Travel on the Side

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We had some great day trips from Florence with Venice and Chianti country being two of the best. But how could I neglect Siena? I need to add it to the top of my list of favorite places. Its lovely traffic-free center is filled with quaint shops, good restaurants, stunning architecture, and friendly folks. Just over an hour by car from Florence, it makes a nice day trip. Our shuttle bus dropped us… Read More

OK, maybe the title of this post is a bit over the top, but it fully encapsulates my view on Pisa. I had a free afternoon in Florence, so I decided to take the 50 minute train ride over to Pisa to explore. Hopping off the train at Pisa Centrale, I followed the tourist markers to the torre. And there they were, loads of tourists trying to get that classic holding-up-the-leaning-tower pose…. Read More

You can’t go to Italy without sampling some wine, right? On our second day trip from Florence, we boarded a tour bus to escort us to up to the hills of Chianti country. Our destination: Castello del Trebbio, about a 40 minute drive from Florence. Here we toured a beautiful old castle – home to the wealthy Pazzi family during Renaissance Florence times. The Pazzi family were rivals to the well-known Medici… Read More

So for all of June, Florence was hot…usually 90 Fahrenheit or above. Abundant sunshine and blue skies every day. And dry. Not a drop of rain…until my second to last night there. Rain moved in during the afternoon and all of the sudden the tourists were nowhere to be seen. It was weird. After three weeks of battling the streets and sidewalks of tourists and tour groups, they had disappeared. Piazza del… Read More

In Florence, my home base was near Santa Maria Novella, one of the many historic churches. This basilica seems like an underrated tourist site to me. Its close proximity to the samely-named train station means thousands of tourists must pass by it each day. It’s definitely worth stopping in and taking a look. The first weekend I was in Florence, it was one of the meeting points for a large and colorful… Read More

Palazzo Vecchio (“old palace”) is the heart of Renaissance Florentine politics. Actually, it still functions as the heart of politics in Florence as the town hall. Located on Piazza della Signoria, the famous statue of Michelangelo’s David greets you at the entrance. However, don’t be fooled! It’s a replica. The original stands in the Accademia. Inside Palazzo Vecchio, it’s part art gallery, part history lesson, and part political intrigue as the seat of… Read More

Florence is known as a city of squares, from the famous Piazza del Duomo to the Piazza della Repubblica with its darling carousel. It where people gather, where they eat, where they shop, where they worship. My favorite square in Florence is Piazza Santo Spirito, located in the Oltrarno quarter. It’s maybe just a tad less touristy and the people-watching is great. Why do I like it? Well, for starters it has… Read More

I visited Florence in June for 21 days. It was hot. It only rained once. Most days wwere above 90 Fahrenheit and I was looking for shade. The center of Florence offers little green space. When you’re craving trees, it’s time to head to Boboli Gardens and nearby Bardini Garden for a relxing respite from the urban hustle and bustle (and the throngs of tourist groups!). Situated in the Oltrarno quarter of… Read More

I can’t quite decide on the word I would use to describe Palazzo Pitti–the Pitti Palace. Opulent would work. So would sumptuous. Decadent? Yep, that would be good too. All are appropriate descriptors. Palazzo Pitti is Florentine Renaissance wealth in a nutshell: money, power, and lots of art. Home base for the powerful Medici family, Palazzo Pitti is located in the Oltrarno section of Florence, just a short walk from the Ponte… Read More

Continuing an on art theme, the other big draw in Florence for art is, of course, the statue of David by Michelangelo. Housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia, the David statue captures all of the superlatives: is it simply AMAZING. After entering the museum you start making your way with the masses (yes, it will be crowded!) and then you round a corner and there it is–at the end of a long corridor is the statue… Read More