The Hotel David in Florence turned out to be a wonderful little hotel. It is number one for hotels on Tripadvisor for a reason. What it lacks in location, it makes up for in amenities and helpful service. It is not particularly convenient to the main tourist attractions, though it is a nice walk on a nice day. There is also a bus that runs outside of the hotel to the historic center and the cost of a taxi is not outrageous. I chose the hotel because they offered free parking (which we were able to use even after we had checked out), but they also provided much more such as a free, full minibar, a 10 minute call home each day, free wi-fi and a decent breakfast. The room itself was also quite lovely and sized generously for Europe and the staff was warm and helpful. With all this, the price was still quite reasonable. I would absolutely recommend the hotel to anyone traveling to Florence with a car.One day and night in Florence is nowhere near enough time, but we made the most of the time we did spend there. After breakfast on Wednesday morning, we took the bus to Il Mercato Centrale, Florence’s main food market, passing a number of historic buildings along the way. Though not as large as Barcelona’s famous La Boqueria, it was organized in a similar fashion. I always enjoy visiting markets like this and my son did too. One vendor specialized in all sorts of offal, including sexual organs. He said that these items are not purchased by the Florentines. Rather, they are eagerly purchased by visitors from the Far East.
We eventually made our way to the vendor Conti, who was recommended by my friend Judy. They had beautiful dried porcini, dried tomatoes and fennel pollen, amongst other things – all from Tuscany.
…and plenty of beautiful, fresh seafood.We returned to the hotel, finished packing, loaded the car and checked out. We left the car there. It was raining, so we borrowed a couple of umbrellas from the hotel and set out to visit the Church of Santa Croce and then for our 1:30 pre-purchased admission to L’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. Unfortunately, we had just missed the bus from in front of the hotel, so we started to walk. I had underestimated the rain, which had commenced just after I had loaded the car. As we crossed the bridge, it really started to pour and turned into a full-fledged thunderstorm. Fortunately, we had rain jackets in addition the the umbrellas, but we still managed to get soaked – especially our shoes. We finally arrived at the church. We were doubly happy to be there. We wanted to visit the tombs of notables like Galileo, Michelangelo, Macchiavelli and others, but it also felt good to get in from the soaking rain. By the time we needed to leave to make it over to the Accademia, the rain had somewhat abated and we caught a bus to continue on to the Accademia.
Unlike with the Cupola of the Duomo, it really paid to have pre-purchased the tickets as we got right in, despite a significant line at the main entrance. The Accademia would be a nice museum without the David, but with it, it is a stellar one. The statue despite being colossal is so incredibly lifelike and expressive truly a wonder and one of the highlights of the trip for both my son and I even though I had seen it before.
In addition to paintings and sculpture, the museum had a collection of significant musical instruments on display. These instruments included original Stradivaraius strings and early pianofortes amongst others. It was worth the stop, especially with my son, a budding cellist, who especially enjoyed seeing the Stradivarius cello. I didn’t want to be late for dinner, so once we saw the David we started to head back to the hotel to pick up the car to head to Modena. On the way, we stopped at a soccer store, where I bought my son a shirt of Italy’s national team and some black soccer socks. Not having had lunch and not really wanting lunch, we also stopped for a gelato for my son. I didn’t have one. By this time, the rain had stopped, but in the interest of time, we took a taxi. There was a lot of traffic leaving Florence, but once we left the city, we started to make time on the A1 Autostrada towards Bologna. We were zipping along until we approached the mountains, at which point the traffic slowed to a crawl. The rain was heavy and so were the clouds. It was the atmospheric conditions that made the traffic so slow. It was frustrating, but we eventually made our way through to Modena without any significant incident and with enough time to check into our hotel, Cervetta 5, relax for a few minutes, change and walk to dinner. The hotel is about as basic as it gets when it comes to amenities. There is no elevator and the décor is fairly Spartan. Unlike the Hotel David in Florence, though, Cervetta 5 has a great location right in the heart of the central historic district of Modena. Like The Hotel David, Cervetta 5 also had excellent, warm and helpful staff. Wi-fi was spotty, but workable and breakfast very basic, but served cheerfully. For a few Euros extra, I was able to park the car in the hotel’s garage.