DayTripQuip™: A Free Bus Tour Of “The Prato You Do Not Expect”


That’s Prato

Phone: +39 328 00 21 009

Web: ThatsPrato.com

Prices: € € € € 

Abbey (Badia) of Santa Maria of Montepiano

Across the piazza from Chiesa Santa Maria Novella, a free bus will take from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station to various itineraries in and around Prato, a town between Florence and Pistoia heading toward Lucca and Pisa. You pay only for the entrance to museums (if applicable) and your lunch.

Monastery of St. Nicholas -Courtyard

The Province of Prato has organized these free weekly tours available on ten consecutive Sundays from May to July, taking four routes/itineraries with both Italian and English Guides:

  • CONTEMPORARY ART AND INDUSTRIAL ARCHEOLOGY
  • WHEN THERE WERE THE ETRUSCANS / ETRUSCAN PAST
  • THE NOBLE TRAIL: VILLAS AND CASTLES
  • THE PATH OF PILGRIMS

I emailed That’s Prato, asking for a reservation for the Path of the Pilgrims tour which was quickly accommodated with a reply the following day for the next Sunday. When we arrived at the train station on Sunday morning, the group was in front of McDonald’s next to Track #1 as promised. We gave them our name, waited until everyone arrived, then made our way to the other end of the station where the bus was waiting.

Monastery of St. Nicholas – Fresco

In a modern tour bus with air conditioning and comfortable seats, we were quickly on our way to Prato, a historic city (comune) and one of Italy’s newest provinces (Provincia di Prato), established in 1992 from the Province of Florence. There were about 30 tourists on the bus for The Pilgrim’s Walk tour, mostly Italians and, oddly enough, from the Florence area no less.

“THE PILGRIM’S WALK:

The Prato area has a long history associated with monasteries and holy places as well as Marian devotion, Which dates to the Early Middle Ages. This tour retraces some of the stops made ​​by pilgrims as they journeyed through the Apennines.”

Our first stop was the Dominican Monastery of St. Nicholas (admission € 5) in the city of Prato. Established in the 13th Century, the monastery has beautifully decorated chapels, a pharmacy, dining hall, and many other rooms with fabulous frescoes and antique furniture. One of the resident nuns accompanied us on the tour, providing details of the history and tales of the ancient building.

Small Lake – Montepiano

We then took a route through the city streets and squares of the old town, then up the winding mountain road to the top of the mountain for lunch in Montepiano, a small town in the Bisenzio Valley. After a reasonably priced (€10) two course lunch on the small lake, we hiked up the hill to Abbey (Badia) of Santa Maria of Montepiano, a small church also from the 13th Century with a fresco of Saint Christopher which sits on what used to be the main road from Florence to Bologna for hundreds of years.

Fresco of St. Christopher – Santa Maria of Montepiano

We then made our way down the mountain to Vaiano and the Abbey of San Salvatore with its small, but very interesting museum. This quaint complex dates back to the 11th Century and has a serene courtyard with fountain and bell tower, halls with ancient frescoes, and a museum with historic artifacts, the abbey’s original kitchen, a small chapel, and trap door that leads to a 1,000 year-old lavatory. 

Abbey of San Salvatore – Paiano

Our bus driver then took us on the 40-minute ride back to Florence by the appointed hour of 6pm as promised, leaving us at the Santa Maria Novella train station where we had started our journey.

Kitchen (Fireplace) – Abbey of San Salvatore

That’s Prato recently added free tours on eight consecutive Sundays in September and October with the following itineraries:

  • ART AT THE TABLE IN THE RENAISSANCE / ART AND FOOD IN THE RENAISSANCE
  • THE PATH OF PILGRIMS / THE PILGRIM’S WALK
  • THE NOBLE TRAIL: VILLAS AND CASTLES

A trip by train to Arezzo or Siena, for example, will cost you €16 per person for train tickets alone, so for just €15 including lunch and museum entry (both optional), you will not find a better value when visiting Florence in terms of day trips.

You can email thatsprato@po.camcom.it, visit their website: http://thatsprato.com/, or call them at +39 328 00 21 009 to request your spot on the tour.

CombatCritic Gives 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better! 


Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp – “Elite ’14/’15” – And On TripAdvisor – “Top Contributor” – And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: DayTripQuip™: A Free Bus Tour Of “The Prato You Do Not Expect”

Key Words: Prato, day, trip, quip, DayTripQuip, train, Santa Maria Novella, Montepiano, Vaiano, abbey, monastery, fresco, church, antique, travel, value, Firenze, Florence, Italy, free

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18 FREE THINGS TO DO In Florence, Italy (Firenze) … That’s TravelValue!


There are the “must see” places in Florence like the Uffizi Gallery where you can see famous works of art by Michelangelo, DaVinci, Rembrandt, and many, many more or the Galleria dell’ Accademia where Michelangelo’s “David”, one of the most incredible statues you will see anywhere in the world, is located. But most museums and even the churches charge heavily to enter, so you must purchase a FirenzeCard for €72 (valid for 72 hours, allowing free entry into many of Florence’s museums), choose very wisely, visit during FREE ENTRY DAYS (normally the first Sunday of the month), or visit the many free venues in the city …

1) SANTA MARIA NOVELLA AND PHARMACY

Florence is very rich in churches and most of them are free to enter. These include the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, one of the most beautiful churches in the city which houses works by Giotto, Masaccio and Ghirlandaio. Unfortunately, the church now charges €5 to enter, but a visit to the pharmacy, founded by Dominican friars in 1221, is free. In their gardens they cultivated medicinal herbs that were used to prepare medications, balms and ointments for the small monastery. They follow the same formulas for preparation of spices, liquor, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to this day.

Pharmacy website: www.smnovella.it

2) THE “DUOMO” (THE CATHEDRAL OF FLORENCE”)

Built in the 15th Century, admission is free to Santa Maria del Fiore (the Cathedral or “Duomo”), Italy’s second largest church (after St. Peter’s in Rome) and the third largest in the world (St. Paul’s in London is the other). It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is open from 10AM to 5PM Monday through Saturday and 1:30PM to 4:45PM on Sunday. The dome, bell tower, museum, and baptistery all charge to enter or you can buy a consolidated ticket on their website. The Museo dell’Opera is closed until November 2015 for renovations.
The facade and dome of Santa Maria del Fiore is imposing and awe-inspiring, dominating the large piazza in which it stands it is so large that it is impossible to photograph the entire structure without a special lens. Its beautiful marble polychrome facade of greens, pinks, and whites is unlike any other I have seen. The interior is massive and spectacular, my favorite part being the massive dome completed in the 1460s with a fresco of the apostles who appear to be sitting on the edges with their legs dangling over the sides.
This is one of the most impressive structures I have seen anywhere in the world and is a MUST SEE if visiting Italy.

