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undedd Firenze - A travel report by Dave
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Firenze,  Italy - flag Italy -  Toscana
2352 readers

undedd's travel reports

TRAVELS IN TUSCANY - No Licence Required

  20 votes

Firenze travelogue picture
To drive or not to drive. That’s the question when planning a trip to Tuscany. How to visit those medieval villages and explore the vast landscape.

Faced with this dilemma on a recent journey through Italy we decided NOT to drive, preferring to explore the area using public transport.

Florence is Tuscany’s largest and most famous city. Writers, painters, sculptors and architects conspired during the Medici reign to produce an awe-inspiring monument to the Renaissance – a living museum.

Today it’s also the region’s road and rail network hub and an ideal base for exploring.

Favourite spots:
Firenze travelogue picture
Even if you never leave Florence for the riches of the surrounding countryside, here's some things you must do:

* Take a moonlight stroll along Florence’s Arno River, framed by medieval palaces, then steal a kiss under the lamplight on the Ponte Vecchio.

* Explore the small, pedestrianised centre, its breathtaking cathedral, the incomparable restaurants of the Oltrarno, and museums and galleries packed with Renaissance riches.

* Visit one of Italy’s most exciting markets, then...

* Picnic in the Boboli Gardens, overlooking a patchwork landscape of Chianti hills and distant villas.


What's really great:
Firenze travelogue picture
Special? Tuscany is a smorgasbord of specials. Here's just three:

1. Gastronomic Gluttony; Sample Tuscany’s legendary connection with the land through a bounty of food and wine in earthy trattorias, neon-lit cafes and local markets.

2. Cultural Cravings; From Florence to Chianti hilltowns, the wealth of art, architecture and cultural tradition is overwhelming. Try San Gimignano and Siena for size.

3. Landscape Art; A walk through patchwork fields, lined by olive groves and cypress trees, to a wine estate or fortified village? What about a hike through pine forests up to a crumbling monastery, tracking through fresh snow while spotting wildlife? All part of la dolce vita. Check out Greve-in-Chianti and Vallombrosa.

Sights:
Firenze travelogue picture
Florence is Tuscany’s road and rail network hub - an ideal base for exploring.

Helpful Tourist Offices offer a range of publications, and stations issue simple schedules that provide regular and comprehensive services. A maximum of two hours and US$20 return will get you anywhere in Tuscany.

Here’s some TIPS:

TRAINS: Don’t pay extra for first class. Second class is clean, cheap and comfortable, and if you travel off peak you’ll often have a compartment to yourself. Reservations and bookings are rarely required; we travelled at all times, even on public holidays, and always got a seat.

BUSES: Marginally more expensive, but they take you to the centre of the village or town you’re visiting (train stations are sometimes out of town). Buses also service smaller villages nowhere near a train station, the only means of transport for some of the local population. This allows you, the visitor, to get off the beaten track.

Accommodations:
Firenze travelogue picture
We tried two pensiones and they were both standouts in the budget category:

1. Aily Home (Piazza Santo Stefano). It's four floors up in a shoebox-size elevator to Mama Aily's. Expect huge double rooms (some overlooking the Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River!) and share bathroom for around 40 euros a night.

Mama doesn't speak English and doesn't serve breakfast - a godsend when you're staying in a location this good.

2. Pensione Maria Luisa de' Medici (via del Corso). Within spitting distance of the Duomo and the Yellow Bar (see below), the second floor of this grand, 17th century palace houses about 10 single and double rooms, most with shared bathrooms. Exceptionally decorated and full of an eclectic collection of antiques (courtesy of the owner), each room comes with a mural of a Medici clansman (or woman).

The cooked breakfasts are wonderful and Evelyn (the hostess) is a tireless and helpful Welsh hostess. Less than 50 euros for B&B doubles.

Hangouts:
Firenze travelogue picture
YELLOW BAR (Via Proconsolo):
Our pre-dinner passegiata returns from the Arno River along Via Proconsolo, past the Bargello’s Renaissance treasures to the funky looking Yellow Bar. Curious, we decide to eat.

Cosy booths and modern tables fill a cavernous interior. Hip music matches the hipster crowd, here to party, commune and eat in trendy, café-style surroundings. A central bar dispenses fuel and our table service is friendly, specials at the ready.

Seafood risotto?
“Allllright!” says Karen.
I opt for the house special calzone and we share a “Beppo Salad” and local red wine. The Marx Brother salad is a mix of crisp lettuce and endive topped with shaved parmesan, a perfect accompaniment to the rich flavours of prosciutto laced calzone and creamy risotto that Karen declares to be a shellfish symphony.

Live music from the piano bar excites the crowd and we settle in, comfortable with our carafe of red and the lively atmosphere.

Under 30 euros for two.

Restaurants:
Firenze travelogue picture
There are so many special experiences waiting for you. Here's one of our favourites:

BORGO ANTICO (in the Oltrarno):
No menu, comfortable wooden tables and chairs, olde worlde trattoria atmosphere, and not an English word anywhere. We chat in broken Italian-English with two twentyish table companions as our waitress grabs a friend to decipher today’s specials.

Baskets of warm bread arrive with carafes of Chianti merlot. The spaghetti with clams follows. It’s huge, but so is our appetite, fuelled by animated conversation and latin music. People flirt, laugh and dance, mainly young, and the atmosphere is exciting. Another carafe comes, and more bread, as the clams disappear.

Around 25 euros for two.

Other recommendations:
Firenze travelogue picture
WHEN TO GO: Shoulder seasons of March/April and October/November usually provide mild weather and few crowds - you won’t need to book ahead for accommodation or transport.

WHERE TO STAY: Try and pick one or two bases with good transport connections so you’re not moving around too much. You’ll enjoy becoming familiar with your chosen home, feel more relaxed, and save money by negotiating reduced rates for a longer stay. Find a local pensione for an authentic experience – they’re cheap, friendly and a fountain of knowledge. If your choice is rural, make sure facilities are handy and, if you don’t have a car, find out where the local bus stops and how often.

WHERE TO EAT: Search out trattorias, cafes and restaurants that locals use. Go for a walk at meal times and watch the crowds. In Florence, check out the working class Oltrarno district for the best deals. Oh, and ALWAYS try the specials – this is Tuscany, the specials are real.

Published on Tuesday December 17th, 2002


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Sat, Nov 12 2005 - 07:59 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Excellent report!

Thu, May 26 2005 - 12:20 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent report

Thu, Sep 16 2004 - 05:48 AM rating by saleha

Quite informative report ...complete with an idea about the expenses n kind of service to expect...above all...the tips on what not to miss...as most of the times...one tends to skip the simple but enchanting experiences...

Sat, Sep 11 2004 - 12:52 AM rating by we2zebras

I just started looking around for a trip I am planning. This was great & just what I was looking for. Thanks. Angela

Thu, Jun 10 2004 - 10:55 AM rating by mikeygee91

Great, long report! keep 'em comin'!

Tue, May 27 2003 - 03:38 AM rating by downundergal

Take me there...the images that your report conjures up are fantastic.
Happy travels,
Kerrie

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