April 6, 2010, 12:11 PM
Hope you have a good time in Lucca and Pisa - it doesn't matter which one you visit first, I'd do one in the morning, have lunch and then head to the other.
The Bistecca is good and I am glad you tried it... the meat itself is the special part, should be very soft and not chewy at all. It is only salted and peppered after it is cooked and that is all. Pretty simple, cooked very rare. It is a good steak but I suppose you have to be a real meat lover to get super excited about it. You'll guess I am not by the way I am phrasing it .
The rail in front of SMN is really new! The trolley line was just inaugurated mid-February (after years and years of work) and it is the first of 3 lines planned in Florence to ease traffic congestion around the city. That line goes from SMN to Scandicci, a city that touches Florence to the southeast and is mainly used by commuters. Beyond getting you to the Arno river and the Cascine Park, it isn't very useful for sightseeing as it leaves the historical center almost immediately. You can ride it if you want to see Florence as a resident would see it, the whole round trip ride should take about 40 minutes, you use an ATAF bus ticket for the trolley as well and stamp it just like for the buses.
April 12, 2010, 10:49 AM
Sorry for the late reply.
Hi Lourdes. I have returned from our Florence trip. Sorry I couldn't reply earlier. My laptop was stolen along with my backpack. So I had to wait until now. Thank goodness I kept the passports separately.
We liked Pisa a lot more than Lucca. The tower is unusual and impressive. Although I thought 15 euros to climb it is quite expensive. Lucca has the interesting wall, and the small town atmosphere. There are certainly quite a few churches, but by then we have seem so many churches that it was becoming a blur. We visited Museo della Cattedrale. The Museo Nazionale di Villa Guinigi is also very interesting. We were the only visitors there! The whole museum was empty.
A quick question. I bought the train tickets through an authorized ticket seller. Mostly because there were no lines. The ticket office was right next to the regular ticket windows. I am thinking I was probablay paying a surcharge. Is that correct?
One thing I like to comment on: I was disappointed with the food druing this trip. I am really surprised to find myself saying this. As a person who loves food (perhaps a little too much), great Tuscan cooking is something I anticiapted with relish. What I found during the trip is that food is really expensive that didn't taste all that good. I think this is partially my fault. Because we are turists, we tend to go where the attractions are. When it comes time to eat, we simply picked one many outdoor trattorias that are found in piazzas everywhere. I think these type of places caters to tourists. I don't recall seeing any locals eating there.
I understand there is a premium to be paid for the location. And it is wonderful to eat outdoors in a charming piazza. But I wish the food tasted better. Pastas and pizzas are generally fairly good. But anything beyond that is hit and miss. For example, we ate at an outdoor cafe at Piazza SMN. I ordered Pollo Cacciatore. (I make this at home sometimes). That's 14 euros. Add a small serving of potatoes, another 4 euros. Add cover charge, water, and some wine, all of sudden it is 30 euros, just for one person! I didn't even order primi or dolce. I would not have minded as much if it had tasted good, but what I got was two tiny pieces of chicken, more bones than meat, drowning in watery tomatoe sauce. I can say without a shred of arrogance, that my own version is better.
What I have noticed is that resturants away from touristy piazzas tend to cost less and taste better. But not being familiar with the city, we don't always know. I wish I had thought to ask you for some recommendations. For what it is worth to future readers of this thread, you are better off if you stay away from restaurants in piazzas.
After we visited Pisa and Lucca, we returned to Florence. We checked out Piazzale Michelangelo, S. Miniato al Monte, S. Croce, and Bargello museum. Amici degli Uffizi turned out to be a wonderful investment. (Thanks again!)
As it turns, our trip has one more little surprise waiting for us. Because our flight out of Florence was 45 minutes late, we missed connecting flight back home. We were forced to stay in Frankfurt for one night, took the next morning flight home.
All in all, this has been a great trip, made all the better by the kind advice I received from you. I wish to thank you again for your kindness and generosity. This will not be our last trip to Florence, but I will try to ask for restaurant recommendations next time.
April 12, 2010, 11:05 PM
You had your backpack and laptop stolen in Florence? I am really sorry to hear that. I do hope you'll return to Italy notwithstanding the bad experience, on a second trip you'll definitely feel much more experienced and prepared in general. I am glad you define the trip overall as a great trip since it means you'll remember all the beautiful things you did see and do.
