Reviewing Florence

Reviewing Florence - Florence, Italy

Check out Florence reviewer Annie Shapero's take on bejeweled, site-packed Florence. Annie fills us in on her rediscovery of very touristed Florence, her favorite local menu items and, um, falling in love.

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1. Favorite hotels.

This is rough. There really were so many that impressed me. Let's see...

I admit that I am a sucker for Barbra Streisand playing softly in the background. So I immediately prejudged the Dei Mori B&B positively when I walked in and the stylings of former "Funny Girl" were playing in the background. I love Dei Mori's little walk-in closets and frescoed ceilings, but most of all I heart the skinny mirrors in all of the rooms! Full length!

I was ready to move right into the Johanna 1 or the Antica Dimora. Both of these bed & breakfasts are in their own league. They've got an arty Parisian feel and lots of attention to every detail. The staff at each was super nice, and I had the impression they might actually let me move in during low season.

The Hotel Scoti is like an enormous antique dollhouse! And the Archi Rossi is super cool and brand spanking clean, one of the best hostels I've ever visited.

2. Favorite thing about working in Florence.

I know I shouldn't say things like this, but I used to consider Florence to be something of an Italian Disneyland, or, more accurately, Epcot Center. With so many tourists and so many masterpieces all packed into a perfect, tidy little city, Florence just never seemed real to me.

While reviewing, I spent a week there, during which time I ventured beyond the confines of the tourist circuit and met actual Florentines, ate at their restaurants, shopped at their shops and got to know a side of the city I wouldn't otherwise have gotten to know.

3. What surprised you about Florence?

I had expected to find hotels of a much lower quality offering rooms at much higher rates. I remembered from past visits that hotels near the Station (on Via Faenza, Via Nazionale and others nearby) cost less, and I assumed that this was the only affordable hotel zone in town. I was delighted to discover affordable hotels spread out all over the city, with adorable rooms and fantastic nightly rates.

4. Funny story.

While waiting out the rain at a bar, I met a very well-established American artist, currently living in Florence and working under a false Italian name for a while to escape the pressures of fame. As it so happened, he told me that he wanted to do some modeling and asked me to take a few racy photos. I had the camera. He had the moves!

5. City secret.

Well, there are two secrets. On Borgo Pinti you'll find great vintage and second-hand clothes. Plus, there's an amazing tailor on Via Chiara (located just off Piazza del Mercato Centrale in the San Lorenzo district), who works in the back of a leather shop. Give him an hour or two and he'll hem your trousers—cheaply!

6. Favorite local food.

I'd head up the list with crostini di fegato alla Toscana: savory chicken liver terrine served hot on crispy bruschetta and drizzled in olive oil. Also phenomenal: schiacciata (extra oily, crunchy focaccia) sandwiches from the vinaio. The bell pepper spread in Florence is out of this world. I'm drooling all over the keyboard just thinking about it!

7. Highlights of the trip.

Does falling head-over-heels in love with the head concierge of the least budget hotel in Florence count?

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