Here is what I wrote to a friend planning her trip to Italy after my 2006 journey to Verona, Lake Garda, Florence, Venice, and Rome…
I hope you guys have a blast in Italy! I went for a few months last year and had the time of my life. Here are some suggestions (I’m not an expert, but I traveled with natives, so I got to visit some pretty awesome places).
Venice: One place I loved was Lagatoria Rivoaltus, a stationer on Ponte Rialto. It’s owned by a husband and wife team who make paper and leather journals. They’re adorable and the goods are well-made. They make everything on site and if you tell them what your dream journal is and they’ve made something like it they might just climb into their attic, shuffle things around while looking, and descend with just what you envisioned.
South of the Veneto: Drink plenty of blood orange juice, it’s very good… and good for you. Also, if you get to a grocery store, treat yourself to any of the yogurt they sell (no special brand, just their version of dannon, etc). I loved them all, and their little glass jars (they come just like baby food). They were perfectly smooth and not super sweet, but tasty. I tried to get them delivered to no avail here in the states.
Florence: You HAVE to see David at the Galleria Dell’accademia. He was my favorite part of Italy and I had no idea it would turn out that way. I waited in line for three hours… was ho-hum about it, lolly-gagged at the opening exhibits at the Galleria… but once I got on the main hall and spied the huge statue at the end in the domed room I was completely mesmerized. The artistry of that sculpture took my breath away. Once I spied the tall statue at the end of the hall in the domed room, my heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t stop looking at it. I walked closer, circled the display, then sat on a bench in the viewing area so I could just stare. Until this moment I never truly knew why that Michelangelo was considered a Master Artisan. I know now. I have been enlightened 🙂 All the minute details of the sculpture body led to me believe his marble chest might begin to expand and contract as if breathing. So… lifelike. At that moment my life became divided in two parts; before David, and after David. I had been so moved by a work of art that words evaded me and a feeling of euphoria washed over my consciousness. It was like I suddenly knew a great secret that I could not tell because words weren’t enough. I could only suggest that the next person dip their toe into the water and perhaps feel the experience themselves. I urge you to go.
If you can make reservations online in advance for any of the exhibits you want to see (i.e., Uffizi, Galleria Dell’accademia, etc) it’s worth it and you won’t have to stand in the cold. Although, this is off-season so you might not be caught in crowds.
Around the corner from the school (the Galleria is still an active artists college) there is the /best/ gelato in Florence, at Carabe on Via Ricasoli. Made with the freshest stuff around! I loved the coffee gelato and lemon gelato best. Most places make their own, even cafés and bars.