I am sorry to hear you didn't have great food while here - next time we'll definitely try to give you suggestions on where to find good food and thus avoiding tourist traps.... I didn't think to warn against them because they are everywhere in the world, in all major cities with tourism. Here in Italy, most places near the main attractions and main piazzas do take advantage of offering less than stellar food although it can really be a hit and miss. Sometimes you'll be surprised because just a few meters away from the main square you'll find a great trattoria or osteria offering great local dishes. When I travel myself I've seen it isn't always easy to avoid them - sometimes you are just tired from walking all day and are hungry and just take the first place you find.
We are working on developing the section on restaurants on our sites and hope in the near future it will be a useful resource to anyone coming to visit Tuscany and Florence.
As for train tickets, most authorized resellers don't charge a surcharge but it really depends. The best way to see that would be to look on the trenitalia website and see what rates are on there, compare them to how much you paid to see if you did pay more.
Thanks for sharing your experience, I do hope you'll stick around the forum and offer suggestions or tips to other first time visitors with questions similar to your own, ones you are now able to answer yourself!
April 13, 2010, 08:22 PM
Dear Lourdes: Thanks, as always, for your kindness. The valuable information you provided helped us avoided many pitfalls and enjoy our trip more. We will definitely be back. In fact, the kids are already talking about going again next spring.
I have noticed that the Amici degli Uffizi cards says on the card that it is only good for 2010. I had thought it was good for a whole year?
It was a shame to lose the laptop. But I am grateful that I kept the money and passports separately.
May I ask you a personal question? How did you come to live in Florence? Please feel free to ignore the question if I am prying.
April 14, 2010, 01:09 AM
It's wonderful that the kids want to come back, it means they really enjoyed the trip. Did you get to see any of the parade on Easter Sunday in Florence or were you in Pisa and Lucca on that day?
There is so much to see all over Italy, when you come back you can see completely different places even just in Tuscany. Many other towns in Tuscany have retained their medieval character better than Florence and you really feel like you've stepped back to the Middle Ages. It is fun to visit the castles, I'm sure your kids would enjoy those! The Friends of the Uffizi card, alas, is valid for the solar year so it will expire 12/31/10 - you all need to make it back before then if you can
Then there is Rome, Venice, Naples, Milan, Sicily... all show different sides to Italy's long history.
Not a problem about answering personal questions: I first came to Florence to study abroad in college and I met my now husband then. The rest, as they say, is history I love Italy and Florence and, after almost 8 years living here, I have to say going back to the US every year gives me a bit of reverse culture shock. I don't know if I could easily transition back! I've assumed you're from the US, am I right? From what part of the country?
April 17, 2010, 07:19 PM
We did make to the Sccopio del Carro. We saw some of the procession at Piazza della Republica. But area surrounding the Duomo is completely packed with people, some of whom started to climb walls. We could not even leave. But the time it started, we could not see a thing. So we listened to the whole thing, which is quite loud, by the way.
We are from San Francisco Bay Area. One thing I had difficulty getting used to was the smoking. There seems to be a lot more smokers in Italy. It is impossible to avoid it at any public places.
Which part of US did you live before? Do you have children?
August 27, 2010, 04:31 PM
Sorry I didn't reply to your questions before, somehow I missed your reply!
I'm also from California, lived to the south of San Jose for a good deal of my life and went to school in Palo Alto. No children at the moment, I am sure once there are little ones it will be easier to reply to questions about visiting both Florence and Tuscany with children Hope you are having a good summer - sometimes I really miss Cali but I am told I can't really complain !
September 10, 2010, 08:56 PM
Good to hear from you again!
Thanks for your reply. I thought you took offense at my question about children so you did not reply. I am glad to be wrong. How have you been? Florence must have been crowded this summer. Did you take a vacation? Get a chance to visit the states? California has been unusually cool this summer. Not that I mind. I generally prefer cooler weather.
After living in Italy for a decade, do you find that you miss the states sometimes?
September 14, 2010, 07:25 PM
I've replied by PM - check your inbox!
November 4, 2010, 02:40 AM
hi ianlin I see you went to Italy. It sounded like a fun trip for the most part (sorry about the backpack and laptop). I have a 5 yr old im taking with me to Tuscany we'll be visiting Florence and Rome we planned it for June. Other then the food Can you give me some pointers? What did you do with the kids? Are there any playgrounds does Italy like kids?
Last edited by Liciawest08; November 4, 2010 at 02:50 AM.