A Wedding Dress

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If you have been reading the blog, you know that Frank and I will be eloping while we are in Italy. It has been fun (and a little challenging) getting all our legal documents in order and trying to plan our big day, almost always in Italian.

But one thing I did not have was a dress. I never dreamed it took so long to order a wedding dress, and we were heading to Italy before I could do any real shopping. I figured I’d wear something I already had (when you elope, you sometimes just have to go with the flow!).

Shopping in Florence

But on our last afternoon in Florence, Frank and I split up so I could do some souvenir shopping. I told him I’d meet him in an hour at Scudieri, our favorite tea and coffee spot, and hurried off. Well, I happened to stumble upon a dress shop that seemed to be my style. I walked in to see if, by chance, their spring line included at least a pastel color, but there were no dresses at all. Very strange. The clerk asked me to describe what I was looking for and they would bring the dresses to me – kind of like “Pretty Woman.” I sheepishly said I was looking for a white dress for a wedding (I didn’t confess that it was MY wedding). The clerk looked me up and down for size, walked off, and came back with an armload of garments, including a simple, knee-length, sleeveless, ivory lace dress that I loved. I finally told them it was for my wedding, and soon the whole shop (customers too) got in on the action with insight and opinions, mostly in Italian. Before I knew it, I had a dress, shoes, jacket and purse. Wow! (It was such a whirlwind that I’m sorry to say, I have no pictures.) And I still made it back only a few minutes late to meet Frank for tea. Needless to say, he was very surprised when I walked in and told him I’d just bought a wedding dress!


The Finishing Touches on Burano

While the dress was beautiful, it did need some alternations – and we were heading to Venice the next morning. So I brought the dress to the little Island of Burano way out in the Venetian Lagoon, where they have expert lacemakers. The ladies at Martina Vidal knew exactly what to do. They took over and re-vamped the dress, added a few flourishes, and made me feel beautiful. When they found out it was for my wedding in Italy, they called other little ladies in to kiss me and give advice. Men came and shook Frank’s hand. It was quite an experience!

We have made a couple of trips to Burano for more fittings and loved it each time. It is our favorite island now (we will describe the amazing restaurants there in another post).

I know that some brides visit multiple shops, try on numerous (maybe hundreds) of dresses, and order the perfect garment months in advance. My dress is simple and has been created with a little bit of hodge-podge, but I cannot think of better memories. I will carry the wisdom and well-wishes of a dozen Italian shopkeepers and lacemakers with me when I walk down the aisle.

[You will have to tune back in to see the real thing!]

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Day of Beauty

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So – several of you have asked how my hair appointment went. I am happy to report that my hair is now back to its normal and rightful color. All is well.

If you are ever in Venice, I highly recommend Stefano e Claudia. They are located in San Polo right on the Grand Canal – see picture below with white awning. So you can sit in the chair waiting for your color to soak in and watch the gondolas go by.

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I wasn’t so sure how to communicate what I wanted in Italian – and found that the glossaries in most guidebooks are not equipped to help in this situation. So I went in and pantomimed a haircut – and they clearly could see I needed color. I had my calendar with me, so we all figured out together how to determine a date and time.

I was lucky in that my salon back home sent a copy of my formula. I have been going to Andre Chreky in DC for pretty much my whole adult life. Andre knew all about my trip so wrote down my formula and assured me any salon in Italy would know what to do. I had my doubts, but I have carried that little card around as carefully as my passport. And sure enough – the owner smiled and exclaimed “Ah, Si!” (Yes).

Well, Andre was right. My hair is back to normal and I have a cute new cut to go with it. Grazie Stefano!


P.S. Some of you also asked about Frank. He was braver than me and stepped up first by visiting a barber in Florence. He speaks better Italian than me and stressed just a “poco” (little) off the top – and I think he turned out rather handsome.

Lost in Venice

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Just a short story of our day. We set out to run a few errands – namely, to have lunch and find the UPS store, where I will have any work packages delivered (along with a couple of wedding items).

I had heard of a good lunch spot – al Mascaron – just off of Campo S. Maria Formosa. It took us a few deadends and wrong turns (completely normal for Venice), but we finally found it and had a good lunch.

Then we set off to find the UPS store. We thought this would be easy because it is in Campo S. Giovanni e Paolo. There is a big church there, and we had been there a few days before. Onward!