3) BAPTISTERY OF ST. JOHN

Across from the Duomo entrance is the Baptistery of St. John. Until the 19th century, all Catholic Florentines were baptized here. The octagonal monument is distinguished by its geometric, colored-marble exterior and detailed interior mosaics. Admission is €5, but admiring the famous bronze doors (with replica panels) carved with scenes from the Bible is free.

4) OBLATE CAFETERIA

On the second floor of the famous Oblate Library and not far from the Duomo, their Cafeteria has been open to the public since May 2009 and has already become an important place of the city’s social and cultural life. The interior decoration is modern with every detail chosen carefully, allowing you to spend time at the library in a relaxed, safe and unique atmosphere.

Almost every evening there is a themed musical event with free admission and optional drinks (unless you sit at a table of course).

CLICK HERE for more details.

5) SANTA CROCE NEIGHBORHOOD

Just to the east of the historical center is the Santa Croce Neighborhood. Stop in Piazza Santa Croce, the neighborhood’s lively main square, to admire the facade of the medieval Santa Croce Basilica, the largest Franciscan church in the world. Many famous Italians are entombed inside, including Michelangelo, Galileo, and Marconi, but entrance to the church costs €5 (Open Weekdays: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm). Near the church is the Leather School of Santa Croce, Scuola del Cuoio, where you can see artisans making leather products and a display of leather-working tools.

6) STROZZI PALACE

Strozzi Palace is the perfect example of a Renaissance mansion, appearing like a fortress in the heart of the historic center of Florence. Every Thursday evening from 6PM to 10PM free entry is allowed to the “Strozzina” and its Exhibition of Contemporary Art in the palace’s Center for Contemporary Culture.

More details on www.palazzostrozzi.org

7) FREE WALKING TOURS

These tour are the original walking tours of Florence, they are FREE. Arranged by local professional guides working on a tip-only basis, your generosity will allow them to continue this service.

They offer two daily tours beginning at the Central Railway Station (Santa Maria Novella). You will can choose between the Renaissance Tour (11AM), Medici Family Tour (2PM), or take both.

Find more details here: www.florencefreetour.com

8) PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO

Looking for the perfect photo opp while in Florence? Do not miss this large plaza located at the top of a hill above Piazza Poggi on the south side of the river Arno. The centerpiece of the piazzale is its terrace, the perfect place to spend some time taking in the beautiful city below. You can reach this lookout by bus if you are not up to the climb or, like me, have knees that have seen better days.

View From Piazzale Michelangelo

9) ABBEY OF SAN MINIATO AL MONTE

Follow the main street from Piazzale Michelangelo to the steps of the Abbey San Miniato al Monte, one of the highest points in Florence. Michelozzo’s Cappella del Crocifisso (built in 1448) is the centerpiece of the Romanesque basilica and frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi decorate the crypt behind it. 

Wander the abbey’s cemetery where Carlo Collodi, author of Pinocchio, is buried and stay until sunset when the golden light reflects off the Arno and terra-cotta roofs of the majestic city below. 

Admission is free (open from 7AM to 1PM, 3:30PM to 7PM on weekdays in winter, and 7AM to sunset in summer). Masses are held throughout the day on Sunday and holidays; and the 10AM and 5:30PM masses are performed in Gregorian chant in the crypt, an incredible experience.

10) DANTE’S CHURCH

You must pay to enter Dante’s house down the street, but entry to Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, dating back to 1032 and known primarily as the “Church of Dante”, is free.
It has been said that Dante met his muse, Beatrice, here for the first time and fell in love with her. Beatrice’s family had tombs are there where her father, Folco Portinari, is buried. Many visitors like to think that Beatrice is buried in the church and in front of what tradition has identified as Beatrice’s tomb, you can find a chest full of messages lovers leave to Beatrice asking her to protect their love. Beatrice, however, was married to a member of the Bardi family and was likely buried in the tomb of her husband’s family in the cloister of Santa Croce Church.

Address: Piazza dei Giuochi, 50122 Florence, Italy

11) PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA

Florence’s most famous square, Piazza della Signoria is the heart of the historic center and a free open-air sculpture exhibit. The imposing Loggia dei Lanza, also known as Loggia della Signoria, holds important statues, including those by Cellini, Giambologna and Fedi and a proportionally smaller copy of Michelangelo’s David stands in front of the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio. The piazza has been Florence’s political center since the middle ages and Florence’s town hall, the medieval Palazzo Vecchio, literally towers over the piazza. You’ll also want to admire the beautiful fountain in the square or have a seat in front of or under the Loggia della Lanza to relax or watch the multitude of tourists wander past.

12) LOGGIA DEL MERCATO NUOVO

Not far from the Piazza della Signoria you will find the new market or “Loggia del Porcellino”, the name of the fountain portrayed by a wild boar sculpted in bronze and created in the 7th Century by “Pietro Tacca” (the original is kept in Palazzo Pitti). It would be worth your while to spend some time in the area as there is a tradition of placing a coin in the boars mouth. If it falls out and rolls over the water drain, you then rub its nose to bring good luck. Remember the coin must travel to the other side of the drain for it to work!

At the centre of the loggia you can also see the “scandalous stone” (Pietra dello Scandalo), the place place where debtors would be punished in Renaissance Florence. The punishment consisted of chaining the prisoners and whipping their legs, repeatedly falling down onto their behinds.

13) THE MARKETS OF FLORENCE

A stroll through the local markets does not cost anything unless you indulge yourself, but is an excellent way to enjoy a morning, afternoon, or an entire day. Here is a selection of  Florentine markets:

• SAN LORENZO MARKET: Extends from Piazza S. Lorenzo to Ariento Street around the Basilica of San Lorenzo (in the historic center of Florence). It is the most important market in the city and you will find clothing, leather goods, souvenirs, local food products and much more. It is a great place for a quick, inexpensive lunch to eat there or take withg you for a picnic elsewhere in town. It is open Monday to Friday from 7AM to 2PM and on Saturdays from 7:00 to 17:00 (except from mid-June to September when it is closed on Saturdays).

