A series of posts, accompanied by photographs, recording our recent stay in Italy. Having thoroughly enjoyed it, we wish to share our experience. You’ll get the almost full story of our travels, activities, and experiences; warts and all, in instalments.
23rd September, Sunday
Pick-up was timed for 09:30, so we had time for breakfast before checking out of Hotel Forum. Our smart driver took us to the main railway station, Roma Termini, less than a kilometre from the hotel, through streets gradually filling with tourists.
We entered the station with just a touch of trepidation, uncertain what would face us. However, we needn’t have worried. We were early and soon discovered what the various boards meant and where we needed to be for our train; all the details present on the itinerary provided by Citalia.
We wandered down the platform to the point designated for our coach to stop and took a seat until the train pulled in.
Italian trains come in various types, but the agent had booked us into the best and we soon found our seats, opposite each other with a small table between and sited as single seats with the aisle separating them from the paired seats the other side.
A younger passenger helped me place the suitcases in the luggage rack and we sat watching the screens providing us with information about our ride.
The train moved off and trundled through the city and we passed the usual graffiti, and the industrial and commercial properties so common to railways everywhere. Once in the countryside, the steward appeared with his trolley and gave us complementary drinks and snacks.
The train was quiet and spacious; a small group of Italian businessmen held a casual meeting just across the aisle as we sat watching the landscape change as we approached Florence. The journey was swift and comfortable, and gave us views of Italy we wouldn’t otherwise have seen.
In Florence we were eventually greeted by our transfer driver, who arrived late and rescued us from a pretty chaotic crowd of people all awaiting their various lifts. He proceeded to chatter at high speed for the entire ride to the hotel, covering personal grievances, domestic disagreements and protests against the authorities. Thankfully, the distance was short, as he literally never stopped talking.
Hotel staff greeted us and checked us in, but our room wasn’t quite ready. They stored our luggage and suggested we find somewhere for lunch.
Walking streets buzzing with tourists, we found what looked like a reasonably priced small café offering simple food and the drinks we both craved.
Il Duca was staffed by a lone woman who did everything. She warned us we were seated close to the air conditioning unit, but we were initially glad of that after the heat in the street. I was presented with a plate of dryish spaghetti Bolognese and a reasonable local draught beer, Valerie had a Coke Zero and had to remind the woman about her food. A plate of pasta with vegetables arrived.
The bill was a little pricier than we’d expected from the advert outside, but we were too keen to get back to the hotel to make a fuss and left a little disappointed with our first experience of the city.
Our room was ready and the porter brought up our bags and left without waiting for a tip. Lovely room; quite plain and modern with a big screen TV and a huge bed, quiet air conditioning and two windows, one overlooking the small piazza where the hotel entrance stood and the other overlooking the river; wonderful!
Great views from our 2nd floor location. Lots of storage space. Guest slippers and bathrobes were supplied. The TV had the BBC World Service and Sky News in English. And a wonderful bottle of Italian fizz on ice!
After unpacking what we needed for the three nights we’d spend in Florence, we took another walk and discovered where we needed to go for our visit to the Uffizi on Tuesday. I’d ordered tickets online through their own website, which also had a lengthy post about dress and behaviour for visitors.
Florence on Sunday turned out to be even more crowded than Rome on Saturday! Neither of us are city people, preferring the peace and quiet of our rural village, but this visit was for a purpose and we made the best of it.
We found a place for our evening meal, as the hotel has no restaurant. Restorante Toto was happy to reserve a table for us, and the evening meal was so good, the service friendly, we decided to eat there each night.
Took a gentle saunter along the road by the river, avoided the Ponte Vechio, which was a mass of tourists, and wandered up to another bridge to cross the water.
We then walked back along the other side to a further bridge.
Pleasant in the sunshine with lots of stunning views of the city across both sides of the river.