Things I learned in...


Aug 13, 2011
Sunny Frimley
Bill Palmer
Please feel free to add your own experiences to this thread. I'd like it to build up into something useful, over time.

So, to kick off,

Things I learned in Florence:

The Uffizi and Galleria dell' Accademia don't like back packs, but will accept small ones if you take them off your back and carry them by hand (not over one shoulder). The Palazzo Pitti doesn't allow them at all. The Uffizi is so vast a knowledgeable tour guide is worthwhile. I booked one through the GetYourGuide app; it couldn't have been easier.

The Duomo is considerably more impressive from the outside than the inside. Unless you particularly want to climb the dome itself, I'd really give it a miss. Far more interesting is the Santa Croce which apart from being a more rewarding building complex contains the tombs of Dante, Michaelangelo, Machiavelli, Rossini, Galileo and others.

Nowhere is far - it's all walkable but be careful if you enter the Palazzo Pitti via the garden (rear) entrance - they cannot not sell you a ticket for the main palace, only the gardens themselves and the museums of silver and of modern art (which are in the palace); you have to go around to the front for a ticket to the chambers. They don't tell you this at the time.

Things I learned in Pisa:

The Leaning Tower is actually hollow inside; it looks like the Large Hadron Collider. The steps are enclosed, but spiral the tower around the central core. It's worth the climb. Tickets are timed. If you go first thing in the morning you can set your own pace. No bags at all are allowed inside the tower; there is a cloakroom beside the ticket office.

The Botanical Gardens may be the oldest in the world, but they are sadly neglected and not worth the entrance price.

Things I learned in both:

Selfie sticks
are everywhere, now. They are sold by the "lookie-lookie men" who are found in all such places where tourists gather. They are the first menace, waving them in front of you as you walk. I came close to snapping a couple. The second menace is people using them to make videos of themselves walking down the street. The third and final menace is the idiots who don't bother to take the phone off the stick before updating their facebook status or similar. I saw one man nearly take a woman's eye out in this way, with the stick poking out at right angles.

The most common scam in both cities is nice looking young people who thrust a clip-board and pen at you with the words "Sign against drugs!" Don't. They are either scamming you for money, keeping you distracted while your pocket is picked or using the ploy as an opening gambit for property sales (we saw examples of all three, particularly in Florence) Do not engage; don't be afraid of seeming rude. Think about it for a moment - what value is there in you, a tourist, signing against something which is already illegal? Keep your wits about you and don't be a mug.

In terms of lens choice, I took my XPro1 and 14, 18-55 and 35mm lenses - wide, flexible and fast. I could have done with a bit more reach at the top end and if I go again I would take the 18-135 instead of the 18-55. The 14 was very useful in the church interiors which are not well-lit.

All that said, both are beautiful locations and well worth a weekend of anybody's time.


Aug 13, 2011
Sunny Frimley
Bill Palmer
I always tell them where to go in Russian, with plenty of eye-contact. Since our Russian friends apparently have a bit of a reputation for lashing out if hassled, I find it most efficacious... ;)


Hall of Famer
Dec 24, 2010
Brisbane, Australia
In Rome the selfie stick guys also sell powerbanks. I noticed one of them near the Spanish Steps had selfie sticks but no powerbanks, but then he reached into the back of his underpants and pulled three of them out.

Those guys are just trying to make a living, however. Most of them in Rome are immigrants of Indian or African descent, and a simple "No, grazie" is enough to send them looking for other customers. Goodness knows how selfie sticks they need to sell each day.
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