In the name of Viaggi per Donne and travel for the solo woman of a certain age, I have just spent three days in Florence, Italy in unbelievable temperatures; the older I get, the less I am able to cope with super hot weather. Spent a lot of time drinking coca cola with salt to replace the electrolytes I was losing. If you don’t know that particular little trick, try it … always works in getting rid of the wobblies …
Why was it so bad? Temperatures in the mid to high 30s aren’t usual for this time of year and the hot weather started in June; early. I am hoping, as is everybody else, it will not continue through to September. In fact, we have changed our tour dates to make sure we miss it if it does!
I thought I would share some of the journey with you to give you an idea of what to expect and what not to expect … this is a finalisation journey for September and a lot of what I have done isn’t part of the itinerary you will be following! But all highly suitable for the solo woman.
Florence Peretola airport … small, not very super when you consider the amount of traffic. However, the bags were off in record time. You can expect the same … it’s a small airport.
Finding ground transport is really easy and I headed for the €6.00 bus. I even got a seat, after depositing my bag in the luggage rack.
The air-conditioning was on … apparently. I don’t think too many people noticed!
This is a good bus; not every bus in Italy is good. It’s route is to different points in the city, the first being Santa Maria Novella railway station. Fortunately, I was staying near the station and my wheelie bag only weighed 12Kg. I found the hotel/B&B very easily; I was given excellent directions! People are always happy to help in Florence; especially if you’re over 50 and a solo woman. Public transport in this town is good … they are even extending the tram lines and will have a tram direct from the Airport to SMN station in a couple of years.
The Supermarket and Bars
Whenever I arrive somewhere new (this area of Florence was new), I like to source the nearest supermercato … somewhere to buy water and any yummies I might want. “They” say you can drink the tap water in Florence, but you never see Florentines drinking it, unless it’s in coffee. I found a “Conad” and bought my water and some fruit. I also stopped and had an espresso.
Bars are not what many of us traditionally expect a bar to be. They are places for coffee, panini, pasta, dolce, and yes, alcohol. Many of them serve wonderful Aperitivo and they are not usually expensive. They are also invariably wonderful with solo women of a certain age. Young and charming men or simpatico women of a similar age!
In a bar, you stand at the counter and drink your coffee. In many areas, they will give you a glass of water to drink before you drink the coffee. It has been explained that this is to prevent stomach upsets. Do I believe that? Maybe!
The end of the first day was spent lying on the bed, watching an Italian talent show on TV (Oh dear!), quietly sipping a glass of stunning Chianti and revelling in the air-con.
Shopping for goodies
Day 2 for me was spent visiting the Bernini Palace Hotel where Viaggi per Donne was originally making its home. It is a 5* plus hotel and not cheap; as you would expect. But it is sensational.
However, I made an executive decision and moved us to the Villa Olmi. 0.3 miles out of town with a shuttle bus on call so getting in and out of town isn’t a problem. It was also noticeably cooler, the pool is lovely and the hotel is the traditional 15th Century villa (!) With stunning rooms. You’ll like it … it seemed easier for solo women to navigate from there into town than being stuck in town.
There is always so much to do in Florence and so many shops selling so much ‘stuff’. There is a lot of gorgeous ‘stuff’ and a lot of not-so-gorgeous ‘stuff’. I managed to source some delightful boutiques with prices ranging from I’ll-take-it to screams-of-horror. Oh, and did I mention the shoes?!
Traditional shopping includes …
No doubt about it, the Florentines know how to deliver soft, colourful leather; from shoes and gloves to handbags and jackets. Plus pants and other clothing items. When did you last have a pair of leather pants?! If you’re a solo woman, time to wear them again, and make a statement … you remember how to ‘work’ a pair of leather pants, don’t you!?
Everywhere! Better in some Gelaterias than others. I love the stuff, but not being a connoisseur, and being lactose intolerant, cramps my style slightly. Cramps being the operative word. Honestly, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad Gelato. Most places, €2 – 4 for two scoops, but there are a couple of places where they will charge €10 and up! I don’t think so …
Prosciutto, Salame, Foccacia, Mozzarella and Pomodoro
Every type of ham in existence is called Prosciutto and it is all delicious. The Florentines have a thing about Pork and Beef; not just ham (prosciutto), but other types of Pork; and of course, we can’t forget the Bistecca. To me, this always looks like a half a cow, still moving, on a plate. These things are HUGE and I cannot imagine one person eating a whole Bistecca. Although they do …
The salamis are also delish … and every region has its own particular type of salami/sausage.
The Foccacia is yummy; try the one made with Olive Oil. Truly scrumptious.
The Mozzarella, and in fact all the cheeses, are delicious. If you have the opportunity, try the Bufala Mozzarella which is made near Salerno, and find yourself some lovely, runny Gorgonzola.
Pomodoro; the ubiquitous tomato. Yes, the Italians have turned tomatoes into a work of art. One of the nicest salads (you can get it anywhere) is made up of sliced Mozzarella, sliced tomato, Basil and liberal sprinklings of Olive Oil. It is just divine.
Florence is one of those places where everything that is usual seems unusual. It’s loud, hot (well, at the moment), dirty, dusty, frustrating and unbelievably inept. I’m not sure how a city can be inept but it is …
But Florence is also magical; wall-to-wall history; charming, exciting and FUN! Isn’t that what every solo woman of a certain age wants?
An aside: Lying in the sun or sitting beside the Arno, I managed to get a lot of reading done! The problem? Reading and books are never a problem, until you have to carry them. My suggestion? Get a Kindle to save your shoulders and spine.