Firenze 2023 and Italianme

I visited Firenze twice in November and December 2023.  My first week in Firenze, I was on my own, attending a new (for me) language school, Italianme.  I’ve written a brief section about the school, followed by my activities when not attending classes.  At the end of the post are short sections on restaurants, and my horrible apartment.

I have to add that for the first time ever, I could not get back into a normal sleep pattern, waking every night between midnight and 1:00 am and lying awake until 4:00 am, which in turn led to a bad cold for a couple of days.


I originally wanted to attend language school in Sicily but had to seriously downsize my travel plans, leaving me only a week to take classes.  Istituto Michelangelo, which I’d attended three times, has a minimum requirement of two weeks.  (See  Firenze off season, parte uno and Firenze off season, parte due  posts)  Plus I had been disappointed in their classes and activities in 2021.

A friend I met at Michelangelo in 2021 and who continued to live in Firenze for another year, suggested Italianme ( ). I contacted the school in late October and received a prompt response, saying they would have a class at my level and some activities, even though I planned to attend in late November.

So I took the entrance exam, registered for class and paid the fees. Then just a few days before I was leaving for Italy, I received an email from the staff saying the only student at my level had canceled and I would have ‘private’ lessons each morning. I expressed my serious disappointment but there was nothing I could do at that point, having already paid a deposit for school as well as for an apartment.

I was a nervous wreck Monday morning when I arrived at school, scared I would make a fool of myself in my private lesson. After I paid the rest of my tuition, one of the administrators showed me around the classrooms then took me to the roof of the building where there is a lovely terrace. She explained that the terrace is part of the hotel but that the school is allowed to reserve it for activities during the warmer months. 

I liked my teacher, Eduardo, immediately. Despite my nerves, forgetting grammar that I knew or  should have known, and a bad cold for a couple of days, he was incredibly patient and encouraging, saying ‘brava’ when I got something right. I’d laugh and he’d say, ‘no, e´ vero.’

He did flinch a time or two when I didn’t understand a listening exercise but I learned a new verb form plus reviewed ‘condizionale’, a verb form that my 2021 teacher presented in rapid fire Italian.

We had interesting discussions about books and movies, my travels, and the Christmas events in Firenze.

At our last class I told him that I’d been ready to give up on learning Italian, but due to his encouragement I planned to continue. He responded that I had a ‘solid base’ and, while I needed to work on indirect pronouns and syntax, there was no reason I couldn’t keep learning. Then we had an almost silly exchange of ‘no, tu hai simpatico,’ ‘no, tu hai, gentile.’


Sunday November 26,2023

After a sleepless night, I fortified myself with a cappuccino and brioche, and decided to do a walkabout.  Weatherwise, it was the nicest day of the week. In fact it was spectacular.  I started with a walk to the school on via Tornabuoni and was relieved to find that it was only about 10 minutes away from my apartment.  I also found as I crossed Ponte Santa Trinita, that, just like in 2021, I was right in the middle of the Firenze marathon.  Half marathon?  Not sure. 

From the school I walked a half block to a small piazza (Piazza Santa Trinita, I think) that had one of the prettiest Christmas displays in the city. 

I took side streets over to the main street leading to the Ponte Vecchio, stopping at the Porcellina on the south end of Mercato Nuovo and had a laugh, watching people trying to put coins in the pig’s mouth. la Porcellina

I managed to cross over via Calimala, dodging the runners, and then took a narrow street that leads to  via dei Calzaiuoli where I took a couple of photos.



I, then, continued into Piazza della Signoria.  It was lovely there, almost as pretty as the Friday in late November 2021 when I did a walkabout after school.

From Piazza della Signoria, I took Borgo dei Greci to Piazza Santa Croce where the Christmas market was bustling.  I walked through it, as always, amazed at the variety of booths (bancarelle in Italian); from ornaments of every possible type to Scottish woolens, as well as food and drink.  I walked up the steps to the cathedral and took a couple of pictures looking out over the piazza.

I walked back to the hideous apartment, where I reviewed my Italian.

