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Trip Report Ira's Italy Trip Report

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Thanks to everyone whose informative postings made our trip so enjoyable, I was able to prepare a detailed, precise and exact schedule for each day of our journey. The plan went out the window the first day. We shall have to go back again.

My lady wife (LW), Roberta, and I flew to Florence from Atlanta on US Airways via Philadelphia on an Airbus 330. Trip was pleasant and uneventful. Arrived FCO at 9:00, about 20 min late. Cleared Customs and Immigration and followed the signs to the Leonardo Da Vinci shuttle to Rome. We had reservations for the 12:30 train to Florence, which worked out well because we arrived at the tracks in time to see the 11:30 leave.

It is a long walk from the LDV shuttle to where the trains depart. Allow about 15 min.

Spent a pleasant hour people watching over lunch at the Rome TE before boarding the train for Florence. The ES* train has a rather small luggage compartment at one end of the car and overhead racks for smaller luggage above the seats. There is also some space between seats. The EC/IC trains have a larger luggage compartment. It is not necessary to chain your luggage to the racks. The only time thieves have an opportunity to grab your luggage is at the stops, and you can easily see the luggage area.

Arrived Florence SMN station and walked up Via L Alamanni to the B&B Peterson. ( We were very pleased to find that this is a very good place to stay. We had a king-size bed in a 12 x 18 A/C room with ensuite bath. There is a lift. Windows are double-glazed to keep out street noise. Bathroom is brand new. Towels were large and fluffy. It is about an 8-10 min walk from the train station on a large well-lit street. There is a bus stop in front of the building, a cafe for breakfast on the corner, a phone booth and a bank around the other corner, and an InternetPoint down the street. Mr Ancillotti is an excellent host who keeps the rooms spotlessly clean. About 60E dbl.

Wandered about and took the no. 7 bus from the FSMN to Fiesole. Explored the town, had a bottle of wine and an appetizer at the Blue Bar while watching the sunset over the city and went to dinner. We did this more than once.

Breakfast each day at the corner café was a Café Latte and a cornetto or panini ? 2.10E pp. We did not have the same panino twice. Typical selections were tomato and brie, tuna and tomato, sopprasseto, prosciutto and fresh mozzrella on various breads. The owner spoke English, and was very helpful and friendly.

We stayed in Florence for 11 days, of which six were devoted to seeing the city and the sights. Visited the Duomo, the Baptistry and the Museo (Get there before 10:00, when the tours start arriving. Talk about mob scenes!); saw David at the Accademia, visited the Uffizi, crossed the Ponte Vecchio, went to the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens; saw the Palazzo Vecchio and the Cappelle Medici, wandered through the Pzza dei Signoria, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, the Mercato Centrale and the Borgello; also saw the Botanical Museum and the Gherardesca Gardens. Be prepared to go through metal detectors at many of the sites.

So much has been written about the beauties of Florentine art and architecture that I can?t add anything new except, perhaps, that the statue called ?David? is not the image of a Jewish male. I don?t know who it was Michelangelo had in mind.

Note on the Uffizi: If you have advance reservations, you are told to go to Entrance 4. There is no Entrance 4. Facing the building you will see Entrance 5. To your right will be a relatively small group of people. This is the line for people with reservations. Waiting time is 10 ? 20 min. Without reservations, waiting time is 90 ? 120 min.

The Gardino della Gherardesca was a serendipitous treat. We were standing in front of the Palazzo Capponi, trying to take a picture of the garden, when a gentleman came out of the garden, held the gate for us and motioned us in. We entered, he left; the gate clanged shut and made a noise like an electric lock. About 1/2 hr later, we realized that we didn?t know how to open the gate. Drawing upon my years of experience as a scientist and engineer, I proceeded to investigate the area and discovered a metal box with a number of switches. I pushed each switch in turn. Nothing happened. Meanwhile, my LW, without my scientific training, naively turned the knob on the gate and pulled it open. We left before anyone could discover who had turned off the lights in the courtyard.

Other interesting events: Florence
The administrators of the city of Florence are well aware that there is a petty crime problem and are taking steps to combat it. On the buses you will find little signs that say ?Beware of Pickpockets? in both Italian and English. We met a pickpocket on one of our bus rides. He had tried to open the purse of the motherly looking lady standing next to me and she whacked him across the arm with her travel umbrella. This led to five minutes of dramatic complaint about how she had broken his arm. The cries, complaints and recriminations from the victim, the thief and the other riders on the bus should have been set to music. Where is Puccini when you need him?

Dining Notes: Florence

Il Ritrovo, 4 via dei Pucci, opens at 7:30.
This is a MUST. We ate there twice and were hard pressed to spend 100E for two with wine for a meal that was well prepared and beautifully presented.

Owned by Marco, who does the cooking, and Rosetta, who is the server, this is a lovely place in a vaulted, white-washed basement.

Dinner opens with a complimentary proseco and closes with ice cold limoncello. In between are pasta, risotto, prawns, shrimp, veal, lamb, beef, vegetables, fruits and sweets that are fresh, perfectly ripe, carefully prepared and beatifully presented.

Cantinetta Antinori, 3 Via degli Antinori
Great ambience, perfect service, excellent wines, VG+ food. About 125E with wine. Pasta in a sauce of zucchini blossoms, pine nuts and cream was particularly interesting.

Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, 43 Borgo San Jacapo
Very pleasant atmosphere. Good, but not outstanding, food. Interesting local wines.

Osteria Dell Agnolo, Borgo San Lorenzo 24r
Stopped in for a pizza and a bottle of wine. Looks like a nice place for lunch or dinner. 25 kinds of pasta. Pizza made in house in a wood-fired oven.

Gusto Winebar and Pizza, 2 Via del Proconsolo
Pleasant wines, generous salads, low prices.

Ciro & Sons, Pzza di San Giovanni
Nice place for a pizza and bottle of wine. Good service and ambience. Pricey

Salaam Bombay, Via F. Rosselli 45r
Where the locals go if they want something exotic. A good, inexpensive Indian restaurant. Excellent nan.

Notes for Fashionistas
Almost all of the young women were wearing hip-hugging jeans or denims with blouses that reveal the navel (as well as C-section scars and spare tires). Shoes with looonnnng pointy toes. Filmy tops with dark-colored bras. Off-the-shoulder tops with colored bras with clear plastic straps. Many women in black. Many women in white. Many women in black and white. Many women not in black or white. Young men have adopted a loutish look: blue jeans, sneakers and tee shirts ? a black jacket for formal attire. Weather was hot. Very few men wearing jackets, even in upscale restaurants.

To be continued

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