Florence (Patty)

Yesterday when I was walking in the cold light misty rain around Florence, I was trying to think about what this city feels like. It’s steeped in history like Rome, but it doesn’t feel old or historical, it feels just like it should, that the old buildings and museums are exactly as they should be, no matter what century we were in. Then I thought – oh, the food, yes! When I travel to a new place, I normally check out TripAdvisor or some other site or guidebook to steer me in the right direction on food. While I’m sure I could get a less than stellar meal in Florence, I’m not sure how. Even stopping at Joe’s Ravioli Shack seems to net a delicious homemade ravioli in a perfectly spiced sauce. Not the best one in Florence, but certainly better than almost anything I could get back home.

So, yeah, the food. Gelateria. I did try the one ya’ll recommended on Tuesday, and the darn thing was closed, closed until April. There are some drawbacks about coming in the off-season. The good part is there’s no crowds, you can get into any museum the same day, no lines, you can sit on the benches around David with the other four people there and contemplate a world where someone chiseled away that masterpiece out of a block of marble no one else wanted.

The wine? Well, absolutely, Diane, I did try that Antinori restaurant with their own wines. I can’t even talk about the papardelle with the pigeon sauce without drooling, but what’s not to love about cheap’ish Italian house wine that’s, well, not cheap anywhere else, but is reasonable at that one restaurant by the glass.

And nothing really explains it except Florence is a city that is completely comfortable being exactly what it is, which is indefinable.
Everyone should spend three days in Florence, and throw out the guidebook and just get a map and wander, but do it in the offseason. You may miss a few choice gelato-makers, but what you’ll get in return is the city that breathed life into Michaelangelo and Dante.

And tomorrow I go home, and that doesn’t seem possible because there’s so much more I want to see, and today won’t be enough time. Hey, that means I need to come back.

Perfume? Oh, yes, I do have a date with IPDF. March, that place is across the street from the Rivoire, which is closed for the off-season, but is the home of delicious hot chocolate and desserts – according to what I’ve heard, but not experienced. So I’ll have to wing it without the Rivoire to curl up and sniff at. Santa Maria Novella is not far away, and if today doesn’t turn into a drizzlefest, it’s on my list of places I’m going to try to get to – well, unless I wind up mired down in that wine bar I want to get to on the other side of the river.

I better hit post here soon. My European insomnia is out in full force this week, where I can’t get to sleep until 2 a.m., and then I sleep in until noon, except when I need to set my alarm and write a blog post.

Of all the places all of you have traveled, what has been your favorite and why? Feel free to have more than one favorite and one reason. I’m hitting the far end of my wanderlust since I’ve been traveling too much in the last three months, and I’m ready to be home for a good long while.

  • Very interesting article post. Your post is very interesting. I enjoyed this article. This blog post is terrific! I have to say that after continually reading terrible as in, same old ideas, little quality content, etc. article posts on other sites, it’s good to actually read something that has some thought put into it. It’s a pleasure to read well written blog posts, especially after continually seeing rehashed crap that writers and bloggers are putting out nowadays. It’s always nice when I come across content that actually has value, I’ve been seeing a ton of subpar writing attempts recently. Anyways, thanks again and I’ll check back regularly to see what else you have to offer. I’ll check back in the future to see what else you have up your sleeve. Keep up the excellent work! BTW, I like your site design, but your header image was only loading half way for me. P.S. Your header is messed up a bit in IE. The problem could be on my end but I thought you might want to look into that.

  • hongkongmom says:

    You sound like you have really made the most of your trip…I love the part where u sit by David, contemplating…
    I have travelled quite a bit through my life but in the last 20 yrs, it has always been to New York and Israel(to where family are. Hong Kong is so far away from everything)
    as well as in Asia. Wherever I have gone..I have loved the places, foods and people and have always managed to find the best out of each place. Mmmm, it would be lovely to revisit Europe!

