Away from the crowds
When the crowds of people are starting to wear on you, get away from the heart of the city. Florence has many wonderful sights that go unseen by the majority of its visitors. Walking around the city it is easy to come across fountains, arches, little known churches and of course many great restaurants that won’t charge a fortune for mediocre food.
Founded by the Romans in the first century B.C., Florence began its rebirth after the decadence of the barbaric ages, in the Carolingian period, and reached its highest pinnacles of civilization between the 11th and 15th centuries, as a free city, balancing the authority of the Emperors with that of the Popes, overcoming the unfortunate internal dispute between Guelfs and Ghibellines. In the 15th century, it came under the rule of the Medici family, who later became the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. This in fact was the period when the city was at the height of its glory in art and culture, in politics and economic power. The Grand Duchy of the Medicis was succeeded, in the 18th century, by that of the House of Lorraine, when in 1860 Tuscany became part of the Kingdom of Italy of which Florence was the capital from 1865 to 1871. In this century, the city has once more taken up its role as an important centre for culture and the arts
While most of...
While most of Florence, at least the parts most people see, feels like a small city, Boboli Gardens sprawls among the hillsides. There are acres and acres of paths, sculptures, fountains, etc. It's a great place to have a picnic lunch, relax, and get away from the crowds. I think of anything past Ponte Vecchio as 'Off the Beaten Path', and this is as far as most would be willing to go on foot.
Live music and great food.
(2003) These two bars are connected and share ownership. The House of Sizzle is a restaurant that serves typical Italian food and some American - the hamburgers are excellent! After dinner, head next door to the Red Garter where there's live music alomst every night. Paolo and his guitar will entertain you for hours. The Red Garter is often filled with student tourist groups who annoy the muscians but the atmosphere is very lighthearted and fun.
(2008 Update) I didn't have time to stop for long but The Red Garter is still as popular as ever with a certain crowd. Enjoy!
Maybe the best meal I had in Italy
I stumbled across this excellent enoteca by perusing Time Out shortly after my arrival in Florence.
My meal was simple: a glass of Brunello (10E), Crostone with melted gorgonzola, honey, and celery as an appetizer, and, ravioli in a light cream sauce, filled with pecorino cheese and pear. The ravioli was delicate and different in appearance than we are used to here (meaning stateside they use packaged ravioli). It had the appearance of a tiny package, tied up at the little neck, rather than a square blob as you see here.
The whole meal came to 25E so you can see it was a good value on top of it. I ended up going back AGAIN before I left since I knew I'd never find that in the US. (not easily found anyway)
The food just melted in my mouth. I don't remember the last meal where I ate that well - I've been to some very good restaurants in Washington DC (where I live) but whenever I go out with friends, we always seem to overeat. This was simple and utterly perfect. I could eat there every day and not tire of it.
The proprietor was very friendly too. I was traveling alone and he went out of his way to make me feel welcome. A glass of Brunello (10E), Crostone with melted gorgonzola, honey, and celery as an appetizer, and, creamy ravioli with cheese (I believe pecorino) and pear and with parmesan cheese sprinkled over top.