Europe For The Senses

Author/Photographer Vicki Liston blogs on her book and some interesting places she's traveled. "Europe for the Senses - A Photographic Journal" was published under the name 'Vicki Landes'.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Easy Does It

Today is one of those days that I crave Italy. I dragged myself out of bed in enough time to get Brady to school while still fighting some kind of tragic sinus infection. When we got outside, we saw frost on the grass and our breath in the crisp, cold air for the first time this season. This made me want to head south and do something that requires very little effort.

Florence is probably the ‘easiest’ city I’ve ever visited…’easiest’ meaning low stress, low effort, and an endless number of things to do. The thing is, I’ve never actually stayed overnight in Florence…that’s what makes it so easy. I always recommend staying somewhere in the countryside and then taking the train in (parking is a nightmare so I don’t bother driving). Ride into the Santa Maria Novella station and most of Florence’s main attractions are within 20 minutes walking distance. The tourist information office across the street from the train station (look for the TI) has free maps. From there, you can stroll to the Medici Chapels, the Duomo Cathedral with its adjacent bell tower and baptistery, the Ponte Vecchio, the colorful street market, and a myriad of art museums. Some of the farther sites can be reached via taxi if the walking starts to wear you out.

What you may not know about Florence is that Nutella was invented here! Actually, not ‘Nutella’ the brand but the concept of this heavenly whipped hazelnut chocolate spread. The Rivoire Café at Via Vacchereccia is where it all started. Called ‘Crema Nocciola al Cacao’, the words ‘delicious’, ‘unbelievable’, or ‘devine’ just don’t cut it. They don’t utter the ‘N’ word here (‘Nutella’) and will give you a stern look if you do. The café has seating both inside and out so you can opt to sit in a quiet booth or people-watch as you savor their chocolate and pastries. It’s the perfect stop in-between sightseeing or shopping.

Speaking of shopping, don’t miss the street market. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m obsessive when it comes to baby soft cashmere pashminas – and you can’t turn around in the market without finding piles of them in all colors and patterns. I think I’ve bought about ten every time I’ve gone but the prices are great and they go with almost anything. Just off the street market is Massimo’s Leather – probably the highest quality leather products in Florence and a great personality to boot. Massimo’s absolutely hysterical…I don’t think I stopped laughing the entire time I was in the shop. I also love visiting the pharmacy at the Santa Maria Novella church. Sounds funny, but it hails as one of the oldest in the world and is operated in the same tradition as when it was founded in the 13th century. Not at all resembling the stark, sterile pharmacies we are used to, the SMN boasts gorgeous architecture, gentle lighting, and soothing smells of its many aromatherapy products.

I could go on and on…there’s just so much in Florence. The best part is that it only requires wandering around and finding these unique spots. Easy does it.


Post a Comment

<< Home