Before going out to dinner, (Osteria de’ Pitti, see Restaurants below) I took another walk up to Piazza del Duomo, hoping to see the Christmas tree but I found out later from my Italian instructor that it doesn’t go up until December first.  Still it was a beautiful evening.

Monday November 27,2023

After school I walked up to Mercato Centrale looking for a nice leather duffle that all of us (my daughter, sister and niece whom I was meeting in a few days) could use to bring our gifts back to the States.  The cheapest one I could find was 136 euros.  I also looked for sweaters Monday as well as other days but  couldn’t decide between cheap and cute versus expensive and boring.

I finished my walkabout with a stop at Pino’s (see Restaurants below) my favorite sandwich shop in Firenze.

Tuesday November 28,2023

For lack of anything better to do I went to a late afternoon lecture at my school on Italian cinema.  This is what I wrote after I returned: OMG!!  That was the most boring lecture ever.  And the other students looked about as unfun as any I’ve met especially compared to the people I met at Istituto Michelangelo.  My cold kept getting worse so I used it as an excuse to leave early.

But I did get some lovely pictures in the piazza by the school which I’ve used on calendars and Instagram posts.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Wednesday’s school activity was a walking tour on the history of the Medici’s.  My instructor, Eduardo led the tour and he was such a wonderful and patient teacher, I decided to go.  It was sunny but chilly and something of a forced march.  We walked from the school to Palazzo Medici Riccardi, stopping at various locations to discuss Medieval versus Renaissance architecture and how the Medici’s became influential through banking although they did not hold any official government positions.  Eduardo gave a fairly long talk when we stopped in Piazza del Duomo about how one of the popes was involved in a plot to kill Lorenzo Medici and his brother.  I didn’t fully understand his explanation, so looked on line for some information and found an interesting article at this site,, which states:

Federico da Montefeltro, the popular Duke of Urbino, was the author of [a] secret letter. Its contents reveal that he conspired to overthrow the Medicis’ reign and that his co-conspirators included Pope Sixtus IV, the Pope’s nephew Gerolamo Riario, Archbishop Salviati, and other members of the Pazzi family.

Lorenzo survived but this brother didn’t.

The group broke up in Piazza del Duomo and everyone went their separate ways.  I went to Signorvino’s which was less than great, see Restaurants below.  But it was dusk when I came out and I got some lovely photos of the Arno and  the side streets near my apartment.

Thursday November 30, 2034

During class Thursday I showed my instructor pictures I had taken in 2021 when I stumbled on a ‘parade’ made up of officials of both Firenze and surrounding communes along with the group that dresses in Renaissance costumes.   He said it was la Festa della Toscana and would be held that day if the rain stopped.Festa della Toscana

So I hustled home from school, took the laundry I’d done Wednesday night to the lavandaria to dry.

By then it had stopped raining so I went out in search of the parade, going to Piazza della Signoria, up and down some side streets and then to Piazza Santa Croce where I walked through the Christmas Market again, continuing my search for a sweater, then to La Scuola del Cuoio (the Florence Leather School) where I took photos of their men’s billfolds to send to my older grandson. 

Finally I went to Pino’s for a glass of wine.  (And you can still get a large glass of house red for 2,50 euros!)

I never found the parade but as always I enjoyed just being out and mingling. 




Mercato Centrale and San Lorenzo

Mercato Centrale is a huge building with every possible type of food shop plus restaurants.    

Mercato Centrale

        The streets around the building, known as Mercato San Lorenzo, have booth after booth of vendors, mainly of leather goods.   

Mercato San Lorenzo

            I think I purchased a purse here on my first visit to Firenze and thought it would be a good source for a nice leather duffle bag for all the gifts we planned to buy.  The least expensive one I could find was 136 euros so that was a no.  Still I was glad for the excuse to take a walk and stay away from my apartment.

You can read more about the Mercato in my Firenze, old and new  post, plus see lots of photos.


