I’ve always had a lot of respect for Timeout Guides, but for
anyone about to set out for Florence (gem of the renaissance, mecca for leather
lovers – that’s handbags by the way) here are a few things we found out the
- Mosquitos are rife in June/July and both my companions can testify the stuff they sell you in the pharmacia (called ‘after bite’) doesn’t work. I’ll spare you the photos. Luckily my blood has always been supremely unappetising to the average insect. I tried not to look smug.
- The speciality chocolate shop on the Borgo degli Albizi serving delicious and unusual ice-cream is still there, but as you can see, not quite as welcoming as it once was. But the Borgo proved did provide some fine shopping, so still worth the ten-minute detour.
- No map of the Boboli gardens conveys the stunning gradients. We settled on viewing the main fountain from above rather than get out the climbing gear to get down and oxygen to get back up.
- The villageof Settignano(‘tourist-free views of the city’) is an easy bus journey. But not from Santa Maria Novella train station. From there you have to bus it to San Marco (aagh – we’d just come from there!)
- Bus tickets have to be bought in advance of boarding. We knew that, but not where to get hold of them. Nor did a surprising number of the natives who were standing at bus stops and presumably in possession of said biglietti. I screwed up my courage and approached some burly workmen leaning on the station entrance barriers. Clearly impressed by my deferential style (I practically curtseyed my scusi signori ), they pointed at the newsagents kiosk. Obvious, really.
- The rush-hour should be avoided on any form of transport, especially a bus.
- The ‘fast ticket’ machines at the train station are excellent and have instructions in English, but be sure to allow for the inadequacies of the average tourist (Italian, Japanese, English – no discrimination here) trying to buy a ticket in a hurry. By the time I was ready to Insert Cash, our carefully counted out coins were slipping out of my sweaty fingers and rolling way across the ticket office floor. Causing further angst to those behind us in the queue.
Back home I considered writing some pithy feedback to the editor of
Florence and the Best of Tuscany, but then I noticed my library copy was the 2008 edition – oops! And so I offer a final piece of advice. Don’t be a cheapskate. Buy an up-to-date version.
Love travelling, by the way, just need more practice.