  • Claudia says:

    The most beautiful place I’ve ever been is Hallstatt, Austria. It’s a tiny town squeezed between an Alp and a big lake. It is also the area of Europe where the Celtic race originated. I went there the first time with a tour group in college, and again 30 years later. It was still as beautiful. It hadn’t changed at all.

    California’s Big Sur is a very close second.

  • Shelley says:

    In general, my favorites settle into two categories: favorite recent discovery, and favorite place to return to. My favorite return is a little rustic cabin along a freshwater lake somewhere near the 45th parallel… :)

  • mals86 says:

    Prague really is gorgeous. Krakow is pretty and friendly and unassuming. If I were moving out of the US, I’d want it to be to Wellington, NZ – drove over most of the country over a couple of weeks, and it’s all lovely but Wellington felt like a place I could live.

    Post hijack (sort of): just found out that the trip to Malta via Rome in March is actually going to go through! So naturally, I need advice on fume shopping. Would really love to be able to pick something up at the Rome airport that would be my scent for the trip – something Mediterranean, something at least semi-local. I don’t know what’s available at the Fiumicino duty-free, or on Malta. Anybody have any suggestions? Thanks, and sorry again for the hijack… I figured this post would be where the cosmopolites would hang out today.

  • Damian says:

    A few favourite places:

    – Marlborough Sounds in south island New Zealand (Prettiest place in the world and it’s close to home, which is a bonus)

    – Hoi An, Vietnam (Really old Vietnamese fishing village, with beautiful old wooden houses)

    – Santorini (I know it’s kind of a cliche, but there’s something magical about the light there, and the greek people are amazing!)

  • mariekel says:

    London was my home for many years so it will always have a special place in my soul. I have lived briefly in Paris, too, which is probably my favourite city to visit still. Though i also adore Dublin, even if it is now hideously expensive.

    But I also love Istanbul, Venice, Prague (I am a sucker for gorgeousness). Of smaller places, Collobrieres has to be right up there: a quintessentially perfect and unspoilt provencal village that also happens to be the home of the marron glace (!). Also, Cappadocia in Turkey is has one of the most magical landscapes imaginable — hot-air ballooning over those lunar landscapes at dawn was a mind-bending experience!

  • odonata9 says:

    Just got back from Zihuatanejo, Mexico (my honeymoon!) and while it may not be the favorite place I’ve ever been, it’s certainly up there and I’m already trying to figure out when we can go back. Amazing weather, people, food, beaches and not too touristy – good times. I don’t think I could pick just one place. My Dad is from the Big Island of Hawaii, and that place is pretty darned cool too. Amsterdam, London, and Tokyo were pretty neat. SF is great. Every city has something about it. All these comments are giving me ideas of more places I need to go! Haven’t spent much time in Europe, so Spain (Barcelona specifically), Portugal, Croatia, and Czech are all on the list of places I’m dying to go.

  • ula says:

    I’ve never ever been to Florence (or Italy for that matter)…according to what you’ve written, I guess I would love it :) and no matter what, I’m more than positive I’d enjoy the food.

    To say the truth, so far, I’ve loved every single place I’ve been to. I don’t know why, I’ve just always found something interesting in each place I’ve been to & I can’t say I really hated a place.
    To those of you who live in the US, it may sound cheese, but I really loved California. See, I love the sea – where I live, there is no sea anywhere near. I love the smell, the sound it makes as the waves break on the rock, love the seagulls, and all that comes with it. For some strange reason, I fell in love with San Diego :D
    I also love Brussels (Belgium). For its art nouveau architecture that’s virtually on each and every corner in the town and for its food (again!).

    I’m a firm believer that everyone should travel somewhere abroad, no matter where, at least once or twice in a life time. It shapes character, as I say, opens one’s eyes and extends one’s horizons.
    Wishing you a whole lotta lovely trips in future


    • odonata9 says:

      Even to us people in the US, California is pretty awesome! I drove from San Diego to San Francisco a few years ago and it was amazing – around every corner, another awesome view – Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara. And yes, San Diego is easy to fall in love with – I’ve lived in SD for 10 years now and don’t know how I could live anywhere else!