• SANT’AMBROGIO MARKET: Near Piazza Ghiberti and Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, Mercato Sant’Ambrogio has outdoor spaces where you will find fresh fruit, vegetables, clothing, flowers, shoes and appliance stalls. If you are looking for food, enter the building where you will find meat or fresh fish, pasta, general groceries, cheeses, and bread. If you get hungry, there is also a restaurant inside the market with good, cheap meals. The market is open every day (except Sunday) from 7AM to 2PM.

• MERCATO DELLE PULCI: The ‘flea market’ is located in Piazza dei Ciompi and is open daily from 9AM to 7:30PM. On the last Sunday of the month, the stalls are extended to the surrounding streets where you will find whatever you can imagine, including furniture, paintings, antiques, coins and jewelry. Maybe you will find a treasure among the many antiques!

• MERCATO DELLE CASCINE: Is located in the beautiful Parco delle Cascine (the largest park in Florence). Open every Tuesday from 7AM to 2PM, it is probably the biggest and cheapest market in town where you can buy clothing, shoes, housewares and much more.
• THE CURE MARKET, In Piazza delle Cure, it is open every morning except Sunday and holidays.
• THE FIERUCOLINA: “The Fierucolina” is an organic market that promotes organic farming and biodynamic agriculture with food, wine, and handmade bio-manufactured products. It takes place the third Sunday of each month (except in August) in Piazza Santo Spirito (Oltrarno).

• THE MARKET OF RARE BOOKS: In Loggia del Grano, it is open Thursday to Saturday from 10AM to 6PM.

• THE FLOWER MARKET: Under the porch of Piazza della Repubblica, every Thursday morning from 10 to 19.• THE PIGGY MARKET: Florentine straw objects, handmade embroidery, leather goods, wooden objects, and flowers in Piazza del Mercato Nuovo from 8AM to 7PM every day except Sunday and Monday morning.

• THE STRAW MARKET: Piazza del Mercato Nuovo from 9AM to 6:30PM every day except Sunday and holidays.

14) THAT’S PRATO … THE PRATO YOU DO NOT EXPECT!

Across the pizza from chiesa Santa Maria Novella, a free bus will take from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station to various itineraries in and around Prato, a town between Florence and Pistoia heading toward Lucca and Pisa. You pay only for the entrance to museums (if applicable) and your lunch.

Available 10 consecutive Sundays from May to July, taking four routes/itineraries with both Italian and English Guides:

  • CONTEMPORARY ART AND INDUSTRIAL ARCHEOLOGY
  • WHEN THERE WERE THE ETRUSCANS / ETRUSCAN PAST
  • THE NOBLE TRAIL: VILLAS AND CASTLES
  • THE PATH OF PILGRIMS

Email thatsprato@po.camcom.it to request a spot or visit their website: http://thatsprato.com/

PHONE: +39 328 00 21 009

15) OLTRARNO – SANTO SPIRITO AND SAN FREDIANO NEIGHBORHOODS

If you want to get away from the crowds, head across the river on Ponte Santa Trinita (west of Ponte Vecchio) or turn right after traversing Ponte Vecchio toward the area known as Oltrarno. Here you will find interesting neighborhoods that see far fewer tourists. It is a pleasant place for a walk where you will see typical Florentine buildings, small stores, artisan workshops, and small neighborhood squares. In Piazza Santa Spirito there is a small morning market and in the Santo Spirito Church, designed by Brunelleschi in the 15th century, you will find a wealth of art work. Santa Maria del Carmine Church has a beautiful Renaissance fresco in Cappella Brancacci (open 10AM–5PM, Sunday 1PM–5PM, closed Tuesdays).

16) CASA GUIDI: ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING HOME.

Just down the street from Palazzo Piti on the Altarno side of the river, Casa Guidi is located on the first floor (second floor to Americans) of a historic palazzo. There is an engraved stone marker above the massive door indicating where she lived and a brass nameplate above the buzzer outside with details about operating hours. There is also a single brass button below the rest that merely says “Elizabeth”.

The apartment consists of just three rooms that you can visit, but they are spectacular and contain furniture of hers and from the period as well as photos, paintings, busts, and other memorabilia. Her husband study is small, but has elaborate frescoes on the walls and ceilings. The dining room is large, but not extremely interesting. The living room, off of which are the bedrooms and kitchen (not open to the public, but apparently you can rent them for lodging). is massive and contains a large library of her works, more artwork, and some beautiful period furniture as well as some of her possessions.

The visit is self-guided and FREE, but you must visit on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday (April to November) between 3PM and 6PM only. Just ring the buzzer for Casa Guidi, though the giant door and a gate, then go up one flight of stairs to her apartment on the left.
Address: Piazza San Felice 8, 50125 Florence, Italy

Phone: +39 055 354457


17) PONTE VECCHIO

Ponte Vecchio, or the “old bridge”, was built in 1345 and was Florence’s first bridge across the Arno River. It’s the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days (the others were destroyed during World War II). Following a flood in 1345, the bridge was reconstructed, adding rows of shops to the bridge where many of the city’s butchers were located. More shops were added later and Ponte Vecchio became a place for gold and silver shopping in Renaissance Florence. It is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry, a good place for window shopping or people watching …

18) IF YOU ARE LIKE ME, PEOPLE-WATCHING IS “THE BOMB”

The best free activity in Florence may very well be people-watching. While you peruse the jewelry and souvenir shops on Ponte Vecchio (the medieval stone bridge over the Arno River), get off the beaten path and head to Oltrarno, the neighborhood on the far and less touristy side of the Arno. Get lost on the narrow cobblestone streets, wander in and out of artisan workshops, and rub shoulders with locals at the daily morning market (closed the second and third Sundays of the month, when artisan and antique markets are held) in Piazza Santo Spirito.

