Florence - day 1. Our train from Venice arrived in Florence 10 minutes late we found the apartment, a few minutes’ walk from the train station and Marjan, who we were renting the apartment from, let us in and helped with our luggage. Marjan showed us everything she was lovely; there was milk and bottled water and biscuits for us. The apartment was also fully equipped with tea, coffee, sugar, cooking oils, herbs, spices and lots of extras. Because I had used cash for my glass bits as they only took cash we did not have enough for the refundable deposit, but Marjan said to let her know when we had the cash and she would collect it then. The apartment was lovely, small, but with everything we needed and a small garden, it was also on the ground floor, which was nice for our feet. After Marjan had gone, we decided to pop to the little store 2 doors away and just get bread and ham and cheese to nibble on as we were tired and wanted to unpack and relax.
First full day in Florence we got up and Jess found that her rash was now on her shoulder and her face was really sore and dry and puffy, so we took her to the pharmacist for some advice. we were advised to see a doctor and she gave us the directions to one for tourists, however when we got there they said we could come back in about 3 hours or see a dermatologist straight away which would cost 41 Euros, we chose the dermatologist. After a short wait Jess was diagnosed with atopic eczema and we were given a prescription for creams and a face wash, jess was also advised not to eat tomatoes, peppers, nuts, kiwi, prawns or seafood, chocolate, orange juice and to avoid beer and wine.
She joked that it was typical being in a country where she is old enough to drink alcohol but would now not be able to at least she had not lost her sense of humour.
We got her prescription and then carried on with our day, starting by getting our Firenze cards and then going to the Bargello museum, where we spent about an hour and a half as that was all jess could stand. We were impressed with the Bargello, which was full of lovely sculptures including Donatello’s David and some early Michelangelo, as well as lots of jewellery and ceramics.
Giving in to Jess’s moaning we left and headed for the basilica Santa Croce, which was beautiful, Jess was not impressed, however, teenagers can be a nightmare! The basilica houses many famous tombs like, Michelangelo and Galileo and Dante’s memorial. The art is beautiful as is the cloister, Chris and I really enjoyed seeing it.
Then we were all feeling hungry so went in search of lunch, we found a lovely place Ostrria de Peccatori, I had gnocchi with blue cheese and walnut sauce and rocket, Chris had tagliatelle with porcini sauce and jess had pork chop with salad and chips, all well cooked and very tasty. We all had homemade desserts the tiramisu which was gorgeous and cheesecake, we also had drinks, 2 pints of beer, 3 glasses of presecco and 2 cappuccinos, the total cost was 64 Euros, which we thought was very good value.
After lunch we went to Museo Gallileo, which was interesting, jess enjoyed the interactive part the best, everything was written in both Italian and English, so it was easy to understand what it all was. There was also a short video on how the globes of the world and the heavens were made, we all enjoyed the experience.
We finished the day by going to the Uffizi gallery, which was full of amazing art works, both paintings and sculptures, I particularly wanted to see the Botticelli’s, but found some of the other art works excellent. The Firenze cards came into their own as although the queue was really long, we went straight in via a separate entrance, which was great. We spent a good couple of hours in the gallery as there is so much to see.
Next we went back to the apartment to think about eating, as we were tired we decided to eat in, jess wanted to sort her face out so we went to the little store again and got breaded chicken and potato croquettes which we had to eat.
Jess had decided she does not like museums, churches or anything cultural, or early mornings, before about 10am. So we decided to compromise and our new plan from now on was for Chris and I to go out early and see things, whilst Jess got up later and sorted herself out, ready to do one or two museums and churches only mixed with other things she finds more interesting.
Second full day in Florence.
Today did not start well we left sleeping beauty and went out but the Medici chapel was closed due to a sewerage problem we are hoping to do it tomorrow. Then for some reason we could not find an entrance to the Baptistry except one with a machine that would not accept our Firenze cards. feeling deflated we came back to the apartment, as it was lunchtime and we had not eaten yet we decided to have bread and cheese, ham and crisps for lunch.
Then Marjan came to pick up the deposit and bought us some wine and cake, which was very kind of her and we really enjoyed.
