Firenze lies at the foot of the Appennines, in the large plain cut by the Arno river, and is considered as the heart of Italy. The first settlement was founded here during the 8th century BC, but little is known of these so-called Vilanovan culture. In 59 BC, the Roman city was founded here with the characteristic square ground plan of the castrum. In its early stages, the town passed from hand to hand, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Goths, Lombards and Franks ruled here before, in 1183, the city became a free Commune. Soon after the first clashes between Guelphs and Ghibellines have started here, lasting for many following years. The Florence's roots were Guelph and in 1226 they defeated their bitter rivals, once and for all. After these wars, an upsurge in the arts and literature started here and Florence became the new cradle for Italian and European culture. This were the times of Dante, Giotto, Arnolfo di Cambio, and powerful families Pitti, Frescobaldi, Strozzi and finaly the Medici. The river of Arno gave the life to the city, it is his heart and soul. The whole old core of the city lies along its both banks connected with several bridges, among which Ponte Vecchio is the wide world most famous.
Your best bet is to make sure you wear really comfortable walking shoes. Tennis shoes are best. Your best way to get around Florence and other cities is by foot--and in many towns there are steps to climb, like here in the Palazzo Vecchio. the view from the top is worth going up, and you'll be glad you brought your comfortable shoes.
Handmade Puppets, Dolls & Other Toys
This beautiful little shop is also the artist's workshop. She makes her original creations right there at her counter, which also serves as the sales counter. I was so excited to find this shop, as I walked on my last morning in Firenze.
I couldn't resist buying the Pinochio puppet. I was entranced with a puppet I thought was a princess, from her dress and long hair. The artist told me she was the Blue Fairy, from Pinochio, so I knew had to buy her, too! Then how could I have them without Gepetto? I hadn't bought any puppets since I gave up preschool teaching, back in '97. But hers are so charming and not expensive for a handcrafted puppet.
I also took a handmade little jack-in-the-box home with me. He sits on my fireplace mantle now. Very Italian looking fellow, for only 22 Euros! This one is more an art object than a children's toy. Most of her dolls might be considered for adult collectors, too. Can you see the large, dressy witch "flying" on her broom in the window?! I'm sure this is for decorative use, not a toy.
I asked her how long she had been doing this. She said 22 years, but just opened the shop this year. So I hope she is very successful with her new shop and enjoys it, then she will still be there when you look for her! Or when I return again someday. . .
The photo I took, from right in front of her little shop, has the reflection of a tourist standing near me & of me taking the photo. She didn't take credit cards, but there is an ATM just up the street.
We took a train to Florence from Venice. It took about 2.5 hours.
Then we did a day trip to Siena from Florence via train...that trip took about 1.5 hours.
Finally we left Florence and went via train to Pisa. That trip took just over an hour.
1 kg of beef, anyone?
The restaurant serves traditional Italian cuisine, including the bistecca fiorentina (steak cooked in Florentine style). It was tucked away in a little side street so it's a bit hard to find. We were lucky and managed to get a table immediately even though the restaurant is packed. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is recommended by many guidebooks, judging by the sheer number of tourists at the restaurant.
Since there is a 1 kg minimum on an order of bistecca fiorentina (45 euros per kg, I think), we basically just ordered that and a salad to share between the 3 of us. The 1kg actually include the bone, so it's not as big as you'd expect but you might want to play it safe and see if you can finish the food before ordering more food. The steak was pretty good, some parts more rare than others, so luckily we all have different preferences.
We had some room for dessert and ordered a panna cotta to share. The dessert was pretty good too, not too sweet. Included in the meal is a small glass of vino santo and a plate of cantucci, which are like biscotti. The wine is more for dipping than drinking. It is a bit sweet but works really well with the cantucci. Oh, the table wine is sold "by sight". Basically, the whole 2L bottle is 10 euros (I think) and you pay for what you drank. A guy will come at the end and eyeball the amount you consumed and charge you accordingly. We drank about 4 euros worth that night.
It is a nice restaurant with a homey feel. We hadn't tried other restaurants, so we don't know how well the food stack up against other traditional restaurants though. Bistecca fiorentina.