Rome’s rice croquette. Originally conceived as a way to use up leftovers, it consists of a mixture of rice, mozzarella and tomato paste in a crust of deep-fried breadcrumbs. More often found in bars and snack bars than in restaurants. Hard to stop at just one.
The cut of Italian clothes will flatter you as no other. Via Condotti is where most of the big designer names are to be found. But excellent clothes for less money can be found along Via Frattina, which runs parallel to Via Condotti, on nearby Via Campo Marzio and, further afield, on Via Cola di Rienzo and Via Po.
Sip a Campari at one of the tables outside Ciampini in Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina. The lower house of parliament is 200 yards in one direction. The main fashion thoroughfare, Via Condotti, is 50 yards in another. The houses in the streets and alleyways around are crammed with film stars, TV personalities and members of the so-called “black” aristocracy whose titles come from the Popes. The best possible spot for a close-up view of some of the best-dressed people on the planet.
Ciampini, Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina 29; Tel: 06 687 6606
Catch the bus from Rapallo to Portofino as it's about 5 euros an hour parking fee! I also suggest here for the famous Friday market where you can buy lots of cheap things from apples to Italian Bags. I stayed there to do a Intensive Italian course which i would recommend to anyone, who wants to travel around Italy. It is better to speak to the locals in their own language.
Pizzerria/ristorante. Good food, friendly staff, great value. Meal for two with 20 euro bottle of wine came to 56 euros. Don't mistake it with the place across the road (Il Ghibellina), which was horrible.
Via M. Palmieri 30-34r, near Piazza Santa Croce;
tel 055 293 372
Great little B&B. Great location, between Duomo and Piazza Della SS Annunziata, one block from Museo dell Academia. Feels like you are stepping back in time to the renaissance, all heavy dark wood furniture, white walls and lots of art. The staff are also great and bend over backwards to help.
Via de Servi 49, (if there's no-one in go to their other location at no 39);
tel: 055 264 103 or cell 339 3626409;
We stayed for 3 days in August. This is a great place just off Piazza Santa Maria Novella - close to the main station and has restaurants and cafes very close - in fact one right next door. The room we had was on the 2nd floor - the hotel reception is on level 1 and there are no lifts. The managers are extremely helpful and made our stay really enjoyable. Free internet facilities and self service breakfast. The room was basic but larger than others we stayed at in Italy. Overall a great place to stay.
Enjoy the beauty of this town which seems to have grown from the rock, and been added to piece by piece to suit the inhabitants; but don’t eat in it, or buy anything.
Leave it with the memory of its beauty and a quotation from an Italian journalist Renato Fucini who said, “For the Amalfians called to Paradise, Judgement Day will be a day like all others.”
If the return by road is too daunting, try the alternative – the hydrofoil. And stop off at Positano on the way. The ferries on this coast ply their trade to the islands and back on a regular basis. It’s even possible to go to Naples by one from here. Not that anyone would really want to go to Naples.
This is an area to be explored slowly from the lane which curves up the hillside, covered in parts by buildings with little stone-stepped alleys climbing into further shadows. Narrow entrances lead down darkened tunnels and up more steps to little shops, trattorias and strange blind alleys. This warren sprawls up the hillside to where vertiginous cliffs tower directly over everything and induce that uneasy feeling about falling rocks.
Find the old paper mill beside the underground river which can be continually heard underfoot. Inside what looks like a derelict mill, an aged person sits eating his midday meal, but is welcoming with a “Prego, prego!” as he gestures for intruders to look around. Hand made paper is made in this damp smelling hovel, but no finished products are on view. Leave the aged one to his lunch and return to the square.
This is a time to sit, have tea and devise a plan of attack. As there doesn’t appear to be one, the usual default system comes into play. Just wander about. Suddenly a vista of a square opens out through an alleyway. The Piazza Flavio surrounded by a jumble of shops and apartments slants upwards into the narrow Via Genato. But breathtakingly on the right at the top of fifty six huge steps sits the Cathedral of Santa Monica with its beautiful Renaissance facade.
And if there is a wedding in the cathedral and an usher brings you in to sit at the back while the Mass is being celebrated, and all the other onlookers are being kept out, don’t question it. Take a photo of the little Italian bride gazing adoringly at her spouse and wish them luck. Avoid being near them on the steps outside where they are showered with sugared almonds. The bride may now spend the next ten minutes emptying her bodice of these missiles which end up being crushed underfoot providing the local pigeons with mega calories.
This modern, Ikea-furniture-type hotel is ideal in terms of value, cleanliness, location and helpfulness of staff. The stylish web pictures are true to form and we didn't need a big room. There was a deal with the hotel for 3 nights for the price of 2. We stayed for a weekend while my parents stayed on for another few days. It is a few minutes from David and a little further from the Duomo, but still a comfortable distance away from the jostling city centre Florence. We preferred the other side of Florence (across the river): Piazza de Santo Spirito, Piazza Pitti etc, where there are restaurants that the locals seem to frequent more than those near the Duomo. This is about a pleasant 20 minute walk from the hotel.
Via Cavour, 88; tel: 055 589 456;
This is the best place to eat lunch in Florence. It's tiny, but they can squeeze you in. It's popular with the locals and the odd tourist. There is one hand written menu (changes daily) on the wall. We had simple but incredibly delicious pasta dishes to start (which cost about €3), followed by wonderful roast pork and tumblers of great local red wine. It was so good we went back for bistecca fiorentina later in the week.
Via Rosina 2, near the food market and S. Lorenzo. Open for lunch only;
tel: 055 218 550
There is a lot to be said for seeing the major works of art in the churches for which they were created, especially as the queues for the major museums are horrendous. In 15th-century Florence no one covered more walls than Ghirlandaio, and his fresco cycles are well worth seeking out in Santa Maria Novella, Santa Trinita and the refectory of Ognissanti. But the most dramatic painting in a Florentine church is Pontormo's Deposition in Santa Felicita. Pontormo was stylistically in the thrall of Michelangelo but has a more agitated artistic personatlity, which reveals itself in the sheer strangeness of the colours and the forms on the canvas (this is an oil painting, although there is also a fresco of the Visitation on the adjoining wall). It's a mannerist masterpiece. Don't miss it.
The church of Santa Felicita is just south of the Ponte Vecchio. If you're walking towards the Pitta Palace, it's in a small piazza on your left. Take coins for the light meter.
The Relais dell’ Ussero at the Villa della Seta di Corliano is on the road which runs along the foot of the hills from Pisa to Lucca, passing through the small town of San Giuliano Terme. The Villa is a historical fifteenth century mansion surrounded by a centuries-old park. It is a property of great charm in which the owners offer, in 12 rooms, a relaxing stay immersed in the beauties of the local countryside.
The Villa della Seta is very conveniently located near the village of Corliano only 2km along the road from the health spa of San Giuliano Terme, and halfway between the historical cities of Pisa and Lucca (a 15 minute drive to both). Florence is only an hour away and Siena an hour and a half.
A restaurant famous for serving some of the best Fiorentina (a regional cut of beef, a bit like t-bone). After Argentina, this is the best beef I have ever eaten.
Don't go if you like it well done.
Viale Don Minzoni, 9, just off Pza della Libertà;
tel: 055 588 226
An excellent and inexpensive place to eat - panini stuffed with meat or veg. "Panini are sandwiches, Jim, but not as we know them!"
Volta di San Piero 6/r, the covered passage at the Santa Croce end of Borgo degli Albizzi;
tel: 055 234 0838
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