The essential site for city travellers
|Florence & Pisa
Pisa is the main airport for Tuscany, to travel on to Florence there is a link from the Airport to Pisa Rail Station from where trains run regularly alternatively there is a direct buses run by Autostradale and Terravision for Ryanair.
If travelling into Pisa then the airport is five minutes from the centre, a local bus goes every ten minutes from the Airport to the Station then onto the Duomo and the Leaning Tower and back the same way. Tickets can be bought in tabacs.
In both cities all streets have two sets of numbers, red are businesses, black or blue private houses, it can be very confusing so hence all the numbers below say “r”.
In Florence most places can be walked to but if you want to cross the river and get the views from Piazza Michaelangelo then there is the option of a bus from outside the station. There are a variety of tickets available including one for 24 hours.
As usual check the web sites www.booking.com and www.hotels.com but on our most recent visit we were delighted to find that the Spanish hotel group Room Mate www.room-matehotels.com had opened two hotels in the city. we chose the Luca, close to San Lorenzo. It was top notch, great design of the rooms and common areas and as ever super friendly, helpful staff. Great value for the facilities, location and also the breakfast included in the room rate.
Apartments are a popular alternative, Friendly Rentals www.friendlyrentals.com and Habitat Apartments www.habitatapartments.com both have some excellent apartments, we have used both companies frequently in other cities.
For Pisa as usual check the web sites www.booking.com and www.hotels.com but one worth mentioning if you want some nostalgia is the Hotel Royal Victoria, book an original room and if possible with a view of the river. The hotel is wonderfully old fashioned and the public areas are like a museum, the staff are very helpful. The bus from the airport and station stops outside.
Mercado Centrale, San Lorenzo, was until recently just a traditional produce market, great for buying porcini, sun dried tomatoes and pasta to take home. taking the lead I suspect from other markets in Spain and Portugal the first floor is now open as a food and drink venue. There is a main restaurant, pizzeria, beer bar and cafe and also a dozen or so shops selling their own food and a large wine bar featuring of course Chianti. It is open 365 days a year and until midnight giving a much needed place to go after dinner. The prices are reasonable, better than some in other cities and it is a welcome addition to the city,
Trattoria I Frattelini, Via Ghibellina 27r, San Croce, is a grocers shop that does lunch. You order at the counter for your starter, go back with your bill for a main, then if you can, for a dessert and wine is ordered the same way ! Excellent value lunch with the locals.
Trattoria Mario,Via Rosina 2r, near the central market and S.Lorenzo and now seems to be a must on every visitors list. The queues at lunchtime are long but they will take your name and tell you when a table will be free meaning you can visit one of the great wine bars nearby. Food is very traditional fare and still very reasonably priced.
Trattoria Sergio Gozzi, Piazza de San Lorenzo 8R, is an old school restaurant which only opens at lunchtime. We went for the first time on our most recent visit and were very impressed with the quality of the food. It is very popular so be prepared to queue, we will next time as its worth it. It is very reasonably priced for the quality and choice.
Canova Di Gustavino, Via della Condotta 29r, central area, is a wine bar with platters and other dishes, excellent quality and value and they have a very smart restaurant next door.
Caffe Italiano, Via Isola delle Stinche 11-13r, really three restaurants in one, Osteria, Pizzeria & Sud a bistro. We ate there twice once in the Pizerria part, excellent simple pizzas and loved the look of the Osteria so much we returned for dinner a couple of nights later. The food was good and reasonably priced, but the setting was more memorable than the food.
Across the river around Via S. Nicolo there are a number of good places to try and the area has a more local feel than around the Duomo
Osteria Antica Mescita Via S.Nicolo 60r, is a great, small, old fashioned place, with only an Italian menu but very helpful staff and a lovely atmosphere
Il Rifrullo Via S Nicolo 55r a very smart modern bar restaurant with good wines and free nibbles when we visited, also does a lunchtime buffet
Enoteca Bevo Vino V.San Nicolo 59r, we had visited before just for a wine from their decent selection and a snack, we returned this visit for lunch where they have a menu of two courses for €10. Food was decent, not outstanding but nice atmsophere.
Il Guscio, Via dell'Orto 49, we booked for dinner on our most recent visit and were delighted with the quality of the food and the service, it is excellent value and obviously a popular place with the local clientele.
Santo Bevitore, Via di Santo Spirito 64/66r. is on the same side of the river as those above but the other side of the Ponte Vecchio. We had visited it before and thought the food was excellent, this time we booked well in advance and had a fantastic meal. A shared starter of papardelle with wild boar was great. the two mains were outstanding. The beef fillet and the stuffed quail dish were top quality, the wine list is excellent and the service very good.
Il Santino at number 60, is the recent little saint to Il Santo Bevitore above. This wine bar offers wine by the glass each type with a different small dish. We only got the chance to visit once but loved the place another must for the next visit.
