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Florence: Fast Facts

Business Hours -- Hours mainly follow the Italian norm. In Florence, however, many of the larger and more central shops stay open through the midday riposo (note the sign ORARIO NO-STOP).

Doctors & Dentists -- A walk-in clinic (tel. 055-483-363 or 0330-774-731) is run by Dr. Giorgio Scappini; Tuesday and Thursday office hours are brief, 5:30 to 6:30pm or by appointment at Via Bonifacio Lupi 32 (just south of the Tourist Medical Service); Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, go to Via Guasti 2 from 3 to 4pm (north of the Fortezza del Basso). Dr. Stephen Kerr keeps an office at Piazza di Mercato Nuovo 1 (cell. 0335-836-1682 or 055-288-055 office), with office hours Mon-Fri from 3-5pm without an appointment. Other times with an appointment (Email contact is kerr@iol.it)

For general dentistry, try Dr. Camis de Fonseca, Via Nino Bixio 9, northeast of the city center off Viale dei Mille (tel. 055-587-632), open Monday through Friday from 3 to 7pm; he's also available for emergency weekend calls. The U.S. consulate can provide a list of other English-speaking doctors, dentists, and specialists.

Emergencies -- Dial tel. 113 for an emergency of any kind. You can also call the carabinieri (the national police force; more useful than local branches) at tel. 112. Dial an ambulance at tel. 118, and report a fire at tel. 115. All these calls are free from any phone. For car breakdowns, call ACI (Automobile Club of Italy) at tel. 116.

Hospitals -- The ambulance number is tel. 118. There's a special Tourist Medical Service, Via Lorenzo il Magnifico 59, north of the city center between the Fortezza del Basso and Piazza della LibertȤ (tel. 055-475-411), open 24 hours; take bus no. 8 or 80 to Viale Lavagnini, or bus no. 12 or night bus no. 91 to Via Poliziano.

Thanks to socialized medicine, you can walk into most any Italian hospital when ill and get taken care of speedily with no insurance questions asked, no forms to fill out, and no fee charged. They'll just give you a prescription and send you on your way. The most central hospitals are the Arcispedale di Santa Maria Nuova, a block northeast of the Duomo on Piazza Santa Maria Nuova (tel. 055-27-581), and the Misericordia Ambulance Service, on Piazza del Duomo across from Giotto's bell tower (tel. 055-212-222 for ambulance).

For a free translator to help you describe your symptoms, explain the doctor's instructions, and aid in medical issues in general, call the volunteers at the Associazione Volontari Ospedalieri (AVO; tel. 055-425-0126 or 055-234-4567) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4 to 6pm and Tuesday and Thursday from 10am to noon.

Internet Access -- Most hotels in the city center now offer either wireless connections or an Internet point to their customers. Otherwise, head to the now-massive Internet Train (www.internettrain.it), with 15 locations in Florence, including their very first shop at Via dell'Oriuolo 25r, 3 blocks from the Duomo (tel. 055-263-8968); Via Guelfa 24a, near the train station (tel. 055-214-794); Borgo San Jacopo 30r, in the Oltrarno (tel. 055-265-7935); and in the underground tunnel from the train station toward town (tel. 055-239-9720). Actually, there are now 126 offices across Italy (36 in Tuscany, 4 in Umbria -- in Perugia and Orvieto), and the magnetic access card you buy is good at all of them, making plugging in throughout your journey that much easier. Access is 4€ ($5.20) per hour, or 1€ ($1.30) for 10 minutes; they also provide printing, scanning, webcam, and fax services, plus others (bike rental, international shipping, 24-hr. film developing) at some offices. Open hours vary, but run at least daily from 9am to 8:30pm, often later.

The Netgate, Via Sant'Egidio 10-20r (tel. 055-658-0207; www.thenetgate.it), has similar rates but also offers a Saturday "happy hour" of free access from 10:30 to 11am and from 2 to 2:30pm. It's open daily from 10am to 10:30pm (until 8:30pm in winter).

