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PokeyMindy

Florence Shopping, Restaurants, Tours

The following notes are from my 2013 trip. I updated these notes after I returned to Florence in 2015.

I want to share a few places I went shopping, eating, strolling and various other observations while I was in Florence, April 27 - May4th, 2013.

FLORENCE AIRPORT
Getting a taxi at the airport in Florence was easy. Once you exit the main front doors (follow signs to Taxi’s) turn to the right and walk to the end of the sidewalk and you will see where all the taxi’s queue up. Stand in line, wait your turn and it goes very smoothly. In my case, there were 2 of us, each with a VERY HEAVY SUITCASE, also a carry-on (stuffed to the gills) and personal item (purse...also stuffed to the gills). The rate to the center of Florence is €20,00 plus €1,00 per suitcase. I think it’s a bit more on Sunday’s. Anyway we gave the guy €25,00; he was very kind, cute, and we felt bad because we had enough luggage for the cast of Wicked! I will say that I LOVED my Eagle Creek 18 inch Pack-it Folder. It kept my tops all neatly together and easy to put in a drawer at the apartment. I wish I had another. I’m also a huge fan of packing cubes.

A shout out to the TSA. I had bubble-wrapped very carefully (5) 8oz. bottles of Organic New Hampshire Maple syrup. I had read that the density (?) of the syrup is a flag for inspection so I was not surprised when I arrived in Florence and noticed my suitcase had been opened. (I use a zip tie to lock my luggage). There was a note from TSA and one of the 5 bottles had been unwrapped and then rewrapped with TSA issued bubble wrap and TSA tape. All 5 were then placed very carefully inside one of my packing cubes. All arrived safely. They did not do a taste test of the maple syrup. Whatever they did, they deemed it safe!

ACCOMMODATIONS
I stayed, again, at the wonderful Residenza Il Carmine (residenzailcarmine.com). I wouldn’t stay anywhere else. Jen and I shared the spacious DOMUS apartment. For me, walking through the doors is like coming home. I love it there so much. Wonderful as always to see Miriam, Emilio, Caterina and (woof woof) Maria.

FLORENCE SHOPPING
Here are a few places I went shopping and recommend:

Le Telerie Toscane; near Pitti Palace Sdrucciolo de Pitti, 15R
www.letelerietoscane.com
Tuscan textiles items, such as kitchen towels,table clothes, and prisina (pot holders). I wish I had bought a few more kitchen towels!

2 other fun kitchen shops recommended by Judy Witts Francini are both near Mercato Centrale.

Casalinghi is right on Via dell Ariento; hidden behind the stalls of the Lorenzo Market. The main entrance to the huge Mercato Centrale is across from this store. All sorts of fabulous kitchen items, even a single cup Melitta coffee filter and #2 coffee filters which I lug with me to Italy every year! Now I know where to pick one up if I forget! A great place to wander around!

The other kitchen shop is Gioa della Casa; Via Sant Antonio 31R also near the Mercato Centrale. I could spend hours in this store as well. Enough of the Uffizi, get me to a kitchen shop or candy store!

A favorite ceramic shop of Colleenk’s which I also love is
Ditta Luca della Robbia, Via del Proconsolo 19/R.
Super super friendly staff and they wrap each purchase with love and bubble wrap! I’m kicking myself now for not buying more.



Florence and Deruta Ceramics - Carnesecchi
Via Guicciardini, 4r (between Pitti Palace and Ponte Vecchio)
store hours: 10 - 7, phone: 055 23 98 523
SUPER SUPER FRIENDLY STAFF! A few minutes walk from here is Le Volpi e l’Uva which is on my Florence Eats list. You may even see a Boston Magnet on their cash register which I gave to the young lady working in the store. She was such a sweetheart!!! (added Oct. 2015)

This shop is right in the heart of Florence, on probably one of the busiest streets in town. What sets ‘Carnesecchi’ apart from all the other shops in the downtown area?

Firstly, several of the hand-painted designs and patterns are exclusive to the shop and can’t be found elsewhere in Florence. Then, Matteo and Lucy take special care of their customers. Ask them to personalize a ceramic piece and they will have it done for you within a day or two.
For example, you can have a Christmas ornament customized or a magnificent hot plate in a Florentine geometric pattern with your family name added.

