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Ask T+L: Text Info, Surf Schools, Hotels in Florence

Q: I've heard you can send a text message from your cell phone to get directory assistance while on the go. How does it work? —Aaron Lutkin, Pasadena, Calif.

A: Instead of spending a dollar or two dialing information, create a text message by typing the name of the business and the city or Zip code you're looking for and send it to 466453 for Google or 44636 for 4Info. Both reply with addresses and phone numbers. Also available are weather reports and flight status—in less than 30 seconds. Google SMS is especially travel-friendly, with maps, a currency converter, and a translator. For more on site capabilities, visit sms.google.com or google.com or 4info.net.

I really want to learn to surf. Do you have recommendations for surfing schools with private lessons? —Jordan Mooney, Milwaukee, Wis.

Travel + Leisure photo editor and avid surfer Katie Dunn learned to ride waves at Puerto Rico's Rincón Surf School (Hwy. 413, Barrio Puntas, Rincón; 787/823-0610; rinconsurfschool.com; private 2½-hour lessons, $150). "There are several great things about Rincón: inexpensive flights to Aguadilla from the continental United States; beautiful, unspoiled beaches; and experienced, patient surf instructors," Dunn says. Stay at the school's Caribbean-style apartment ($185). In the Dominican Republic, try Cabarete Surf Camp (Pro Cab, Cabarete; 809/571-0733; cabaretesurfcamp.com), which specializes in kite surfing. Choose from private three-hour lessons ($150) or one week of individual instruction ($750). The simple terraced apartments (doubles from $100) overlook the pool. In Barbados, local surfer Barry Banfield gives laid-back lessons to beginners at Surf Barbados (123 Pearl Ave., Atlantic Shores, Christ Church; 246/256-3906; surfing-barbados.com; private one-hour lessons, $75). Lodgings can be booked through the school and include a nearby beach house (from $250 a night) with a view of the Soup Bowl, known for its abundant wave breaks.

What are some centrally located, affordable accommodations in Florence? —Joanna Woods-Marsden, Los Angeles, Calif.

The 68-room, family-run Hotel Cellai (52/R Via 27 Aprile 14; 39-055/489-291; hotelcellai.it; doubles from $150), in the center of the city, is steps away from the Duomo. Its trellis-shaded roof garden has views of the surrounding hills. Or check into one of the 13 individually designed rooms—including a stark black-and-white suite and a "library" with wall-to-wall shelves of books—at Casa Howard (18 Via della Scala; 39-06/6992-4555; casahoward.com; doubles from $220), an intimate guesthouse in a piazza next door to the famed Santa Maria Novella pharmacy. (That's where the pomegranate and mint soaps in the bathrooms come from.) Finally, Residenza dei Pucci (9 Via dei Pucci; 39-055/281-886; residenzadeipucci.com; doubles from $227) offers comfortable rooms with high ceilings and coconut-fiber carpets.

E-MAIL T+L send your questions to asktandl@aexp.com or go to travelandleisure.com ask to search the ask T+L archive for exclusive online advice. Questions chosen for publication may be edited for clarity and space.

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