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: 18 FREE THINGS TO DO In Florence, Italy (Firenze)

Key Words: free, things, to, do, Florence, Firenze, Italy, Italia, Ponte Vecchio, Duomo, piazza, signoria, ponte, vecchio, santa, maria, novella, Oltrarno, market, mercato, walking, baptistery, Santa Croce, travel, Value

Another FREE Florence (Italy) Attraction: The Elizabeth Barrett Browning Home – Casa Guidi


Casa Guidi
Piazza San Felice 8
50125 Florence, Italy
Near Palazzo Pitti
Prices: FREE
Casa Guidi, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s (EBB) former home and where she died, is in Florence … and, unlike most everything else in the city, it is FREE to visit!
My wife is a huge fan of the Brönte sisters and EBW was a fan of Charlotte’s. I also enjoy her poetry and have a First Edition of one of her works, so I was also interested in visiting her home.
Just down the street from Palazzo Piti on the Altrarno side of the river, Casa Guidi is located on the first floor (second floor to Americans) of a historic palazzo. There is an engraved stone marker above the massive door indicating where she lived and a brass nameplate above the buzzer outside with details about operating hours. There is also a single brass button below the rest that merely says “Elizabeth”.
Living Room
The apartment consists of just three rooms that you can visit, but they are spectacular and contain furniture of hers and from the period as well as photos, paintings, busts, and other memorabilia. Her husband study is small, but has elaborate frescoes on the walls and ceilings. The dining room is large, but not extremely interesting. The living room, off of which are the bedrooms and kitchen (not open to the public, but apparently you can rent them for lodging). is massive and contains a large library of her works, more artwork, and some beautiful period furniture as well as some of her possessions.
Husband’s Study
The visit is self-guided and FREE, but you must visit on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday (April to November) between 3PM and 6PM only. Just ring the buzzer for Casa Guidi, though the giant door and a gate, then go up one flight of stairs to her apartment on the left.

CombatCritic Gives Casa Guidi 8 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!




Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube



Title: Another FREE Florence (Italy) Attraction: The Elizabeth Barrett Browning Home – Casa Guidi

Key Words: FREE, Florence, Italy, Attraction, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Elizabeth, Barrett, Browning, Home, Casa Guidi, Firenze, review, museum, attraction, Yelp, TripAdvisor, travel, value

20 FREE THINGS TO DO In And Around Florence, Italy (Firenze)


There are the “must see” places in Florence like the Uffizi Gallery where you can see famous works of art by Michelangelo, DaVinci, Rembrandt, and many, many more or the Galleria dell’ Accademia where Michelangelo’s “David”, one of the most incredible statues you will see anywhere in the world, is located. But most museums and even the churches charge heavily to enter, so you must purchase a FirenzeCard for €72 (valid for 72 hours, allowing free entry into many of Florence’s museums), choose very wisely, visit during FREE ENTRY DAYS (normally the first Sunday of the month), or visit the many free venues in the city …


1) SANTA MARIA NOVELLA PHARMACY

Florence is very rich in old churches and many of them are free to enter (except Santa Maria Novella as I recently found out). These (used to) include the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, one of the most beautiful churches in the city which houses works by Giotto, Masaccio and Ghirlandaio, now charging €5 to enter. Like Basilica di Santa Croce across town, at least they do not discriminate in their greed as Catholics are required to pay the same as everyone else to enter a Catholic church … what a disgrace.

Its famous pharmacy, founded by Dominican friars in 1221, is located around the corner from the square at Via della Scala 16. In their gardens they cultivated medicinal herbs that were used to prepare medications, balms and ointments for the small monastery. They follow the same formulas for preparation of spices, liquor, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to this day. 
Pharmacy website: www.smnovella.it
Address: Via Della Scala 16


2) THE “DUOMO” (THE CATHEDRAL OF FLORENCE”)

Built in the 15th Century, admission is free to Santa Maria del Fiore (the Cathedral or “Duomo”), Italy’s second largest church (after St. Peter’s in Rome) and the third largest in the world (St. Paul’s in London is the other). It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is open from 10AM to 5PM Monday through Saturday and 1:30PM to 4:45PM on Sunday. The dome, bell tower, museum, archeological site, and baptistery all charge to enter or you can buy a consolidated ticket on their website. The Museo dell’Opera is closed until November 2015 for renovations.

The facade and dome of Santa Maria del Fiore is imposing and awe-inspiring, dominating the large piazza in which it stands it is so large that it is impossible to photograph the entire structure without a special lens. Its beautiful marble polychrome facade of greens, pinks, and whites is unlike any other I have seen. The interior is massive and spectacular, my favorite part being the massive dome completed in the 1460s with a fresco of the apostles who appear to be sitting on the edges with their legs dangling over the sides.

This is one of the most impressive structures I have seen anywhere in the world and is a MUST SEE if visiting central Italy. Unlike the rest of the complex (dome, baptistery, vault, bell tower, and museum), you can enter the cathedral for free. Entry is through the north door of the massive west-facing facade and the line snakes along the routinely shaded (in summer) north wall of the cathedral, but it moves rather quickly. There are even free guided tours in several languages lasting around 30 minutes, so check at the desk on the left after you enter to inquire.


3) BAPTISTERY OF ST. JOHN

Across from the Duomo entrance is the Baptistery of St. John. Until the 19th century, all Catholic Florentines were baptized here. The octagonal monument is distinguished by its geometric, colored-marble exterior and detailed interior mosaics. Admission is €5, but admiring the famous bronze doors (with replica panels) carved with scenes from the Bible is free.

4) OBLATE CAFETERIA

On the second floor of the famous Oblate Library and not far from the Duomo, their Cafeteria has been open to the public since May 2009 and has already become an important place of the city’s social and cultural life. The interior decoration is modern with every detail chosen carefully, allowing you to spend time at the library in a relaxed, safe and unique atmosphere.

Almost every evening there is a themed musical event with free admission and optional drinks (unless you sit at a table of course).

CLICK HERE for more details.

5) SANTA CROCE NEIGHBORHOOD


Just to the east of the historical center is the Santa Croce Neighborhood. Stop in Piazza Santa Croce, the neighborhood’s lively main square, to admire the facade of the medieval Santa Croce Basilica, the largest Franciscan church in the world. Many famous Italians are entombed inside, including Michelangelo, Galileo, and Marconi, but entrance to the church costs €5 (Open Weekdays: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm). Near the church is the Leather School of Santa Croce, Scuola del Cuoio, where you can see artisans making leather products and a display of leather-working tools.


6) STROZZI PALACE

Strozzi Palace is the perfect example of a Renaissance mansion, appearing like a fortress in the heart of the historic center of Florence. Every Thursday evening from 6PM to 10PM free entry is allowed to the “Strozzina” and its Exhibition of Contemporary Art in the palace’s Center for Contemporary Culture.

More details on www.palazzostrozzi.org

7) FREE WALKING TOURS

These tour are the original walking tours of Florence, they are FREE. Arranged by local professional guides working on a tip-only basis, your generosity will allow them to continue this service.