Gioia Chiara, Via della Scala, 11R (across the street (and down a bit) from Farmacia Santa Maria Novella)
This shop was recommended to me a few years ago by Luca Logi, our SlowTravel friend who lives in Florence. They have beautiful leather items, wallets, briefcases, keychains, etc. The item I went in for specifically was their pen/pencil holders. They make a great gift and come in many fun colors. I think they were only €12,00 each. We all ended up with a few each. (yes, kicking myself for not buying a few more). It is a family run business and the woman in the store could not have been more friendly! I showed her the holder I bought a few years back and she said “old style”....the slight change (for the best) is that they are now a wee bit longer so pens fit in nicely. I keep a nail file in mine along with pens. Easy to find in my purse. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. (photo in my Florence photo’s link at the end).


Pen/Pencil Holder

For eyeglass frames I stopped into GUIDORENI VISION GROUP, Pza. San Giovanni 2R, tel: 055 287617
I bought a fun pair of glasses which I got a discount for paying cash €80,00. I brought my eye prescription with me to be sure I could get the progressive lenses. The optical technician was very impressed that I had the script with me!

All staff spoke English very well and were super friendly. I will have the lenses put in here in the USA. It’s always fun to reply “oh these? I bought them in Italy” when someone asks “where did you get your glasses”?


My new glasses

Normally I buy leather gloves at Modova but this year I was looking for “aubergine” color and they did not have any I liked. I stumbled upon a WONDERFUL leather store who carried the exact color!

ROBERTA FIRENZE, VIA DEI BANCHI 22R
www.robertafirenze.com/en/negozi
The gentleman who waited on the 4 of us was very happy we walked into his store! I ended up buying 2 pairs of gloves and a fabulous pumpkin colored purse. Mama Mia it is soft as butter!!! There is another store in Florence but I loved the gentleman at this location.

Another fun gift I love to buy are “David” credit card holders. The only place I can find them, however, is in the gift shop of the Uffizi. So, I strolled up to the main entrance and said (in Italian) “I only want to go into the gift shop”. The guard lifted the line barrier and in I went; yep, in front of the dozens upon dozens waiting in line! I went through security and into the gift shop I went! I knew exactly where they were located, bought quite a few....took a detour to the bathroom, and was out the exit door within 20 minutes!

Yes, you can buy beautiful stationary at many of the stalls in San Lorenzo market or Porcellina market but I was looking specifically for notecards which have “GRAZIE” on the front. I can find “Thank You” but I wanted GRAZIE. I found the last box in the store at

Il Papiro (many all over Florence), Via Guicciardini 47 R
This was the store I found the notecards.

Another great store for writing supplies, note cards, old maps of Italy, posters, leather writing cases, etc is at:

SIGNU, near Santa Croce, Via dei Benci 29/31R
I could spend hours in this store!

USA/EUROPA PHONE CARD
For €5,00 at a tabacchi store you can buy a phone card (not really a card, more a piece of printed paper with a phone number to dial, and a PIN number). From a landline I could call USA and talk for 180 minutes. I THINK you can use the card too using a cell phone or phone booth but not sure. For me, it’s the best way to call home.

TAKING THE BUS TO PANZANO
www.acvbus.it/orari/365.pdf (link to PDF)
One day Jen and I took the SITA bus from Florence ( bus station near Santa Maria Novella train station) to Panzano. It cost €3,80 each way. It was a rainy day but still a beautiful ride down SS 222 (the “Karen Valentine Highway” for those of you who remember the reference in a trip report by MaiTaiTom many years ago).

We validated our tickets as soon as we got on the bus. There was a ticket checker on the bus who was making sure each ticket was validated. No one checked on our ride home.

Panzano is a cute little town which is famous because of Dario the butcher. He is quite a character, very friendly and gregarious! Jen and I met up with Cristina Fassio (who I’d been wanting to meet for years, “knowing her” from Slowtrav.com and more recently on Facebook), Pamela Sheldon Johns, owner of Food Artisans - foodartisans.com, a good friend I hadn’t seen for a few years; also Nora Kravis who has the cutest cashmere goats and owns Chianti Cashmere - chianticashmere.com. Also joining us for lunch at Dario’s was another Slowtrav friend, Claudia Hirst Moore who lives in Pienza, and I also finally met Judy Witts Francini owner of Divina Cucina - divinacucina.com, good Lord, I’ve “known” her for so many years too; It was a fun and delicious time in Panzano! Jen and I had no trouble catching the bus back to Florence.