I’m not sure what happened, but we turned this way and that, crossed canals, gingerly tip-toed by construction workers, greeted gondola drivers, and stumbled upon the most darling neighborhood with beautiful canalside cafes and even more picturesque bridges that we had been seeing. But was not Campo S. Giovanni e Paolo. We pulled out the map and couldn’t make out where we were, so finally had to resort to the address finder on the back. We were shocked that we weren’t remotely near our destination, but the complete opposite (and I usually have a pretty good sense of direction). So we sheepishly made our way back, greeted the very same gondola drivers, and tip-toed by the very same construction workers . Ok – back on track. We consulted the map more frequently this time to make sure we kept to the right path.

After about 25 minutes of this, I pulled out the map once more and must have looked very puzzled because an elderly Italian man approached us with raised eyebrows (he had probably been watching us go back and forth). I said, “Giovanni e Paolo?” He looked surprised, nodded very seriously, and motioned us to follow. How nice. So we followed, expecting him to lead us to the end of the calle and point us in the right direction. However, he kept going. Then turned. And kept going. Over a bridge. Another turn. And kept going. If we were in Naples, I would be certain we were about to be robbed.

Finally, he led us to a square with a church. I exclaimed, “Si, Grazie!” before realizing we were back at Campo S. Maria Formosa. He went a little further and deposited us right at the front door of our lunch spot, across from which is a big sign with an arrow pointing the way (in a whole other direction) to Campo S. Giovanni e Paolo. We dissolved in laughter.

P.S.  We did find the UPS store – see below.

And also our new favorite coffee/tea spot, Rosa Salva, which is over 150 years old and has amazing marzipan pastries. Both are in Campo S. Giovanni e Paolo.  A good day after all!

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Glorious Burano!

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After our aborted attempt the day before due to fog (so no boats were running) – we made it to Burano to celebrate Frank’s birthday. Yay!

Burano is one of my favorite islands of the Venetian Lagoon. It is laid back, colorful, and a world away from the crowds of Venice. It takes awhile to get there so not quite as many tourists make the trip. And getting there is half the fun.

How to Get to Burano

We tried a new form of transportation to start our trip – the traghetto. There are only about 5 bridges across the big Grand Canal, so locals use these little boats to quickly cross in between. It is 2 Euro to cross, and you usually have to stand up the whole way (but it’s a short ride). The boats are manned by gondoliers – they have to each do their turn of providing traghetto services a couple of times a month.

Once across to the other side, we walked to the other side of the town to the vaparetto stop closest to the Lagoons – Fondamente Nove. We were smarter today and had looked up the schedule. Boat #12 that we wanted only leaves once an hour, which means it was packed and standing room only for the 45-minute ride to the outer lagoon. But so scenic.

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Gatto Nero

The highlight of our day was Frank’s birthday lunch at Trattoria al Gatto Nero da Ruggero (Trattoria of Roger’s Black Cat). It was at a place I had gone to for my birthday with my parents a few years ago. We chartered a houseboat and drove all around the Lagoon and docked a few nights on Burano. I remembered how we loved this place.

And it is still popular – there was a line out the door, and they were turning people away. But I said my name and the owner (I think Roger’s son) said, “Ahh – a birthday” and said, “Uno momento.” He then brought back two glasses of prosecco and welcomed us inside (the rest of the line just stood there with mouths open).

They are known for fish – so much so that he could tell us exactly where the specific boats with certain fish were at that moment and when they’d be dropping the fish off at the canal in front of their door – it was that fresh. So we just trusted him with ordering – he could surprise us. What a treat! We started with home-made pasta with spider crab, a specialty of this area, then a fish risotto, and then sea bass, baked whole with olives, tomatoes, lemon and olive oil – washed down with Venetian white wine. Each dish was more delicious than the last and the best we’d ever had. We ended with homemade biscuits (cookies) to dip into Vin Santo dessert wine. At the end, he even gave us a gift of a ceramic wine pitcher with the black cat painted on it.

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And Then Some Lace

Then it was time for some serious shopping for me. Burano is famous for its hand-made lace – the tradition has been passed down from mother to daughter for hundreds of years. The perfect place to find accessories for a wedding!

I won’t say too much except that I have put myself in the very capable hands of the ladies at Martina Vidal, a fabulous lace shop on Burano. They made over me and kissed and hugged me when I told them Frank and I were eloping. Then shook Frank’s hand. So – we will be making a return trip to Burano soon to complete the mission.

What a glorious afternoon!

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An Unexpected Day in Venice

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Well, today turned out to be a bit of a surprise. Frank’s birthday was this week, and I was going to surprise him with a trip to the Island of Burano, way out in the Venetian Lagoon. I had booked a special lunch restaurant out there. Since this would involve a couple of vaparetto (water taxi) changes, we left a couple of hours before our reservation. Frank knew we were going to an island, but didn’t know which one.

