Luxuriate in the blossoming beauty of Florence with GuestToGuest

By Cathy H. Burroughs, International Travel Writer, and Adventure Blogger

You will love the silence, comfort and typical Tuscan style of this lovely renewed apartment centrally located in Florence. “My Nest in Florence” is a two minutes walk from Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Gardens, and Santo Spirito Church. The Ponte Vecchio is quickly reachable by foot in five minutes…From Ivan, Host, GuestToGuest, Florence, Italy

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back to the beginning…..

I have had an incredible journey from all my travels with GuestToGuestso far and I highly recommend anyone wanting to save money and have an exceptional travel experience to do the same. One of our GuestToGuest highlights was a two-week vesper-hectic, Renaissance art-infused, a stop-over at the glorious city of Florence(Firenze), Italy as part of a home exchange-dominant three-month expedition to Spain, France, and Italy.

Ivan and Florence home exchange: The Oltrarno

Right smack dab at the midpoint of our three months in Europe, we arrived at Ivan’s “Nest” nestled in the heart of the frenetic Renaissance capital. A top-tiered dress designer Ivan had taken the morning off to buoyantly greet us as he leaned precariously from his 3rd level window. Ivan’s cozily embracing pied d’terre had an a/c, and luxuriant bedding in his hermetically quiet inner bedchamber which was pure bliss. We won’t forget any time soon his charming ways and endearing English, once we were settled in he rushed out at the height of the heat to pick up for us some life-saving icy bottles of water. We will always be ever-grateful for his hospitality, thoughtfulness, and going-the-extra-mile doing gestures which meant the world to us!

Ivan’s haven was complete with comfortable tub and intimate layout; there were even screens on the windows – unusual even in the very nice properties we stayed in on this trip. He left us plenty of extras like biscuits and biscotti with bonus amenities like shower gel and the walls were covered with his original paintings. Ivan could not have been more gracious and available with exemplary rapid-response communication skills. We could write a book on outstanding hosting using him as a prime example. This combined with kindness and easy access are all deeply valued attributes when traveling far from home and not exactly knowing where you are ending up.

Once we got settled in it became apparent that Ivan actually lived in the Oltrarno (“beyond the Arno”). Who would have known Ivan’s friendly, fast and affectionate notes from the GuestToGuestsite would lead us to this – one of Florence’s coolest and trendiest neighborhoods. It is unlikely we would have stumbled into such a spot were it not for Ivan and GuestToGuest.

After a 10 minute walk to the Rialto Bridge, we veered off the beaten path without ever actually leaving the historic center and crossed the bridge onto what turned out to be a bohemian, artisanal section of town. Here sculptor ateliers, homeopathy shops, and small bistros abounded. Just one block from the Pitti Palace and a short walk from the hopping nightlife of Piazza Santo Spirito you could easily find primo trattorias, even a fabulous all raw vegan bar, and during the day catch a glimpse of Michelangelo’s early nude Crucifix at the square’s Church of Santa Maria. The flat was located just a stone’s throw from the Boboli Gardens and the apartment literature’s noted and the romantic couple – poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning – called home for 15 years. We ultimately found convenient bus stops, plenty of places to grab a fabulous meal, lots of late night shops for cold water, a nearby and essential Laundromat and even contra-dancing in the square.

Best Finds

Some of our best finds were the what seemed like the thousand-step straight-up foray to Piazzale Michelangelo to take in Florence’s best sunset with a horde of like-minded traveler’s and a budget ride by city bus to the affluent heights of the neighboring town of Fiesole for the best daytime view. Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron is set in this arty get-away for the smart set with famed writers, artists, architects and clergy in residence. The Etruscan wall remnants, the Roman bath and theatre, the villa which serves lunch and more is worthy of its own day or several days of the investigation.

Home Exchange Magic

A spell seemed to permeate our rigorous but deeply gratifying sojourn filling us with a kind of ongoing euphoria that lasted from the planning, to the experiencing and recovery yes, we were urged to pace ourselves and siestas were key, and now remembering and savoring. As it turned out Ivan’s #24 apartment was another inscrutable detail of our adventure nearly every place we stayed was #24 what are the chances? Somehow throughout our voyage, hard as it was to imagine, one location was better than the next. When you have to hoof it, often for an average of 3-5 miles or more a day, one’s location and its centrality and convenience become quite critical.

Another small miracle was the big surprise that the trip practically paid for itself! Between home rentals, work generated from the road, travel writing discounts, etc… We arrived home to find we actually were in the black. It seems that in our three months in Europe we actually made money. If was as if the powers that be, and, of course, the flexibility and astoundingly robust and vital GuestToGuest website had embued our extended jaunt with this lesson: If you follow your dream you will be rewarded by soaring to heights not previously conceived in ways you could not have imagined!

One of the great benefits of working throughout the trip, besides the obvious was that I came back to find my businesses thriving and was able to hit the ground running without missing a beat. We even were able to have some of our very dearest and cherished friends join us along the way and made many new and wonderful ones! And it was most helpful to have even a little bit of French and even less Italian but we do recommend you make an effort to learn even a few phrases of the native language. It helps immensely to forge warm bonds of friendship – and by all means, do leave small thoughtful gifts and notes as well as you go! These small efforts speak volumes.

Although we enjoyed thoroughly returning home and sleeping in our own bed with our own climate controlled everything it was only a few months before we were off again. An irresistible invite for an exchange to the island of Martinique in the French West Indies for nearly a month with compound, private pool, mountain view and the car was impossible to decline! And next up two months in Greece, Spain, and Portugal with our sights set on the jungles and mysteries of Indonesia for 2019! With GuestToGuest, you can’t keep us down for long!

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