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Trip report

coxs creek, kentucky
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Trip report

My husband and I were in Florence from the 10th of November to the 15th of November. This was our second time and I must say that the magic was still there. I am very much in love, still, with this beautiful city. We started in Rome for five days and took the ES took Florence on Friday afternoon. Arrived at Hotel David and checked in. This was also our second time at this hotel and my love for it grows each and every time. The people at the hotel are the most wonderful people-friendly, helpful, and speak enough English to make our stay a wonderful memory. The hotel is on the Oltrarno side of the river so it is not in the center, but for us that has not been a problem. Instead I think it has added to the whole experience. We get to see more of Florence that way and not just the more touristy center of town. The weather was wonderful while we were there, a little cool but not that bad at all. We walked Friday afternoon back into the center and stopped for pastries at Caffe Rivoire-zabaglione-and they were wonderful !! Sat on the steps of the piazza and "people-watched" for a bit, and then headed through the back streets to explore.There were some musicians playing in the Piazza Signoria who were very, very good and had attracted a very large crowd. They were there every day, I think. Love those street musicians!!! Afterward, we headed back towards the hotel to eat at our favorite Florence restaurant, GiGi, which is near the hotel. The family that owns the restaurant remembered us from the last visit and warmly welcomed us again. We ate pappardalle with cinguale(magnificent!!!!!)and roasted potatoes. My hubby followed with the roasted veal--excellente!- and then for dessert he had a truffle with chocolate and cream and I had a mixed plate of a lemon-cream tart and a tart with walnuts, pistachios and figs(oh my it was all wonderful!) and of course the house wine and water.

Saturday, we had a wonderful breakfast at the hotel--I had been waiting for one of their special cappucini and it was worth the wait ! Afterward, we walked to the Church of Santa Croce--very light on the tourists this time-- Went in and saw both the Church and the Museo del Opera. I absolutely fell in love again. I can't believe that we didn't go inside on our first trip here. Afterward, we had lunch at a little place called La Badiana near the Church. The calzone and panini were both very good as was the coffees. Very nice waitress, too. Next we headed for the accademia. Walked right in-no lines-and I was bedazzled again. David is unbelievable, but there are many other things to see inside that are extraordinary-IMHO. After leaving the museum, we walked a bit more and stopped to get a waffel with nutella-it was o.k., but not as fresh tasting as the ones we had in March. Went into Santa Maria Maggiore and looked around-another very beautiful church to add to my list. Walked to the Oltrarno side again and mingled with the locals before going to eat at Il Santo Bevitore. There we started with antipasti of assorted cheeses with jam and honey_sorry, I guess I like my cheese just plain!- and also one of prosciutto and salame. Next we had the tomato soup(pommodore) which was exquisite followed by pappardelle with rabbit sauce for me and penne with spicy tomatoes and zucchini for hubby. Both were excellent. Walked back to the center and all around-found the same musicians(a violinist and accordianist) that were playing in March--which was a wonderful treat as they perform magnificently. Towards the Ponte vecchio was another siger/guitarist and he too was doing a wonderful job. Watched the lights changing colors on the Ponte Vecchio and went back to the hotel.Hubby had arranged with a member of the staff(thanks again Chiara!!) to have wine and chocolates and red roses sent up to the room as we were celebrating a slightly belated anniversary. It was a perfect ending for another perfect day !

Sunday,We had reservations for 11:00 at the Uffizi---well, we still had to stand in a line to get our tix and then again in a fairly long line to get into the museum. It still saved a lot of time, but not as much as I had thought! Our hotel owner said that if we had gone through the week_even with reservations_ it would have been better. Anyway, once inside, I quickly forgot about the wait. So much to see that it boggles the mind. I thought I was prepared, but no way could I have been. I definitely need to go back again next time!

