My good friend Zach is in the process of visiting the beautiful land of vino, cheese, pasta, and hot hot sex: Italia. In particular, he's staying in Firenze (Florence), where I spent a good month one summer a few years back, so I took it upon myself to send him an e-mail with some suggested places to visit. Here is that e-mail, tailored slightly for the blogotron, in the event that you find yourself in Florence!
There are so many places I went in Florence, and some of them were just cafes or lunch joints, so I can't give you everything. But here's a few stuffs. It's enough to keep you busy for a couple days.
A) Via dei conti 5 (cinque - "ching-kwei") - my old abode. Drink it in... while you can't get into my place to see the high ceilings and beautiful stairwell, you can have a nice espresso at the corner cafe, and linger on the thought that on one side of you is my old apartment, and on the other side is the apartment of the girl with multiple piercings and tattoos who became the second girl with whom i had sex. Watch for the smartcar sportscar/convertible.
B) Head northeast only a block and you're at San Lorenzo. A lovely little church. Enjoy some lunch on its stairs, head inside for the Da Vinci museum, or walk around it on a warm afternoon and you might catch the open air market that springs up, selling cheap belts, t-shirts, sunglasses, etc. It's like Chinatown! But fewer Chinese! Also, you'll notice a large amount of African men trying to sell their own wares. You're close to Africa.
C) From there, you can head further north and a little west to the Mercato Centrale (Central Market, if you didn't pick that up). You can get anything fresh here, and it'll make you wonder why you haven't been living here your whole life. Meats, cheeses, fruits, candy, the works. I suggest coming here around lunchtime: In the back corner (Northeast corner?), there's a little stall near the lunch tables. The stall will hopefully have a long line, so you can get a feel for what's going on. When you get to the front of the queue, ask for "il panini" (the sandwich) and when he asks you if you want such-and-such on it, say, "Si." What you will receive is a godsend of a sandwich. Fresh bread piled high with meat, and slathered in an oily, pesto sort of sauce. Have a seat. Enjoy. Don't get up too quickly if you have a weak heart.
D) Head back down southeast for the Duomo. This thing is a tourist trap from hell, so bring hand grenades. I never went inside because I didn't have the patience to wait in the line. But if you're not like me, it would be worth it to head all the way to the top for a view of the entire city fit for a god. Outside on the street in front and to the right, feel free to imagine a mob that has stopped traffic, a couple of buses, and me standing on top of one chanting some kind of victory song when Firenze won a soccer game that kicked it up to a higher division that it had previously been in. Then imagine me getting sprayed in the face/eyes by a fire extinguisher as someone tries to break up the crowd.
E) By now, it is probably dinner time, so hit up Il Latini at Via dei Palchetti 6 (that ch is a hard "k" sound) for the most amazing meal of your life. Don't forget to make a reservation ahead of time, and get there early anyway. You'll be met by a crowd of people and a closed restaurant. When they finally open, hope they call your name, then head in for a five or so course meal for a fixed price. Buon Apetito.
F) After you leave Il Latini you'll be really drunk, seeing as all the wine and dessert liquor is free with your meal. Walk through this lovely little square, complete with a carousel, to feel like maybe you're in some French New Wave film (not Italian Neorealism... there's no happiness in that movement, and no night adventures, in comparison to French new wave). The warm glow will make you feel like you never want to leave.
G) If it's still open, check out the huge Gelato joint around here. There's one on Via Roma itself, and there's one on a side-street to the right (if you're coming from the south).
If you've still got the energy head back north to the Duomo's square. The moment you get out into the open space of it, hook around to your right for the obscene foreigner-friendly bar with a balcony whose name escapes me.
After a nice night's sleep,
H) Head over to the train station and buy a ticket to Viareggio for a day at the beach! Or,
I) Hit up the small square of vendor stalls in the old city here, where it's laid out like a grid the way god intended cities to be.
J) Then head south and enjoy the sexy view of the Ponte Vecchio. Bring some Gelato and watch the boats.
K) Once across the Ponte Vecchio, continue on the same road, which has become Via Guicciardini. When you reach the huge open space of Piazza de' Pitti and its massive stairs, climb up the stairs to the entrance of Boboli Gardens. Meander around this massive backyard all afternoon observing sculptures, greenery, and some great secluded make-out spots.
L) Head back up across the bridge, down along the Uffizi Gallery, and into the Piazza della Signoria. There's a great statue/fountain here, and it's just another great place to people-watch and enjoy the fact that you're in Florence. In the windy back-alleys to the north of that are some stores, but if memory serves me they're rather overpriced.
M) By now you've worked up quite a sweat and have hopefully eaten a small lunch, but it's probably about time to be thinking of dinner. So, head virtually straight north and walk past the park at Piazza dell'Indipenza. Continue northeast on Via di Santa Caterina d'Alessandria. Cross the busy road of Viale Spartaco Lavagnini. Keep heading north and slightly west along Via Fratelli Ruffini. When you hit the park, cut through it to the northwest corner and go left onto Via della Cernaia. Coming up shortly is a small pizzeria. I can't remember the name, but this place was voted to have made the best pizza pie in the WORLD only a few years back (and perhaps again since). So, there's that. Mange that down, and head back down south. Or venture north. Or east. Granted, this area of town is a bit quieter, and perhaps not as nice or maybe even not as safe. I don't really know. I doubt there's too much of a ghetto, though, so find yourself a nice bar either here or elsewhere more familiar.
Now go get drunk.