The Nebbia

The morning was foggy, which was really pretty – everything seemed shrouded in mystery as we struck out. We quickly walked to the stop by St. Mark’s Square, feeling very smug that we knew our way now, after a week here. We validated our water taxi passes and strode up to the platform – which was nearly empty. After waiting for about 10 minutes and seeing people come – and then leave – we started wondering if there was something we were missing. It turns out that all vaparettos to the islands shut down in the fog (called nebbia in Italian). There would be no Burano today.



That’s ok – we are savvy travelers. We went to the Cafe Florian for tea and coffee and came up with a new plan. I moved our Burano reservations to the next day and we decided to try Guidecca instead. It is the island across from Venice. We could see it through the fog, so we figured the water taxi would take us there. I had heard about a famous restaurant there – what a great back-up plan. We are so adaptable!


We look at our maps and see we need Vaparetto #2, which stops at San Marco. Great – we are right here. We hop on, only to discover it is going the wrong direction. So we make our way back up the Grand Canal back toward our home where we started the day. No worries. It is a scenic trip. I snagged us seats on the front even, so we can enjoy the ride. Well, Vaparetto #2 goes up the Grand Canal, around by the parking lot (not so scenic) and then out to the open water of the lagoon before stopping in Guidecca.

Nearly an hour later, we finally got off, frozen as popsicles. But at least we are here. The restaurant is on the quay by the water taxi stop so should be easy to spot. But there is not a soul to be seen – although the views back across to Venice were stunning. Guidecca appears to be a ghost town, even spookier in the fog. We walk up and down. Even the famous Cipriani Hotel is shuttered for the season. We find the famous restaurant, which is boarded up and closed until April. Oh no. (At this point, I could not feel my fingers or toes and had trouble enunciating words.) We finally spied a sign for a trattoria and gratefully fell in the door. They were closing, but took pity on us and let us stay. They were out of nearly everything on the menu, except the tagliatelle with duck ragu. It was one of our best meals since we were so happy to be there.

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Back Home

But eventually we did have to leave. Back to the vaparetto stop. There were two taxis that would be running, both stopping at St. Mark’s. But the second one (#2 again), we knew by now would take us back up the Grand Canal closer to our home. We let the first taxi go by so we could wait on #2. We were finally getting the hang of this. The #2 taxi came and we hopped on (inside this time). It crossed the channel and stopped at San Marco. Most people stood up, but we lived on the Grand Canal so would stay and keep going. Finally, I noticed that we were the only people at all left and asked Frank if that seemed strange. About that time, the conductor came in and yelled something in Italian and motioned us to “shoo.” It turns out when #2 reaches San Marco, it turns around and goes back the same way it came.


We decided it would be easier to just walk home. [We are now home – weary, windblown, and finally warming up. We will try for Burano again tomorrow.]


After the Glamour: Back to Work

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Well – after our glamorous days of Carnevale, we are back to reality.

Back to Work

For me, this means setting up my new remote office – although I have to admit, I really do like my view overlooking the Grand Canal. I can keep track of the tide, the workers going back and forth, and the gondoliers. Everything here moves by boat, so I watch the garbage boat, the ambulance boat, the milkman boat – today, even a hearse boat went by with a coffin with beautiful flowers on top. (Sometimes I have to move to the sofa so I can concentrate better!)

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To the Market

Frank’s job for the day was to explore and find a market for some additional essentials we needed, like fresh produce and wine. We are right next to the farmer’s market and fish market. These are where the local restaurant chefs come very early each morning to select their ingredients, which are delivered (of course) by boat. Frank has learned his way around the stalls by now – he especially loves the fish market. We have gotten lost each time we try to find a real grocery store, so we may be eating a lot of fish and vegetables!

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Laundry Day

And finally, it was laundry day. You never know how this will go. We finally gave up on our washer in Florence, which was located under a tarp on the balcony. One day, after 3 hours, the washer turned off on its own and unlocked. I opened the door and water gushed out over the side of the balcony and down five floors onto the street (hopefully not on someone’s head!). I quickly closed the door, looked around guiltily, and then peeked in again – only to have a new gush of water pour out and over the side. It was then that I realized our good fortune that the washer was on the balcony and not inside.  We changed to hand-washing after that. So, here we have a fresh start with a new washer. [I am happy to report that all went well.]