After the uffizi, we had gelato at da Neri's and it was really, really good! Went to Santa Maria Novella where of course we were bedazzled once more. So many beautiful churches to see! Walked around for a bit and had coffee and split a panini at Queen Victoria, which was really good--tomato and mozarella, oh boy! Then headed hack for the hotel's "happy hour" where we had wine and snacks and conferred with the staff about our upcoming daytrip to Siena. Went back to GiGi for dinner --started with bruschette and tomatoes, next to ribollita-hubby had grilled veal w/fried potatoes and I had pici alla'amatriciana with fried artichokes, wine and water. An excellent, excellent meal!! I can still taste that wonderful al dente pasta and the smell of those fried artichokes !!!!!!

Monday, took the bus to Siena. It was very easy to do!! The bus dropped us off very near to Piazza Campo. We grabbed a coffee and headed for the duomo. Miraculous!!! Bought the combo ticket for the Duomo, Baptistery, Excavation and Duom museum. Everything was wonderful! Went to see St. Catherines Sanctuary. Had pizza and went back to bus stop. I didn't get a feel for Siena and I don't know if that is because were only there for the day or not??? Be prepared for steeply inclining streets!! Siena is laid out very well though with plenty of signs to keep you on track. Headed back for Florence as we had a reservation for La Giostra. Unfortunately, this was the only BIG disappointment of our entire two weeks in Italy. I found it to be too pretentious for my taste. One of the Prince's son was walking around like he was supposed to be revered or something. The free antipasti was not that good in my opinion. The bruschetta or crostini was soogy and not toasted at all. I was not impressed. Our pasta was not that good either so we stopped after that. You can only buy a whole bottle of wine, of which I was only wanting a glass that evening so I was a little disappointed with that too. My gnocchi was so rich that I thought I would be sick from it. And I LOVE gnocchi. Ny husband had some type of raviolis with pears that were not that tasty and very much overpriced. Fourteen euro for 8 or 9 small ravioli was really overpriced. So dissappointed with that experience we went back to the hotel. A lot of people love this restaurant but we are really scratching our heads trying to figure out why !

Tuesday, our last day, we went to do laundry-oh the fun of doing laundry while the city of art is waiting to be explored!!! We bought a wheel of pecorino cheese, four bottles of olive oil and some jars of yellowfin tuna while our clothes were tumbling. Afterwards, we walked back to town, ate some gelato at Vivoli's which was not as good as da neri, but it was good. Went to the Duomo museum and the Duomo. I rate the museum with 10 stars! I loved the Crucifix and the Mary Magdalene, Michelangelo's Pieta,well,, I loved it all. Walked a while and found my favorite musicians again-bought their CD this time and I am playing it over and over! Stopped at Il Forno for a foccacio and bought some wonderful cookie. I highly recommend hunting this place! Walked a bit and went back to hotel for the evening snacks. We met some really wonderful people at this hotel-A couple from San Francisco-HI Jane and Horace! And also a very nice couple with their daughter and fiance from Texas-Hi Pat and Ken !!. Another reason why I love this hotel--you always meet someone very nice there. O.K., we went back ti GiGi's again for our last meal--can't help it I am in love with that restaurant! Started once again with the bruschetta and tomatoes--LOVE the tomatoes in Italy--we both followed with the ribollita-it is that good!--hubby went for the bistecca this time-perfetto-with fried potatoes and I had the roasted pork with artichokes(fried) again-we followed with a zucotto fiorentino and pears with chocolate and whipped cream--wine and water. The owners gave us some Moscato---wow was that good!!!

Wednesday, lingered over breakfast talking to our new friends. Went to the train station to go to Assisi. Sad farewells to all--I love Florence and Hotel David.

We did not see as many churches and museums as i would have liked this time, but Hubby was really getting "arted out" I felt sorry for him as he had been such a good sport !!! well, I left some things for my next trip !

Any questions feel free to ask !!!

somewhere out there
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1. Re: Trip report

Witty! ANother fun packed ( food packed ;)) trip report!

I read on another post that you didn't find Grom, too bad.

Here is a link to their page for anyone interested:

http://www.grom.it/eng/pages/dove.htm

Don't forget to post your report on the Trip Report Collection.