DRIVING TOUR OF TUSCANY
Another day trip was with Luca, owner of Hills and Roads - hillsandroads.com. 4 of us were picked up by Luca in Florence and we spent the day touring around Tuscany. We made a stop in Siena and were able to spend a little time in the gorgeous Piazza del Campo.

We drove to a wonderful winery, Le Crete - lecreteaziendagraria.it located in Trequanda, Siena. The owner, Daniele, was delightful and we tasted many of his wines, olive oil and ate a delicious lunch. We were able to look at his rooms which he has as part of an Agriturismo. I would definitely stay in any one of those rooms! A rental car is a MUST!

After lunch Luca drove us to one of my “bucket list” places;
Monte Oliveto Maggiore - monte-oliveto.com. Luca led us through the gorgeous frescos depicting the life of St. Benedict. It was breath-taking!

Luca is a great guy, very knowledgable and kind. I think we each paid around €100,00 and we were gone about 8 hours. He returned us right back to our apartment in Florence. He is highly recommended on both Slowtrav.com and TripAdvisor.

I will add here that we also used Hills and Roads to drive 5 of us from Florence to FCO airport in Rome. Our excitement of that trip was getting a flat tire on the A1 Autostrada! Our young driver (whose name I forget) handled the situation very well. We had a tow truck lift the entire van onto his flatbed and then drove us to the next exit which, thankfully, was a rest stop. He changed the tire, we peed in the bushes, and we got to the airport in time to make our flight to Bari. All in all a crazy experience but handled professionally by our young female driver. She was glad the 5 of us were “fun” and making limoncello out of lemons, haha. Our price per person for ride from Florence to FCO was €45,00 each. Well worth it!

MORE IN FLORENCE
A trip to Florence would not be complete without a visit to the Church of San Miniato. Normally we would walk up but we were tired so grabbed a taxi. It was €12 or 15,00 from our apartment (near Ponte alla Carraia), we were dropped off at the steps leading up to the church. I love it up there. We took a dozen-thousand photos and then walked down to Piazza Michelangelo. We were looking for the Iris Garden but stumbled upon the Rose Garden instead. Lovely.

We walked down and were on a mission to find the art studio of Clet who is known all over Florence for his street sign artwork. His shop is on the corner right near the Church of San Niccolo. I bought a few of his bumper stickers with his wacky street signs. He was in the studio working and had a young lady helping with the money and answering questions.

I stopped into the small art studio of a water color artist, Junko Mukai (Via del Monte alle Croci, 14) and bought a small watercolor of a black cat in front of the Duomo. I had seen other similar watercolors, but stupid me, didn’t buy it when I first saw it and could never find the artist again. I was lucky to have spotted this one although it is much smaller than I’d prefer. Lesson: if you see something you love, buy it then and there!

NOTTE BIANCA FIRENZE 30 APRILE 2013
nottebiancafirenze.it
We were lucky enough to be in Florence for this event. It is a family fun event, most museums and church’s are open until late and have either free or discounted admission. Each piazza has entertainment geared for family. This years theme was VOLARE---to fly. You can check out this website to see photos from the different piazza’s; plan on being there next year for “WHITE NIGHT”.

We experienced Plasticiens Volants in Piazza Santa Croce. Huge balloons floating over the piazza, one even had a young lady flying on of the balloons. Very cool. We also went into the Church of Santa Croce for only €3,00 which is a great price. We also saw the bright green BE HAPPY sign on the Ponte Vecchio.

Gobs and gobs of people, some drinking in the streets, but well behaved and everyone having a grand time!


Notte Bianca - here we are in Piazza Santa Croce

FLORENCE RESTAURANTS
Quattro Leoni
, Piazza Della Passera, tel: 055 218562
4leoni.it
open every day/recommend reservations
I had to make this the first place I ate upon arriving in Florence. I had dreams about their pear and pecorino ravioli topped with a light asparagus cream sauce. It was as delicious as I remember. I’ll be back! (by the way there is an excellent Gelateria in the same little piazza. Only the freshest ingredients are used)!