They offer two daily tours beginning at the Central Railway Station (Santa Maria Novella). You will can choose between the Renaissance Tour (11AM), Medici Family Tour (2PM), or take both.

Find more details here: www.florencefreetour.com

8) PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO

Looking for the perfect photo opp while in Florence? Do not miss this large plaza located at the top of a hill above Piazza Poggi on the south side of the river Arno. The centerpiece of the piazzale is its terrace, the perfect place to spend some time taking in the beautiful city below. You can reach this lookout by bus if you are not up to the climb or, like me, have knees that have seen better days.
View From Piazzale Michelangelo


9) ABBEY OF SAN MINIATO AL MONTE

Follow the main street from Piazzale Michelangelo to the steps of the Abbey San Miniato al Monte, one of the highest points in Florence. Michelozzo’s Cappella del Crocifisso (built in 1448) is the centerpiece of the Romanesque basilica and frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi decorate the crypt behind it. 

Wander the abbey’s cemetery where Carlo Collodi, author of Pinocchio, is buried and stay until sunset when the golden light reflects off the Arno and terra-cotta roofs of the majestic city below. 

Admission is free (open from 7AM to 1PM, 3:30PM to 7PM on weekdays in winter, and 7AM to sunset in summer). Masses are held throughout the day on Sunday and holidays; and the 10AM and 5:30PM masses are performed in Gregorian chant in the crypt, an incredible experience.
10) DANTE’S CHURCH

You must pay to enter Dante’s house down the street, but entry to Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, dating back to 1032 and known primarily as the “Church of Dante”, is free. 

It has been said that Dante met his muse, Beatrice, here for the first time and fell in love with her. Beatrice’s family had tombs are there where her father, Folco Portinari, is buried. Many visitors like to think that Beatrice is buried in the church and in front of what tradition has identified as Beatrice’s tomb, you can find a chest full of messages lovers leave to Beatrice asking her to protect their love. Beatrice, however, was married to a member of the Bardi family and was likely buried in the tomb of her husband’s family in the cloister of Santa Croce Church.

Address: Piazza dei Giuochi, 50122 Florence, Italy

11) PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA

Florence’s most famous square, Piazza della Signoria is the heart of the historic center and a free open-air sculpture exhibit. The imposing Loggia dei Lanza, also known as Loggia della Signoria, holds important statues, including those by Cellini, Giambologna and Fedi and a proportionally smaller copy of Michelangelo’s David stands in front of the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio. The piazza has been Florence’s political center since the middle ages and Florence’s town hall, the medieval Palazzo Vecchio, literally towers over the piazza. You’ll also want to admire the beautiful fountain in the square or have a seat in front of or under the Loggia della Lanza to relax or watch the multitude of tourists wander past.


12) LOGGIA DEL MERCATO NUOVO

Not far from the Piazza della Signoria you will find the new market or “Loggia del Porcellino”, the name of the fountain portrayed by a wild boar sculpted in bronze and created in the 7th Century by “Pietro Tacca” (the original is kept in Palazzo Pitti). It would be worth your while to spend some time in the area as there is a tradition of placing a coin in the boars mouth. If it falls out and rolls over the water drain, you then rub its nose to bring good luck. Remember the coin must travel to the other side of the drain for it to work!

At the centre of the loggia you can also see the “scandalous stone” (Pietra dello Scandalo), the place place where debtors would be punished in Renaissance Florence. The punishment consisted of chaining the prisoners and whipping their legs, repeatedly falling down onto their behinds.


13) THE MARKETS OF FLORENCE

A stroll through the local markets does not cost anything unless you indulge yourself, but is an excellent way to enjoy a morning, afternoon, or an entire day. Here is a selection of  Florentine markets:

• SAN LORENZO MARKET: Extends from Piazza S. Lorenzo to Ariento Street around the Basilica of San Lorenzo (in the historic center of Florence). It is the most important market in the city and you will find clothing, leather goods, souvenirs, local food products and much more. It is a great place for a quick, inexpensive lunch to eat there or take withg you for a picnic elsewhere in town. It is open Monday to Friday from 7AM to 2PM and on Saturdays from 7:00 to 17:00 (except from mid-June to September when it is closed on Saturdays).

• SANT’AMBROGIO MARKET: Near Piazza Ghiberti and Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, Mercato Sant’Ambrogio has outdoor spaces where you will find fresh fruit, vegetables, clothing, flowers, shoes and appliance stalls. If you are looking for food, enter the building where you will find meat or fresh fish, pasta, general groceries, cheeses, and bread. If you get hungry, there is also a restaurant inside the market with good, cheap meals. The market is open every day (except Sunday) from 7AM to 2PM.


• MERCATO DELLE PULCI: The ‘flea market’ is located in Piazza dei Ciompi and is open daily from 9AM to 7:30PM. On the last Sunday of the month, the stalls are extended to the surrounding streets where you will find whatever you can imagine, including furniture, paintings, antiques, coins and jewelry. Maybe you will find a treasure among the many antiques!

• MERCATO DELLE CASCINE: Is located in the beautiful Parco delle Cascine (the largest park in Florence). Open every Tuesday from 7AM to 2PM, it is probably the biggest and cheapest market in town where you can buy clothing, shoes, housewares and much more.

• THE CURE MARKET, In Piazza delle Cure, it is open every morning except Sunday and holidays.

• THE FIERUCOLINA: “The Fierucolina” is an organic market that promotes organic farming and biodynamic agriculture with food, wine, and handmade bio-manufactured products. It takes place the third Sunday of each month (except in August) in Piazza Santo Spirito (Oltrarno).

• THE MARKET OF RARE BOOKS: In Loggia del Grano, it is open Thursday to Saturday from 10AM to 6PM.

• THE FLOWER MARKET: Under the porch of Piazza della Repubblica, every Thursday morning from 10 to 19.• THE PIGGY MARKET: Florentine straw objects, handmade embroidery, leather goods, wooden objects, and flowers in Piazza del Mercato Nuovo from 8AM to 7PM every day except Sunday and Monday morning.


• THE STRAW MARKET: Piazza del Mercato Nuovo from 9AM to 6:30PM every day except Sunday and holidays.

Across the piazza from chiesa Santa Maria Novella, a free bus will take from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station to various itineraries in and around Prato, a town between Florence and Pistoia heading toward Lucca and Pisa. You pay only for the entrance to museums (if applicable) and your lunch.