Christmas Market

I visited the Firenze Christmas market several times in 2021 and loved it.  During my first week in Firenze 2023, I walked through the market on Sunday afternoon, the nicest day of the week, then returned briefly Wednesday and Thursday when I decided to buy a 50 euro sweater that was supposedly cashmere and wool.  The style and color were pretty but, at most, it was 5% cashmere and I’m not sure about the origin of the wool because the sweater started ‘pilling’ as soon as I wore it.  A lesson in ‘you get what you pay for,’ I guess.  Still the market is not to be missed and I went back several times when my family and I returned for a few days the following week.                                         


You can read more about these restaurants and others in my  Where to eat, Roma e Firenze, 2023  post.

Osteria de’ Pitti  Piazza de’ Pitti

Sunday evening, after walking to Piazza del Duomo,  I went to Osteria de’ Pitti in part because it was next door to my apartment building.  But also because I had eaten there several times in 202.  Like Signorvino’s, Osteria de’ Pitti followed the pattern of 2021, great when I was with our group, not so great when I was alone.  I had my favorite pasta with the slightly spicey sauce, Strozzapreti, a bottle of wine  and an order of ribollita to go.  It cost nearly $50 and when I warmed up the ribollita for dinner the next night, it was terrible.  Still the Strozzapreti was excellent as always, and I had it again when we returned the following week.  


As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I  think Pino’s is one of the best values in Firenze. Monday after my trip to Mercato Centrale, I walked to  Pino’s, writing: TYJ, panino e vino al Pino’s. Delicioso e solo 8 euro.   I stopped again, just for a vino, Thursday afternoon, after going to the Christmas market.  That evening I was really wishing I’d bought a panino to go from Pino’s rather than the icky panino I bought at the bar next to my apartment building.                                                                                                                          

You can read more about Pino’s in my Three Days in Firenze post and see photos in the gallery below. 


I stopped here late Wednesday afternoon after our history walk, mostly because I couldn’t face my hideous apartment.  I had a small but expensive glass of wine and a weird aperitivo and was regretting not going to Pino’s.  Still its location next to the Arno makes for great photo opportunities. 

Trattoria la Casalinga   Via dei Michelozzi 9R

Towards the end of the week, I started communicating with our Rome host regarding check in time at our apartment and he recommended Trattoria la Casalinga.  So I made a reservation for early Friday evening. Mama mia!  It was one of the best meals I’ve had in Firenze.  I ordered roast chicken and potatoes, plus insalata mista and a quarter liter of wine, all for 20 euros.  The food was divine and I practically inhaled it.  I was bummed that I hadn’t discovered it earlier in the week, I would have eaten there several times.  

Coffee bars

Over the course of the week, I tried all the bars near the apartment for cappuccini to go and none of them were particularly good, the going rate seeming to be 3 euros.  If only I’d known about the great little coffee/breakfast spot just around the corner, Ditta Artiginale, which I discovered the following week.  (see Where to eat, Roma e Firenze, 2023 post)

Where not to Stay

The ‘Renaissance’ Apartment  (Air BnB)

Piazza de’ Pitti

I intended to leave a negative review with Air BnB but then thought, ‘what’s the point?’ Here’s what I was going to write:  Why is no one honest with reviews?  Are renters afraid of getting a bad review themselves? The pictures, description and reviews made this place look charming.  Not so.  My first impression was a dark, cold apartment in desperate need of updating.  And it only went downhill from there.

The weird towels, lumpy pillows, ancient moka, mismatched cutlery and dishes and scratchy blankets all screamed second hand store.  In addition there was no microwave and the first time I took a shower, I found that the plug on the hair dryer didn’t fit any of the outlets.

The owner apparently has several apartments and presumably could afford to buy decent towels, pillows, a coffee maker and a microwave.

The manager begrudgingly came back several times to try to fix the lock on the front door and to show me how to get the heat to come on, after I spent my first night sleeping in my coat. 

The one positive factor is that it was only 10 minutes from my language school.  I regretted not renting a small studio near Piazza Ferrucci that I have rented twice before.  It is always clean and warm and the owner lives upstairs.  But I was concerned about the long walk to school; in retrospect, a small price to pay for comfort.    




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