Daughters in Florence

Jan 28th, 2008, 08:09 AM
  #1  
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Daughters in Florence

We seem to be on the verge of - gulp - allowing our two delicately nourished teenaged daughters spend a week in Florence on their own. The original deal was that family friends would be there, too, but they've swerved their plans and the momentum seems carry us on with ours. Heaven forbid we should waste the Italian lessons.

Areas of the city to avoid? They'll probably get beds in a hostel.

stokebailey is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 08:40 AM
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What are their precise ages? How mature to you consider them? Have they ever been trusted on their own in the past? In a foreign country?

Can you afford to put them up in a hotel? I'm not against hostels, but (depending on their ages) I might feel more comfortable (as a parent) if they were staying in their own room in a small, family-owned hotel.
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Jan 28th, 2008, 08:55 AM
  #3  
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Thanks, Jean.

They're 16 and soon to be 18, and are levelheaded and trustworthy. Also they get along well and will stick close to each other.

The older is very good with navigating, did a lot of helping us get on the right train when we were in Paris and London last year. I'd much rather have her in the passenger seat than my husband, for instance, navigating roundabouts in the French countryside.

I agree about the small, family-owned hotel. Any ideas on one? I've never been to Italy, and can't manage it this time with them.
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Jan 28th, 2008, 09:07 AM
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bookmarking to respond when I have more time...
gruezi is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 09:08 AM
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jay
 
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Stayed at a great B&B called the A Teatro B&B. Very nice with large rooms and across the street from the theater. As Jean said, if it were me I would spring for a room.
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Jan 28th, 2008, 09:09 AM
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Hi Stokebailey,

well, supposing your DDs to be more outgoing than my DD of roughly the same age when we went to Florence, when she wouldn't say boo to a goose, despite having done a year's italian, so long as they don't walk around in fishnets and stillettos swinging their handbags, they should be fine.

it's quite a small, compact city, certainly the historic bit, and easy to walk round. as usual, the bit around the station is less nice than some of the rest, but it would be easy to get a cab from there to their accommodation.

my main worry would be someone finding out that they were alone in the city - not good information to share, IMO.

Have you thought about enroling them in one of the many language schools in the city - they arrange home stays which might reassure you a bit.

regards, ann
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Jan 28th, 2008, 09:09 AM
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jay
 
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P.S.

Don't worry, my daughter flew to Finland by herself when she was 15. They will be fine.
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Jan 28th, 2008, 09:13 AM
  #8  
MaureenB
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Our daughter studied in Florence for a semester recently, and I visited there in May with her. It seemed like a relatively safe little city to me, with lots of students.

I think a hostel might put them in the company of older twenty-something travelers, which could be good news/bad news.

A little family-owned hotel we really liked in Florence is the Relais Cavalcanti. It's owned and operated by two sisters, whose family has owned the building for many, many decades.

They would have the use of a dining room/kitchen at the Relais, for snacks and even meals if they choose. Each room has a little refrig, too. It's sparkling clean and rather new.

Francesca is the sister we met and worked with while there. She speaks English and is quite helpful. The Relais is located in the center of things in Florence. They would be safe there, I think.

There is not a 24-hour desk, though. The women check out at 6 p.m., and leave an emergency number just in case it's needed.

They have a website if you Google it.
>-
 
Jan 28th, 2008, 10:18 AM
  #9  
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Thanks, Jay, Ann, and Maureen,

(And my daughter says, "Thanks, Jay!")

I appreciate it and have inquired at those two places; they look perfect. I never stayed at a hostel so don't have a feel for what it would be like.
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Jan 28th, 2008, 11:06 AM
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Dear Stoke,

Well, when are they coming? I'd be happy to be their chaperone

I have a 17-year-old and 14-year-old daughter -both recently went on school sponsored trips to Florence. They had chaperones but lots of independent time. They say that Florence feels relatively safe except for the pickpocket type thing. We live in Zurich so they are very self-sufficient teens - have handled their own passports on multiple trips and know their way on public transportation.