Jess’s face is so much better today, which is making her feel happier, maybe she will now get to enjoy the holiday a bit more
After lunch we set off to the Academia gallery and saw the David, which was much larger and more spectacular than I had expected, we also saw the unfinished statues by Michaelangelo, which were interesting. Again as we had the Firenze cards we did not have to queue, which made it all so much nicer.
After this we went to Palazzo Medici Ricardi, got in free with Firenze cards, there were lots of different examples of Florentine art and a lovely well kept garden, it was a shame we were not allowed to take photo’s. The small chapel was beautiful too.
By this time Jess was moaning that she was hot and thirsty, did I mention she does not like heat or cold or rain, bless. We found a little café and sat inside and got drinks and Jess also had a waffle with gelato on it.
Feeling refreshed we decided to go up Giottos bell tower, over 400 steps, I was a little concerned as there was no lift, but really wanted to see the views. Although I did not go up the final level as I was wheezing and feeling dizzy. Jess and Chris went to the top, I was glad we went although it nearly killed me, a few places to stop narrow stars and people were coming down as we were going up, which made it difficult in places. However, the views even from where I was were spectacular and well worth the many steps and coming down was a lot easier.
Next, we went to see Basilica Santa Maria Novella, which was amazing, possibly the most beautiful church we visited in Florence. It has some lovely artwork and chapels, a pretty cloister and spectacular frescoes. They do not allow flash photography, but we managed to get some good photos, as there was plenty of light.
We tried to find the perfumery, which looked according to the plan as if it was attached to the church, however were disappointed not to be able to find it.
Whilst we were browsing in the market, what I had come to call the Jess effect in Venice became apparent again, with my daughter getting lots of attention and admiring glances. One young man told her she had a beautiful face, and another blew her a kiss. Jess said I was imagining it, although she was smiling again.
The market was really interesting, with lots of lovely leather produce, scarves and clothes and some tacky souvenirs, we also watched an artist painting amazing pictures using spray cans of paint and bought one for us and one for jess.
On the way back to the apartment, we had gelato, as the weather was beautiful, very warm and sunny. We plan to go up to Piazzale Michelangelo to catch the beautiful views and find somewhere for dinner this evening, so need to get ready and look up bus times.
We were late getting up to Piazzale Michelangelo because although we waited ages 2 buses did not come, however once we got up there the views were beautiful and well worth the wait.
Although we had read that there were good places to eat there, we found a few sandwich places and a play bar, that seemed to have a buffet, but not much that Chris and Jess would eat, as they are so fussy.
There was also an expensive a la carte restaurant which had a café but they did not look very busy or very inspiring, so after taking some photos and admiring the views we got a bus back to Santa Maria Novella station and wandered round to find somewhere to eat.
We found a lovely restaurant nearby L'osteria sas di luigi Coppola, no service charge, good choice of food, good service; they speak English and were really friendly and helpful. We each had Chicken in a creamy white wine sauce with vegetables, which was lovely plus a liter of wine, two beers and a pudding each, the cost was 74.50 Euros. Then we walked back to our apartment, which was only a few minutes’ walk to unwind as we have lots to do tomorrow.
Third full day in Florence, the day went much better today Chris and I got up at 7.30 and left the apartment by 8.30 leaving Jess sleeping. We went to the Medici chapels first, which were open today, we were very impressed with all the beautiful art work and sculptures, spent a good hour and a half looking around here, the architecture and history were amazing and the decorations on the walls and ceilings were wonderful.
Then we went to the baptistery, the doors are beautiful but difficult to get a clear photo of as there were so many people standing in front of them.
Inside it is very dark and difficult to see much or take very good photos, although the mosaic ceiling, marble and granite work is beautiful, we spent about 10 minutes inside.
We were glad that we had not had to pay the five Euro entrance fee, as the interior was less spectacular that the exterior, if you have a Firenze card anyway, it is worth seeing though.
When we left the Baptistery we headed for Castle Vecchio, which was really worth seeing there was lots of information in English about the rooms and exhibits, we spent a good hour and a half here. The large rooms house amazing artwork, beautiful furniture and fireplaces, with lots of Medici history. You are also allowed to take photographs here, which is a bonus, well worth taking the time to visit.
Then it was out into the sunshine to take pictures in the Piazza de la Signoria, there are some lovely statues, but why do other tourists feel the need to hog photo opportunities, I appreciate that everyone wants photos, but even after taking dozens of photos, some people just stood in the way spoiling it for others. (Ok moan over, but I found it so frustrating).
