The Bed & Breakfast is located in Palazzo Agostini, also known as Palazzo dell’ Ussero, with its fifteenth century facade and remains of the ancient city walls dating back to before 1155, when Pisa was an important Maritime republic. The facade is late-Gothic which in the 1400s alternated with the Renaissance style.
The name of the building comes from the coffee rooms of Cafe dell’Ussero, historic meeting place founded on 1st September 1775. The cafe was previously an inn, the Locanda dell’Ussero. Famous and distinguished guests have been - Carlo Goldoni in 1744, Giacomo Casanova in 1760, Count Alfieri in 1785, Filippo Mazzei in 1792, Gioacchino Belli in 1829 and John Ruskin in 1840.
The Relais dell’ Ussero is on the right bank of the River Arno between the Ponte di Mezzo and Ponte Solferino bridges, in the historical centre of Pisa and the oldest part of town. The Palazzo della Sapienza and Palazzo del Rettorato of the University are 30 metres away, Piazza dei Cavalieri, where we find the Scuola Normale Superiore, at 250 metres. Piazza dei Miracoli with the Cathedral, Baptistery and the famous leaning Tower is only 850 metres away.
It is in the historic centre of Pisa, 1 km from Pisa rail station, 1.5 kms (5 minutes) from Pisa Airport, 80 kms (50 minutes) from Florence airport, 20 kms (15 minutes) from Livorno port - all can be reached by taxi.
If you only visit one of these beaches in the Golfo di Oresei, make is Cala Marioulu. This is hands down, the most spectacular beach I have ever seen. Pristine white rocks that you could eat your lunch off and turquoise seas that you have to see to believe. An unbelievable experience.
A wonderful and often neglected gallery, the Bargello formerly housed a barracks and a prison; now, however, it is home to some of the finest sculpture in the city. Gems include Donatello's insouciant bronze David, which has an almost dandyish air, and Michelangelo's stern and commanding bust of Brutus, very much in the artistic line that paints Caesar's adoptive son as a heroic and inspirational figure, rather than a weak and malleable one. You will also find a treasure trove of works by the Della Robbia family in this imposing castle.
Via del Proconsolo 4 (near the Palazzo Vecchio); tel: (+39) 055 238 8606
A delightful restaurant overlooking the Ponte Vecchio on the south side of the river. A meal for two including a reserve bottle of wine and three courses costs around 90 euros. Would recommend booking a table by the window for clear views of the bridge and the Arno.
Via dei Bardi, 58r (near Ponte Vecchio); tel: 055 214 502
Very new, very modern, and very reasonably priced hotel south of the Arno. About a 25 minute walk from the centre, but worth it for the cool bar, funky showers, and to get away from the tourists in the evening.
If you only do two things in Florence, make sure it's the Accademia to see David, and Piazzale Michelangelo which has one of the best views of the city.
Galleria dell'Accademia: Via Ricasoli 58-60, a short walk from the Ponte Vecchio; tel: 055 294 883;
Dead cheap and one of the best views of Florence. Drink in the Blu Bar (expensive, but fantastic views), eat in the pizzeria on the square opposite and take a walk up the hill for an even more spectacular view
Buy a bus ticket at any tabac and get the no 7 - it goes from Piazza del Duomo and stops in the square in Fiesole, just beside the Blu Bar (which is at Piazza Mino Da Fiesole, 39; tel: 055 597235).
B&B on Piazza Duomo. Very central, comfortable and reasonably priced. The rooms at the rear are quieter.
This has to be one of the most gorgeous chapels anywhere in the world. The first impression of the azure blue panels by Giotto telling the story of Christ's passion is just awesome. Yes, it's touristy, but the sheer beauty of the paintings transcends any suggestion of tacky. The grounds are lovely to walk around too. The only problem is that the 15 minutes you're allowed in the chapel is not long enough to take it all in.
