The BNCF, (National Central Library) is public library, largest in Italy and one of the most important in Europe. It was founded in 1714 when scholar Antonio Magliabecchi bequeated his collection of books with 30.000 volumes to the city of Florence. Thats why the library is originally known as Magliabechiana. It was reguired that a copy of every work published in Tuscany be submitted to the library.
The library, located at the Piazza dei Cavalleggeri, has an collection of over six millions books, magazines, editions, manuscripts and incunabules.
I must have led a charmed life up to this particular venture to Italy, because in all the other countries I visited, English was either one of the standard languages or, in the case of France, I spoke the ambient tongue. I suppose I expected that many, if not most, of the hoteliers and shop keepers and transport personnel in Italy would speak at least a modicum of English. I didn't invest in a phrase-book (although it turned out my companion had brought one along). What arrogance! I have only myself to blame for the multiple times when language barriers led to absurd or disappointing results. (It is hard to ask for directions when you can't articulate where you want to go -- and can't understand when someone tries to help out.)
Probably no one reading this tip would make such a foolish mistake, but just in case...either learn enough Italian to get by, or keep a phrase-book or English-Italian dictionary close at hand. I promise you'll have a more enjoyable visit.
(And as one VT'er says in a very funny motto which I will badly paraphrase, speaking English slowly and very loudly does NOT make it more comprehensible!)
When you are seated at an Italian restaurant, you should anticipate paying "coperto" or a cover charge, assessed on a per person basis. This ranges from something minimal to several euros, presumably depending upon the restaurant although I never analyzed this during our trip. Since the cover charge is intended to compensate the restaurant for the cost of doing business, including the employment of the wait staff, I was told not to apply the American standard of tipping 15% or more of the bill. Rather, the tradition seemed to be to put one's excess change on top of the credit card slip or cash to cover the meal. That sometimes resulted in several euros' "tip" but it would still be a fraction of what I'd pay at home, even if one included the coperto.
Not just in Firenze...many (perhaps most) Italian museums are closed on Mondays. This can be a spirit-killer if you're only in a city or town for a single day and the museums are unavailable, which is why the Spirit moves me to suggest that much of Italy's great art is found in its churches, virtually all of which are open every day of the week (and are generally free, to boot). So find your Caravaggios and della Robbias in the local duomo, and soak in the notion that people have been hallowing with their prayers the place where they are situated for many hundreds of years.
So many of the forum posts ask the question of what to wear while in Florence. Having lived there for two years 15 years ago and then a month 3 years ago, my advice is to dress as comfortably as possible and above all wear your most comfortable shoes, be prepared for really hot weather in the summer, cold in the winter, and rain at anytime--it's not like California, and don't worry about dressing like Italians, you can't. Only if you are going to a posh restaurant, Harry's for example, will you need something somewhat dressy. And if you are planning to go into a church you must wear appropriate clothing, that is you must have your arms covered and no shorts or mini skirts.
I cannot say or emphasize it enough if you are going to Italy please please PLEASE learn at least enough of the language to communicate! I studied for 6 months before our trip so I was not fluent but it made for a wonderful experience to be able to communicate. Some of the worst behavior I have ever seen was from frustrated American tourists who fully arrogantly expected the Italians to speak flawless English while they themselves did not bother to learn a word of Italian. I have found that if you show the respect of at least trying to speak the language, no matter how badly mangled you will receive a warmer reception than those red in the face who think that yelling is going to get their point across. Remember we're visiting their country, why not learn a little bit before you go? That said, in the cities English is more prevalent but where we liked to eat in the family run trattorias the only English you would hear was, "No speak English!"
The Italians are a passionate lot. If they're not making war on themselves (including government) then they're probably eating, then after that's all over there are the affairs of the heart.
Don't know where the tradition started and don't even know if it was in Italy, but certainly the Italians have embraced the idea - so much so that the local authorities have made it illegal to clamp padlocks to bridges in Florence.
The idea is a loving couple will attach a padlock to the railing of a bridge - in this case the famous Ponte Vecchio that spans the Arno River - and throw away the key. The padlock - like the loving couple - will never part. Sadly the authorities remove the padlocks with large bolt cutters - the spoil sports!!!!!!!
If you ever have the chance, spend Easter Sunday in Florence. It is a marvelous day and was one of our favorites.
We got to the Piazza del Duomo around 9am and were lucky to get a place where we could see. For the next 2 + hours, there was a pageant, complete with a procession, flag throwers and music. As people performed, others set up the fireworks on a huge cart led in by white oxen.
The climatic moment was the Scoppio del Carro where the fireworks were lit. The atmosphere of the morning was amazing. . .Florentines were out in force and we enjoyed every minute of it.
There are no flowerbeds outside the station. At least in November. Maybe it is a riot of colour in the high season.
BTW the station is small and easy to understand. And very very extraordinarily ugly and shabby from the outside. Goodness me, it is plain.
...just for the contrast with the crocs in the previous tip. I saw some beautiful and elegant stuff in the shops in Florence. Not that I would wear it, frankly I would rather wear crocs, but I like to look at it. There was some stunning men's clothing too. My husband was drooling just a little and that is unusual. A lot of it seemed to be English inspired, if you understand what I mean. A tweedy sort of look. But with an Italian twist. The market was full of really nice leather coats and bags. But even in the market - oh my dear - the prices. I saw some really elegant Florentines promenading, arm in arm, the hat, the gloves, the handbag for the lady, the scarf just so, the haircut. The stance, the attitude, scarey stuff for a harum scarum Antipodean.
Cappucini is a part of the breakfast.. If you order it after 12 O'clock you are a tourist ;-)
Esspresso is STRONG, macciato has a bit of milk, lungho is with a bit more water...
It is good to know a bit about it, spend some time on wikipedia or any other source of information in the matter...
We were eating out all the time and as it was the off season we got some charming glimpses of waiters at their ease - standing in the doorway of the trattoria with a can of beer and a smoke chatting to their friends - and the kitchen staff would wander into sight quite often. And all the kitchen staff seemed to be wearing crocs. White crocs, green crocs, mauve crocs. I was fascinated.
Then the next day I found these fleecy lined crocs for sale. What genius dreamed that up? Just the job for nippy mornings.
I saw two gypsy women in Firenze begging. I had taken this woman's photo - she was munching on a dry bun and the birds were pecking at the crumbs - so I gave her some of the crumbs from my purse. She started the whining and demanding so I just walked away.
After Roma, when I nearly started lashing out as 15 umbrella sellers importuned me from all sides and a red headed begger from the south asked for a cigarette - I found Firenze quite peaceful.
It wasn't until Sunday - the big day for the market - that I saw any African bag sellers. They set up on sheets in front of the Duomo. I don't know where they are the rest of the time.
Just before you get to the Ponte Vecchio you can see these padlocks with two names written on them. Lovers up to their tricks to keep their love safe and secure. No idea who started this trend but I think it may be of fairly recent origin.
On the bridge itself, there is a sign on the railing around the statue of Cellini warning that any padlocks will be removed. And that wouldn't be a good omen for your eternal love.
On the south side of the loggia del Mercato Nuovo is Tacca’s famous Boar (Il Porcelino) from 1639.
You can always see crowds of people round it, testing their luck. All you have to do is put a coin in the boar's mouth and let it fall into a hole under it. If the coin falls next to the boar, leave it there and try with another one.