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Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

somewhere out there
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Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

We did this very sucessfully on the London forum and so I hope it will work here.

Please post the link to your trip report on this thread so that they can be easily accessed by anyone who wants to read them.

Also if you have reports on other Italy forums please post the links here too.

And, if you have photos all the better!

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Auckland, New...
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81. Re: Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

We recently (end of June) picked up a car from Europcar in Florence on a Saturday morning, and dropped it back the next Saturday. What a shambes! We won't be doing that again. The office was completley inadequate for the level of business it was trying to cope with. We had to wait for about an hour in cramped conditions with many other customers, all getting as peeved as we were. The booking system was ponderous and wasn't helped by the attitude of the overworked staff. I suggest that you try to implement a means by which some preliminary matters can we dealt with in advance on line. As it was there were many people wasting their precious holiday time waiting around for clunky and ponderous service.

When we returned the car there was only one guy receiving and checking returns with perhaps 8-10 people wanting to have their return cars checked in and move away. (If anything the queues for those wanting to take cars were even longer than the week before). In the end I took photos of our car, and thrust the keys back in to the hands of the poor fellow (taking a photo of that) and stormed off. We had places to go and things to do, and that didn't include wasting another hour or so humbly waiting for attention. What has happened to customer service?

The whole experience left a thoroughly unpleasant taste in the mouth.

By contrast we also picked up cars in Vienna and Strasbourg and found those offices a delight to deal with. We also attended the office in Siena to add an extra driver, and again they couldn't have been more helpful. This leads us to conclude that it is not the Europcar systems that are entirely at fault unless the volume of business in Florence is such that these buckle under the weight of too many customers. We will never book Europcars in Florence again, and will certainly recommend to our friends that they avoid this if there any alternatives.

David Gibbs

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82. Re: Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

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Muscat, Oman
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83. Re: Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

Enjoyed reading your Italian experience on your blog! More interesting was your Santorini expereince. Lovely. All the best

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84. Re: Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

Thank you Karan3842 :)

85. Re: Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

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86. Re: Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

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87. Re: Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

Noisy, Overwhelming and Glorious Florence

We booked our hotel and BA flights using our Avios points, so were pretty pleased to be getting a 3 night stay in Florence for next to nothing.

BA flight from Gatwick was good and quick, only 1 hour and 40 mins. Arrival at Pisa airport straight forward as we only had hand luggage. We waited to arrive before deciding upon transport to Florence, as a bus was due out in the next 10 minutes, we quickly purchased tickets at the kiosk, 6 euros each, and proceeded to the bus park to the right as you exit the terminal.

The bus left 15 minutes later than scheduled but the journey onto Florence was smooth and within the hour. We were dropped off at the bottom of the train station and first impressions were that of complete chaos!

Traffic, people and so noisy! It took us a while to get our bearings, we purchased a map from a vendor outside of the station and asked him for directions to The Hotel Malaspina (see separate review), just a few hundred meters away. We proceeded along a narrow pavement with many people seemingly walking in the opposite direction, and with traffic whizzing past, found our hotel just 10 minutes later.

The location here was a little quieter, being on the Piazza Della Independenza, check in was prompt and friendly and we were soon showered and back out for our planned walk to catch the sunset at Piazza Michaelangelo. Just three nights/4 days to cram so much in!

Although it was now around 5.30 pm we could still feel the heat of the day and the walk was more challenging that we had considered. Firstly, being our first time in the city our eyes were on the map, there were so many tourists to weave around. We had our first glimpse of The Duomo which was a pretty awesome sight with its green and pink facade, and crossed the heaving Ponte Vecchio with its rows of dazzling gold shops. Once over the river the climb up the 166 steps was quite steep but we made it in time for the sunset and stunning views. As we had made our way hastily from the bus to hotel to Piazza, we purchased a well earned drink from a van and joined the other sightseer’s taking snaps of the panorama.

A little further up the hill and well worth the extra walk is San Miniato al Monte. More great views and this is where the author of The Adventures of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi, is buried, however, after asking a monk where he is sited, were told his family do not allow this to be known.

Our plans then were to walk to the Oltrano district and find somewhere for dinner around Piazza San Spirito. Again, a longer walk than anticipated, but perhaps it was just that we were tiring, it was getting dark and we hadn’t a clue where we were going! The streets are so small, the buildings quite tall and closely sited. We stumbled across a gold sculptor, the little shop was open to view his exquisite pieces and he was working away at his next masterpiece. All very intriguing.