  • Karen G. says:

    Well, funny you should ask, because Florence and the Chianti region of Tuscany are probably my favourite places on the planet (so far). Italy is exactly my speed. It must be heaven to be in Florence in the off season, Patty. I remember sitting on that bench contemplating David (with way more than four other people, however)and having the first of many weepy moments in Italy. Just from the sheer beauty of it all. And I’m not a weepy person. At. All. Did you climb to the top of the Duomo? I never, ever wanted to come down. Well, fingers crossed, we are going back this Autumnm, for truffle season and the olive harvest!! Hoping you have a smooth trip back home…

  • maggiecat says:

    My favorite place I’ve traveled to. Maybe New Orleans..or wait! I know! The Next One. My favorite travel destination will always be…the next one!

  • Gretchen says:

    “Too many to name”, as Grizzlesnort said above, but let’s try.

    Moving west to east, we have Yosemite. . . Banff, Alberta. . . Yellowstone. . . Santa Fe. . . Iceland (the whole island). . . Ireland (the whole country). . . the Isle of Lewis. . . London. . . Bergen and Norway in general. . . Stockholm and Sweden in general. . . Paris. . . la Touraine. . . Salamanca and Toledo. Merely listing the names makes me sick with longing to return – where is that dreamed-of unlimited budget? – so I’ll have to list reasons some other time, sorry.

    I didn’t list San Francisco only because I think of it as home (though I’ve lived in the Peninsula or the South Bay for years), so not a place one “visits”! And I’m taking notes here to add to my list of places I’ve yet to see. Good topic, Patty.

    • Gretchen says:

      If I’d paid attention as I was typing, France and Spain would not have move east of Scandinavia.

      • Shelley says:

        LOL @ the typing…plus a little shout out for Bergen. I haven’t been around much, but I’ve been there…took the train from Oslo across the mountains, pausing before we were all the way across to ride a narrow gauge down to the beginning of Sognefjord, and hydrofoil it out to the sea/Bergen from there. Absolutely stunning. And the mist that seemed to settle and rise on the mountains most days…though I’ll allow that it was easier for me to find it romantic as we were there for the LONGEST days of the year, not the shortest. ;) I can still smell the air…and that was quite a number of years ago.

        • Gretchen says:

          I took that route from Oslo to Bergen, too, except that we sailed down Sognefjord on a regular ferry, not a hydrofoil. Possibly the most stunning cross-country trip ever, although the road from Banff to Jasper is right up there. I really need to return to Bergen!

  • Daniela says:

    Wow, Florence sounds wonderful! Especially in the off-season where you’re not standing in lines. And I love all the travel stories so far! Picked up a few ideas for future trips just from the stories.

    Living in Canada, I’m definitely far removed from all the other continents. Just the flight to Europe is a solid $1000! But my favourite places to travel have been:

    – Cairo: My friend and I stayed at a roof-top hostel in downtown Cairo. We were probably the only tourists within the downtown core, and definitely the only ones wandering around the streets without a guide. It was really fun though. Cairo is an absolutely amazing city, and everyone treated us really well.

    – Paris: Love, love, love. You have to acknowledge the grungy, unpretty parts of Paris in order to love it. But that city is a dream. Just walking down a street makes you want to skip and yell “Bonjour!” at everyone.

    – Barcelona: Vibrant, passionate, beside the sea. What else is there to say!

  • grizzlesnort says:

    Too many to name but Kyoto and Istanbul were magical. Angkor Wat and surrounding temple complexes in mid-monsoon season were amazing despite the well-deserved crowds. (Town of Siem Reap was turning into one big Aveda spa for the Eat Pray Love narcissist set). Haven’t made it to Venice and I haven’t seen the Northern Lights yet.

  • Disteza says:

    Favorite place has got to be Oberammergau and the Kofel during the winter in Bavaria. So ridiculously beautiful, and the hot chestnuts and mulled wine are forever seared in my memory.

