Italy and Belgium 2023

April-May 2023

April 22-23, Florence

It seems odd that we would return to the same part of Italy as our 2022 trip with Overseas Adventure Travel, but our travel friends Bud and Gingy had done this Venissimo Cheese tour five years earlier and had extolled its virtues; we had enjoyed the 2022 Southwest France tour Venissimo organized, so why not? While it would cover some of the same area as our OAT trip, there would be little direct repetition.

The four of us would arrive early, spend a week in Florence and a few days in Milan before joining the tour. Then afterward, we would fly to Brussels and meet up with Dirk and Annie, a Belgian couple we had met on a Greek islands cruise in 2015, and they would show us things we had missed during our 2016 visit there.

This travelogue includes selected pictures from the trip. Click on any of them to view on Flickr (more sizes and location information.) Many more photos can be found in my Italy and Belgium 2023 Flickr collection.

Unlike our 2022 Italy trip that began with our flight out of Boston delayed three hours, causing us to miss our connection in Amsterdam, the BOS-AMS flight, the same one we took then, left on-time and was very pleasant. We arrived in Amsterdam in plenty of time for our connection to Florence and that one left only 15 minutes late. Wait… that's not Florence!

Wait a minute - that's not Florence!

The captain came on the PA system to say that the winds at the Florence airport were too high and in the wrong direction for landing, so we were diverting to Pisa. We'd collect our luggage there and be bused to Florence. This was annoying, but we weren't under time pressure; if anything, arriving a bit later would make our apartment check-in easier. What wasn't fun was standing around for an hour and a half, waiting for our bags to be unloaded, and to be left without information about what was happening. More frustrating was that several other Florence-bound flights had also been diverted to Pisa, and their luggage came out promptly, as well as PA announcements of their bus leaving - in Italian, so all we could make out were some key words such as "bus" and "Florence".

After more standing around, we were finally ushered onto buses and taken to the Florence airport, which was only about a half hour away, not the hour-and-a-half we had been told. Fortuitously, we arrived just as Bud and Gingy landed (their flight from Paris had not diverted), so we took a taxi together to our apartment and were met by the manager who showed us around.

The apartment, with a view of the Duomo, was very nicely furnished and decorated. We were delighted to find that the kitchen knives, usually dull as a rock at these places, were sharp and cut well. Despite being right in the center of the city, the apartment was quiet - at least until the church bells started ringing at 7AM the next morning. (April 25 is "Liberation Day" in Italy, a national holiday.) While the bells did ring each morning, the time varied and it wasn't a problem for us.

View of the Duomo from our apartment

April 25, Florence

We went walking around the area, returning to the Piazza della Signorina and located Osteria del Porcellino, where Leslie and I had a delightful lunch on our previous visit (we would eat there twice later.) We did some window licking, had lunch in one of the zillions of local restaurants (OK but nothing great), got gelato, then visited a small grocery store (the kind that looks tiny but connects to several other storefronts and seemingly goes on forever), and a bakery.

Tourists waiting in line for mediocre gelato in Florence
Tourists waiting in line for mediocre gelato


At one point the promised thunderstorm arrived, which brought out into the street various people trying to sell umbrellas. Once the rain let up, we returned to the apartment for the day.