Vinattiere Dell Zanobini, Via S.Antonino, San Lorenzo is a great wine shop with a bar and a very reasonable selection of wines by the glass, they also have beer, no food but very friendly, only open till 8pm. This gem is still as good as it was on our first visit many years ago.
Casa del Vino, Via dell Ariento 16r, by the Central Market is less a wine shop and more a bar with wine by the glass and amazing panini and snacks, open during the day. It is incredibly popular with local people on their lunch break, so go early or slightly later at lunchtime. This is a real favourite and it now stays open till 10.00pm Friday & Saturday.
La Divina Enoteca, Via Panicale 19 r, is another San Lorenzo wine bar with some lovely outdoor tables looking onto the market.
Note de Vino, Borgo dei Greci 4, close to Santa Croce, this was find on our most recent visit. A very small wine bar with excellent food and lovely service.
Cafe Gilli, Piazza Republica, is a splendid old fashioned Florence café, it stays open late. Stand at the bar for a coffee or drink and it is very reasonable, like elsewhere in Italy sitting outside increases the prices hugely.
Art Bar, Via del Moro 4r, is a lovely cafe bar that does an excellent happy hour between 18.30 to 21.00. The drinks are exceptionally well done and at that time reasonably priced.
Lo Schiaccia Vino, Via G. Verdi 6r, is a sandwich shop and wine bar, food looked good and a decent selection of wines.
Enoteca de Macci, Via dei Macci, seemed like a good local bar in an area with some interesting places to eat and drink.
Antico Noe, Volta de San Piero, is famous a a panini shop, there is a tiny bar with some tables next door. There is also a restaurant which seems to get mixed comments, the bar part was fine, very cheap wine and a free dish of the local delicacy lampredotto or tripe as it is known. This area has some interesting little bar including a great tiny wine bar round the corner called Natalino.
Mayday Bar, Via Dante Alighieri, in the centre is a quirky late bar, not cheap, but does nightly specials and has good music.
On the Oltrano side of the river Via de Renai has a number of smart bars some that do apperitivi buffets including Negroni at number 17r. On the same side of the river but the other side of the Ponte Vecchio , Piazza Santo Spirito has a number of lively bars many of which do apperitivi buffets.
Signor Vino, Via dei Bardi 46r, is another branch of the group with a wine shop and bar & restaurant. This location has a wonderful terrace on the side of the River Arno with a view of the Ponte Vecchio, the service as in all there places can be slow but worth persevering.
Apperitivo hours are popular in Florence and there are lots of trendy bars that do “Buffets” from 7 to 9 approximately, where drinks may be more expensive and they often specialise in cocktails but you can eat as much as you want for nothing. There is one at Via Porta Rossa 63r, near the Duomo where one night the buffet has a curry theme, there are quite a few that have special themes
Tuscany is probably Italy’s best known wine producing region so an ideal opportunity for tasting some local wines. The reds are mainly from Sangiovese grapes and depending on which part of the region can be Chianti or Montepulciano, for whites keep an eye out for Trebbiano and Vermentino
Antica Trattoria Il Campano, Via Cavalca 19, has fabulous pasta dishes, it is a lovely place for lunch outside on the terrace and there are some very unusual twists in the cooking.
Ristorante La Mescita, Via Cavalca 2, near the Vettovaglie Market just off the main street this place has excellent cooking, a short menu but all the choices were wonderful and the wine list is very good, booking recommended.
Lo Sfizio, Borgo Stretto is an old fashioned café, they have an apperitivo buffet in the evening and reasonably priced drinks, the meals do not get good reports so stick to a drink.
At the end of the Borgo Stretto is the Botega del Gelato, a great ice cream shop.
Bazeel, Piazza Garibaldi, is a very modern lively bar but with very reasonable priced excellent wines and is open late, Good for a pre dinner drink, outside gets a bit noisy later on, but good service and a free buffet at apperitivo time.
Bar Centro, Piazza Garibaldi, is a very reasonable place to sit outside.
In Florence to do justice to the city known as the cradle of the Renaissance you do really need a good guide book. The crowds can be too much sometimes and perhaps it is for this reason that I find that it is a city that grows on you the more often you visit. The evenings when it is quieter are magic and many of the amazing sites are inside buildings, so keep looking.
You can take a local bus No. 7 to the lovely hill top town of Fiesole for wonderful views of Florence. Follow the signs for the viewing area and the climb up from the main square will be worth the effort.
So worth a day trip and easily reached by SITA bus from bus station, left of the front of the train station, fast bus via the motorway takes an hour and a quarter and stops very near the old centre, you can take the train but the station in Siena is a long way downhill from the old part, therefore the bus is handier.
L’Osteria, Via del Rossi 79/81, is a great local restaurant, ideal for a lunchtime meal, really good cooking and reasonable prices.