Feeling tired after all our walking and viewing we found a little cafe and had toasted sandwiches I had two cups of beautiful Italian coffee and Chris had a coke, it cost for 14 Euros and was really lovely.
After our climb yesterday we decided not to climb the Duomo, but just took photos outside, it is spectacular from the outside and whilst I am sure the views from the top would have been amazing, we just did not have the energy left.
We thought we aught to head back to the apartment and see if jess was up, she was but said she was not feeling great, so declined to come to the basilica St. Marco with us.
There was a service going on and we did not want to intrude, so we left and went to find something for Jess for lunch. We found a kebab place and as she had said she wanted one last night, we ordered one but ended up with two as the man thought they were for Chris and me, I am sure it will get eaten.
Jess decided not to join us but said she wanted to stay in the apartment and rest, so after a short break and trying but failing to work out the buses, which was made difficult as we had not been given a timetable with our Firenze cards because they had run out, we set off.
We got a bus to the closest stop to the Pitti palace, it was quite a walk because although the Boboli gardens are included in the Firenze card, you cannot enter through them but have to actually walk to the Pitti palace entrance, which is about 15-20 minute walk.
Eventually we found it; the palace itself houses some amazing, sculptures and ceiling pictures as well as some beautifully furnished rooms. We spent a good hour there, but did not do the second floor, as we were tired and not bothered about seeing more modern art and wanted to see the Boboli gardens, we bought a guide and found too late for us, that there is in fact a lift.
We may have gone up to the second floor had we known this, we stopped at this point for a beer and snack. Then we spent between 1 and a half and 2 hours in the gardens, there are many steps and slopes and trees, but no flowers really, still we enjoyed it and got some great photos, my feet are sore and my ankles swollen, but I am very happy that we took the time to see the Palace and gardens.
Next, we headed for Ponte Vecchio Bridge and walked over that enjoying the beautiful jewellery shops and taking more photos. Then we walked back to the apartment and I was very happy to take my shoes and socks off and put my feet up and relax while Chris got a pizza for him and jess and some more beer and prosecco for us, I decided to eat the kebab, which was very nice
Fourth full day in Florence- Today we had booked a trip to Sienna, which included visiting an organic farm for lunch, San Giminagno and Pisa.
We all got up reasonably early and were happy when Jess said she was going to come on this trip, as she seems to have missed so much on this holiday so far.
The meeting point was near the station and only a few minutes’ walk from our apartment, there were two coaches when we arrived and as the first one was full, we got on the next one.
Our guide was knowledgeable and told us what our itinerary would be for the day, our first stop was Sienna and we would have a guided tour with someone who lives in Sienna, finishing at the Cathedral.
We arrived in Sienna and walked to meet our guide, who turned out to be really eccentric and very passionate about Sienna, she told us lots of history and all about the different districts in Sienna and took us to where the Palio races are held and told us all the history behind them.
There was so much to see and the walk was quite fast and uphill, but it was interesting, we ended up at the Cathedral, which was beautiful and our guide took us in, gave us lots of information, and showed us all the interesting and important statues and frescoes.
Afterwards we were told we had about 45 minutes of free time, before we were to meet in the square where the Palio races were held, it is a shame we did not have more time because Sienna is lovely and we would have liked to explore more of it. We took some more photos in the Cathedral before starting to make our way back, I bought some postcards and magnets on the way back and then we stopped at a little café for a quick drink. Chris and I had Panini’s and Jess ordered a dessert, but she did not get it as I think the waitress got confused and as we had so little time we could not reorder, so poor Jess went without.
When we came out of the café it had started to rain, luckily we were about to go back to the coach, although it was a good 15 minute walk so we were starting to get quite wet by the time we arrived back and it was a relief to get on a warm, dry coach.
Our next stop was to be an organic farm near San Giminagno for lunch, as this would take about 45 minutes we watched a DVD of the Palio races, which was really interesting, it would be lovely to be in Sienna when the races were on, I am sure the atmosphere would be amazing, maybe one day.
We arrived at the farm and the rain had stopped and it was sunny again, we were shown around first, they make wines and keep cattle and they had calves who were with their mothers in barns and looked so peaceful. We could stroke them and take photographs, we were warned though not to get near to the cows who were pregnant as they could bite.