Piazza Eremitani 8 (off Corso Garibaldi, entrance through the Museo Eremitani);
tel: 049 201 0020 for required reservations (lines open Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 9am-1pm);
open: daily 9am-7pm; until 9:30pm in summer;
There are two parts to Cibreo, an expensive restaurant and a much cheaper brasserie. The latter is superb quality at about 30 euros a head. The pappa al pomodoro makes River Cafe look like McDonalds. This was so creamy and light that I had no problem wolfing it down on a hot July evening. I also tried the polenta with basil which made me want to cry. If someone honestly told me that my main course that night would be polenta, basil and parmesan I wouldn't have got up from the sofa. But these people make simple dishes in a way I have never encountered before in UK. The guy has a superb selection of chianti at about 8 euros too. Can't recommend it highly enough. If you go there for lunch have a gander round the local food market first: the sight of all that throbbing salsiccia with fennel or wild boar will have your stomach screaming for more by 12.
Via Dei Macci, 118/R - walking distance from Ponte Vecchio;
tel: 055 2268410
San Marco, and Savonarola; Angelico's Annunciation is worth the admission alone. You can usually find somewhere in the cloisters just to sit away from the crowds. So much of Florence's history revolved around this convent. If I could visit only one place in Florence this would be it.
Cappella Brancacci: Masaccio's masterpiece.
San Miniato: beautiful small church. Don’t forget the graveyard, and then there's the view of Florence.
San Lorenzo: the old sacristy as well as Brunelleschi's brilliant interior.
Oh and Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, Cappelle Medici...
Museo di San Marco: Piazza San Marco; tel: +39 55 238 8608
Cappella Brancacci: Piazza del Carmine; tel: +39 055 238 21 95
San Miniato: Via Monte Alle Croci, 34; tel: 055 2342768
Basilica di San Lorenzo: Piazza San Lorenzo
I cannot recommend this place highly enough. Forget all the other gelaterias that try to lure you in: Vivoli is a traditional, longstanding family-run business. All gelati are made fresh, with all natural ingredients. I have never tasted anything like those ice-creams since. My husband and I both went in, two days in a row, and tried four different flavours each. That's how good it is. We were sad we didn't get to cover them all. Seriously, do not miss this place.
7 Via Isole delle Stinche, just south of the crossroad with Via Ghibellina;
tel: (+39) 55 292 334;
Fiesole is a stunning little town, up a hill and 20 minutes from the centre of Florence. Here, albeit at a distance, is the best, free, all-round view of Florence, including the Duomo. As it's difficult to park in Florence, avoid stress by catching the No.7 bus from outside the rail station.
Fiesole is 5 miles (8km) from Florence. Buy a bus ticket at any tabac - it also goes from Piazza del Duomo.
This bar - favoured by the beautiful young things of Florence - is the perfect place for pre-dinner aperitivo. Plates of delicious cold meats, cheeses and pasta are served up, washed down with Florence's best (though highly alcoholic) cocktails and accompanied by low-key music from resident DJs. It's also perfect after midnight, when the party spills onto the street, and the illuminated Ponte Vecchio serves as a backdrop to the Florentine frolics.
Lungarno Corsini 12-14r next to Ponte Santa Trinita; tel: 055 210 751 or 055 293 258
A beautiful little church set on a hillside overlooking Florence. A fantastic view of the city shimmering in a heat haze. Easily reached by no.13 bus from the Duomo or on foot if you like climbing. Gregorian chants sung by monks at 5.30 every day.
Just outside Florence to the south of the city.
The famous medieval, house-bearing bridge that would probably win the prize as the most photographed Florence icon. It spans the Arno in the centre of the city and probably affords the best views of this often disappointing river from its central open arches. The houses are now mostly shops selling jewellery, leather goods and other expensive designer items, but it’s not obligatory to buy anything of course. After all, it is just a bridge, and still works perfectly well as such.
If you are visiting Florence by car take advantage of the free parking at the Piazzale Michelangelo. It is easy to find by road and has plenty of spaces.
The Square itself commands fantastic views over the river Arno and the rooftops of Florence. There is a steep set of steps and paths that lead down to the river and town centre, takes approx 10 minutes.
Every thrifty (i.e: poor or stingy) traveller is - or certainly should be - familiar with these guides, which are the distillation of the experiences of many steerage class (mostly student) travellers.
There are several nice, clean, inexpensive pensiones on the Via Faenza - just a short walk from the cathedral. See op cit for addresses.
This place was absolutely fantastic with the type of service that really makes you feel at home. It has a great central location and loads of other features such as free internet, free national home phone calls and free CD burning! And the staff were very informative and helpful while at the same time very funny and quite charming.
Via Nazionale, 7, San Lorenzo Market, one block from central station
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