Florence

May 3, 2012
Wednesday, we took the train from Venice to Florence. Purchasing tickets (€43 each) for the two hour ride was a breeze. Locating the platform, however, was a bit more tricky. We did finally realize that you must check the screens to find the proper platform and the trains often arrived a few minutes before boarding. So, passengers all collect in front of the screens waiting to pounce once the platform is revealed.

When we arrived in Florence it was overcast, dampness filled the air and puddles collected on the streets. We purchased a three day bus pass (€12) and hopped on what we believed was our bus, but realized a couple stops later it was headed in the wrong direction. We exited and found the proper bus stop, just in time for the skies to open up. It was a complete deluge. We fumbled for umbrellas as hawkers approached us to buy theirs - one after another, after another. Selling umbrellas in streets of Florence is big business. They line up and lie in wait… and it never takes long. It rained, and rained and rained. I saw more rain during our four days there than all nine years I’ve lived in Las Vegas.

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Our hotel, Villa Carlotta is in a residential neighborhood outside the medieval walls that protected Florence. It was about a 10-minute walk to Pitti Palace or about a 15-minute bus ride to the historic centre. It was convenient except when wheeling luggage while balancing an umbrella in a down pour. Buses ran timely and were never too crowded, and google maps was helpful finding our way. Still, it was a great relief when we arrived.

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The hotel was very comfortable. The bed was a bit softer than the one in Venice, we had a news channels in English, and a bathtub. I took advantage of this and washed the clothes we had worn so far. I brought along Woolite detergent pouches, bungy cords for clothesline and drip dry hooks. All worked well. It took a day or more for clothes to dry; be sure to wash early. And be prepared for stiff clothing. I had forgotten how wonderful fabric softener is. And I’ve never appreciated my washer and dryer more.





Florence was among the largest and most influential cities in Europe during the 14th and 16th centuries. Its people were wealthy and economically successful. Today, it remains rich with culture and history. It is a beautiful city. One I could live in… if only it weren’t for that pesky rain.

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When we came upon the Santa Maria del Fiore or better known as The Duomo it took our breath away. Its splendor and massive size will leave you speechless. We sat in awe. It took 140 years to create this masterpiece. The dome built by Filippo Brunelleschi is the largest brick dome ever constructed. We purchased a multi-pass (€15) that provided us access to the Cathedral, Crypt, Bell Tower, Baptistery and Museum. It could be used over four days and it allowed us to skip lines.

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Beneath the Cathedral is the crypt, where the tombs of past bishops of Florence and the tomb of dome architect Brunelleschi are located.

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The Baptistery’s bronze doors are a real treasure, the panels depict tales of New Testament. Michelangelo coined these the "Gates of Paradise." It too has a stunning dome.

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We climbed the nearby Campanile also known as Giotto’s Tower, the hike is tiring but the 360 views are spectacular.

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We also toured the church of San Lorenzo and saw the mausoleum of the Medici family the most powerful family in Florence from the 15th to the 18th century. They commissioned much of the art in the city. Much of which can be seen at the Uffizi Gallery. General admission had a two-hour wait the morning of our visit. We purchased tickets in advance (€13) via Florence Art and only had to wait a few minutes. The gallery has very large collection of Florentine art, and houses works by various artists.

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The Palazzo Vecchio is distinctive and it is still used as the city’s town hall. Not too far away the Ponte Vecchio “old bridge” stretches over the Arno River. It was the only bridge not destroyed by the Germans in WWII.Then, near the medieval walls and behind Pitti Palace is Boboli Gardens. An irrigation system feeds water to the plants for the Arno River.

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Our first meal in Florence was at Trattori Cozzi. We stumbled on it; we were starved and wanted a break from the rain. It was near the church of San Lorenzo. We had gnocchi Bolognese and tagliatelle with duck. This one paled in comparison to the one in Venice. This was my least favorite meal of the whole trip.

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Fortunately, the rest of our meals in Florence were good. We had a tasty dinner one night at our hotel. We were simply too exhausted to venture out. We started with salami, fried dough and stracchino cheese. Then, had cannelloni and ravioli in sage butter. We washed it down with a nice chianti, and we shared tiramisu for dessert.

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The next night we were in need of a restaurant that was open late – we took a long siesta. We found ourselves at Trattoria la Burrasca. They seat you until 11 o’clock while majority stop at ten. We had their monster platter to try a bit of everything. The meats, cheese and sun-dried tomatoes were fantastic. I liked the anchovies better than the pate. Frank loved his ravioli, but my Florentine farfalle was dry. I had a slice of their special cake, but I don’t recall what it was and Frank had tiramisu. Their house red was very good.

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We grabbed lunch at Osteria del Porcellino near the Uffizi gallery. We had caprese, ravioli and penne with bacon. The penne was the dish I liked best in Florence.

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Our last night we wandered the streets and sought out the highest rated eats in Florence. Unfortunately, the majority was closed and those that were open required a reservation. We threw in the towel and dined at the next place we found open which was a caffé across from Pitti Palace.

We had their house white, bruschetta, four cheese risotto and pizza like the one in Venice only not as good. Though, better than many others.

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I’ve saved the best for last, if there is one place in Florence that is not to miss that is Perche No! I’d be willing to bet they have the best gelato in all of Italy. It was certainly our favorite. We got gelato there twice. I only wish I sought it out sooner, because it was that good. Their pistachio was out of this world. And the honey with sesame was so refreshing. The coffee and hazelnut flavors were fantastic too.

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One last thing, I must introduce you to Rainy…

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He was our monstrosity of a key; it was so large it warranted a name. Since the rain never stopped in Florence, rainy seemed most appropriate. Oddly enough when we returned Rainy the rain stopped. And never returned, the rest of the trip was filled with beautiful warm sunshine.

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