London, Canada
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2. Re: Trip report

<<David is unbelievable, but there are many other things to see inside that are extraordinary->>

wittyone~ definitely agree with you. The Prisoners hall is unbelievably moving and informative too. We spent a good deal of time there before seeing the David....which is undeniably amazing.

I would hope you do visit Siena again when you can come and go and not worry about bus schedules. We only spent a day there as well but found it completely enchanting.

Great gastronomic details again.....thanks! :~)

Long Island, New...
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3. Re: Trip report

Nice report Witty, as were your Rome reports.

Were you bringing home the wheel of cheese, olive oil and tuna cans? I am interested in bringing home cheese and olive oil from Italy. I will be in Rome for 7 days (including Christmas) and Florence for only a day trip. Was it better to buy the cheese in Florence?

coxs creek, kentucky
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4. Re: Trip report

Thanks Anemone and Tobie. I did forget to add a few things yesterday---and re-reading my report this morning shows me that I need to apologize for all the spelling errors I made!! Sorry!! It was probably not a good day to write this as I was really, really feeling the withdrawal blues all day. Weepy, is what I was!!! First of all, in Siena, we did take time to walk some of the streets, and also to linger in the Piazza del Campo. There were quite a few people just laying and sitting in the sun that day. It really is quite a beautiful piazza. We did find the town to be exceptionally clean and well tended. The people were very friendly. We went also to the Basilica di San Domenico which was quite interesting and also quite interesting because of the head and thumb of Saint Catherine. The cell in the Sanctuary of St. Catherine was interesting. The Duomo is breathtakingly stunning and that is putting it mildly. It has to be one of the most beautiful churches anywhere, although I have seen so many that I could never choose a "most beautiful" church. Amazing. The Slaughter of the Innocents panel in the floor moved me to tears. We sat under the dome and marvelled at the talent behind the optical illusion. Awesome. The Capella della Madonna chapel( with the works of Bernini) was closed off---now that was very upsetting !! The black and white stripes are really amazing.Pinturicchio"s frescoes in the Piccolomini library are outstanding. Donatello's Madonna and Child in the Duomo museum and Duccio's Maesta are more than remarkable.

Climbing to the top up that small spiral staircase was a real feat !! Somebody forgot to make a separate exit for the ones already up there!! LOL !! Well, whoever was the closest to their origination point had to turn around and start all over! Anyway, the views are spectacular from up there so well worth the climb(or climbs!). The bronze panels in the Baptistery are sheer beauty just as the ones that are in the Duomo museum from the Duomo. Such intricate work is astounding and the scenes are astounding. ( I do think I am running out of adjectives!!!)

Everything about Siena was beautiful--and as always, I left something to have to go back to. So, I will give the town another try. But, it just didn't bore into my heart like the other towns that I have seen. Maybe next time?

In Florence, we did spend a lot of time walking all the littler streets. We also walked up to Piazza Michelangelo on our last evening before returning to the hotel. Went to the Church of San Mineato and listened to the 5:30 vespers. Wow. Powerful stuff. And the Piazza is so breathtaking at sunset--the views are sooooo wonderful !!! It is no wonder why I am so enthralled with this beautiful city.

Again, I think I would stress going during the week, even in off season, to the Uffizi. I was very disappointed inside as well as outside because of the number of tour groups. And the worst thing about the groups was that they were usually very large in number and they would flock around the most interesting works and stay there forever! I would have to wander around waiting for my chance to get back there as soon as they left(and before another group came!!) So, it was hard to get the time to absorb each piece. But when I did---well, there is magic in those rooms!!