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Up Next . . . we have some essentials to take care of – mainly for me, finding a place to get my hair cut and colored (you may have noticed I am looking a wee bit lighter these days). I am not sure how to describe this in Italian, so am going to wander around until I find a place that looks good, point to my hair, pantomime a trim, and show a picture of someone with the color I want.  This will surely be an adventure.  So stay tuned . . . .

Carnevale Part II: Mardi Gras!

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Today was Mardi Gras in Venice (Fat Tuesday). And what a show! We thought Sunday was fabulous, but today was even better.

This time, we had box seats the whole day so a whole different perspective being part of the stage and looking out onto the audience. They served us a wonderful 4-course lunch with baked fish au gratin, asparagus risotto, duck with artichokes, and tiramisu. It took half the afternoon.

We sat next to an adorable French family who were visiting from Paris. The grandparents own a vineyard and make champagne and invited us to visit them near Reims. (We will add that to our list!)  We had a lot of fun with them and invited them to visit and sail with us in Annapolis.

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And then the highlights really started.

More Costumes

There was yet another costume contest but his one was more informal. The audience got to choose the winner by holding up a red or green sheet of paper. The costumes looked just as impressive to us – we think the difference was that the official contest we saw before was judged on the actual costume design and sewing, while today was more “off the rack.” One of our favorites was a Pavarotti impersonator who looked just like him.

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Festa della Marie

Then, for the Maries. Each year, twelve young ladies are chosen to be part of Carnevale, observing the tradition that the Doge (king) had established when he would select twelve deserving Venetians to honor by paying their bridal dowries. It reminded me of the Cherry Blossom Festival, where I was always trying to find a South Carolina Princess – some poor soul was probably scrambling around seeing what family friend she could talk into being a Marie (and no doubt having to come up with lots of gifts).

The Maries are celebrated throughout Venice and spent all day making their way to St. Marks – being carried through the streets and then taking gondolas down the canals. Finally, they paraded onto the stage as the song “Maria” from West Side Story played on the loudspeakers. The crowd and the press went wild.

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Flight of the Lion

Then the Maries lined up to help unfurl a giant flag of Venice, which features a lion. As the crowd sang the “Anthem of Venice,” the flag slowly was lifted and unfurled along a wire that went to the top of the tower, while confetti blew through the air. It was breathtaking.

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A Perfect Ending

A group called “The Gondoliers” finished the day with a variety of Italian songs, from opera to Andrea Bocelli to fun sing-along classics. They were as good as The Three Tenors. Pavarotti (from the costume contest) held court in the audience lip-synching along when an opera was sung – with fans taking pictures.  No one takes themselves too seriously at Carnevale.  Frank and I even danced in the middle of St. Mark’s Square as they sang “Time to Say Goodbye.” It was dark then, and the Square was full – what a magical moment. Then the Gondoliers finished up and said, “See you in 2016!” as everyone cheered.

Venice – I have to say, you put on one classy and elegant party.  We hope we will be back.

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Carnevale in Venezia

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What a day we’ve had! Our first full day in Venice and it is Carnevale – Venice’s version of Mardi Gras, only it started here first.

There are parties, balls, concerts, and festivities all over town. But the main action is in St. Mark’s Square. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a website that offered tickets for a seated area and took a chance. I was a little nervous that it was a scam or wouldn’t be worth it, but I figured we’re only here once (at Carnevale at least), so we should give it a try.

The VIP Section

We made our way to St. Mark’s with a huge crowd, hardly getting lost at all. When we got there, almost every inch was filled with people – and more people lining every available balcony. Our email said to check in at the ticket booth. I thought, “Good luck finding that.” But we did and they switched our voucher for a ticket. Then a security man opened a door and let us behind the barricade. We were shocked! There were probably a thousand people on the square, but only a couple of hundred in the VIP section. We had plenty of room, cocktail tables and chairs, a wine bar, and even a bathroom. Plus we could walk right up to the stage and take pictures whenever we wanted. Wow.

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Flight of the Eagle

One of the highlights was the Volo Aquila – the Flight of the Eagle. It is a tradition that someone is chosen to “fly” down a wire that is constructed between the tower in St. Mark’s Square down to the stage. This year they choose a Paralympian (Giusy Versace) who lost both of her legs below the knee. She runs on blades. We all looked way up as she stepped out onto the platform and got buckled in. Then they played Celine Dion’s  “Because You Loved Me” as she slowly made her way down across the tops of our heads and onto the stage. Everyone was crying.


