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It was a great experience to celebrate Christmas in Florence this year. There were no crowds to fight, prices were a bit more reasonable and the Florentines were especially friendly. There really aren't many places you can witness Christmas Mass as it has been done since the 1400s or Santa (Babbo Natale) piloting a gondola!
A few places we enjoyed in particular this trip in Florence...
The staff treated us as if we were visiting their homes. Our room had a view of the Duomo. The Savoy sits on the corner of the Piazza della Republicca, which is in the center of historic Florence. The lounge played American Christmas standards as well as chill/ambient music. There was a great internet connection in the basement. The food was delicious. The hotel is owned by the Rocco Forte hotel group. We will definitely look to stay at other properties such as the one opening next year in Prague.
Trattoria Gabriello From the Piazza Repubblicca, head east on Via Porta Rossa , which becomes Via Condotta. Restaurant is #54, 055/2102098. You must have the Ribollita, a tuscan bean and cabbage stew thickened with day old bread.
via Faenza 9, 055/216990. In the area of the San Lorenzo cathedral and the Mercato Centrale. Our favorite dish this time was beef tips slow cooked in tomatoes and wine, known as Stracotto.
Via Straccieatella, 9, 055/213048. After crossing the Ponte Vecchio heading south, you make the second left. It's hidden a bit in a neighborhood. We have always gone at lunch and had the Bistecca alla Florentine. Perfect when in the vicinity of the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. Very reasonably priced.
Perhaps its a cliche but we made our first visit this time. I love the one in the Sherry Netherland on Central Park/5th Ave. This did not disappoint. We had a late supper after walking from our hotel along the waterfront. We started with the customary Bellini. They also make excellent wine recommendations.
These gardens are a not to be missed activity for us. We spent a majority of our time walking the most southern part of the gardens, where we discovered many covered arched paths. It will be the coolest part of the gardens anytime of year.
A stationer/cartolaio located on the Piazza della Signoria. They have been making some of Florence's finest papers since 1774.
Piazza Signoria. Renowned for their chocolates, we enjoyed our priciest cafe latte and dish of cookies here! Across the Piazza from the Ufizzi.
and in Rome...
Albergo del Senato
The hotel is located on the Piazza Rotunda, also known as the Pantheon. It's a lively piazza and ideally located to Piazza Navona and the Vatican. Consider yourself lucky to be served by Mauro.
Piazza Rondanini 51, 06/6868019. A block or so walk from the Pantheon. Fresh fish deliciously prepared. I highly recommend the Shrimp (Gamberi) Scampi, grilled Flounder (Dimenamento) or Mussels soup (Zuppa Cozze).
v Parioli, 06/8070444. While they feature good Italian cuisine, what I like is the fantastic American hamburger and french fries. In the summer, the patio is divine. North of the Borghese gardens, the via Veneto and Embassy area.
Our trip arrangements were made by a wonderful agent named Bestsy Patton at Betty McLean Travel. Betsy is recognized by Con de Nast as one of the Top 100 agents in the country and the agency is a Virtuoso member. We met her in Naples, however, she has planned two trips for us since relocating flawlessly. I highly recommend using Betsy. There is a nominal booking charge. She is the master at coming up with unique and memorable activities abroad. The guide she arranged for us was through the Arno Travel Agency, if you were to prefer dealing with them directly.