GUSTA PIZZA, Via Maggio 46R, tel: 055 285068
Closed Monday
call ahead and order for take out!
We had a pizza party at our apartment, called ahead and ordered 8 pizza’s. €45,00. It was about a 5 minute walk from our apartment/Santo Spirito. Friendly service and very popular!!

ALL’ANTICO RISTORO DI CAMBI, San Frediano neighborhood, Via S. Onofrio 1r, tel: 055 217134
anticoristorodicambi.it
Closed Sunday
Locals, comfy feel, friendly service. We’d heard the Ribollita soup was very good and it was! Delicious caprese salad made with Merinda tomatoes. Our waiter Tancredi was very sweet and he loved the Boston souvenirs we gave him! I’d definitely go back.



ALLA VECCHIA BETTOLA, “cucina tipica fiorentina”, Viale Vasco Pratolini 3/5/7, tel: 055 224158, near San Frediano
florence.ala.it/bettola/
Closed Sunday and Monday
This place was recommended by my Florentine friend Daniele. He has worked in the restaurant business for years. Our group was 8 people and they set up a great table for us. Many of us thoroughly enjoyed the house pasta “alla bettola”, a light red cream sauce, somewhat spicy. Perfectly seasoned and aromatic. We also ordered 2 plates of lightly fried vegetables, almost a tempura coating. Light and not greasy. Excellent. Locals galore. A great location especially if you’re staying in the Santo Spirito or San Frediano area. Walking “home” with a half full bottle of chianti made the evening perfetto!

Let me throw in a disappointment:
Ristorante Il Caminetto, Via dello Studio 34,r, right near the Duomo
ilcaminettofirenze.com
We went for lunch and did not have (nor need) reservations.
I’d read that the roasted potatoes were excellent. Well either we ordered the wrong thing or they changed their menu because the roasted were potatoes were nothing more than french fries. The zucchini flowers were not fried, just sitting there in a light sauce. gross. We had a salad with arugula and parmesan cheese. No big deal.

Sad that we wasted a meal at such a disappointing place; there are so many GREAT places in Florence. Oh well.

CIPOLLA ROSSA OSTERIA, Via dei Conti 53r, tel: 055 214210, near Medici Chapel
osteriacipollarossa.com
Jen and I went here for lunch on Sunday Aprile 28
No reservations; around 2PM
We both ordered the special TAGLIATELLE SUL SUGO DI POLLO GLI AROMI for €11,00 Shredded chicken with spices (nutmeg) over pasta. This was excellent!!! We had 1/2 litre of white wine. Very friendly service.

I see on their menu that they also offer Butter Chicken. I’d like to do a taste test between theirs and the TO.DIE.FOR BUTTER CHICKEN AT:

TRATTORIA SOSTANZA, Via del Porcellana, 25r, tel: 055 212691
Casual trattoria, if you go for lunch get there early to line up.
The BUTTER CHICKEN was so full of flavor (butter) and tender. I wish we had split an order between us and also ordered the popular artichoke omelet (tart). Fellow SlowTraveler Robert Rainey (may he rest in peace) loved this place so the 4 of us raised a glass of vino in his memory. I dream about that butter chicken. Best meal of the trip (in Florence).

Check out this blog post by Elizabeth Minchilli.

LE BARRIQUE, VIA DEL LEONE 40/R, tel: 055 224192
enotecalebarrique.com
Le Barrique was recommended to us by Jan from Minnesota. Lovely decor, very friendly staff who answered all of our questions about the menu. While a bit too “fancy” for me, I think it would be a great place for a romantic dinner. The outside garden area at night was lit with candles, as was the interior (Michele, is your hair on fire)? We started with an “amuse” of cream of carrot soup, spinach flan and steak tartar. Colleen and Michele each had cream of cauliflower soup with almonds. I had a bite and it was DELICIOUS! I had the duck breast with roasted potatoes. I forget what the others had, a chicken dish which was very good, wish I had ordered that. Not a duck fan evidently.

Would I go back? Probably not, but I know that for others it would be a great place for a special occasion.

Here is a link to my Florence photos on Slowphotos.

I hope you enjoyed my Florence ramblings!
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PokeyMindy loves to travel to Italy!
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  1. Florence Shopping/eats update

    After reading my notes from 2013 and then the update from 2015....I wanted to add a few more...

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I felt like I just had a mini trip to Florence after reading this post. I know many of the places and people you mention and I also learned a few new things. Thanks for posting!
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