July 29, 2013, 11:45 PM
A tourists thoughts and recommendations on Florence
Lourdes, thank you very much for your help while planning and executing my trip to Florence!
After returning home, I’ve had time to think about our trip. We visited Florence, Pisa and Rome; Florence was by far my favorite city. It’s very much more laid back than Rome, more pedestrian friendly, easier to navigate and more relaxing.
We bought the Firenze Card, and I don’t know if we actually saved any money with it, but we sure did save time by not having to stand in any lines. I need to make a list of the places I visited and see if I actually saved any with the card.
Our favorite place in Florence was Piazza della Signoria, the Fountain of Neptune and Loggia. It was just fun to walk down there and explore places around the square, eat gelato, watch the people, and listen to the music. We found ourselves there almost every evening. I’m so glad I discovered Justyna Maria Janiczak there, and I bought her CD. If you’re in the Piazza in the evening, go to the side of the Loggia closest to the Palazzo Vecchio and see if she’s playing. If she’s there, take a seat and enjoy the evening!
My favorite memory, 3-minutes alone with David in Accademia. This happened because we had the Firenze Card, we were in line 15 minutes before the doors opened, and when we were let in, we went inside while those “with reservations” had to go buy their tickets. We headed directly for David, and it was about 3 minutes before others started arriving. I knew about the crowds that came, and I felt blessed to be there.
Favorite meal – this one is hard! We had great pizza twice at I’Pizzacchiere in San Nicholas. The “San Nicholas” was our favorite pizza. I had oglio olio at a restaurant called e Gruli, (it wasn’t on the menu, I asked for it) that I really enjoyed. Chicken at Trattoria Anita was out of this world! Dinner on the Loggia at La Grotta Guelfa in the rain was great. Gelato – hands down was cantelope (melone) and Tony liked watermelon (cocomaro)
Favorite discovery – Savaronola plaque in Piazza dells Signora where his Bonfire of the Vanities were held. Nobody seemed to realize it was there, or what it is for. (it's in front of Neptune!)
Our favorite site that we visited - the tower at Palazzo Vecchio. We didn't know ahead of time that it was even possible to climb, but enjoyed the view of our favorite piazza. It's also how we were able to find Savaronola's plaque that was always covered up by tourists feet.
Our hotel, Hotel Casci, was awesome! The people who run it are very friendly, and speak pretty good English (and I was able to practice my Italian!). Breakfast was the best we had in the 3 hotels we stayed. In addition to Cappuccino, Croissants and Juice, they had a variety of fresh fruit (honey dew, cantaloupe, watermelon), kiwi, grapes, pineapple, etc, rolls with spreadable cheese (my favorite!) and cereal and boiled eggs. Just pick up your plate at your table and go get what you want, they’ll have cappuccino waiting at your table when you get back. We left for Rome for 2 nights, and then returned to Casci for 1 night before flying home. Going back was like going home; we couldn’t wait to get there. The first night we arrived, they had a pipe burst and rooms weren’t available, so they had already arranged for us to stay 1 night in a 3-star hotel up the street. They even carried our luggage and escorted us down there. That hotel was “ok”, but I much preferred Casci; don’t let the “2-star” designation fool you! It’s a 4-star, as far as I’m concerned. It was pretty cool to know we were just a few doors down from the Medici Palace, where Michelangelo lived as a Medici family member. I bet he walked down that very sidewalk!
We had a marathon visiting the galleries and churches during our 3-day Firenze card was good. The prices went up in July, IMO they should have increased the number of days that the card was good for as well. There is no way the casual visitor will see any savings money-wise. It just doesn’t make sense for most people to even bother with it. Unless time is worth more than money. Even then, proper planning should keep you out of “most” lines.
Pisa was fun. The train was an adventure for us! We took the train into the main train station and then walked the ‘scenic route’ to the Field of Miracles. We climbed the Pisa Tower, visited the Cathedral and Baptistery, and then went into the Baptistery museum. It was very interesting and (best of all) the courtyard gave us a tourist-free view of the tower with pretty flowers in front. A great place for a photographer! By the time we got to Pisa, we were tired, sore and burnt out tourists, so we found a place for lunch then headed back “home” to Florence, this time from the other train station closest to the tower.
Rome. What can I say, except that if I knew then (when I planned our trip) what I know now, I would have just stayed in Florence the whole time. Rome is chaotic, crowded, traffic is mad, and it’s very hard to navigate the big city. We managed to figure out the metro, even when it was packed with people. We took a bus once, and I think we got on the end of the route, and it took forever to get where we wanted to go. We stuck with metro or walking, and once took a cab to the Borghese Gallery. We had 2 tours with Through Eternity Tours, and our Ancient City tour was awesome – somehow we were the only ones signed up! We got a little extra, under the coliseum, which isn’t normally part of the tour. Our tour guide, Luca, is an archeologist who actually worked in the area where we were touring. He really knew his stuff! If you go to Rome and take a tour of the Ancient city (coliseum, Roman Forum, etc) get LUCA!!
After the tour, we hopped in a cab for the Borghese Gallery, because I’ve read that it’s sort of hard to find from the metro stops. We had a 2-hour reservation but only stayed in for 1-hour. We were both exhausted and ready to go back to the hotel.