The tours are available 10 consecutive Sundays from May to July, taking four routes/itineraries with both Italian and English Guides:

  • CONTEMPORARY ART AND INDUSTRIAL ARCHEOLOGY
  • WHEN THERE WERE THE ETRUSCANS / ETRUSCAN PAST
  • THE NOBLE TRAIL: VILLAS AND CASTLES
  • THE PATH OF PILGRIMS
Email thatsprato@po.camcom.it to request a spot or visit their website: http://thatsprato.com/


15) OLTRARNO – SANTO SPIRITO AND SAN FREDIANO NEIGHBORHOODS

If you want to get away from the crowds, head across the river on Ponte Santa Trinita (west of Ponte Vecchio) or turn right after traversing Ponte Vecchio toward the area known as Oltrarno. Here you will find interesting neighborhoods that see far fewer tourists. It is a pleasant place for a walk where you will see typical Florentine buildings, small stores, artisan workshops, and small neighborhood squares. In Piazza Santa Spirito there is a small morning market and in the Santo Spirito Church, designed by Brunelleschi in the 15th century, you will find a wealth of art work. Santa Maria del Carmine Church has a beautiful Renaissance fresco in Cappella Brancacci (open 10AM–5PM, Sunday 1PM–5PM, closed Tuesdays).

16) CASA GUIDI: ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING HOME.

Just down the street from Palazzo Piti on the Altarno side of the river, Casa Guidi is located on the first floor (second floor to Americans) of a historic palazzo. There is an engraved stone marker above the massive door indicating where she lived and a brass nameplate above the buzzer outside with details about operating hours. There is also a single brass button below the rest that merely says “Elizabeth”.

The apartment consists of just three rooms that you can visit, but they are spectacular and contain furniture of hers and from the period as well as photos, paintings, busts, and other memorabilia. Her husband study is small, but has elaborate frescoes on the walls and ceilings. The dining room is large, but not extremely interesting. The living room, off of which are the bedrooms and kitchen (not open to the public, but apparently you can rent them for lodging). is massive and contains a large library of her works, more artwork, and some beautiful period furniture as well as some of her possessions.

The visit is self-guided and FREE, but you must visit on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday (April to November) between 3PM and 6PM only. Just ring the buzzer for Casa Guidi, though the giant door and a gate, then go up one flight of stairs to her apartment on the left.

Address: Piazza San Felice 8, 50125 Florence, Italy
Phone: +39 055 354457


17) PONTE VECCHIO


Ponte Vecchio, or the “old bridge”, was built in 1345 and was Florence’s first bridge across the Arno River. It’s the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days (the others were destroyed during World War II). Following a flood in 1345, the bridge was reconstructed, adding rows of shops to the bridge where many of the city’s butchers were located. More shops were added later and Ponte Vecchio became a place for gold and silver shopping in Renaissance Florence. It is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry, a good place for window shopping or people watching …
18) PASTAFICIO CHELUCCI: PASTA FACTORY TOUR

Hand-crafted pasta since 1912, the owner Giuseppe has been in the family business since 1950, is extremely friendly and informative, and made us feel welcome for our free, private tour.

During World War II, the Nazis took over the building, a villa, making it their headquarters in 1942. The family had to walk for two days to Florence while the Germans occupied their home. Once the Nazis fled from Allied Forces in December 1942, they returned home and were the first pastificio (pasta factory) of 36 in Pistoia to resume operations after the war. They are the only remaining pastificio of the original 36 in Pistoia.

The valley in which the villa sits is quiet, green, lush, and much cooler than smoldering Florence, so it was a breath of fresh air, literally, after a month in 100 degree Florence and its wall-to-wall tourists. If visiting Tuscany and tell him CombatCritic sent you!

Read my full review now!

Pastificio Chelucci
Via di Valente, 7
51100 Pistoia, Italy

Phone: +39 0573 42011 for free tour reservations
Email: info@pastificiochelucci.it

Web: pastificiochelucci.it

19) APRITI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL


Free entry to the outdoor Apriti cinema, an international film festival, held from the end of June to late July, is located in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, just east of the Accademia Gallery and Piazza San Marco.  Films are from all over the world and are in their native languages with Italian subtitles. Starting at 21:30 nightly, there are hamburgers (€5), french fries (€2.50), and artisan beers (€4) available for purchase when available.


20) IF YOU ARE LIKE ME, PEOPLE-WATCHING IS “THE BOMB”


The best free activity in Florence may very well be people-watching. While you peruse the jewelry and souvenir shops on Ponte Vecchio (the medieval stone bridge over the Arno River), get off the beaten path and head to Oltrarno, the neighborhood on the far and less touristy side of the Arno. Get lost on the narrow cobblestone streets, wander in and out of artisan workshops, and rub shoulders with locals at the daily morning market (closed the second and third Sundays of the month, when artisan and antique markets are held) in Piazza Santo Spirito.

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: 20 FREE THINGS TO DO In And Around Florence, Italy (Firenze)

Key Words: free, things, to, do, Florence, Firenze, Italy, Italia, Ponte Vecchio, Duomo, piazza, signoria, ponte, vecchio, santa, maria, novella, Oltrarno, market, mecato, walking, baptistery, Santa Croce, travel, Value

Free in Florence: Apriti Cinema International Film Festival – 29 June through 21 July 2015


Free entry to Apriti cinema, an international film festival from 29 June to 21 July 2015. Films start at 21:30 nightly and there are hamburgers (€5), french fries (€2.50), and artisan beers (€4) available for purchase.
Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title:  Free in Florence (Italy): Apriti Cinema International Film Festival – 29 June through 21 July 2015

Key Words: Free, Florence, Italy, Apriti Cinema, International Film Festival, Apriti, cinema, international, film, festival, Firenze, movie, outdoor, food, beer, travel, value, CombatCritic

Important Changes To Amici Degli Uffizi Membership (Effective June 15, 2015)


W

We were in Florence for a month in 2012 and purchased Amici Degli Uffizi memberships which included free entry to most of the major museums, including the Uffizi and Galleria dell’Accademia, the two “must see” museums in town, among many others. Membership was around €55 at the time and it was a great bargain. Not only did you have access to the best museums in Firenze, but you also skipped the long lines at the Uffizi without a reservation.
Unfortunately, the latest rumors are true and the Amici Degli Uffizi membership IS ONLY GOOD FOR ENTRANCE TO THE UFFIZI effective June 15, 2015. You can visit their website for more details:
However, there is the FirenzeCard which gets you into the vast majority of museums (Uffizi, L’Accademia, Palazzo Vecchio, etc) as well as city public transportation (Ataf, Linea, and tram) and Firenze Free Wifi offered by the City of Florence. The card is valid for 72 hours from first use and costs €72. If you plan on visiting many of the participating museums and leaving the historical center by public transport, it could be worth the rather steep price. The Uffizi and L’Accademia are two of the more expensive museums, both charging €8 for a full-price ticket, so you might want to do some calculations to see if the ticket is a good fit for your budget before you buy. You should also know that the vast majority of Florence sightseeing can be done in the historical center and public transportation is not necessary for most people. I have spent quite a bit of time in Florence and have only taken public transportation once, a bus to and from Piazzale Michelangelo which sits atop a hill across the river from the center of town.