Laundry & Dry Cleaning -- Though there are several coin-op shops (mostly of the OndaBlu chain), you can get your wash done for you even more cheaply at a pay-by-weight lavanderia -- and you don't have to waste a morning sitting there watching it go in circles. The cheapest are around the university (east of San Marco), and one of the best is a nameless joint at Via Alfani 44r (tel. 055-247-9313), where they'll do an entire load for 6€ ($7.80), have it ready by afternoon, and even deliver it free to your hotel. It's closed Saturday afternoon. At other, non-self-service shops, check the price before leaving your clothes -- some places charge by the item. Dry cleaning (lavasecco) is much more costly and available at lavanderie throughout the city (ask your hotel for the closest).

Mail -- You can buy francobolli (stamps) from any tabacchi or from the central post office. Florence's main post office (tel. 160 for general info, or 055-211-147) is on Via Pellicceria 3, 50103, Firenze, off the southwest corner of Piazza della Repubblica. You can pick up letters sent Fermo Posta (Italian for poste restante or held mail) by showing ID. The post office is open Monday through Friday from 8:15am to 7pm and Saturday 8:15am to 12:30pm. All packages heavier than 2 kilograms (4 1/2 lb.) must be properly wrapped and brought around to the parcel office at the back of the building (enter at Via dei Sassetti 4, also known as Piazza Davanzati).

Drop postcards and letters into the boxes outside. To mail larger packages, drop them at sportello (window) 9/10, but first head across the room to window 21/22 for stamps. If that window is closed, as it often is, you buy your stamps at the next window, 23/24, which is also the pickup for Fermo Posta. You can also send packages via DHL, Via della Cupola 243 (tel. 055-308-877 or 800-345-345 for free pickup), or UPS, Via Pratignone 56a in Calenzano (tel. 055-882-5501).

To receive mail at the central post office, have it sent to [your name], Fermo Posta Centrale, 50103 Firenze, Italia/ITALY. They'll charge you .25€ (30Ţ) per letter when you come to pick it up at window 23/24; bring your passport for ID. For people without an AmEx card, this is a much better deal than American Express's similar service, which charges 1.50€ ($1.95) to receive and hold non-cardholders' mail. For AmEx members, however, this service is free, so you can have your mail sent to [your name], Client Mail, American Express, Via Dante Alighieri 22r, 50123 Firenze, Italia/ITALY.

Newspapers & Magazines -- You can pick up the International Herald Tribune and USA Today from almost any newsstand, and you'll find the Wall Street Journal Europe and the London Times, along with Time and Newsweek magazines, at most larger kiosks. There's a 24-hour newsstand in the train station.

Pharmacies -- For pharmacy information, dial tel. 110. There are 24-hour pharmacies (also open Sun and state holidays) in Stazione Santa Maria Novella (tel. 055-216-761; ring the bell between 1 and 4am); at Piazza San Giovanni 20r, just behind the baptistery at the corner of Borgo San Lorenzo (tel. 055-211-343); and at Via Cazzaiuoli 7r, just off Piazza della Signoria (tel. 055-289-490). On holidays and at night, look for the sign in any pharmacy windows telling you which ones are open.

Police -- For emergencies, dial tel. 112 for the carabinieri. To report lost property or passport problems, call the questura (urban police headquarters) at tel. 055-49-771.

Safety -- Central Italy is an exceedingly safe area with practically no random violent crime. As in any city, plenty of pickpockets are out to ruin your vacation, and in Florence you'll find light-fingered children (especially around the train station), but otherwise you're safe. Do steer clear of the Cascine Park after dark, when it becomes somewhat seedy and you may run the risk of being mugged; and you probably won't want to hang out with the late-night heroin addicts shooting up on the Arno mud flats below the Lungarno embankments on the edges of town.

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