The next day, we took a Vatican tour with the same tour company and Guido. The Vatican, I hate to say, was a nightmare! I’ve been there before, but I don’t remember it being this packed. We were literally herded into the Sistine Chapel like cattle. The guards had no interest in ensuring the visitors enjoyed themselves or the art. They just herded us in, told us not to stop until we were standing where they wanted us to, and kept saying “Shhhhh”. It was not enjoyable being there, and their constant announcements in English, monotone voice “Remain Silent!” irritated the heck out of me. We entered a door under the Last Judgment, and I never even got to look at it except from across the room. I did enjoy the Raphael room somewhat. I can’t blame Guido on the crowd, but I can honestly say I’ll never go back to the Vatican, and probably not Rome. Just crossing the street was nerve wracking! We headed for the packed metro to go back to the Tiburtina train station and back “home” to Florence, and we couldn’t WAIT to get back!
After returning and getting settled in our room again, we headed out once again for gelato at Perche No? and both of us got melone and cocomaro. Then we headed down to Piazza della Signora, Savaronola’s plaque and the Fountain of Neptune. This time, we were treated to an orchestra playing up on the Loggia. We stayed there and enjoyed the evening, then went back to the hotel to pack for our long trip home. I'm glad we left Italy on a good memory instead of going home from Rome.
About the Firenze card, curiosity got me. I looked up the prices as best I could, and I think we came out ahead!
Here’s the list of places we visited and how much it would have cost us without the card (Lourdes, please check my numbers):
Climb the Dome 8
Pitti Palace/Paletine Gallery/Boboli Gardens 11.50
Duomo museum/ Baptristry of Duomo 15
Bus up to Piazzale Michelangelo 1.20
Santa Croce/Casa Bounarroti 8.50
Brancacci Chapel 6
Palazzo Vecchio 12
Climb Palazzo Vecchio tower 6.50
Medici Chapel 6
Medici Palace 7
Santa Maria Novella 5
Springtime of the Renaissance 12.50
Free with 73 Euro Firenze Card
It's a marathon to pack this much in during the 3-days, but it's do-able. There were a few others that I wanted to see, but we just didn't have time or energy (and my feet hurt, and legs were stiff)
You can get your money's worth, but you have to really WORK at it.
My recommendation -- the 3 biggies; climbing the dome, Accademia, and Uffizi you need to be at the door 15 minutes before it opens to avoid the long lines. That's the start for each of your 3 marathon days. We really didn't have problems with lines at any other places so we tried to arrange our schedule geographically. Pay close attention to opening/closing times (some close during lunch, or early in the day, some stay open late). And know what is closed on what day. Most are closed Monday, but some are closed Tuesday. I had a schedule on a calendar that we followed. Yes, I was the "tour guide from Hell"
I have thousands of photos to go through now. I'll be posting them here (already have a few up). If you have questions for me, you can message me on my Facebook.
I hope to someday return to Florence, it was a great trip!
August 2, 2013, 11:49 AM
THANK YOU Melany for taking the time to share your trip with us!! it definitely is both interesting and great to hear your feedback on monuments as well as restaurants and gelato places. I have to go back to Perche no!, haven't been there in ages
I agree with your evaluation of the Firenze Card, they should have increased the days it is valid - maybe it would also encourage more people to stay in Florence longer, right? If you have more time on the card, then maybe you'd stay longer just to see more. As far as the numbers go, you used base cost for the Uffizi and Accademia, the Medici chapels.... but I think all of them have temporary exhibitions right now, so the basic ticket is a little higher. In any case, since you fit so much in, I think you definitely did come out ahead!
Your description of Rome makes me laugh - it definitely is chaotic! and the Vatican museums are terrible as far as numbers, it is crazy... the Sistine chapel is also so small, I also hate being herded in and not being able to enjoy things because of the crowds. I haven't gone in ages for that reason alone, but when I eventually go back, it will have to be in the winter when maybe at least being herded in and crushed with others helps me stay warm LOL!
I'll take note of your recommendations and make sure to point this thread out to anyone asking about the Firenze Card from now on ;-) Hey, can we share some of your pics on our Facebook page? you can share them with us and then we'll reshare!
Hope you do get to return to Florence and revisit your favorite spots sometime in the not-too-distant future
August 2, 2013, 11:01 PM
As I get them processed, I'll share on your page. I only upload small, low-res images to Facebook though, thanks to the "download this photo" button, but I can also post links to high res images on my FineArtAmerica page, if anyone wants to zoom in and see details.
Originally Posted by Lourdes
There's 1 thing I forgot to mention -- when going to climb the dome, be sure and get your tickets before going to the entrance to the dome! The ticket office is up the street, across from the Baptistry. Your firenze card alone won't get you inside. We were at the ticket office when it opened at 0800, got our tickets and went straight to the dome before it opened at 0815. It's sort of hard to find, we went the day prior, just to ensure we knew exactly where to go!
August 3, 2013, 06:56 AM
oh yes, definitely low res for FB sharing is super fine, thanks!!
that's a great reminder about the Duomo climb - because I hadn't realized they made you get that ticket before if you had the Firenze Card, very good to know and to point out!! I have a lot of updating to do on the main site, lots of things have changed in the last 2 months
August 9, 2013, 06:37 PM
August 9, 2013, 07:24 PM
I saw the picture of the Arno and Ponte Vecchio on sunset, we just reshared it! THANK YOU!
But haven't seen anything else, will go looking for it - I am sure we aren't deleting, but facebook often hides things and you need to go looking.... I had trouble finding the picture we just shared :/
August 9, 2013, 07:29 PM
Thank you! Weird, I couldn't find that pic on your Facebook and I looked before even posting here.
I still can't find the link I posted earlier.
Thanks for sharing! I have new followers already
September 30, 2013, 11:44 PM
Very nice summation Melany, thank you. I've been considering missing Rome altogether, though I've never been. Florence sounds like the city for us. Thanks again, that was excellent.