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25 Things Women Should Know About Florence...

 

When you're shopped out, head to my favorite caf Giubbe Rosse ( http://bit.ly/5BdcM ) at Piazza della Repubblica, a great place for people-watching. It's a lively large piazza, with a mesmerizing carousel. The first and last scenes of my book take place here. I spent many days writing in my journal(s) at Giubbe Rosse, where writers and artists have gathered for more than a centuryand where the Italian Futurism movement was born. Be sure to take a look at the photos and sketches on display inside the caf, which also has art exhibitions in its back dining room.

 

For a gelato fix, don't miss world-famous Vivoli, ( http://www.vivoli.it ) Via Isola delle Stinche 7 (a little side street a block west of Piazza Santa Croce). My favorite Vivoli flavor: cioccolato all'arancia (chocolate orange).

 

Another good place for gelato is Vestri ( www.vestri.it ) Borgo degli Albizi 11/r, known for its sublime chocolates.

 

And if you fancy death-by-chocolate, order a hot chocolate so thick it almost doesn't need a cup at the ritzy Caff Rivoire ( www.rivoire.it ) at Piazza della Signoria, adjacent to the Uffizi Gallery.

 

My favorite restaurant in Florence is La Giostra , ( www.ristorantelagiostra.com ) Borgo Pinti 10/r. La Giostra, which means 'carousel,' was the winter storehouse for a Florence merry-go-round years ago. La Giostra has two side-by-side dining rooms with separate entrances and kitchens, though the menu is the same at both. The meal starts with prosecco and an antipasto platter, both complimentary. A typical Italian dinner includes a primo course (pasta), followed by a secondo course (meat or fish). I'm quite content to make a meal of La Giostra's delicious pasta dishes. I especially like the pennette served with gorgonzola sauce, laced with pear slices and pistachios. La Giostra's original owner/chef was a Hapsburg prince, which explains why one of the signature desserts is Sacher torte. Reservations highly recommended: 055/241341.

 

You'll enjoy hearty fare at reasonable prices at the popular Trattoria Z-Z ( www.trattoriazaza.it ) Mercato Centrale 26/r the truffle ravioli is tasty.
But if you want an authentic trattoria lunch in a Florentine neighborhood, away from the crowds in the city center, I'd recommend Fratelli Briganti. It's hugely popular with local residents who show up with appetites for a feast that begins with antipasto or pizza, followed by primi (pasta) and secondi (meat/fish) courses, with cheese, dessert and coffee at the finish. The waiters (including members of the Fratelli family), the cooks and the guy with the cleaver who cuts the steaks are characters from Central Casting. The delicious food and lively ambience don't get more genuinely Italian than this. Address: Piazza Giorgini 12R, Florence (near Piazza Leopoldo, a 10-minute bus/cab ride north of the train station) Lunch: M-W, Sat-Sun 12-3 p.m. Dinner: M-W, Sat-Sun 7 p.m. - midnight (closed on Thursdays) phone: 055 475255

 

Opposite Z-Z is Florence's historic food market Mercato Centrale, which is worth a visit, though vegetarians may disagree. The butcher shops there are not for the squeamish!

 

If your wallet allows for a spa splurge, indulge at the Four Seasons, ( http://bit.ly/xxTHmr ) Borgo Pinti 99. Lingering after a massage in the napping room, which overlooks the hotel's park-like gardens, is other-worldly.

 

Another other-worldly experience: Monks singing vespers at San Miniato, often described as the most beautiful church in Florence. Behind the church is a molto creepy cemetery, with towering crypts, where the author of Pinocchio is buried. The sweeping view of Florence from San Miniato is divine. The church is a short walk up from the parking area at Piazzale Michelangelo, a popular vantage point on the south bank of the Arno.

 

Enjoy the magic of twilight in Florence on an evening stroll along the Arno. Cross the river via the Ponte Vecchio where the dazzling jewelry shops close up at night like wood-paneled, iron-hinged treasure chests.

 

For Florence nightlife, check out a chic little bar called Slowly, ( www.slowlycafe.com ) at Via Porta Rossa 63/r, near Piazza della Repubblica. It's a great place for evening drinks and savory nibbles from an aperitivo buffet, with a DJ serving up an eclectic mix of club music until the wee hours.

 

A few steps from Slowly is the Cinema Odeon, ( http://bit.ly/1hasSc ) Piazza Strozzi 2, where Brits and Americans come to watch English-language movies (in English) on velvety seats under a stained-glass cupola in a 15th-century palazzo. The concession sells candy, espresso and liquor. Very civilized.

 

P.S. That's my top 25. But I'd be remiss not to give you this one last tip: If you're visiting Florence between May and November, bring mosquito repellant as well as anti-itch cream. Florence's tiger mosquitoes are small, but as savage as their name implies. Fyi, many hotels use mosquito poison bottles that attach to little electric vaporizers, which plug into wall sockets. The fumes, which slowly paralyze mosquitos, aren't great for humans either (side effects = eye/throat irritation and headaches). If the vaporizers are on, you have to leave the windows open for ventilation. Window screens aren't common in Florence so mosquitos rule.

And per the asterisk (*) above, buildings in Florence have color-coded numbers: red (rosso/"r") for businesses and black (nero/"n") for residences. It can be very confusing 15/n might be next door to 87/r and sometimes the red numbers are actually black and often the black numbers aren't denoted with an "n." If you get lost, re-orient yourself at the nearest wine bar, which won't be far away. It's Italy!

 

Tales from Tavanti...

As a female who has spent a great deal of time on the road it always gives me great pleasure to read about other females' adventures. I especially enjoyed Rebecca Bricker's telling of an American woman's mid-life adventure in Florence, Italy. The author calls her book a 'novoir' - a genre of her own invention that blends novel and memoir but she quickly points out that even though she has taken liberty with the facts, the underlying essence of her story is true.

Rebecca is a single mom and when her son went off to college, she sold the family home and went off herself to experience Florence for a year. This book is the story of her experiences -- the good, the bad and the interesting relationships she forms in the process.

Rebecca is a freelance writer and a former columnist for People Magazine, who has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. To find out more about her book, visit rebeccabricker.com or click on the cover image.
(Evelyn Hannon, Editor, Journeywoman.com)

 


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