General Packing Tips, Florence
Luggage and bags:
The weather here can be a bit wacky. There have been days where it starts out sunny and warm (around 70 degrees) then it will suddenly start to downpour with thunder showers and huge hail. About an hour later it was sunny and warm again then two hours after that, you guessed it, thunder and rain then it turned rather chilly at night. This was after about four days of constant sunshine. So, my advice? Try to pack light so you can take plenty of souveniers home with you but not so light that you roast or freeze!
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: You can buy it all here except Tums. I had to have a friend Fed Ex some over for me and trust me, after a few glasses of red wine, you will need some too.
Miscellaneous: For the girls, Italian clothing designers tend to make the pants for women with no or little hips. Italian women tend not to be wide in the hips, I am slight but have wide hips so I have a very very hard time finding any pants that fit me. I usually stock up when I am visiting in the states so don't come here expecting to buy this great pair of pants if you have hips.
Comfy shoes are a must. You will see women wearing stilts but don't try to imitate them, you'll twist an ankle or break your neck. They obviously have lived in Florence all their lives.
Photo Equipment: Do not, I repeat, do NOT forget your camera and about a hundred rolls of 200 speed film. If you do, you're an idiot and should go home. Florence is an incredibly photogenic city - I went thru 5 rolls of film just in 3 days!
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: If you camp, check out the campground near the Piazza Michaelangelo. The view is spectacular.
Miscellaneous: Send me a postcard!
Luggage and bags:
PACK A WASHCLOTH! Others I met told me that even the finest hotels don't provide them. It's a little thing, but a big thing.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Most sites are walking distance since the city is small, so tennis shoes or walking sandal are most important. If you take any tours (in particular the San Gimignano/Siena tour) socks AND sneakers are essential. There were many people with blistered feet from walking up and downhill all day with no socks for cushioning. One woman in comfortable walking sandles fell and really hurt herself. You especially have to be able to get good traction walking downhill.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Most simple first aid supplies can be bought at the Farmacia in a clinch.
Photo Equipment: If you have a camera or camcorder with zoom lenses, it will help get shots of some of the incredible art and frescos on ceilings. For instance, the cathedral in Siena has a border of former priests in the form of sculpted faces. With the naked eye, it looks like flat faces, with my camcorder I could see that they were not only sculptured, but each had a different expression. Amazing!
Luggage and bags:
I left my big suitcase in Rome and brought a carry on with me to Florence. It's easier to take on the train with you and roomy enough to add all the things you bought.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: It rained most of the time when I was there so the umbrella was handy.
If you like to dress nicely once in awhile, Florence is definately the place to do it. Bring a pretty dress, a nice hat, a flowy skirt or something you feel good in. Florence inspired me to get in a dress while I was sightseeing, as opposed to the baggy t-shirt and shorts I donned in Rome. It works, believe me. Otherwise, plain and simple functional clothing is great (as long as it is clean!!) As in other major European stops, be sure to dress 'appropriatly' if you want to visit churches--that means no short shorts, ripped clothes, or sleeveless shirts (just bring a light sweater or shirt to drape over your shoulders)
Photo Equipment: Something you know will work--you'll want to take lots of pictures! Make sure you also go to a quality develpoer when you get back. Spend the extra $ and you will be happy. There is nothing worse than a poorly developed role of important film.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: A light jacket or sweater is good for a cool night.
It is very hot in the summer. An afternoon siesta helps with this. Dress accordingly, but remember you are not at the beach and the Italians always look elegant. Woman most cover their shoulders to enter churches. Wear comfortable sandals. Florence is above all a city designed for walking.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: There are mosquitos on Florence and the windows of the piazza's do not have screens. You can buy mosquito coils or a special little electric machines in the local hardware stores or you could simply use DEET.
An important rule of thumb: DO also try and plan your wardrobe in such a way that you'll have no problem mixing and matching your outfits and it should be able to see you through from day to night. So in this instance, that little black dress WILL come in VERY handy for the night events AND in the day time too!
Photo Equipment: I ALWAYS, ALWAYS bring along at least 2 camaras with me... just in case one breaks down. My friends used to laugh at me.... until their one and only camera broke down. When when they have to RELY SOLELY on me and my amateurish photographic skills, they stopped laughing. Yes, immediately. Serve them right! :-))
Miscellaneous: If you are going to do lots of walking and sightseeing, do remember to put the following items into your tote bag or backpack: Maps and perhaps your Italian phrase book, Your all-important Guidebook, Water bottle, Sunglasses.... etc.
DON'T forget to bring along your much-treasured ATM card to withdraw cash. Yes, no need to rush to the money-changers to change all your currencies into
Italian liras before your trip.
And DON'T use your Visa or Mastercard to withdraw cash. This is considered a CASH ADVANCE and you'd be slapped with a HEFTY fee whereas if you were to use YOUR own ATM card, you will NOT be charged for any fees.
In fact, you WILL benefit and enjoy from the low interbank exchange rates. Trust me (I used to work for an American bank).
Just ensure that you adhere to the following steps:
(1) Flip to the back of your local ATM card, do you see the logos 'Cirrus', 'Plus', 'The Exchange' etc. on it?
(2) If the answer is 'yes', then you have absolutely nothing to worry about!
(3) Why? Because you can withdraw cash from any ATM machines in Italy, no matter how obscure the
town you're at is.
(4) If you use this method, you'd also save alot from the interbank exchange rates. Money changers will charge you much, much more compared to a bank.
I've been using this method countless of times before and so far, no ATM machines in this world have failed me.... yet. Yes, even in the remotest village of Africa!
Have a great trip!
Photo Below: Giotto's magnificent Bell Tower here in Florence.
'Tourists don't know where they've been;
Travelers don't know where they're going!' - Paul Theroux