Jed's Journey to Florence

Oct 25th, 2006, 03:27 PM
  #1  
Jed
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Jed's Journey to Florence

Getting there-

Starting Oct 5, we two senior couples, Ron and Sue, and Arline and I, went on a two week Elderhostel tour of Northern Italy, including Venice, Padua, Ferrara, and Mantua, passing through some smaller towns. At the end, we went to Florence by ourselves for three nights. This is a report of the Florence part. All money is in Euros.

We decided to take the train from Mantua to Florence, rather than drive or have a car and driver which was very expensive. We got reserved first class tickets the day beforehand at the station, which was good, as we wanted to be sure, altough there were seats available when we got on. Also, we felt that the first class was worth the money, (21 vs 12), since we had comfortable seats and we were carrying 2 pieces of luggage each.

The train left Mantua at noon, 20 minutes late, stopping for a train change in Bologna. We almost missed the change, as we were given the wrong info on which track we should wait. I learned that sometimes you get the wrong info either by difficulty in translating the Italian, or just plain ignorance. The ride was very comfortable and quick, with the train going up and down the mountains with seeming ease.

We got to Florence at 2:30 PM, waited on the taxi line which went quickly. The taxis were mostly hatchback, in which were able to put our suitcases with 2 small pieces on our laps. In about ten minutes, we were at our apartment on Via Dell'Oriuolo, just a few hundred feet from the Duomo. The fare was 8 1/2, and we gave him a ten.

Because of previous good experience, we decided to stay at a 2 BR, 2 bath apt, rather than a hotel. After considerable time researching on the net the likely prospects, I finally chose the apt GIOTTO, at VDO 19. It had a large living room with 3 sofas, a small kitchen and dining area. The master BR had bath ensuite, and the second BR had two twin beds with bath next to it. There was a loft with two beds, which we did not use, and a washer and dryer which we did. It was slightly cheaper than two hotel rooms, and much more comfortable. It was on the third floor, with elevator, and a good view of half of the Duomo. We rented it through windowsonitaly.com, and the people there were responsive by email and phone, and spoke English well. It turned out to be an excellent choice, because of location, convenience, room, noise, etc.

More to come.....
Jed is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 05:10 PM
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Sounds like you enjoyed yourseves and did your homework. I look forward to the rest of your report.
Robdaddy is offline  
Oct 26th, 2006, 05:16 AM
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I'm visiting Florence this winter. Looking forward to the rest of you report. Thanks for sharing.
samsmom1127 is offline  
Oct 26th, 2006, 05:26 AM
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Jed--thank you for the report so far. I look forward to reading more.
Do any of your party speak Italian?
I'd be interested in reading about the Elderhostel tour, as well, if you are thinking about posting it.

Olive Oil
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Oct 26th, 2006, 01:01 PM
  #5  
Jed
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Let the adventure begin.....

We got to the apt about 3:30 PM, dropped our luggage, and quickly walked a few blocks to the Synagoga, on Via Farini. After paying 4 pp, we caught the 4 PM tour of the main sanctuary and small museum.

We decided not to make any meals, but on the way back to the apt, stopped in a small supermarket and bought bottles of Prosecca and red wine, which were inexpensive. These, along with cheese and crackers, we enjoyed at the apt, along with classical music from the TV after Sue figured out how to use it. It was great having a living room where we could all put our feet up and talk.

It started to rain, and the rain lasted on and off for the whole time we were in Florence. We decided that we wanted a good dinner at a restaurant not too far. Reading in Fodors and others guidebooks, we opted to try for La Giostra, just 2 blocks away. We got there at 7, and since it was early by European standards, we got a table in one of their 2 dining rooms. The place was truly a gem. It was well appointed, with a sparkling ceiling. As you ate, the owner, a charming older man with long white hair visited the tables.

After we ordered, we got a small complimentary glass of Prosecca. Then we were presented with a complimentary very large plate of assorted antipasti. We decided not to order any more wine, since we had a lot before, and after splitting our priomo piatto, we were all full. But we struggled to finish our secundo piatto, which were enjoyed by all. Without wine, the check was quite reasonable. The place was full as we left.

On the way back, we took a small diversion to have gellati, which we had most every night for the prior 2 weeks. Ron got his strachiatelli, Sue got her coffee, Arline got her vanilla, and I got my cioccolatta. We all slept well that night after all that wine and good food.

