Posts Tagged ‘Florence’

Smart for Four rental car in Tuscany, Italy

In October last year, Jon and I traveled in Tuscany with our friends, Kate and Ray. We thought that trip was becoming another happy, but distant, memory, and then this week (note: six months after our trip), Kate received a couple of charges on her credit card from the rental car company we used in Florence: 92 euros for a traffic violation and 50 euros for an “administrative fee.”

And apparently we had not one, but two, traffic violations while driving in and out of Florence (just to pick up and drop off the car, bookending our trip driving around in Tuscany). So our total fees came to 284 euros. $451. Impressive. (more…)

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Trattoria dei 13 Gobi, Florence

Jon and I ate only three meals in Florence during our last trip. The best of the three was at Trattoria dei 13 Gobbi, and even there our meal was not without a few issues, so it’s fair to say I was disappointed by the restaurants we tried in the city. It wasn’t a good sign when the restaurants that kept coming up in english-language sources were ones I recognized (and had visited) from the last time I was in Florence, in 2003 (e.g., Il Cibreo, Ristorante La Giostra, Beccofino). I wondered: doesn’t anything change?

I think the problem with small cities that are major tourist destinations is that even if a restaurant serves good food, the servers are so tired of tourists that they just can’t be bothered to be polite or responsive. So perhaps there was a little bit of that going on during our trip, combined with the high likelihood that non-Italian-speaking me wasn’t able to research my way to the really good, new places (i.e., the elusive “where the locals go”).

Trattoria dei 13 Gobbi, not far from the train station, was recommended by a friend who’d visited in 2005, and had rave reviews from recent Chowhound posts. When four of us walked in at around 10 pm for dinner, 90% of the other guests spoke english, which isn’t a deal breaker, per se, but it made me suspicious. But I relaxed when I saw how warm and inviting the trattoria’s dining room is, and there’s a large back courtyard where al fresco dining in the summer must be lovely.

We were in a rush to get on the road to Tuscany that evening, so we ordered only pastas. My spaghetti alla bottarga was deliciously seafoody and salty, though more oily than it had to be. Everyone else’s dishes (ribollita, ravioli and a tagliatelle) ranged from fine to pretty good. Our main complaint was with the service. Our server’s body language and clipped speech conveyed a whole lot of disdain and irritation, which ruined an otherwise nice meal. (more…)

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Florence skyline, Duomo

Buon giorno! Jon and I are back in London after a trip to Florence and Tuscany with our friends Kate and Ray, with whom we traveled in Portugal a few months ago.

Tuscany in the fall is beautiful – New England leaf peepers, eat your heart out – but sadly we had a few days of rain and gray. I could have stayed in London for that.

Florence is also pretty, but is it just me or is the service and attitude in restaurants and shops rather poor there? Jon and I were last in Florence in 2003, and I don’t remember anything bad about it, but this time around, I have a few bones to pick, and it’s not just with Florentine places.

A little bitching and moaning before I get to the happier food and shopping reports:

1. If you don’t want to sit parched through your meal, bottled water is your only option. Ordering a carafe of tap water in Florence and Tuscan towns appears to be impossible. When I tried, at best I got a dismissive ‘no,’ and at worst, I seemed to have flagged our table as a “no service zone,” which meant we waited close to half an hour for any server to even catch our eye again. (You can imagine how popular I was with my tolerant dining companions).

2. Coperto. I hate coperto. In Italy, coperto is supposed to cover the cost of your place setting and crappy, stale bread that nobody ever wants to eat. I actually appreciated that one restaurant, Baldovino, did away with the charade entirely and didn’t even bother with the bread. They just charged the coperto. My two cents’: if the place setting costs that much, just add it to menu prices, please! Otherwise, I find it kind of deceptive.

Less rant and more rave to come. Ciao.

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