After our tour and a brief history of the family run farm we went into the pleasant dining room for lunch, we started with bruschetta and then a meat and cheese platter with bread and olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Next we had pasta with a Bolognese sauce, followed by a desert wine and biscotti’s to dip in it, we also had 3 other wines with our meal. The whole meal was lovely and the wine flowed with more than we could all drink, though we all made an effort, we chatted with some nice people, an American couple and an Indian family and the whole experience was very pleasant. After the meal, we wandered to the shop and bought some wines, biscotti’s, homemade pasta and a book with history of the farm and recipes in it. I think we will have to buy an extra piece of hand luggage if we buy much more.
We got back into the coach and headed off to San Giminagno our guide took us for a short tour and then we had about an hour of free time to wander, we went to get a gelato as there was a place that had won awards for them and did some very unusual flavours. Then we looked at some of the little gift shops and ended up buying some beautiful china with poppies on, which was made locally. All too soon, it was time to go to the meeting point and continue to our last stop of the day, which was Pisa.
We arrived in Pisa and Jess had the usual photograph of her holding up the tower whilst Chris took one of his hand picking the tower up, just to be different. There is a Cathedral and I would have liked to go inside, but Jess did not want to and so we just looked at the market stalls and had a drink at a street café. Afterwards when we were walking back to the meeting point a street seller tried to sell Chris a ‘Rolex’ watch, when Chris replied that they were fake, he asked if he would like to buy a fake Rolex watch for a good price. Although there were illegal street sellers everywhere, they did not seem to take offence when we declined to buy from them and mostly they did not keep bothering us either.
When we all met up our guide took us around Pisa on a little train and told us some history about it and we saw that there is a lot more to Pisa than just the tower.
Then it was back to the coach for our return trip, we all agreed that it was a tiring but very worthwhile day and although it would have been lovely to spend more time in each place, it gave us a taster and we saw more than we would have on our own.
We got back to the apartment at about 8.45 pm and decided just to have bread, cheese and meat to eat as we had eaten so well at lunchtime; we just chilled, as we were all tired from our busy day.
Fifth full day in Florence, leaving Jess sleeping, Chris and I set off for the Basilica di San Marco, which was very beautiful inside, we timed it right between masses this time. We spent about 20 minutes inside taking pictures and viewing all the beautiful frescos on the walls and ceilings, which were very impressive.
Our next stop was the hospital of the innocents but unfortunately this was closed for renovation, although you could pay to go into the courtyard we decided not to as it was pouring with rain and there did not seem to be much to see, and it still cost a couple of Euros.
We decided to head to Florence Cathedral, which although quite bare inside, had a crypt below of the original cathedral walls and mosaics. It cost three Euros each but was interesting and they allowed photos, which was good. We really enjoyed the crypt and spent about 40 minutes seeing it and the Cathedral.
On the way back to the apartment we went into the Mercarto central to look around, they sell lovely fresh fruit and vegetables and meat, there were lots of places to eat.
When we got back, Jess informed us she did not want to go out as it was raining and would ruin her hair, even though we were going to take her shopping. She has spent more time in each apartment than seeing Italy, which seems such a shame, as I am sure she would have enjoyed some of the places we went to.
We decided to head off again and grab a bite to eat and rub the nose of the wild boar statue for good luck and see a few more sights, maybe the rain will stop soon.
I could not believe we were nearly two-thirds way through our Italy trip, tomorrow night we head for Rome, and the time is going by so quickly.
Went and found somewhere for lunch Chris had a pizza with artichoke and tuna, he had loads of artichoke which tasted very bland, although the rest of the pizza was tasty, I had a thin steak with a Florentine sauce and melted cheese, served with aubergine, courgette, peppers and little pieces of sauté potato. The food prices were good, but wine and beer was quite expensive at 7 Euros each. We had two drinks each and I had a coffee and the bill was 60 Euros in total, my meal was lovely, and the waiters were nice, service was good and they spoke English.
When we came out the rain had stopped, which was a bonus and by mid afternoon, the sun was lovely and warm.
After lunch we found the statue of the wild boar and I fed him a coin and we stroked his nose, I also got to stroke 2 different dogs today, which was lovely as I miss my dogs, I know I'm sad.