We found San Spirito and looked for somewhere to eat, quite hungry by this time, approx 8pm, everywhere seemed full! Eventually we found ourselves a table next to the piazza and decided on a simple pizza for our first night. We strolled back to our hotel across Ponte S Trinita, took some lovely night photos of the Ponte Vecchio and window shopped in the designer stores along Via de Tornabuoni.

Next day on our itinerary was Nude and Food Tour with Florence for Foodies (see separate review).

This was a really enjoyable and informative way to spend the day, although in hindsight we would have liked more time than allowed with the tour in the Accademia. Really there was only time to view David and we would have liked to ponder over his unfinished pieces, the slaves.

David is just stunning.

The food tour finished around 2pm and our plans were then onto The Bargello, not far from where we left the tour and no waiting in line to be admitted. We enjoyed the sculptures here and it was a welcome break from the buzz of the city. Nearby is Santa Croce, again no queue, and we were in time before closing at 5.30 pm to see some of the great memorials, tombs and frescoes.

The end of another packed day our feet were very achy so after refreshing at the hotel, off we went in search of dinner. Our destination for this evening was Piazza Signoria, but we decided upon a restaurant on Santa Republica, where we surprisingly sat at the table next to a delightful Australian couple and their daughter who were with us on the Food tour earlier that day! Of all the restaurants in Florence we both chose this one at the same time… it was a strange coincidence and very pleasant. Unfortunately, we didn’t note the name of the restaurant, though we found this piazza pleasant. A little more adventurous we started with the house anti pasti platter of cold meat and cheese to share, followed by Bistecca Florentina for my partner and wild boar with pasta for me. Lovely food, though the boar was quite rich and I couldn’t quite finish it. With half a bottle of red wine our bill was around 70 euros.

We did make it to Piazza Signoria, another lovely square of historical importance and some interesting sculptures, I was particularly drawn to the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. As it was dark, we knew we should return in daylight.

Day three and off to climb the Duomo. We arrived around 9 am to find that it was closed until 10 am due to a service, so we chose to look around the Museo Del'Opera del Duomo first. After reading Ross King’s book Brunelleschi's Dome we found this museum quite fascinating, with the competition models for design of the dome on display. We were also lucky enough to see Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise that had just been returned after nine years of restoration.

Climbing the Duomo was not nearly as challenging as anticipated, although it was a little dizzying to start (go slow), before reaching the dome itself, there is a viewing platform for the painted representation of The Last Judgement. The final part of the climb is narrow and you meet those ascending/descending so can be a little tricky to juggle. Views at the top over the city show exactly how compact the buildings are. It was worth the effort, but I wonder if climbing the Campanile and getting the view of the city and the perspective of the dome from a height would have been a better option. Oh well, legs couldn’t make it up there as well!

Lunch was on the move, my partner wanted to try the Lampredotto (4th cows stomach sandwich) which we got from a stall in the Mercado Centrale just before closing time at 2pm and claims was very enjoyable! I didn’t like the smell and bought a more humble mozzarella and tomato sandwich.

On our agenda next was the Medici Chapel at San Lorenzo. This mausoleum is just beautiful to see with black marble and semi precious stone inlay. No photos allowed unfortunately, but its gorgeous.

After looking at our map we realised that we were a stone’s throw, more or less, from Santa Maria Novella and thought we had time to wander off and find the Pharmacy which is sited at the back of the piazza in a street called Via della Scala. I wish I had read up more about this place before visiting, as we would have got more out of it, however, it was certainly fascinating if somewhat intimidating on first glance to buy the products. After looking for the least expensive item from a price list in a cabinet by the door, I decided on some beautiful rose water at 12 euros per bottle; a gift and one for myself. The ladies of Florence certainly do not hurry when they are choosing their perfume and lotions! We stood at the counter for some time to be served, the assistants show you the products from behind the counter and then when you have decided they give you a little card with a number on that you then take to another room, pay and are given the product, beautifully packaged I must add.