Lunch On Stage

Then we got to go INTO the stage for lunch (this was another ticket I bought). They have boxes built into the sides of the stage that are heated and complete with white tablecloths and a three-course menu. We had a fun time sampling Venetian food while watching the action from the stage itself.

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The Costumes of Carnevale

Then – what everyone was waiting for – the finals for the costume contest. Everywhere you walk you see elaborate costumes. Each day they join in a parade and are judged by the audience in the VIP section, who hold up red or green cards. There had been over 400 entries so far. So today, the finalists came back to strut their stuff on the runway. The judges were professional costume designers who even inspect the material and stitching and hold up a red or green mask to determine whether someone makes it to the next round. Everyone was riveted to see what colors they would hold up and would cheer or groan if they did or didn’t like the choice.

Finally, as it was gettng dark, the top 20 were chosen and took the stage once more. There was much debate. But a winner was chosen for Best Theme (The Venetian Kitchen – why some of the costumes appear to be food-related), Best Originality (which went to a fabulous man dressed as CoCo Chanel’s sofa – he was our favorite), and Overall (stunning costumes of Eros and two lovers).

We literally danced all the way home, we were so excited.

Bonne Nuit – and Let the Good Times Roll!

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Christy & Frank

Happy Valentine’s Day from Venice!

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We were sad to leave Florence but are excited to be in our new home – Venezia! We will be here for 5 weeks.

We had a bit of a rocky start – thanks to me. I seem to have accumulated belongings as I’ve gone and have almost doubled my bags. We were taking the train, and I was a little nervous how we’d get all the bags downstairs and to the taxi, then to the train platform and up and onto the train, and then back down and to our apartment. But the fates (or God) were looking down on us. Our apartment contact, Lorenzo, stopped by as we were leaving and called a friend with a taxi to pick us up nearly at our door. Then there were porters waiting at the station – we had read that they were unofficial and not to trust them, but we were so happy to see them, we just agreed to pay whatever they asked to put our bags on their trolley. Then, our rental company arranged a water taxi to pick us up at the train station in Venice. Whew! (We are both a little sore tonight and have decided to research how to mail some of this home before we set out again!)


Our New Venetian Home

The city is mobbed with visitors that are here for Valentine’s and Carnevale, so we were so happy when we made it to the water taxi dock outside of the train station and a man said, “Ms. Tinnes?” He grabbed our bags and we all jumped in a boat and sped off. We could barely catch our breath and believe we were here.

Soon he pulled up to a dock by the side of the Grand Canal, where our apartment greeter was waiting and pulled our bags off the boat and said to follow him. Our apartment is off of a little side street by the fish market, right on the Grand Canal. It has a gate and big wooden front door and then old stone steps that lead up to the first floor (which is really the 2nd is the US). Our greeter told that us that due to flooding, it is not good to have a place on the ground floor (we wondered if this means we will have to wade down the steps if this happens).

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We have one bedroom, bathroom, galley kitchen, and living room with sunny windows overlooking the Grand Canal. We’ve had fun just gazing at all the boat traffic going up and down.

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We set out to get our bearings and immediately saw revelers in masquerade. This is the last few days of Carnvale, the Venetian version of Mardi Gras. We even got into the spirit and found a mask shop that advertised handmade papier mache masks.

We wandered around with everyone for awhile (wearing our masks!), but eventually had to get down to business and do some marketing to get us through the next couple of days – mainly to purchase essentials like wine, cheese, bread, and toilet paper.

Lesson Learned:   I am not yet experienced enough to do the marketing while wearing a mask.  Not only does it cut down on the ability to locate the cereal in Italian, it gets a little frantic at the end trying to pay in Euros and self-bag groceries with a mask falling down my face.  So better to leave the mask at home next time.  : )

Now we are back home resting up so we can navigate the Carnevale crowds again tomorrow. Tonight we only made it around our little neighborhood (San Paolo), which is on the “non-touristy” side of the Canal. We can’t imagine how crowded it must be closer to St. Mark’s, where all the action is. But that is on our agenda for Sunday.  We are supposed to have table seats for the finals of the costume contest.  We bought them on the Internet, so we hope they are for real.  Stay tuned . . . .

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My Perfect Day in Florence

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We have friends who are coming to Florence for just a day on a cruise ship excursion. They asked for suggestions of what to see. Florence has so many wonderful sites, but after thinking about this, here’s what I personally would recommend as my perfect day to get the best taste of Florence.

