On the recommendation of a friend of Carol’s, Monday morning we took the train to the spa town of Montecatini. It’s a medium-size town about an hour outside Florence and appears to be popular as a place to stay for tour groups visiting Florence, judging by the number of hotels there. And because of its proximity to Florence, we spent the night, planning to continue on to Florence the next day. Since Montecatini is known for its spas, we decided that was how to spend our time there.
Our hotel, Grand Hotel Croce di Malta, had a lovely spa, Thai Silk. Carol and I booked 75-minute facials, which entitled us to also use the world’s largest jacuzzi (sorry no phones allowed in the spa and couldn’t find a stock photo…but it was more like a small pool than a jacuzzi). Our facials were wonderful and totally relaxing (I kept drifting off). We then hit the jacuzzi. Thad had spent the afternoon by the outdoor pool, and while Carol and I played in the jacuzzi, he took some steam and sauna time.
Faces glowing (Carol and me) and pores open (Thad), we set out for dinner in the old town up the hill. Reached by a funicolare which was not easy to find, we discovered a charming, typical Tuscan walled village. As the sun was setting when we arrived, we didn’t have time to explore, but much enjoyed our dinner at one of the several restaurants located on the main piazza. Very touristy, but pretty nonetheless.
Descended via funicolare and walked through the main part of town which was quite lively with locals and tourists alike. Stopped for gelato on the way back to the hotel and called it a night.
Day 12 – Firenze
Took the train in to Florence the next morning. Have to say that we were a bit rattled by the crowds of tourists, having become accustomed to the smaller, less-visited coastal towns. But Florence is Florence, so what was not to love? From the train station, we walked to the Duomo. This was Thad’s first visit and he was blown away by the size, beauty and grandeur of this magnificent iconic structure.
We followed a walking-tour suggested by Lonely Planet, which started at Piazza della Repubblica. We were in need of some good Italian espresso (the “American” Nescafe at the hotel was undrinkable!), so stopped at one of several outdoor cafes, the lovely Caffe Concerto Paszkowski, for cappuccino and espresso.
Our next stop was Chiesa e Museo di Orsanmichele, a 14th century church created by walling-in a century-old grain market. What makes it unique is that the altar is not centered, but off to the right side of the sanctuary.
Next was the Mercato Nuovo, an impressive 16th century arched structure housing mostly leather stalls for tourists. We each dutifully rubbed the snout of the bronze statue of a wild boar called “Il Porcellino” (the “piglet”), ensuring our return to Florence.
We continued to Via de’Tournabuoni, Florence’s Fifth Avenue. We admired the 13th-century Palazzo Spini-Feroni, which houses Salvatore Ferragamo’s flagship store.
Having struck out at Ferragamo, we strolled along Via del Parione, billed as filled with artisan’s workshops. If there were any workshops, they were closed and it just looked like a few tired shops to us. We crossed the Arno and walked to the Ponte Vecchio. At this point, we were hot and hungry, so walked back to Piazza Santa Trinita, where we had noticed a trattoria that looked inviting.
Carol and Thad had pizza and I had sautéed porcini, my second porcini meal in 2 days….heaven!
Interesting street scenes throughout the day…..
We unanimously agreed that we were ready to return to our beloved Rapallo, so walked back to the train station. Had some time before our train, so Carol and I left Thad with the bags at the station for a little shopping, of course! We actually found some bargains in a store advertising it was “going out of business.” We each got another bracelet like the ones we had purchased in Portofino, but half the price, and a real steal…a simple striped knit skirt for 7 Euros…can’t beat that deal! Three hours later we were back in Rapallo, where we had a light dinner and an early night.
A domani amici!