Stay tuned.....
Jed is offline  
Oct 27th, 2006, 05:11 PM
  #6  
Jed
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The adventure continues

Next AM we headed off to find the walking tour meeting place for our 9:30 half-day tour of central Florence. It was near the P. Repubblica, where we had coffee, capuccino, and pastry. You shoud know that the terminology and actuality of coffee is very different than in the US.

We prebooked the walking tour with Artviva- http://tinyurl.com/ye5zwq. We were a group of 11 people, led by Tanya, an American who had a clear pleasant voice and regaled us with a cascade of info as she led us for 3 hours from Piaza S. Trinita, through P. Signoria, into the Duomo. We gave her 5/couple after she said tips were appreciated.

We headed up to the Academia for a 2 PM reservation, stoping along the way at a sidewalk cafe for an ordinary, overpriced lunch. We left a tip, not realizing that the 'cover' would have been adequate.

As we passed the long line of people waiting to get into the Academia, we understood the importance of getting reservations beforehand. We did this according to Ira http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34755975 . Even though there were large crowds aouside, inside was reasonable in ability to see David, the slaves, and a great exhibit of old musical instruments.

After, it was a short walk to the Mercado and S. Lorenzo areas for a large street market. We found quite a variation in quality and prices. While we were there, we made a reservation at Tratoria Za Za, which was right there. As it continued to rain, we went home and had our wine and cheese. At 7, we returned to that area for a mediocre dinner at Za Za. Later, it became jammed inside and out.

...one more...
Jed is offline  
Oct 27th, 2006, 07:52 PM
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Enjoying your post. Thanks and waiting for the finale!
klondike is offline  
Oct 28th, 2006, 04:41 AM
  #8  
Jed
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Finish and long road home

Next morning we slept late as we had reservations at Ufizzi at 11 AM. There were huge crowds in the P. S. Signoria next to the Ufizzi, where there was a mass of people waiting to get in. We went first to door 1 to get our tickets, and then to door 3 where we got in after a few minutes. With audio guides, we spent 2 hours seeing most of the fantastic art.

After lunch, we walked across the Ponte Vecchio, then back across Ponte S. Trinita. A lot of window shopping, but we managed to keep our credit cards holstered. We walked to the Profumo Farmaceutica de Santa Maria Novella to get some body lotion for a friend. It is an interesting pharmacy which should be seen if you are in that area.

After finishing our wine and crackers (the cheese being long gone), we went around the corner to a local trattoria, Osteria Zio Gigi, for a good, inexpensive dinner, then back to pack.

We woke up at 4 AM to get to the airport at 5 AM for a 7 AM flight on Lufthansa from Florence to Frankfort, there to catch a USAir flight to Philly. However, our flight kept being postponed, without explanation, until 10 Am, when they said it was cancelled, reason not disclosed, but rumors said it was either fog or wind. We rushed to get new tickets, and it turned out that the best they could advise would be to go to Bologna, take a flight from there to Frankfort, and stay overnight there since we missed our USAir flight. They put 7 of us in a van (do we get FF miles for this trip?) to the Bologna airport, then a flight to Frankfort where we were given vouchers for a hotel room and dinner.

Next day we got on the same USAir flight we missed, and were glad to get home.

Mille grazie and ciao
Jed is offline  
Oct 28th, 2006, 11:45 AM
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Thanks for posting Jed, it sounds like you had a wonderful trip. Will you be posting a report about the other part of your trip? I am planning on visiting Padua in March and I would be interested in hearing from you.
roadlesstraveled is offline  
Oct 28th, 2006, 12:50 PM
  #10  
Jed
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Olive- No - we didn't speak Italian, and when we couldn't understand when someone talked to us, we just gave up. Fortunately, it wasn't often.

road - Don't think so. I didn't take good notes on the other part.

We passed through Padua for just a few hours. We happened to be there just when 'doctors' had just passed their exams at the University. They had to dress up in silly costumes, stand on platforms, and be taunted by the other students. It was quite a spectacle and a lot of fun. It appeared to be un-PC, so while it played in Padua, it wouldn't play in Peoria.
Jed is offline  
Feb 7th, 2007, 06:24 PM
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Jed, thank you for posting. I just found this report. We'll be in Florence next month-- can't wait!

Liz
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