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Morning: Palazzo Pitti (My Favorite Place)

Start off at the Pitti Palace. It is on the Oltrarno (the “other” side of the Arno River from the major sites). This means it is far less crowded and no lines. (My sister and I discovered this a couple of years ago when we were desperate to escape the heat and crowds in June.) Tip: The ticket office is at the extreme rigth side. Once inside the palace courtyard, there are WCs (50 cents).

The Pitti Palace is where the Medici Family lived, followed by the House of Savoy and other rulers (all the way to the early 1900s), so you can tour their amazingly luxurious apartments. You can even see a bathroom built for Napoleon.

But the best – they have almost as outstanding artwork as the Uffizi Gallery, but with no people. One of the former residents decided to hang the art in a manner that he thought was symmetrical, rather than in chronological order or by artist. So the walls are crammed with a dizzying amount of works. They have left it as it was originally hung. You have to look carefully because a Rafael or Rubens will be off to the side next to someone you’ve never heard of before. There are written guides in each room that point out the artwork so worth looking at these to identify the big artists. It is over the top extravagance.

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Boboli Gardens

After touring the inside, stretch your legs in the Boboli Gardens (this is a separate ticket – bought at same ticket office). You can lose yourself here and wander around little hidden paths and explore. At the end, as you are facing the palace, take a right down the hill. It looks like you are going down a driveway to a workshed. You’ll see some steps off to the right. Go down and find a fabulous grotto that the Medici family created for their children. They made it look like a cave inside and added little statues of animals. Michelangelo also contributed his “Prisoners” series (unfinished works – looks like they are escaping from the marble). The originals are now with David in the Accademia – these are copies. Look at the little blue door to the left of the grotto. This is the entrance to the famous Vasari Corridor, the secret passageway that the Medicis took across the Arno River on the Ponte Vecchio.

Last – head toward the exit, but take a look at the little statue on the right on the way out – it is Bacchus riding a turtle, a famous piece, if not a little odd. (There is a copy of it outside the pizza place at National Harbor!)

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Lunch: Simple or Snazzy

Your choice: simple and laid back or fancier with a view.

Wander the streets toward the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. There are wonderful little shops and artisans on this side of the river.

If you opt for simple – head to Piazza San Spirito. It is a cute square with a number of restaurants and bars, where you can sit outside and watch the world go by. You will see everything here. Many mornings, they have a farmer’s market and on Sunday, a giant flea market. For eating, we liked Tamero Pasta Bar, where there is someone making homemade pasta in the window, graffiti on the walls, and house wine by the glass or bottle. http://www.tamero.it.

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If you opt for snazzy – head toward the water. Turn right immediately before the Ponte Vecchio (bridge) onto Via de Bardi and go about half a block to the Golden View restaurant. Ask for a table with a view. They have gourmet dishes, white tablecloths, and the best view in town. http://www.goldenviewopenbar.com.

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Afternoon Stroll

After lunch, take a leisurely stroll across the Ponte Vecchio. It is crammed with goldsmiths and jewelry shops. Notice the Vasari Corridor that has snaked its way from the Pitti Palace and is above.

Keep strolling up toward Piazza della Signoria (where the Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio are – it has a big tower so hard to miss). Here, there are a variety of famous sculptures, including a copy fo the famous “David” by Michelangelo. If you don’t have time to see the original, you can at least see what the fuss is about.

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Onward to the Duomo

Keep walking away from the water toward the Duomo.  Sneak over one block to the corner of via Calimala and via Porta Rossa until you see an open air market. If you walk around it, you will find a statue of a boar – nicknamed “The Little Piglet.” The legend is if you rub his nose, you will return to Florence.

Circle back and keep walking up via Calzaoili. You will know the Duomo when you see it – the outside is the best part. You can walk around it and the Baptistery (look at the golden doors of Paradise on the side of the Baptistery). It is free to go into the Duomo, so if there is no line, you can pop in and take a look. The dome is spectacular.

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Take a Break at Scudieri

Our favorite dessert place is on this square – Scudieri – on top side by Baptistery on at the corner of via de Cerretani. It is old-time glamorous with chandeliers and a case full of dolci (sweets). We go here a few times a week for coffee, tea, and treats. (There is also a WC for 50 cents.) http://www.scudieri.eu.

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If you still have more time, head back toward the water on via Roma to the Piazza del Republicca. The Rinascente department store is on the right as you head toward the river, on the same side as Savoy Hotel. Go to the 5th floor, where they have a terrace bar. Have a glass of proseco as you gaze at the Duomo.

Of course there are tons of other sites, views and good places to eat. But if I only had a few hours, these would be my pick.