Piazza della Signoria is still one of my all -time favorites ; the Oltrarno side of Florence just enhances the whole experience of the visit to Florence; the Piazza Michelangelo is always a treat, almost like a "bonus"-ohhh, there is still MORE of Florence !!! Hope you understand. Santa Maria Novella and the Church of Santa Croce, I think, are beautiful and both seem to me to be much more beautiful inside than what one thinks they will be. The Duomo will always remain a top choice in my heart-the dome itself is worthy of first place; the people of Florence will always be dear to my heart-my favorite hotel and restaurant-the entire experience of Florence is music for the soul-----Beautiful people and wondrous memories again------to know her is to love her.

coxs creek, kentucky
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5. Re: Trip report

tkere--I just stuffed it all in our suitcases!!! I bought it at a little shop that we fell in love while we were there in March. i bought a wheel for about 30 euros and I will have to check it to see how much it weighed. I believe they said it would be 36 euros but they always give us a discount--the absolute nicest people in the world,!!! I love the Oltrarno side so much !!! And I also bought my four bottles of new oil and tuna(in glass jars) there. I don't know if I really got a bargain or not, but I really think that they must have good prices there as they get very few locals on that side of town. We were not even in the Oltrarno side that gets the most tourisrs--we were on the east side? I believe. The west side of the Oltrarno is directly across from the Ponte Vecchio and there really are more tourists in that part. However it is very, very charming there too !!! I think we found fair prices but maybe an expert would know better than me! I didn't even shop around because these people had been so nice to us before. We payed 7 euros(6.90) each for the new oil and I absolutely adore it. In March they gave us all generous hunks of cheese to taste and it was so good that I had to go back again. I wish I could buy some of the fresh meats that I saw in the cases !!!

London, Canada
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6. Re: Trip report

Hi wittyone~

No need to defend yourself where Siena is concerned....you already have two lovely ladies pulling at your heartstrings. ;~)

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7. Re: Trip report

Hi wittyone, great reports and welcome back !! dont get weepy - start planning the next trip !!!!

coxs creek, kentucky
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8. Re: Trip report

Thank you Anon and I am gettin right on that ! My husband is already looking at plane tickets !!! And I left many things undone in Florence so I have more than enough reasons to return!! Thank you again for being such an inspiration and a wonderful source of information !!!

Tobie, you are almost right! I have three lovely ladies, not two pulling at my heart. I cannot begin to tell you how much we enjoyed Assisi. Just absolutely wonderful, clean, beautiful warm people, and so relaxing ( well, except that we must have walked a million miles uphill everyday!) and just beautiful. We stayed near Santa Maria degli Angeli in this WONDERFUL hotel-Villa Park Raphael. It was so much like Hotel David !!! I couldn't believe my good fortune in choosing all the wonderful hotels!! the hotel was beautiful and the "newer" part of town IMHO is utterly charming!! AND to top it all off we were directed to a superb restaurant by our hotel owner. A sublimely perfect ending to an incredibly wonderful vacation ! So, indeed, we both just fell head over heels in love yet again !! It is so strange though, because I never once had the feeling beforehand that Siena would work her spell on me and I really went into it with an open mind, but I didn't feel it once there either--although she is quite beautiful. I will definitely go back again and try spending the night to see if that was the problem. My husband is actually leaning toward Assisi has being his very favorite but IMHO, I think he just enjoyed the fact that it was quieter than the others this time. If we had gone another time of the year, he may not have felt quite the same way. I think that Rome for me is that rush of adrenaline, the extreme contrasts that I feel when there ; Florence is a bit calmer(when we are there), she is like sipping a tall cool drink after you have been totally parched- a place where you really feel the renaissance and you are filled with wonder ; Assisi was like an almost mystical respite where you could turn all your thoughts inward and examine them, a very spiritual place. Well, I am rambling again-sorry.

London, United...
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9. Re: Trip report

Oh Witty stop!! this is real italian food withdrawal TORTURE!!! The mouth is going,and the tastebuds.....have been teased. : (

somewhere out there
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10. Re: Trip report

Witty!

Glad you liked the duomo in Siena; and the slaughter of the innocents really is amazing, and so graphic.

I will admit now that I did have some of the same feelings as you about Siena, that while it is beautiful and very interesting; did you get to the Palazzo Publico and see the frescoes of the allegory of good and bad government? If not then you will have something to go see when you get back there.The artist, Lorenzetti, and his brother both died in the plague of 1348.

I have to say that as a city,and for atmosphere, I prefered Lucca to Siena but I would not have missed the duomo in Siena for anything!

Do tell more about Assisi and how you got there.

Did you post a trip report for Assisi?