If you saw my recent post, Italy Travels Perfect for a Realtor, you know that my family recently returned from a trip to Italy. I got off the plane and immediately back into work, so I have not been as diligent as I would like about posting pictures and writing posts. So, finally, here is some info about our time in Florence...or Firenze, as the Italians call it (while we feel compelled to change the name entirely?).
We left Rome by train. Traveling by train is incredibly relaxing, BTW. The only issue we had was the Gypsys who grabbed our bags to hoist them on the train and who then followed us on to the train demanding money. We thought these folks were good Samaritans; chalk one up to the naive Americans. Lesson learned...keep a tighter hold on your bag!
We arrived in Florence and had a car service meeting us there. As a group of 5, traveling with bags for two weeks in Italy, we could never have hailed a taxi. Most taxis did not seat 5 travelers, much less have enough room to accommodate our baggage.
The apartment we rented in Florence was called Lambertesca and we rented it through Windows on Italy. The apartment was beautiful. The only negative was that there was no lift (elevator) and it was on the top level, up 95 stairs! Surprisingly, we adapted to this in a pretty short amount of time. It was located near the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery, so the location was amazing!
We found that Florence had some of the best shopping we came across in Italy. We bought leather handbags and shopped at some local boutiques and department stores. Later, when we went to Venice, my daughter was regretting that she had not purchased a bag. She ended up paying more for it in Venice since they get all their leather goods from Florence.
We used ArtViva for prearranged tours, and just like in Rome, the guides were well informed and interesting. The added bonus was the recommendations they gave us for restaurants where we would find more Italians than tourists.
Through Windows On Italy, we arranged a day trip to Siena. As part of this trip, we stopped and did a wine tour and paired tasting lunch at the Castello Verrazzano. This tour and lunch was one of the high lights of our trip! If you get a chance to do this, I would highly recommend it.
After the wine tour, we had only a little time left to explore Siena. Having a driver, however, allowed us to maximize our time...we didn't have to worry about getting lost or finding parking.
Our final night in Florence was spent at a local Pizza restaurant watching the Italian National Team compete in the semi-finals for the Euro 2012 Championship (Soccer, or football as it is called in Europe). It was great fun to watch the Italian team defeat Germany to move on to the finals!
The following morning we, once again, boarded the train and headed to Venice.
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