Many of the museums in Florence also offer free entry once each month. For example, L’Accademia (€8 at the box office; full price ticket online is €23) has “Sunday at the Museum” where you gain FREE entry to the museum on the first Sunday of each month. The Uffizi Gallery also offersfree entry on the first Sunday of every month as do several others. So if you happen to be in Florence on the first Sunday of the month, you are in luck … Buon Viaggio!

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: Important Changes To Amici Degli Uffizi Membership (Effective June 15, 2015)
Key Words: Amici Degli Uffizi, amici, degli, Uffizi, gallery, Uffizi Gallery, membership, member, free, entry, museum, Michelangelo, DaVinci, da, vinci, travel, value, CombatCritic,

Once Home To "Shroud Of Turin", Now Houses Famous Byzantine "Madonna"


Santuario di Montevergine
Mercogliano, Avellino, Italy

Mercogliano, a hillside town about 30 miles (50 kliks) east of and a world away from Naples, Italy, sits below the famous mountain-top abbey: Santuario di Montevergine. The abbey of Montevergine has been the site of religious orders dating back to the 12th Century and sits almost 5,000 above the base of Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. It was reportedly the hiding place of the Shroud of Turin during World War II (behind the massive altar) and is home to the massive and celebrated Byzantine painting on wood of the “Madonna” (Blessed Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus).


Entry to the abbey is free and the highlight is the Byzantine Madonna which consumes one wall of the chapel in which it is housed at the back of the main church. The church itself is unremarkable, but the exterior of the abbey is picturesque and the view of Avellino and the valley below is breathtaking.

CombatCritic Gives Santuario di Montevergine 8 Out Of 10 Bombs





Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title:  Once Home To “Shroud Of Turin”, Now Houses Famous Byzantine “Madonna”

Key Words: CombatCritic, Italy, Mercogliano, Montevergine, santuario, santuario do montevergine, monte, vergine, virgine, TravelValue, travel, value, hilltop, mountain, abbey, free, 

Get Netflix and Access To Other US-Only Sites From Anywhere In The World


Did you know that Netflix is not available in many countries overseas, even if you have a US account? Netflix and other services (gmail, etc) automatically detect that you are in another country and block their site or, in gmail’s case, lock your account until you authenticate by logging-in and entering security information.

Well folks, after many years of traveling and numerous headaches caused by Google, Netflix, and others, I found out about VPNs (virtual private network) where you set up a proxy on your computer and use a FREE server in your home country to make it look as though you never left home while adding additional security to your browsing!

Here is one of many excellent tutorials on YouTube (this one is for Mac) that takes you step-by-step through the process:

You can find several FREE VPN websites by searching PPTP VPN free” on your favorite browser, but here is one I am trying: vpnbook.com I will let you know how it works after I watch a movie on Netflix from India!

Follow CombatCritic On Yelp (An Elite ’14/’15 Member) And  TripAdvisor (“Top Contributor”) Where You Can Read His Latest Reviews, Try His Favorite Recipes, And More!

Key Words: VPN, PPTP, protocol, virtual, private, network, Netflix, Google, YouTube, gmail, free, proxy, Mac, PC, US, worldwide, secure, travel, value, TravelValue

Hut One, Hut Two … Crepe Pancake Hut … YUM!


Hut One, Hut Two … Crepe Pancake Hut … YUM!

Crepe Pancake Hut

Jogiwara Road (Next to Tibet World)
McLeodGanj, Dharamsala, India
Prices: $$$$$

I walked by Crepe Pancake Hut probably 70 to 80 times before stopping in. Neither crepes nor pancakes, particularly vegetarian ones, sounded good prior, but I wanted to give them a try before leaving. I am sorry I waited so long!

Like most restaurants in McLeod Ganj, especially the ones with Eastern-style (sit on the floor) seating, this place was filled to the brim with young, Bohemian, hippie-wannabes. If you have traveled in India recently, you know the type … long, filthy, unwashed dreadlocks, pajamas, nose stuck in their phone or computer and unable to carry on a conversation with anybody over 20 even if their life depended on it.

Anyway, enough of my judgmental attitude (I really am working on it and learned a bit more through Buddhist philosophy classes, but it is obviously a work in progress) and on to the food. 

I ordered a Veggie Burrito with Avocado Pico di Gallo (90 rupees – $1.45) and a pot of lemon ginger honey (50 rupees). The burrito was crispy and tasty, filled with sauteed bell peppers (capsium) and onions, kidney beans, and accompanied by half an avocado peel filled with a combination of mashed avocado, diced tomato and onion, and a bit of sour cream (or yogurt, I could not tell which).

The pot of ginger lemon honey was delicious and one of the cheapest in town at 50 rupees, filling my cup four times at 12.5 rupees (20 cents) a pop. In all, it was a light, healthy, yet filling lunch at an extremely reasonable price.

CombatCritic Gives Crepe Pancake Hut 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … Bombs Are Great!




Menu



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Excellent Latte, Mediocre Sandwich, Moderate Prices


Moonpeak Espresso (Café)
Temple Road
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, HP, India
Prices: $$$$$

I have been to Moonpeak a few times for a coffee and pastry, once for lunch, and have been relatively happy even though it is not anywhere close to being the best value in town.

They have decent, free wi-fi, an excellent latte (70 rupees/$1.15), and a modern, “Western” feel (if that is something you are after). Beside the requisite coffees, teas, lassis, and juices, their menu includes breakfast, pastries, sandwiches, and light (small portions) local lunch and dinner options.