Here is the kind of thing our girls were warned about:

1. don't buy anything from the street vendors that sell knock-offs as this is a criminal offense in Italy.

2. hang on tight to your purse and passport. (where will they keep the passports? A week is a long time for them to carry them around...)

3. be careful in crowds - there are huge crowds in tourist season - and this is when pickpocketing happens.

4. They will need to pay full admission for the museums etc unless you live in an EU country. This can add up and maybe there is a museum pass that will work for them... Someone here on Fodor's may be able to help you with that.

5. You will want to hear from them and it is likely their present cell phones will not work in Italy so you may want to arrange for something for them that way.

Just a few more thoughts...

Do you live in a city at home? How savvy are the girls with the whole stranger thing - you know like not letting anyone know they are on their own, and not getting too chummy with men they meet?

How are the girls about handling alcohol? They will be able to be served alcohol in Italy and you want to make sure they won't get into any situations with that...

I assume they are going to attend some kind of class that week so perhaps there is an adult there you can contact so that they have someone local who they can call in emergency?

Some hostels can be very disgusting, and yes you run into the situation of 2 underage girls with unknown adults in close proximity as mentioned above. I vote for a small B&B, such as the one recommended here, over a hostel unless you have specific information on the hostel. (I personally would feel better about a place with someone there 24 hours so they can arrive home at night to someone.)

Will your family friends be somewhere in Italy that week? Might be nice for the girls to have a cell phone number or place to contact them should they encounter a problem.

My daughter said Florence is her absolute favorite city in Europe -

gruezi

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Jan 28th, 2008, 11:40 AM
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MaureenB
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"4. They will need to pay full admission for the museums etc unless you live in an EU country. This can add up and maybe there is a museum pass that will work for them... Someone here on Fodor's may be able to help you with that."

I think there's a student pass, called something like Friends of the Uffizi, that we had for the entire semester of art classes. Don't know where it's honored, or if it makes sense for just a week.

If you're staying at the Relais Cavalcanti, I'll bet Francesca could make a recommendation. She made our museum reservations, at no additional charge. As you probably know, museum reseervations are imperative in Florence.
>-
 
Jan 28th, 2008, 11:52 AM
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If you did not trust your daughters, you'd probably not be posting here, but sitting somewhere hyperventilating ;-)

That's why I would limit my "precautions" to rather basic preparations (which more or less apply for any kind of travel):

- passports / and one or two sets of copies
- hostel/hotel with a safe (in room or at reception)
- passports (some - and the law -say take them with you any time, others say leave them in hotel safe and take only copies)
- if they have 2 credit cards: don't have both in your wallet, leave one in safe - take on with you
- cash.. I don't think more than €50 is needed
- make sure you can withdraw cash with your ATM card
- make sure your cell phone will work / check if prepaid Italian SIM cards will work

- if things go wrong: dial 112 (pan-european emergeny number), the equivalent to your 911

I would not know, though, if there is some additional paperwork when accompanied minors wish to enter Italy, e.g. a letter of consent from parents or similar.
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Jan 28th, 2008, 12:00 PM
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Grazie, gruezi!
Lots of things I hadn't considered. Italian classes sound like a great idea. At this point it's a self-guided art history field trip, home school study abroad, but without me. (quiet selfpitying sniffle sound here)

Should they carry a passport copy and stash the originals in their (private) room or safe, I wonder? We'll ask at their hotel/B&B, maybe.

Our friends will be elsewhere in Europe, and they'll rendezvous in Paris afterwards. We need to figure out the cell phone thing.

Good idea, Maureen. I'm afraid I didn't know yet about the museum reservations. I'm hoping to hear back from Francesca.
stokebailey is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 12:05 PM
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My daughter spent 8 months in Florence when she was 20. Had a wonderful time. She did get into a couple of scrapes, but also being a level-headed type she got out of them quite easily. (I learned about them later, of course!) Since your girls are only there for a week, I don't think you need to worry.

