More than you can possibly do in one trip

Central Florence is absolutely packed with tourist trekking gems. The Duomo, the David, the Medici Chapel, the Piazza della Signoria and on and on. Any guidebook or local map will keep you busy gawking for days on end. But if you chose to stay in Florence be aware that by the end of a few days of dealing with noise, auto exhaust, crowds of tourists, and every Vespa that has ever been manufactured you may want to run screaming from the city.

We've learned that the best way to see Florence is to stay in Siena and day trip in. There is an express bus that makes its 45 min runs from the upper end of Siena to Florence hourly. It drops you off close to all the sites.

Hopping on the bus and returning to vehicle free Siena, before one more Vespa's buzzing and beeping sends you over the edge, is a nice way to end your day in Florence. Be sure to check to see when the last bus leaves. Jordan Carls can tell his tale of missing it by 10 minutes.

Book your times online

The major crowded sites in Florence and Academia, Ufizi, etc. - have on-line multi-language reservation systems. Unless you enjoy standing in blocks-long lines wasting your valuable tourist trekking time use it. They make it easy.

Our favorite, not often crowded site in Florence is the Museum of Science and Technology. The artistry that went into making some of the Renaissance equipment rivals much of the sculpture you'll see and our kids loved it.

The Bobili Gardens behind the Piti Palace across the Arno, over the Ponte Vecchio, is a good place to get out of the city for a break. The Piti Palace, while interesting and and excellent example of the opulent renaissance Florentine life style, is so enormous and packed so full of art and sculpture that it's almost impossible to remember what you saw in the previous room let alone 3 rooms back.

Being big fans of Michelangelo we never fail to stop in the Basilica of Santa Croce and have a chat when we are in town. Galileo is on the opposite wall. No doubt they have been having heated discussions for the last few hundred years.

Mercato Centrale - A Picnic waiting to happen

Mercato Centrale (central market) is another of out favorite stops. It's a two story market in the middle of downtown Florence. The first floor is packed with meats, cheeses and bread. The second displays stands full of fresh fruit, vegetables and greens. It's a great place to put together snacks and a lunch to eat later at the Bobili Gardens or along the Arno River. A picnic is a good break from the hectic pace of downtown.

During our last trip I was so excited to find ripe whole purple plums in the market. The kind we had as kids, where the juice runs down your chin with each bite. I bought over a kilo (kilogram=2.2 lbs.). A couple of hours later I reached into the bag for another - it was the last one! Public restrooms are hard to find in Florence but now I know where they all are.

Vivoli's Gelateria has often been voted the best gelato in Italy. We've found better. One just needs to keep testing and testing.

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