Italian Road Trip: Part Two, Florence

We started this road trip with a drive down from Regensburg to Mantua. This is the next installment.

After resting up at our B&B in Mantua and spending some time walking around after having driven the whole previous day, we packed up our stuff and got back in the car for another two and a half hours. On paper. It felt a lot longer than that for several reasons:

  1. I’m not used to driving any kind of distance much anymore.
  2. There was a lot of construction on those toll roads (which is good, I guess — that’s what we were paying for)
  3. Seems like we were constantly heading into our coming out of a tunnel.
  4. Street names in Italy as listed in mapping resources apparently don’t have to be reality-based.

That last one really stuck it to us as we approached the Florence suburb of Fiesole. Viale Beato Angelico, Via Beato Angelico, Via Angelico, some jumble of Via-Delle-Beato-Angel-something or another, and Via Doccia. Via Doccia is the only one you can use to reliably arrive at Villa Fiesole. And they don’t show you that on their page or even their own webpage optimized for mobile devices (wha?). It’s only when you view it with a computer that they give you the address you can use to actually arrive.

villa fiesole mobile site directions

But, after all the frustration of tooling up and down the mountainside, consulting our GPS, Google Maps (mobile roaming, argh!), and intuition, we finally arrived, checked in and decided to eat in the hotel restaurant. The food was pretty good, but the best part was the cheese course at the end of the meal. If you get antipasti, primi, secondi, and then some dolci or a cheese sampler together with a bottle of wine at every meal, then you’re going to get full and broke pretty quickly.

Fortunately, we stopped doing that almost right away. You will save a lot of money if you get lunch from a sandwich shop, like these guys. Our Frommer’s Italy book steered us to I Due Fratellini and we were quite pleased with the quality of sandwiches coming out of this lunch counter not really even big enough for two workers.

That last one there was a nice place to stop in for a sit-down lunch after tromping around outside all morning admiring the architecture of Florence’s Cathedral, other churches, and nifty doorknobs. Because sometimes the sandwich-on-the-street-style just doesn’t cut it, either.

We took the opportunity, while in the leading city of Renaissance art, to visit the Uffizi. I can handle about two hours of serious art and the crowds there to experience it. I appreciate, as much as the next guy, I suppose, the ancient Greek and Roman mythological and political figures, and their fans in the Renaissance period. But dang! In my swordplay/wrestling matches with mythical creatures, I always wear pants.

4 thoughts on “Italian Road Trip: Part Two, Florence”

  1. CN Heidelberg

    Wow, those buildings are amazing. Was it particularly crowded in Florence – like irritatingly so?

  2. cliff1976

    I would say no, it wasn’t particularly crowded. The Uffizi was kind of clogged with tour groups, such that reading the placards for the paintings and sculptures that struck my fancy was sometimes difficult. But the rest of the city — streets, shops, restaurants — seemed like it was in off-season mode. Which was great.

  3. Andrew

    Yes, definitely pants.

    One of the problems I ran into in Italy is that the official names of streets are rarely the actual names used by people. So Via San Franscisco Angelino Spaghetti could be Via San Franciso or Via Spaghetti or some other odd combination.

    Glad you guys seem to be enjoying Italy. What is the weather like? Is it below 70 which means every Italian is bundled up like a winter in Minnesota?

    1. cliff1976

      Yes, Andrew, those are exactly the problems we had navigating! Fortunately we have learned to try to parse out the most significant parts of the names of the streets to enter into our GPS, which then narrows it down for us. Still, “Via Angelico” will never resolve into “Via Doccia,” but we did a lot better finding our way after looking for only street name fragments.

      The weather was great the whole time we visited. Cloudy and foggy in Mantua on our first night and first full day, but after that, it warmed up and stayed bright and sunny for our entire trip. This morning was the first time we encountered an overnight frost. I’d say the locals were adequately prepared for the weather: jackets and scarves, but rarely gloves except on those working or commuting outdoors. I’ve seen local Regensburgers twice as layered and sheltered from the elements on much warmer days in Regensburg, so the Italians didn’t strike me as over-prepared.

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