Destination: Italy: Florence
A word to the wise: more than in any other Italian city, driving in Florence is not for the faint of heart. Not only are you dealing with a maddening cluster of mostly narrow one-way streets, but there are also pedestrian zones in which cars are allowed only during specific times of the day and night. The grand exception to this rule is taxis, which are allowed to venture almost anywhere. If you plan to bring a car (as many visitors whose itinerary also includes Tuscany do), be sure to get very specific directions on how to get to your first hotel and have the staff there put your vehicle in a garage (about €30 a night) for the remainder of your stay. And forget your GPS: not even the most advanced system can figure out the city’s ever-changing time zones, rules and construction.
There are no direct flights from the United States to Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci Airport (www.aeroporto.firenze.it). Air France, Lufthansa and Meridiana offer connecting flights through Frankfurt, Paris and London. You can also fly into Rome or Milan—Delta flies direct from Atlanta, US Airways from Philadelphia, and Continental from Newark—and then connect to Florence by plane or train. Or you can fly into Pisa, sixty miles west of Florence. During high season (May through October), direct flights are often added, so check for changing schedules.
The excellent Eurostar train service from Rome gets you to Florence in ninety minutes (make sure you don’t end up on a local train, which can take up to four hours). Tickets and seat assignments can be booked in advance (www.trenitalia.it). A word of advice: You can also drive to Florence from Pisa, but beware that parking in the city is nonexistent, and you really don’t need a car to get around.
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