Italians take their holidays in August before school starts. Mostly they head to the seashore, and all that is left in Florence according to the Florentines are “I Francese ei cani”. (The French and the dogs). As I walk through the streets I can’t help but thinking they are right as I hear so many people speaking French and leading their dogs around.
Sales start at the beginning of August, so if you visit here then you will find that a nice surprise. Many restaurants, shops, cafes, and stores close for a week or two, or sometimes for the entire month.
You really can’t count on anything being opened in August. That is not to say that everything is closed, and as a tourist, it might not interfere with your visit at all since there are plenty of places to chose from, but as a local, I can’t always go to my local bakery, butcher shop, or favorite restaurant assuming it is going to be open.
August 15th is a National Holiday called, Ferragosto. On this day, most everything is closed, although there are festivities in the cities and villages to celebrate this day.
Other cities in Italy are even more “closed” than Florence. Because of the tourist industry in Florence, there is more opened than most places. When traveling to some small places, beware that you might find it a ghost town!
Certaldo is a medieval town in Tuscany, which you can reach in about 50 minutes by train from Florence. It is not one of the top tourist destinations and that makes it even better in my book! Certaldo is well known for its famous son, Giovanni Boccaccio, poet and great Italian writer of The Decameron. Boccaccio was born in Certaldo and was buried here.
When you arrive in Certaldo, the train station is in Certaldo Basso, which is the “new” part of Certaldo. A short walk directly down the street in front of the train station will take you to a funicular. The cost of the funicular for a roundtrip is 1,50. It’s a short ride to the top where Certaldo Alto lies, and you enter its medieval walls.
Certaldo is very small, so in about 4 hours, you can walk every square inch of it, visit the Palazzo Pretoria museum, the house of Boccaccio, and the church where he is buried. You can also have a nice lunch and one of the quaint places on the main street and visit the shops there.
We ate at a small place with tables on the shady side of the street called, A Casa Tua. For 17 euro each we shared a plate of coccole and pecorino with honey, a half liter of wine, a skillet of the house spaghetti which was pici with anchovies, capers, garlic, breadcrumbs, and crushed red peppers, and grilled sausages served on a bed of cannellini beans in tomato sauce. Scrumptious!
The breezes high atop the hill are a welcome relief to the summer heat, and the calm, empty streets a real treat after the crowds in Florence. Certaldo is just around the corner, but seems a world away.
I can never let too much time pass without writing about Piazzale Michelangelo. The views are unbeatable and the air is cooler there as well. High above the city on a summer night is like living in a wonderful dream.
Since Piazzale Michelangelo became pedestrianized, the once full of cars parking lot has become another huge piazza over Florence. There are a few places that cars and buses are allowed to park, but the section that is now chained off houses a new place to eat and drink, Flower. It is a temporary structure that will be there until September serving drinks and food from Amble’.
There are also pieces of sculpture in the piazza, making yet another open-air gallery in Florence. There is still my favorite place, Playbar, with great Negroni’s and an 8-euro aperitivo with a tiny terrace and spectacular views, and you can also make the trek up to one of the most beautiful churches in Florence, San Miniato al Monte.