For this evening we had not pre-planned so thought we would cross the Ponte Vecchio once again, via Piazza Signoria to get another view of the place and also to pass the Uffizi, which we decided against putting on our itinerary, but hadn’t yet viewed from the outside. We checked the hand out given to us from Florence for Foodies and noticed a restaurant they recommended was fairly nearby. We happened to arrive at the Ristorante Del Fagioli (closed Sat/Sun) on Corso dei Tintori (opposite the Ponte alle Grazie) about 7.30 pm as it literally has just opened. We thought we were off the beaten track and there wouldn’t be many people around, but wrong. After us people just kept flooding in! We hadn’t booked and were extremely lucky to get a table. This place is a family run traditional Tuscan restaurant, the menu is in Italian and must admit we were a bit lost with it. The head waiter was certainly very patient translating all the options into English but by the time he had got through them all we had forgotten so just ordered something that we had remembered! Rabbit with Tuscan beans and their home made gnocchi, we also pushed the boat out here to try one of the renowned bottles of Brunello di Montalcino at 40 euros! You can order traditional chianti in the straw basket and pay only for what you drink, ie 1 glass, half bottle. We finished with a glass of Vin Santo and some biscuits, hit the spot perfectly. Service was extremely swift, a little too swift, food was authentic and rustic. The bill, even with the wine, was again around 70 euros…. So the food is very reasonably priced. We would certainly recommend this if you want an authentic eating experience, and would suggest their Bistecca, which looked amazing!

Our last morning, before heading back to Pisa (we wanted to have enough time to visit the Leaning Tower before our flight) was free. Feeling we had art and culture overload by now, we decided to walk back up to Piazza Michaelangelo in search of ‘one of those’ aprons that my partner insisted he had seen up there (despite them being all over San Lorenzo market, he thought better quality up there). The climb seemed much easier, it was cooler and it was a pleasant way to spend our last couple of hours in Florence.

We decided on the bus back to the airport, were unsure where to catch it, and after wandering around a bit looking for info, went to the spot we were dropped off. Hey ho, at the bottom and around the back of the railway station (left side as you face it), is where you catch the bus. There were a couple of men in high- vis vests selling the tickets. Away we went.

To summarise, impressions of the city is that it’s organised chaos. Tourists and tour groups everywhere. Cars (watch the crossings, they don’t for you like here in the UK unless you are actually crossing), mopeds and even bicycles running you over (almost) … there doesn’t appear to be any order at all. Noisy, hussle and bussle.

Quite surprisingly we were well and truely bitten by mozzies, so take some repellent, although I guess with the cooler weather coming, they wont be around so much.

Art and history is everywhere of course, and despite research we still found it overwhelming. Trying to remember all the names, dates, stories, in the end I think we just enjoyed the spectacle of it all. I would say that our 3 nights/4 days was enough for us, it was quite intense, although we only scratched the surface. Things we missed that we would have liked to see but had to compromise on … The Uffizi, Palace Vecchio, The Medici Palace, Museo Galileo, the wonderful little niche shops that were scattered everywhere around the city (you wonder how they make a living).

Certainly an experience and city I would not have wanted to miss.

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88. Re: Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

Here is my brief report on my first visit to Florence.

We arrived via Jet2 in Pisa airport which is fairly small.

We had pre-booked return transfer tickets with Terravision via their website. The total cost for the round trip for two people was E20 which is excellent value.

On exiting Pisa airport terminal and walking to the right, the Terravision cabin is clearly visible. We had arrived a fair bit earlier than planned and had booked on a later coach but there were no issues re getting on the one which was due in about 15 minutes at stand B1,a short walk from the cabin.

Terravision have on site staff who are supposed to organise the queue but to be honest they were pretty ineffective ! The fairly short queue was therefore somewhat haphazard and when the coach arrived, it was clear that some people in the queue were a little edgy as to whether they would get a seat on the bus. We therefore had a minor scramble whilst passengers struggled to get off and unload their luggage whilst others battled past them to put their luggage on the coach and present themselves at the door to alight and get a seat.

There really was no need to worry though as there were plenty of seats for all and i'd guess the coach was only half full.

The journey time to Florence was 75 mins and the bus drops you off (and picks you up) at the rail station.

From there,the historic centre of the city is only about 10 mins walk .

Florence is always busy and if you are travelling with hand luggage only, a hand luggage compliant big rucksack would be useful and less trouble than dragging a case around. He streets in the Historic area are mostly made up of stone blocks of various shapes and sizes and are uneven with gaps. Ladies,this is no place for high heels as a flip over may well cause enough injury to ruin your holiday so short wedges or sensible flats/trainers/sandals would be advisable.

