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Seven Things a Woman Will Love in Florence


Fabulous leather jacket...

Now, I fancied a leather jacket to go with my gloves and it wasn't until the end of the week that I found what I wanted. Journeywoman came upon Maria Vittoria (Via Porta Rossa, 76) quite by accident and what a pleasant one that turned out to be. Popping into the shop, I found three American women travellers having the time of their lives trying on different styles and offering opinions on what looked best on whom. I joined in the fun and before you knew it we were all lining up at the cash with our new leather jackets. Only later did I find out that the folks at Maria Vittoria have been in the leather design business for 25 years, they have an excellent reputation and provide fine, stylish merchandise to such "biggies" as New York's 5th Avenue department stores. E-mail: This one is worth a stop!

Discount Italian shoes...

With all the spending I'd just completed, I was delighted with a dollar-saving opportunity I received from Michelle Wright. Michelle picked me up at my hotel and we went for a long walk stopping in at some of her favorite places along the way. That's where we came upon Otisopse Calzature e Pelleterie -- a discount shoe store offering Italian design at rock-bottom prices (Via della Scala, 36r). True, the styles were not the absolute up-to-the-minute creations found right downtown, but I purchased a pair of leather boots (US$35) that are not only well-made and presentable but extremely comfortable as well. It was great fun poking through boxes and trying on the many different styles. I'll definitely go back again next time Florence is on my itinerary.

An incredible cooking experience...

Bless our JW Network of Classified Advertisers for this suggestion. It was Karen Herbst of The International Kitchen that arranged for my Tuscan cooking class with Silvia Maccari (right in her Florence home). Cooking is not one of my strong points but because of Silvia, who enjoys sharing her love of life, good food, expertise and meeting people, this was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Florence.

Our day started with a tour of San Lorenzo Market -- my teacher greeting her favorite merchants and choosing only the freshest ingredients to be used for our class. Then on to her kitchen where Silvia handed me an apron and we began our hands-on cooking class. While preparing our five-course meal, I learned simple cooking techniques and shared lots of interesting girl talk and travellers' tales.

It was a lovely sunny morning -- Silvia kept the doors to the small balcony off her kitchen open -- when the recipe required it, she stepped out to snip fresh basil growing in outdoor clay pots. Our class menu included: pie with cheese, onions & olives, risotto with shrimps & vegetables, stuffed veal chops, tomatoes with porchini mushrooms & leek stuffing, as well as biscotti and vin santo to close the meal. Julia Child once said that the sign of a good cook is that she can have all dishes ready at just about the same time. Silvia was right on with everything including the risotto which only has a five-minute window for perfect consistency.

Now my teacher morphed from a Tuscan chef to a fine Italian host. Her dining room table was beautifully set with simple white porcelain dishes and red napkins on a vibrant orange-red Indian cover. A pot of yellow flowers sat in the center along with three bottles of wine -- white, red, and dessert.

Silvia, who speaks excellent English, learned to cook from her Florentine grandmother who passed on a wealth of family recipes. I am grateful to both of these women for the gorgeous meal I enjoyed. Once the main course was on the table, Silvia joined me. This was no ordinary meal and no ordinary classroom. It was a true immersion into the Italian culture. I was welcomed into another woman's kitchen where she shared her expertise and her company. While other travel experiences may fade, I know that this one will not. Bravo Silvia and thanks, again, to The International Kitchen for making this adventure possible. For further information call 1.800.945.8606 or visit:






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