Move to the front of the line...
Avoid the two-hour peak-season midday wait by making a telephone reservation. It's easy, slick, and costs only €3 (in addition to the €9.50 admission fee). Dial 055-294-883 during office hours (Mon-Fri 8:30-18:30, Sat 8:30-12:30, closed Sun) at least a day before your visit and ideally at least a few days in advance for a better selection. With the help of an English-speaking operator, you'll get an entry slot (15-min window) and a six-digit confirmation number. Off-season, it can be possible to get a same-day reservation. Using the same phone number, you can reserve in advance for the Accademia, Bargello, Medici Chapels, and Pitti Palace; of these, the Accademia has the worst lines.
After you've booked your reservation, go to the Uffizi at your appointed time. Walk briskly past the 200-yard-long line — pondering the IQ of this gang — to the special ticket office (across the courtyard from the entry) for those with reservations (labeled in English "Entrance for Reservations Only"), give your number, pay (cash only), and scoot right in. If you haven't called ahead, there are other ways to make an Uffizi reservation — sometimes for the same day, depending on luck and availability:
(1) Buy Uffizi tickets with reservations at the Museum of San Marco, the Museum of Precious Stones, or another Florence sight;
(2) Try booking directly at the Uffizi (ask the clerk at the reserved ticket office if you can reserve in person);
(3) Take a tour of the museum with Walking Tours of Florence (booking required, office open Mon-Sat 8:30-18:00, Sun 8:30-13:30 but off-season closed on Sun and for lunch, Piazza Santo Stefano 2 black, a short block north of Ponte Vecchio; go east on tiny Vicolo San Stefano, in Piazza Santo Stefano at #2, tel. 055-264-5033, mobile 329-613-2730, www.artviva.com.
(4) for a fee, you can reserve online through various agencies such as www.weekendafirenze.it or www.florenceart.it.
Hours: The Uffizi Gallery is open Tuesdays-Sundays 8:15-18:50, 8:15-22:00 on holidays and possibly summer Saturdays (last entry 45 min. before closing), closed Mondays.
Getting There: It's on the Arno River between Palazzo Vecchio and Ponte Vecchio, a 15-minute walk from the train station.
While walking beside the River Arno, it's easy to focus on the street activity and miss what's going on on the riverbank below. If you look carefully, you might see some local residents... beavers. There were a number of them when I was there and a bit further down, at Ponte S. Trinita (the next bridge after Ponte Vecchio), there was what appeared to be beaver dams.
This little shop is very close to Santa Croce. I love the many-colored ceramic dishes and misc home decor pieces. The elderly couple that work here are polite and kind. I try to mix and match patterns from the huge selection on the floor of the back room. I always found this to be a great deal - about 10 euro for a unique plate or bowl. Others I was traveling with found pieces other places that were less expensive, so it's a matter of taste.
Italy has an excellent network of motorways (autostrada), the main north–south link being the Autostrada del Sole, or A1, which links Milan with Reggio Calabria in the toe of Italy. Speed limits on motorways are 130kph (81mph) for cars of 1100cc or more and 110kph (68mph) for smaller cars.
All motorways are tolled; driving from Florence to Rome will cost approximately L25,000/EUR13. Those on a budget may prefer the strade statali (SS), which are toll free and are often fast, multi-lane carriageways. The speed limit on these roads is 110kph (68mph) – too slow for the speed-obsessed Italians and therefore a more leisurely drive for the rest of the world. Strade bianche, small country roads, abound in the countryside around Florence and are well worth exploring for their picture postcard views of the Italian countryside.
Routes to the city: The central road artery of Italy, the A1, links Florence to Milan, Bologna, Rome and Naples. Depending on the direction of approach, access is via the first exit marked Firenze (Nord or Sud), then signs for the city centre are marked (centro). There are tourist offices on the A1 north and south of the city, if navigation proves tricky. The Autostrada del Mare (A11) is the main road to Pisa and the coast, linking the city to Tuscan towns such as Lucca, Prato and Siena.
Driving times to Florence: From Bologna – 1 hour; Rome – 2 hours; Milan – 3 hours.
A true tuscan experience
If you're up for a tuscan challenge, this is the place to be. Forget Il Cibreo and Enoteca Pinchiorri, with all their fancy stars in fancy guides.
Nerbone serves true tuscan food, including, but not limited to, Lampredotto and trippa (tripe). It has three locations, one of them in the San Frediano district, one outside Florence and one in the Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo, the central food market.
This last one is a stand inside the market where locals gather for a cheap, abundant meal at luch time (closed in the evening). The staff is brutal and the area crowded, thus making this the most authentic single experience you'll likely have in Florence.
Great place for a quick, satisfing lunch on the go. If you're not willing to try lampredotto or trippa, challenging foods especially for Americans, you can chose from 3/4 starters and 4/5 entres that change daily.