The Red Garter

Some things just go together automatically. Amsterdam and bikes, Rome and Pasta, Barcelona and Flamenco. When you travel around you discover that there is good reason that these things and places are joined in the minds of so many. It is because when you go to Amsterdam you can’t help but trip over bikes wherever you go, in Rome the pasta is like a religion with restaurants its house of worship on every street. Flamenco souvenirs, music and advertising are so prevalent in Barcelona that it comes as a surprise that it is a dance that is not even native to the Catalonian region, however it is a vital part of their tourist scene. These connections are easy to explain, but what about those strange relations that come up, like for me Florence and Karaoke? Where did that come from?


Matt and Paula treat us to a duet
Down the relatively unremarkable Via de’ Benci near the Basilica of Santa Croce is a small bar/restaurant. The restaurant is called House of Sizzle and the bar is the Red Garter. Not particularly Italian names because this is in fact an American bar in the heart of Florence, an American bar that does Karaoke.
Topdeck has been visiting the Red Garter since the 70’s for a good night out. As the book Top Deck Daze tells –
“No Top Deck tour ever left Florence without spending its last night in the Red Garter Bar. Not only was it the liveliest one in town, it was the most liberal in its supply of free grog to the buses’ crew, so the punters (passengers) were rarely given an alternative even had they desired one.”
Not much has changed since then and the booze still runs freely, and with the Italian’s free pouring, that means freely like a river that has found its way to the sea at last and can’t wait to join it. The passengers love drinks like the ‘jug’ of beer that is served in a canister with a tap at the bottom and a small firework on top shooting off sparks. The girls love all the cocktails and there is also a hearty meal of pastas, bruchettas and meats. After dinner the karaoke starts. Some nights it might just be one group by itself but on others you might be joined by another Topdeck, two Conikis and a busabout tour. In those cases room is tight but the night is much more interesting.
I am a terrible singer but passengers always coax me up onto the stage. On one occasion I performed a One Direction song with a One Direction look alike and on another I ‘sung’ Candle in the Wind with a budding musical theatre student. Crew and passengers who you thought you knew can surprise you on a night like this. On Training Trip our Trainer Lyndsay got up to belt out Alicia Keys and her Scottish accent disappeared and a powerful singing voice was revealed.


Another great thing about the Red Garter is that all our accommodations are within walking or stumbling distance! Shoes have been lost and statues climbed on the late night hike back up to Camping Michelangelo and cartwheels have been performed outside the Palazzo Vecchio on the way back to Plus Hostel.
Of the last 5 times I have been to Florence, on 3 of those trips I have spent time in the Red Garter bar so it is no wonder that the two are now linked in my mind. If you are ever in town, it wouldn’t be that hard to merge into the pulsing room full of tours and join in the fun, maybe give it a go?

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