I tried the chicken and vegetable (toasted) sandwich and was not the least impressed. The white toast with a few chunks of chicken, some veggies, and a little cheese was underwhelming and barely made a dent in my appetite. My vegetarian companion had the veg Thali which looked decent for the price, including pappadum, naan, curry, paneer, and rice.

There are better “value” options in town, but if you are transiting Temple Road coming from or going to the Dalai Lama Temple, it is definitely worth a stop if nothing more than for a good latte and to check email. 

CombatCritic Gives Moonpeak Espresso 6 Bombs Out Of 10 in Terms of “Relative Value”… MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!






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Key Words: café, coffee, coffeehouse, food, free, latte, menu, Moonpeak, pastry, sandwich, tart, tea, wi-fi, espresso, caffe, Moonpeak Espresso, moon, peak, Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj, Temple, road, 

Nothing Is Free at Free State Brew Pub Where a Terrible $6 Burger Costs $9!


Nothing Is Free at Free State Brew Pub Where a Terrible $6 Burger Costs $9!

Free State Brew Pub
636 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, Kansas 66044
(785) 843-4555
Mon-Sat: 11am-Midnight
Sun: Noon-11pm

Small Bar with Beer Barrels Behind
Free State Brewery … Free State Brewery … that is all I have heard since moving to Lawrence in August … “Free State Brewery”.  I have tasted some of their micro brews and they are excellent, but every time we wanted to try the food, the place was jam-packed.  Now I know why while at the same time wondering … WHY?

The reason WHY people are always outside the door on Mass (Massachusetts Street – Downtown Lawrence, Kansas), I now know, is because there is so little room inside.  The massive aluminum brewing barrels occupy a large percentage of the interior space, leaving room for a small bar and maybe 10-15 tables.  There appear to be more tables upstairs, but the rather large space is dominated by the massive beer making equipment, leaving much less room for patrons.

The reason WHY I wonder what makes this establishment attractive to their many customers is because our recent dining experience was UNDERwhelming!

We were walking down Mass last Saturday night looking at the Christmas lights and considering stopping for a bite to eat.  As we made our way north to the 700 block, I noticed that there was an absence of humans outside of Free State Brew Pub, so we went in.  We were quickly seated at a small table next to the bar and a four-top occupied by two attractive young lovebirds.  Let me digress for a moment …

What I am about to say is a generalization, but it is an observation that has become more and more frequent of late.  This lovely couple was sitting next to each other, he with his legs propped up on the chair across from him as if he were lounging in his apartment, not a restaurant full of people.  When they did not have their tongues in each other’s ears, they were both simultaneously buried in their cell phones, eagerly texting away, probably to each other!  I call it “social dystrophy”, the inability of many people, particularly the younger generation, but not exclusively, to communicate effectively with fellow human beings.  If interested, you can read more in my article “Social Dystrophy: Are Technology or Values to Blame”.

Brewery Burger with Cheddar and Fries – $8.80
Back to Free State Brew Pub.  The place was full, but not packed, yet the noise-level was high.  After 20 years in the Air Force working around very loud jet engines, my hearing is not great and I had a hard time hearing my wife from across the small table.  Wood and glass dominate the large open room, the lighting not too bright and not dim, making the setting comfortable except for the decibel-level.

Our server, a nice young man who never mentioned his name, arrived promptly to take our drink order.  I decided to go with one of two stouts ($4 for an American pint) on the menu, I tried the other later, a flavorful thick, rich chocolaty concoction that was complex, yet smooth.  The second, an oatmeal stout, was also very tasty and smooth with less complexity than the first, but it was delicious.

I ordered the Brewery Burger medium-well with cheddar cheese, figuring a brew pub would have a top-notch burger, especially at $8.25 “without cheese”.  The menu states that it is a “1/3-pound patty of Kansas pride, Creekstone Farms seasoned premium charbroiled ground beef on an onion bun, slice of onion, leaf of lettuce and a pickle spear. Hot fries stand ready to complete the feast.” Adding Provolone, Blue, Swiss, Jack or Cheddar cheese is an extra 55¢, bringing the price to nearly $9. 

When our order arrived, I was shocked by the size of the hamburger and not in a good way.  The plate was dominated by overcooked French fries that sat upon a single flaccid piece of wilted lettuce, NO ONION, and a small dill pickle spear hidden under the fries, leaving the small onion roll containing the meat and cheese.  That was it, a beef patty the size of a McDonalds ¼-pounder and cheese, no mayo, no catsup, no tomato, NO TASTE!  First of all, the beef patty was medium or medium-rare, pink throughout and NOT medium-well as I had ordered.  I added some catsup out of the bottle and rather than ask for some tomato or onion, deciding to eat it as is and thinking that maybe they knew something I did not … that it should be eaten this way, it should not!

Based on value, this was one o
f the worst hamburgers I have ever eaten … and people wait outside in the rain and cold for this?  Five Guy’s burgers, at less than $6, are eons better than this sad excuse for a hamburger and even (dare I say it?) Burger King’s Whopper is tastier, cheaper, and COMES WITH ONION AND TOMATO!

Gorgonzola and Mushrrom Gnocchi – $9.99
My wife had the Gorgonzola and Mushroom Gnocchi – $9.95 – consisting of Shiitake and button mushrooms sautéed with julienne red onions, then simmered in a creamy Gorgonzola white wine sauce with fresh made potato gnocchi and finished with sliced black mission figs, local micro greens and toasted rosemary focaccia.  Her dish was attractive and flavorful enough, except for the fact that the red onions had not only been caramelized, they had been burnt.  The burnt onion flavor overwhelmed the otherwise tasty, creamy Gorgonzola and white wine sauce which had just the right amount of the strong cheese which can be overpowering if not done correctly.  The gnocchi were cooked perfectly, not too soft and not too firm, making the dish a decent value except for the fact that the burnt onions ruined it.  For $10, a side salad would be nice considering the fact that sandwiches come with a choice of potato or salad, but that is not the case.

I honestly have no idea why this place is so popular other than the fact that it may have become “the place to be seen” by the local college crowd, the same folks that give Chipotle 4 out of 5 stars on Yelp.  The beer was very good, the food extremely disappointing.  Based on our experience and the few available options on the menu, I doubt if we will be back except to have a beer, but based on the size of the bar and the usual crowds, I also doubt if it will be worth the wait.

CombatCritic Gives Free State Brew Pub 5 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Free State Brewing Co on Urbanspoon


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