We looked around the market and bought a beautiful soft leather handbag, the seller originally wanted 95 Euros, but we managed to get him down to 60, which we felt was a bargain.
We have avoided all the illegal sellers as their stuff is fake and we had heard that if you buy from them you can be fined.
A friend of my mum’s was lucky as the police were going to fine her for looking at bags being sold by an illegal seller and she didn't even buy one, although that was in Rome.
I also bought a beautiful silk and velvet scarf that I fell in love with, the seller came down from 45 Euros to 38 not such a good reduction as the bag but as low as she would go. We wandered off for a while saying we would think about it, but came back as it was so lovely and unusual and I know I will use it.
Then we made our way to Santa Spirito church, but it closed, so we went and had a beer each, they only had bottled beer and it cost 4 Euros each, but we felt better for being able to sit down and relax with a drink.
Feeling revived once more we wandered to Ponte Vecchio Bridge to take some photographs, there was an expensive street full of designer shops. Most did not display prices, but in one a scarf cost 395 Euros, how the other half live.
We looked round Santa Trinita church, which was free to go in and again had some beautiful frescos and statues. After this, we went back to the apartment for a quick rest and drink it is time to pack ready for leaving tomorrow, we have really enjoyed Florence and hope to come again one day.
Went out for a walk and to get some money and something to eat, we were going to eat out but could not find anywhere we all fancied, so got some food and ate at the apartment. Whilst we were out, we ran into an American couple that we had chatted to on our trip the day before, we had a chat to them, and they are going to Rome tomorrow.
Jess also found a dress she liked and some boots, our poor suitcases will definitely be overloaded tomorrow.
Last day in Florence- So here we are at 8.45am more or less packed, washed up and got rid of most of the rubbish, this was specified in our contract, the cleaners won't wash up or throw away the rubbish, which goes in large communal bins a couple of minutes walk away. You lose some of your deposit if you do not comply, although we generally took our rubbish when we went out, which was not a problem. We have arranged with Marjan to hand back the keys etc at 10am; there is nowhere to store our luggage, which is a bit of a pain as our train to Rome is not until this evening.
I think we will have to store them at the station, which costs 5 Euros for each piece of luggage for 5 hours and is then 70 cents an hour after that. Not cheap but at least it will be safe and we will not have to lug it around all day. I am really pleased that the apartment is so close to the station as we seem to have acquired a lot more luggage and we may have to get a small case which Chris can have as hand luggage, glad we booked with BA, as their luggage allowance is very generous.
Marjan arrived and all went smoothly, then we went to the station to drop off our luggage, then went to get some breakfast. We decided to have a last look for the perfumery and this time we managed to find it in a street behind the church, it smelt heavenly and although I had read poor reviews about the staff, they were really nice and helpful. They sell all sorts of skincare products, candles and perfumes, Jess did not want anything, but I got something for my eyes, which have been really sore and puffy.
Then we looked around the shops and Jess found a dress she really liked at a reasonable price, so we got that. After this we decided to go on the hop on hop off bus, it cost 20 Euros for 1 day and 25 for 2 days, there are 3 different routes and you can go on all 3 if you want to as many times as you like.
We took the 2-hour route, which took us to Fiesole, which was pretty, the commentary was good and very informative and we took more pictures. It was very windy on the top of the bus, although when the wind died down, it was warm.
After our sightseeing tour, we went to have lunch and found a restaurant, which had a tree in the middle of the dining room and I finally, got my risotto, which was lovely, Chris had tagliatelle with mushrooms and jess had spaghetti with a beef and tomato sauce. Chris had 2 beers, Jess and I shared a half liter carafe of house red, Jess also had a coke and I had a coffee and we all had deserts, tiramisu for me and fresh strawberries and ice cream for the others, total cost was 68 Euros, which we felt was really good, as the food and service were great.
After lunch, we wandered around for a bit and people watched over some drinks at a bar, before retreating our luggage at the station, it cost 28 Euros, but it was worth it to us.
Finally, we got our train to Rome, pre booking the tickets via the internet before we left not only saved us money, but also was so easy, we printed out our tickets at home and then just showed them to the guard on the train.
Again I felt mixed emotions as Florence had been lovely, but I was excited to see Rome, but I also felt the holiday was going a bit too fast for my liking and we now only had a week left, but I decided to really try to enjoy the time we had left.