In the warm weather, Florence has the odour of the drains familiar with many Mediterranean towns and cities but it isnt particularly pervading or offensive.

ICE Cream-make sure you sample it at a good ice cream parlour as a few ice cream sellers,especially those selling it as a sideline at streetside restaurants are actually selling something described as ice cream which is closer to being a flavoured sorbet !

The Duomo-The Basilica of Santa Maria Del Fiore...a very busy area and so vast that it gets confusing. If people see a queue they tend to just join it ! You may well see a qeueue at a street level door just under the Cupola. The Entrance fee is E8. What you are actually paying for is to climb to the top of the cupola to enjoy the experience and the view ! Now if you have any worries about your level of fitness or potential agoraphobia then dont join this queue. Also dont bring any luggage other than a camera bag ,hand bag or purse. As you enter the main door you will pass a cash desk ,be given a ticket and then pass a turnstile and begin the climb. At a couple of stages you will emerge onto circular balcony areas which are inside the church at high level. You then continue the climb the stairs become narrower and narrower until you emerge onto the crows nest on top of the cupola which is surprisingly large.

On descending,you will exit onto the street again.

Just a quick note that at the entrance,you will see people selling what they call priority passes for £12. In fact they just allow you to join a shorter queue to climb the cupola and nothing else.

The free entrance just to the church is round the other side and there is a voluntary donation box inside.

The church closes to tourists for mass. The mass times are listed outside. If you are devout and wish to attend the mass,simply turn up at the door 5 minutes before start and advise the doorman that you wish to attend the mass. Bear in mind that it is celebrated in Italian or occasionally in Latin.

Ufizzi Gallery....the last word in queueing ! Be advised that as repeated many times on this forum,you should ring well before departure and reserve your visit date and time,remembering to note your reference number. Fail to do this and you will be sorry. Arrive a good 40 mins before your allotted time. You pick up your tickets at the office which is in the building directly across the street from the Ufizzi main entrance. Once you have obtained your tickets,go to the queue for prebooked. It will be the smaller of the queues and there should be a sign on a stand near the door which is less than clear due to the massive throng of people!

Accademia -As above,prebook well in advance .Along the street where the building is are a number of entrances. Ne of them has a ticket office. Go there,pick up your tickets and then look above the doorways outside where the queues are for a small sign above the door saying “prebooked”. Join that queue. Id advise trying to get timeslots for both buildings for mornings well it will be ..err...slightly quieter.

Galileo Museum- If you have and enquiring mind and an interest in science/engineering/medicine then I can thoroughly recommend a visit here and best of all,there is no queue because it seems not to be on the tourist “to do “ list. It is only a short walk from the Ponte Vecchio and apart from the wonders inside, has a very interesting solar clock constructed on the pavement outside.

Boboli Gardens- A shameful disappointment. I had in my mind a picture of splended laid out gardens of lawn and flowers,multilevel,with supurb fountains,statues etc etc. What I found was a large expanse of paths,worn out ill kept grassed areas, a few statues often broken,filthy or missing,a once great central fountain that wasnt working and its water like pea soup and worst of all an entrance fee of e10. They even charge the locals e5. A total ripoff and not fit to be called a garden. It is shameful that the authorities actually charge an entrance fee for this.

If you fancy a stroll head across the river and make the long slow walk up to San Miniato Del Monte and the square overlooking the Arno and the City.

Eateries-plenty to choose. We found quite by random Trattoria Il Porcospino just at the back of the Basilica San Lorenzo also Trattoria Da Guido at Via Faenza,both very welcoming with great food,great service and at reasonable prices. Wine bars will often serve free nibbles in the later part of the afternoon to accompany your glass of Chianti.

Things to watch out for-high speed cyclists and vespas, female beggars creeping up on you asking for money,people selling roses,the odd female beggar prostrating themselves on the street. Generally very safe.

On first impressions, Florence wasnt quite what I expected but then the place is awash with thousands of tourists. We soon bedded in and enjoyed the visit

We stayed for four nights and generally agreed this was sufficient.

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89. Re: Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

Forgot to mention in my trip report...we found a lovely traditional "mom and pop" style snack bar by the name of Snack Bar Vittoria (dini cafe) at Via Del Proconsolo 34/36. It is on the walking route between the Duomo and the Ufizzi..see other tripadvisor reports here...great for a snack and tea/coffee..

tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187895-…

90. Re: Trip Report Collection--Please Post Here

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