite exquisite panels by Ghiberti for the Baptistry doors. The ones on the Baptistry today are copies. The originals were moved indoors for reasons of preservation.

Museo di Storia della Scienza is a small museum dedicated to Galileo Gaililei.

Palazzo Vecchio still houses government offices, so when you enter you will have to pass through security including a metal detector. However, the wait is worth it. Once inside you will see beautiful frescoes by Vasari along with stairways and rooms he designed. You will also have the opportunity to see Michelangelo’s sculpture Victory.

Santa Maria del Fiore or simply known as the Duomo is sublime and should be be on everyone’s “to do list”. The interior is rather austere, but all the more better to admire the building itself including the marble floor with its intricate design. And of course there is the spectacular The Last Judgment by Vasari on the dome and the beautiful Rose window above the main entrance. Be prepared, even though there is no admission fee to enter the cathedral itself there are separate fees to go up into the dome (you do get a closer look at Vasari’s The Last Judgment) and the campanile (incredible views of Florence) and the Baptistry (beautiful 13th century mosaics on the ceiling).

The Church of San Croce has some tour de force frescoes by Giotto along with the tombs of such luminaries as Machiavelli and Michelangelo, just to name two. I would also like to mention the church boasts some fine examples of stain glass windows.

The Church of Santa Maria Novella has some striking frescoes by some of the leading artists of the Renaissance including Filippino Lippi and Ghirlandaio. Access to the cloisters are by a separate admission. The frescoes by Andrea da Firenze on the theme of salvation and damnation in the Spanish Chapel are quite interesting And the money does go for a good cause - the upkeep of Florence’s great artistic treasures.

Museum of San Marco is a beautifully preserved convent with some fine frescoes by Fra Angelico.

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Entertainment

The Time Out Florence has a thorough nightlife section. I find this guide extremely useful when I am trying to decide what to do in the evenings. 

The following are venues for the performing arts.  I have included links to their respective websites (English version). You will find a calendar of events and purchase tickets online:

Teatro Verdi - concerts (classical), operas, operetta jazz, plays, cinema premiers......

Teatro del Maggio Musicale Florentino - for opera, ballet......

Teatro Goldoni, Via Santa Maria 15 (Oltrarno) Tele: 055 229651 - small theater (only seats 400) perfect for chamber music. Lovely interior dating back to the 18th century. Under the same management as Teatro del Maggio.

In summer concerts are held in gardens (including the Boboli Gardens) and cloisters. Some churches also host concerts. One deconsecrated church, Chiesa di Santo Stefano al Ponte, also hosts concerts. For a listing of these events pickup a copy of newspaper for the English community living in Florence called The Florentine. It’s distributed free of charge every Thursday throughout the city.

Search and purchase tickets for concerts, opera and ballet at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Amici della Musicaso in Florence and the Puccini Festival held at Torre del Largo through www.musicinitaly.com.

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Shopping

The Paperback Exchange (Anglo-American Bookshop), 31R Via Fiesolana Tele: 055 2478154 is good to know about in case you are in the market for a book in English while you are in Florence. While exploring the area around the church, Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi, where Dante was married, I discovered a wonderful little shop called Dantesca, 13/R Via Santa Margherita Tele: 055 289187. They sell handmade (a real mom and pop type of shop) wallets and other leather goods. It’s located right across from the church. On the Piazza San Lorenzo there is an open market that sells everything including leather goods. In addition, around the church of San Lorenzo there are shops that also sell leather goods including leather coats. La Botteghina del Ceramista, Via Guelfa 5/r (San Lorenzo) Tele: 055 28-73-67 offers a fine selection of distinctive and unique handmade ceramics from the region. Another place to go for ceramics is Manetti & Masini, Borgo SS Apostoli 45/r Tele: 055 212254. More traditional, yet still elegant. I purchased four oval desert bowls in a pretty shade of blue with a fruit design on the bottom. The shop is west of the Hotel Torre Guelfa on the same street as the hotel. For handmade leather bound photo albums and other lovely stationary items there is Scriptorium. There are two locations, one at Via dei Servi 5-7r (north side of the Duomo) and the other one at Piazza de' Pitti 6 (Oltrarno). Another place to go for stationary items is the legendary Pineider, Piazza della Signoria 13r (Duomo area) Tele: 055 284655. 

You can sample and purchase cheeses and other specialties of Tuscany including Salame di Cinghiale (salami made from wild boar) at the Mercato Centrale, a foodies paradise. The beautiful cast iron building was completed in 1874 and beautifully restored in  1980 and is the pefect place to pickup akk the goodies you need for a lovely picnic or take back to your apartment or hotel for an evening in.

Sainte Chapelle
View from Louvre