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Thursday, October 20, 2011

T & R : Florence Day 1 ( 5th to 9th out of 14 days in Italy )

Travel & Review : Florence ( 5th to 9th out of 14 days in Italy )

I was in awe when I saw the Eiffel Tower and since being a child, I have always wanted to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I guess I am rather fortunate to have that chance because it was really amazing.

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Its funny to see different people from all walks of life trying to do a PISA-pose. I did not try to get a PISA-pose however I did manage to do a mini-pose using my fingers.

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From Pisa, by taking the train from PISA Centrale (just buy the tickets once you get there – there is no need to pre-book online).

Before long, the Florence Duomo will be in sight.

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For many people, especially first time visitors to Italy, an Italy trip isn’t complete without a few days in that cradle of the Renaissance – Florence. The exceedingly popular capital of Tuscany is always crowded with tourists, but it’s also an easy place to visit and get around in, so although you should prepare for the crowds you shouldn’t stay away because of them.

Four days spent in one city in Italy may seem like a lot, but one of these days is already taken by the trip from the Cinque Terre and a quick stop in Pisa and another of these days is a great opportunity to take a day-trip to nearby Siena. So that leaves you with roughly 2.5 days in Florence – not nearly enough time to see everything there is to see in the city, but enough time to let you enjoy Florence at a more leisurely pace.

Florence is crowded year-round. In the summer months, you have the predictable groups of tourists following flag-wielding tour guides through the highlights of one of the most art-rich cities on earth.

Because of the wall-to-wall art history that is Florence, it’s also a popular stop for school trips throughout the school year. So while those packs of visitors in front of the Duomo or waiting in line to see Michelangelo’s “David” may not be middle-aged Americans, they’re not locals, either. Seeing Florence outside the summer months does have its advantages, however, even if you are bumping into Italian teens everywhere you go – the prices are lower, and the restaurants you’ll want to eat in aren’t likely to be as busy (since the teenagers are eating cheap elsewhere).

Whenever you visit Florence, your itinerary will likely include at least two (if not more) of the city’s art galleries and museums. So before you go, be absolutely sure you find out what days of the week you’ll be in Florence and what days of the week the museums are closed (each one has different closed days). This could prevent the unhappy realization that the only day you have left to see the Uffizi is the one day it’s closed.

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You’ll arrive in Florence in the early evening, then, and settle into your hotel room before going out to explore a little bit before dinner. My hope is that you’re staying in the historic center of Florence, since that’s where you’ll be spending all your time, and it makes everything you want to see and do within walking distance. Your afternoon stroll gives you a great chance to get the lay of the land around your hotel and scope out a place to have dinner.

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I tend to think of the Duomo in Florence as the hub of the historic center, so I find that gravitating toward the Duomo at some point soon after arriving in the city is a nice way to check in. The square in front of the Duomo offers some great people-watching (though it can also be a haven for pickpockets, especially during summer, so keep your valuables close and/or hidden).

Other touchstones for your time in Florence are likely to be the Piazza della Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio, so getting familiar with where they are in relation to your hotel isn’t a bad idea on your first day. And even if you’ve already located one place that looks ideal for dinner that night, keep an eye out for spots to eat later in your stay. Oh, and by all means enjoy your getting-to-know-you stroll through Florence with a scoop or two of gelato.

I prefer to leave my first few hours in a new city completely open for walking, but if (for instance) you’re passing through the Piazza del Duomo and are just dying to go inside, by all means – do.

Otherwise, on the 1st day in Florence enjoy exploring this beautiful city at whatever pace your feet want to take you.

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You are in the city of the renaissance…….relax and enjoy yourself. This is after all Florence!

Next : Day 2 in Florence.







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