You’d think we’d have had enough time on our feet after the Medieval Festival the previous day, but no – today we would be bringing our guests into Florence. As we had already been there a number of times, we would leave them at the Duomo and head off to do one of the things we had failed to do on these numerous trips: visit the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens behind it.
But first: the electrician called! We opened the door, and in stepped a very young man with a tool-belt around his waist. We showed him the beeping alarm and after a quick chat on the phone with a colleague, informed us that yes, it was just a sonic repellant for birds. He clipped the wires necessary to stop it beeping – so I guess that is the end of the reign of terror for the pigeons. Hopefully next time we get to Volterra our terrace won’t be a holy mess.
As Niamh was happy with his quick work, she thought to nab him to wire up the new light over the new mirror in the new bathroom. I showed it to him, and within 10 minutes he had it done – good man! It didn’t have a separate switch, though, so now when you turn the lights on, it’s like bloody daylight in there! First world problems. He couldn’t accept payment then and there, but if I recall correctly, I don’t think the bill was for more than €20! Try getting even just a callout from a utilities guy in Ireland for that price!
When heading to Florence, we usually head straight north on the SP15, remaining north on the SP439dir until we hit larger roads past Montaione. Some of it has nice scenery, so it’s a nice way to show it off. Then we come back via the motorway as far as Colle di Val d’Elsa. However, we took the motorway route both way this time. It’s a little quicker (even though you have to head far south before you can begin to go north towards Florence), and we also wanted to show our guests the amazing countryside of the Val di Cecina and the Val d’Elsa on the way. We had a quick sightseeing stop just 3 minutes drive outside the town at one of Mauro Staccioli’s: L’Anello… one of a number of stark sculptures dotted around the nearby landscapes. This is probably the most famous and Instagrammable of them, due to the surrounding countryside and the hairpin road.
We got to our usual parking spot for a visit to Florence – the CoOp at Ponte a Greve (here in Google maps). It’s free! And you can grab the tram (don’t forget to validate your ticket on-board!) right next to it for a 10-12 minute trip to Santa Maria Novella station in the heart of the city. From there it’s a 10-minute walk to the Duomo.
Here, we left our guests to do their own thing. They wanted to shop and visit an engineering exhibition of Da Vinci’s. Niamh popped into the chemist to get herself some plasters for breaking in shoes, while I grabbed a bottle of water from a Tabbachi. Then we wound our way through the streets of Florence, through the Piazza della Republica and over the Ponte Vecchio.
We were pretty hungry by then, and wanted to find a reasonably-priced, less touristy place to eat. We had a couple of false alarms, before we grabbed a table at Trattoria de’ Guicciardini. Niamh had bruschetta (not pictured) and a nice place of fusilli pasta. I had stuffed pasta in a truffle cream, followed by Peposo – stewed beef in red wine and tons of black pepper. I have been on a quest to find a decent plate of it for some time now. Some pleaces don’t have enough wine, others barely any peppper. It seems to be a dish that’s hard to get right. When I saw the plate that came out, I have to admit I was initially disappointed, as there was an obvious lack of sauce/gravy. But then I tasted it. Absolutely delicious, and definitely the best Peposo I have ever had.
And they know how good it is too. I was halfway through my beef when a short, older lady came out and asked how my Peposo was, and was obviously very pleased at my reaction. I think she was the cook. Good service. If I had one quibble, it would be that our dishes were served according to their order of appearance on the menu. So, Niamh had her bruschetta while I looked on hungrily, then we both had our pasta, and finally I went solo with my Peposo. Served this way, however, you had a better guarantee of your food coming out as it should. Anyway, I would go to have that Peposo again tomorrow, if I could!
We saved some tummy room for gelato after we had visited the gardens.
The Pitti Palace was just minutes away by foot, and we arrived there and immediately trotted for shade. The piazza is super-exposed to the sun. The ticket office was only a few people deep, and we weren’t long in waiting. We noticed that, yet again, the palace itself was closed to the public. One of these fine years we’ll get to see it.
Anyway, we headed in, and I wasn’t allowed the use of my gimbal to shoot video, so I had to rely on my shaky hands. You can see the video farther below.
What can I say? We wandered around the gardens. They are quite lovely, but honestly incredibly warm in August. Additionally, although I’m no gardener or horticulturalist, I suspect there are better times to visit if you want to see some of the gardens within bloom. There were more tropical-style sections, as well as the opulent French-style. Some of it is quite hilly, and so if you’re not a fan of heat, your misery will be compounded with uphill slope or stair climbs. There are taps with cold drinkable water dotted around, however, and decent toilet facilities.
One great thing about them is that you can get some elevated views of the city of Florence, without having to travel out to Piazzale Michelangelo (this is recommended regardless at sunset, by the way – we’ve yet to do it, though).
So, yes – go to the Boboli Gardens – they really are beautiful, but maybe in April/May!
Here’s a short video of our trip!
We were roasting after exploring the gardens, and took a break at the café there. This was a mistake. Go out and find somewhere else instead. The menu was overpriced – this wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was how awful the shakerati we bought were. Very bitter, no foam and not at all refreshing. They just threw (bad) hot coffee over ice and served. It took a while for us to get served too, as there was only one overworked waitress on duty outside.
Bowed, but unbroken, we started our journey back to the Duomo, where we said we’d meet our guests. On the way, wanted to grab a gelato at place we had been taken to before – Gelateria della Passera, but it was closed. Wah! Instead we had to head back to Gelateria Santa Trinita, where we had also eaten before (I will always remember that eye-rolling girl – she could have been world-weary professionally).
We caught up with our guests nearby the Duomo. They crossed off their two most important goals of shopping and getting to that exhibition. They had also gotten lost, and – still to my astonishment to this day – not found the Piazza della Signoria, the Piazza della Republica or the Arno banks. On the plus side, they still have tons to return to next time!
The day had gotten quite humid and energy-draining, so we left for the tram to take us back to the carpark. We had a couple of pitstops – one in the CoOp for drinks and goodies, and the other in the electronics store to buy wireless mice and keyboards. By chance, we bought a phone holder for the car. This turns out to have been an inspired purchase – it worked like a charm – who needed a infotainment screen after all?!
I also noticed this phenomenon in (I repeat) THE ELECTRONICS STORE:
We chilled for a short while back at the apartment, tidied ourselves up and had yummy pizza in Pizzeria Ombra della Sera, along with a beer or two.
After it was a sit-up for a little more beer, then bed. And a sneaky pic of our neighbour’s amazing courtyard below!
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. Please add comments and ask me questions – I’d love to hear from you!