Florence’s art treasures are inside and outside all over the city, particularly in the historical center. Visitors know they need to prioritize and make reservations for famous museums such as the Uffizi and the The Galleria dell’Accademia that displays Michelangelo’s magnificent David A place to stay in the city center is more problematic as are good places to eat and shop. Like many tourist meccas, some restaurants and hotels in Florence think tourists will be so overwhelmed by the beauty of the city, they will not complain about grimy rooms and inferior food.
B&B Bel Duomo is in a pedestrian-only zone and just around the corner from the Duomo and Baptistery with its world famous bronze doors. It has spotless, spacious rooms and a warm, hospitable atmosphere. You will be given a key code for 24/7 lobby access so you can leave your luggage in the lobby before you check in and after you check out. Plus, it is just a ten minute walk from the train station. You can leave your luggage there for a fee, and the lines are usually long.
Food fit for a pope
The nearby Ciro & Sons, Via del Giglio 28 offers casual outdoor dining and more formal, inside dining in a late Renaissance residence of the family of Pope Clement VIII. The menu includes Italian classics such as tagliatelle with fresh homemade pasta, gnocchi Sorrento, and risotto with porcini mushrooms. They cook pizzas in a striking copper oven over a wood-burning fire. Their classic Neapolitan pizzas are excellent and so are their house specials that include the Sopranos with sausage, broccoli, and mozzarella; and the Vesuvio with buffalo mozzarella, truffles, cherry tomatoes, arugula, and Tuscan ham.
Leather that lasts
Purchasing an authentic Italian leather item at a reasonable price requires some research. Shops and outdoor markets are everywhere. Who can you trust? Twenty years ago I wandered into the Zolfanelli family’s Pitti Leather shop across the street from the Pitti Palace and found the purse of my Italian dreams. The shop has been selling leather goods since 1949, all handcrafted by Florentine leather masters. The narrow shop is packed full of stylish and classic leather goods. I still use that old purse – and purses from subsequent trips. My daughter bought three handbags, several wallets and belts. After that shopping experience, we were hungry. The manager suggested a nearby restaurant that is one of his family’s favorites.
Home style cooking
Trattoria La Casalinga (“housewife” in English), via dei Michelozzi, 9, is a block down from the Pitti Palace. It was full of local people and some savvy tourists who know the best food is often found a block or two away from the main tourist routes.
The restaurant was founded by the parents of the current owners more than fifty years ago, and the family spirit continues in its friendly ambience. The menu is extensive, but the dishes are traditional Tuscan fare. I had pasta with duck sauce. There was plenty of meat mixed in with the homemade pasta. Desserts were visible in a glass case, all prepared onsite. A dish of fresh fruit was a refreshing finish, but the lemon cake was tempting.