  • Pattie says:

    Hi Patty – safe travels. I just got back from London last night – hit a rush hour snow storm and a 2 1/2 hour drive from DIA so I’m a bit cranky. I agree with travelling in the off-season – went to Salisbury cathedral and we were the only ones there – they opened the room with the Magna Carta just for us. (It’s not as awe-inspiring as David, but for a lawyer, its pretty cool). we are also completely alone with the Crown Jewels. When there are no people around, you realize why touristy places like the Tower of London became touristy in the first place. On the other hand, it was an absolute zoo down by Westminster Abbey. So while I like London, i love Paris. For some reason, Paris just seems magical. Also love Tuscany, and am planning a big Italy trip with my daughter next summer. Her goal is to eat pizza and gelato every day . . .

  • Lynne1962 says:

    Florence is my favorite place, for sure, because of the memories.
    When I was a young lass,,,a girlfriend and I stayed in a “hostel” across from the Banc di Napoli. We hung our washed jeans out the window to dry and the bank complained to the owner. He came in our room screaming about it (us in our underwear)! Even in Italian we understood. We messed up the shower room,,apparently,,and he was glad to see us go. The museums, the pastry shops that we cruised in the early mornings were amazing!! We took rides up above the city at night with some Italian friends. Those were the days!

  • pyramus says:

    London is the greatest city on Earth. I love it so, so much. I’ve visited three times in the last three years and I just want to be there all the time (with an endless supply of money, which is why I am not there right now).

    I was in Florence in a previous life–well, 1981, which seems like a lifetime ago–and I am going back next year, I think. I have such good memories of its otherworldly beauty. You could spend an entire vacation doing nothing but experiencing the art and architecture and you still wouldn’t have scratched the surface–and it’s an actual city, people actually live there!

  • Musette says:


    Your trip just gets better and better! So glad you are enjoying yourself.

    I have too many fond memories of places ….interestingly, most of them are slightly ‘off’ – for example, I’m not overfond of Venice (city) but love Lido, with that peculiar ‘ashy’ light over the sea, love the Italian Alps – so clean and calm.

    Castroville, CA. Yes. Weird, I know, but the smell of the earth and the vegetation (artichoke cap of the world, baby)..and the sea. Lovely.

    I love LA. Well, I do. It’s a strange, wonderful place and I love the precarious impermanence of it, if that makes any sense.

    Heck, there’s always something to love wherever you visit, imo!

    Have safe and comfortable travels home.

    xoxo >-)

    • Gretchen says:

      Castroville! I’m just up the road in Gilroy – garlic and artichokes, who could ask for anything more? I love the fog in Castroville, too. Gilroy’s too darn sunny for me.

    • Kate says:

      Castroville? Really? I’m originally from the Monterey Peninsula and I find that a little… yeah, weird. /:)
      That said, god I miss having readily available, cheap, fresh artichokes (emphasis on *fresh*). I took them for granted when I was a kid and now every time I visit my mom I ask her if she wouldn’t mind making some for me. Sigh. Dammit. Now I’m all homesick.

  • sara says:

    My favorite travel destination is Paris. Now and always.

  • Sherri M. says:

    I still favor Paris, but would love to visit the Middle East and Greece–maybe when my kids are older.

  • Olfacta says:

    That’s good news about off-season in Florence. I’ve read many times that you have to stand in line for hours to view the David, etc. I was there several times in my 20’s and haven’t wanted to return because of that. But as for favorites — so many! In the 70’s I spent time in Mojacar, Spain, then an isolated mountaintop village a mile from the pristine beach, full of expats. My parents’ old friends had an apartment there, otherwise I never would have known about it. It was beautiful and hedonistic. I hear it’s pretty built up now. But what memories from then.

  • Ann says:

    Lovely post, Patty! And how wonderful to be in a city that surrounds you with such a sense of place and rightness. Enjoy the rest of your exploring and have a safe trip home.

  • DinaC says:

    I would love to visit Florence someday. Your descriptions are mouth watering and so tempting.