The place she stayed part of the time (before she got an apartment) was Hotel Bellettini, which you can find on the internet. I think the management has changed, but it does have 24-hour staff, as I recall. It's only about 4 blocks from the Duomo, the center of town, so no problem there.
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Jan 28th, 2008, 12:06 PM
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And thanks, Cowboy. (I just realized I've always wanted to say that.)

I wonder if the SIM card is something I can arrange for in advance.

I really appreciate all your help.
stokebailey is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 12:07 PM
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LJ
 
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In the recent past, my (teacher)DH and I have led student groups of high-schoolers on tours of Italy. Florence was our teachers' preference over Rome and Venice precisely because it is compact (kids less likley to go astray for the midnight roll call) and a little less wildly clubby/pubby.

Standard advice as both a mom and a chaperone? Be specific about EXACTLY what your expectations are. For example (and these are examples only...your family ethic will rule): Yes, you may imbibe wine, but 2 glasses are the limit. Yes, you will each want alone time, but max. 2 hours and arrange your rendezvous in advance. Yes, you are expected to email every day (or call)...No, you may not bring a date back to the hostel.

If you/they have never stayed in a hostel, you should be aware these are not supervised quarters in any sense and the average age is well above that of your daughters. Personally, I think you may want to opt for that lovely sounding hotel that the other poster recommended.
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Jan 28th, 2008, 12:25 PM
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Hostels have upsides and downsides -besides the fact that there are nice and not so nice hostels.

At first thought, I'd have also preferred the hotel. On the other hand, they could get good advice at the hostel from people their age, or find friends to tour the city.

Even if that thought might irritate a caring mom, I'd much rather have two girls in the company of a bunch of 18-25yo (and thus not alone on the street at night), than on their own, going to and from their hotel on their own.

Will your oldest daughter be 18 by the time that trip is due? I have to admit that I cannot give great examples, but it might make some things easier, if she was an adult already at that time.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 12:31 PM
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The Relais Cavalcanti sounds nice, but I would want a 24-hour management presence. I don't know how the rates compare, but look into the Hotel Casci which has a doorman during the overnight hours when the reception desk is closed. The Casci is family-owned and receives absolutely rave reviews on this forum.

I also like Annhig's idea of enrolling them in a program that includes lodging in a private home. It might be difficult, however, to find a situation that will accept two students in the same home. The home stay also adds another element to their adventure: getting to know an Italian family and how they live.
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Jan 28th, 2008, 12:41 PM
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stoke,

I'm no expert, but we have been living and traveling in Europe for a year now. Not one of the ex-pats I know keep their passports on person even though technically we are supposed to. I have never had a problem, but I do have a drivers license I carry for ID. I was asked to show my passport once in Zurich when I was thrown off a train for not having the proper ticket. No problem after I produced the US drivers license.

When in another city besides Zurich, I always carry a photocopy of my passport (and for my family too if they are with me) and put the actual passport in the hotel safe along with my extra cash and plane tickets.

I also keep another photocopy of all our passports in my desk at home as I've been told it's easier to replace a lost passport if you have the photocopy. I don't have any experience of replacing one yet, so I don't know if this is actually true, but a number of people have told me it is and since it's no sweat to have the copies I do it.

When my kids travel to another country without me (as they do frequently through school and the school policy is each kid is responsible for their own) I give them a huge lecture on not losing the passport, and 2 copies of it. One goes in their suitcase and one in their purse.

Cowboy makes a good point about checking about your kids traveling alone in a foreign country while underage. I guess you could call the US consulate to find out.

g.
gruezi is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 01:10 PM
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stokebailey

I find that a lot of young people going to school in Florence (although a little older than your girls) live in the area around Santa Croce, if we are talking about staying the city center. Loads of young people in the Piazza Santa Croce almost all the time.

There is a small hotel called the Hotel Santa Croce which, I believe, is family run. I had two women clients who were on a very tight budget stay there last year, and they were pleased. Here is a link from Venere.com:
http://en.venere.com/hotels_florence...?fe1&ref=34181

I would suggest this as a very good area to place two young girls. It appears that the A Teatro B&B is in this same area.

I would prefer this to anything close to the train station, although that area isn't really dangerous. Just some less likely looking people about at times.
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