The Intercity stops at each major station, and our compartment is occupied with four Italian women who gossip non-stop from Roma to Firenze. They quickly establish that we have less Italian than would be useful, but one does kindly offer us fresh mandarins along the way. Firenze charms us immediately, the more so when our LastMinute hotel in Via Nazionale regretfully tells us that the room has plumbing problems, and directs us just around the corner in Via Guelfa to a family hotel run by an archetypal Italian matron.
We have a late-afternoon stroll round the block, find an Internet point, and have a quick snacketto. Already, the Cow Parade - identical cast fibreglass cows, painted up and variously altered by local artists, has impressed us. And the city is chock full of leathergoods shops - Pelle Verre - so the smell of leather is never far away.
We are of course in the Old City, a few hundred metres away from the treno (train), but unlike Rome, we feel safe and a little observation over the next two days confirms this. Firenze is a nice, family city with lots of children, lots of workers, and is cleaner. Although the old drains do smell a little in places. Can't have everything. A great pizza in a back-room frequented almost exclusively by locals (always a good sign) tops off the night. We have fallen in to the local habit of a small carafe of vino, plus a large bottle of carbonated mineral water, with our evening meals. Rehydrates, and refreshes.