    I’ve been to the big three — Paris, London, Rome — but didn’t see everything I wanted to see in any of them, so I guess I’d start by going back to those three places if I could. I’ve also visited Switzerland, which was so pristine and beautiful. Every view was worthy of a postcard. And then there’s Turkey, which has some really unique places and sights not to be missed. I’m grateful for everywhere that I’ve been.

    Enjoy the last days and hours of your trip, Patty. Safe travels!

  • Austenfan says:

    Good to hear about Florence. I have visited Florence several times. I don’t actually like the city that much, because I find it too busy somehow. I still want to visit it in the real off-season. I love the things you can visit though. I went to the Uffizi in 1992 before the big Mafia bomb went off. Loved it, loved the Palazzo Pitti, the Bargello, all those churches and squares. I didn’t go out to dine a lot. I was a poor student then, and the museums alone cost plenty.
    My favourite place in Italy is probably Siena. Somehow more intimate than Florence. I also love Venice though. ( and Spoleto, Perugia, Urbino, San Gimignano etc. etc.)
    It’s such a beautiful country with such a rich cultural heritage. Have a safe journey home!

  • Isa says:

    Czech Republic is unforgettable, but especially Prague and a village in the West called Marianske Lazne, where there’s a beautiful park where different bands play music everyday.
    When I want to relax, sometimes I close my eyes and I imagine I’m there, instead of Alicante (Spain), where I live. My city is not bad at all. In fact it’s a sunny and happy place by the Mediterranean Sea, but sometimes I need to change.

    More favorite places: Saint-Cirq Lapopie (South of France), Brez (a tiny village in the most impressive mountains in Cantabria – North of Spain) and… Disneyworld (Orlando)


    • Kate says:

      So happy to see someone mention Marianske Lazne (or Marienbad, if you live in Germany like I did). Absolutely beautiful and, at least whenever I was there, not too full of tourists. Can be hard to get to in the middle of winter over poorly-plowed Czech roads, but worth the drive if you can manage it.

      • ula says:

        definitely better than e.g. Karlovy Vary (which is full of, mostly, Russian tourists with no manners but lots of cash :P). The south of the Czech Republic (Cesky Krumlov, etc.) is also worth visiting!

        • Isa says:

          I agree. I loved Marianske Lazne more than Karlovy Vary. I went to both cities the same day and I remember that I saw a beautiful, huge double rainbow in the countryside near Marianske Lazne, on my way to Plzen. My boyfriend and me took some photos because it was amazing!

          Cesky Krumlov is really charming but I didn’t enjoy the day so much because it is a very tourism-focused city. There are too many shops, restaurants, little odd museums… On Sunday it can be overwhelming.

          But in general I enjoyed my stay in Czech Republic a lot and I would love to go back :)

  • Fiordiligi says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you went to Cantinetta Antinori! Yay!

    My favourite places? Siena and Venice, probably, but I adore all of Italy and most of France……

    Now, did you see the Donatello David? And you really should experience the Antica Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella. Marvellous!

  • Annelie says:

    I have only traveled within Europe, but there is a lot too see and experience here. I think it´s so cool that each country have it´s little a differences, yet a kind of “over all European feeling”.

    I can´t chose only one favorite place, but here´s a few:

    London, London and London. Don´t need any closer presentation I belive?

    Biarritz, situated at French Atlantic coast close to the border of Spain. So stunningly beautiful, with redish cliffs with hydrangea and white edwardian buidlings, windy sea and surf bums all over the place make a relexed yet sophisticated atmosphere.

    A little Swiss alp village we happened to stay in for only a night. They all talked some strange romanswiss language that sounded like it was invented while they talked, but they where so smiling, friendly and humble the people there must be the happiest in all Europe! Surrounded by high alps in valley with green meadows and a small alpine creek where our kids took a bath in ice cold green water.

    Amsterdam because of it´s laid back attitude, and friendly population, yet a little shy, all dutch people speaking really good english (like most people in Scaninavia) and you feel right at home even though it´s the first timne you visit. reallt beuatiful town as well and filled with history.

    Well, that´s it for now.