Wednesday, September 23, 2015
I was the first one up this morning, Richard was awake a little later and then he woke Dennie. Good thing because Emanuele arrived 15 minutes early for our Rome apartment checkout. Thankfully, Richard had realized that I made a 2 hour mistake as to when our train to Florence was. I called Emanuele yesterday afternoon and he was able to rearrange his schedule. He did a quick check through the apartment and finding nothing amiss, he returned our Security Deposit. Woo hoo.. a little extra cash to spend on the rest of the trip. It was a cloudy day and looked like rain with it being the same forecast in Florence. Our little elevator was stuck for the first time since we arrived. Richard carried his suitcase down the stairs and Emanuele carried mine. Dennie waited for us to get downstairs and send the elevator back up for him and his suitcase. We were going to walk over to the Piazza and catch a cab, but decided to just have Emanuele call a cab for us and we were on our way to Termini Train Station. We had 90 minutes before our train would leave for Florence.
We were approached by a young gal with an identification photo tag around her neck and asked us if she could help. We showed her our train ticket and she said to follow her and she took off almost running it seemed like. We followed and when we got to the area outside the train platforms she promptly told us it would be 5 € per person with her hand out. I told her it would have been nice had she said that in the beginning. I gave her 4 € and Richard gave her 1 to which she said, ‘No, 5 per person.’ We just walked away from her – our first scam artist! After we walked away I wondered why we gave her any money at all, live and learn for the next time.
Since we had so much time before our train Richard and Dennie got coffee and the Italian idea of breakfast, a sweet roll. I in turn had my first espresso since arriving – well, first one that I didn’t make that is. When I brought it to the table Richard from that point on, would refer to it as a ‘Thimble full of coffee’. I rather liked that description. Richard and I used the washroom and it was for me, my first Paid Toilet Stop, or W/C as they are called. 1.5 € Euro to use the bathroom, but it was clean and that was the important thing. We saw the gal that scammed us, talking with some other unsuspecting tourists downstairs. I wandered around the station looking for mints of some kind or hard candy to combat my constant dry mouth. To my surprise, there was a Hudson News stand, just like at O’Hare airport. A little piece of home in Italy.
We boarded our train without incident other than my suitcase seemed to be gaining weight despite not adding anything to it since we left home. Something else that I need to work on before my next trip. I better start writing down these ‘Things To Accomplish” before my next trip so that I remember to do them. I knew that there isn’t anyone to help with luggage on the trains and that I would need to get it up the steps myself. We really didn’t have any idea what the storage situation would be on the trains. We could see from the Trenitalia website that there appeared to be some type of storage at one end of each car. The last time I’d weighed my suitcase at home it was 27.2 pounds, when it was weighed at O’Hare, it was 32.5. Richard got on the train first, and then I handed him my suitcase from the platform. Across from the bathroom, at the end of the car (and the end that we got on from) there was a small area for luggage. Thankfully we were one of the first to get on and there was room for his and my suitcases. Richard hoisted my suitcase up onto the rack, something I would not have been able to do myself without wrenching my back I’m sure. Dennie was smart and travelling with just a carry-on. We found our seats and were quite satisfied with our purchase of 2nd Class tickets. We didn’t see any reason for paying more for 1st class as these seats were quite comfortable and roomy. We each ordered the snack they were offering for 3.50 €. We went through several tunnels on our way to Florence and each time we did, our ears would pop. As these are ‘fast trains’, they did indeed travel at high speeds at one point we saw that we were going 246 kph. The ride is however, quite smooth and you wouldn’t know you were going that fast. I used the washroom, which was quite clean and roomy I might add, and there was no issue with movement from the train. Very smooth.We arrived at Santa Maria Novella Train station in Florence and it was pouring rain. We went outside to wait in line for a taxi. It Italy, you cannot hail a cab like we do here in the US. There are Taxi Stands that you have to wait at to get a Taxi. This is true not just at the airport and train stations, but also in each city. We didn’t wait in line for very long, we did however wait once we got in the taxi. Traffic wasn’t going anywhere. Our driver eventually squeezed between a tour bus and shot out into the street, but still we sat for awhile. We eventually arrived in the Oltrarno neighborhood after making our way down some VERY narrow one way streets. I accidentally hit the wall of the building we were parked next to with the door when I opened it. I didn’t hit it hard, I said I was sorry, but the taxi driver yelled at me and then there was much discussion between he and Dennie as Dennie was paying him. He continued to mumble the entire time he got our suitcases out of the trunk, got back in the taxi and sped off. Ok then……There was construction on our street and it was blocked off so we were left off at the end of the street. I had looked at where the apartment was on Google Street View so I knew which way to walk and sure enough, our apartment was just a few hundred feet away from where we were dropped off. It could have been confusing however as the building numbers were not in order. The first one was #6, the next was #12, the next #14, then #10 then our building, #8.
Once at the apartment, we didn’t know what to do. The door to the building was locked and we had no idea what name to press to ring the bell to let us in. I had sent our contact a text message when we boarded the train in Rome and then again when we got in the taxi at Santa Maria Novella and was told the woman cleaning the apartment from the guests who had checked out earlier, would be there to let us in. I called our contact asking how we got inside the building. In short order we were buzzed inside. Once inside we weren’t quite sure what to do. There was no one in the long rather dark hallway. I got in the elevator and went to the 3rd floor while the guys waited downstairs with the luggage. When I got off the elevator there was no one there either but there were several apartments on this floor. However, shortly a woman came from around the corner and I went back down to get the boys and our luggage. There were 4 other apartments on this floor I could see when I got off the elevator. Our apartment was around the corner from the elevator through a locked door with another apartment across from ours. The young gal that met me said that Elenora would be here soon and she left us in the apartment.
Wow… it was much bigger than I thought it was going to be and from the pictures I’d seen on line. The first thing Dennie and I noticed was that the view from the living room was not what we had seen on line. From the photos that had been posted, there was a great view of the Duomo from the living room. We could see it, but not quite as good as the pictures had showed. Although after arriving, I realized that it wasn’t the Florence Cathedral we were seeing from the apartment however. It was the Basilica Santa de Spiroto. The apartment was one very long apartment with 3 bedrooms off to the right. The first bedroom was off the living room, beyond the living room was the dining room and another bedroom off of that. Through the dining room was a small kitchen with the 3rd bedroom off of that, and beyond the kitchen was the 2nd bathroom with the washing machine. Dennie picked the 3rd bedroom with the en suite bathroom and I took the 1st bedroom so the far bath would be mine – I would have to time my nighttime stops ha ha. Richard exclaimed that he loved the apartment as soon as we walked in, several times in fact. The apartment in Rome was very modern with limited furnishings – the terraces were the focal point of that apartment to be sure. This one was furnished in traditional old furniture, the dining room table was huge with seating for 6 people. The floors were beautiful tile. I took the plastic tablecloth off to take pictures of the table, returning it when I was finished to protect it. Each bedroom was quite large and they all had views overlooking Piazza Della Passera on the street below.
We had no sooner picked out our rooms when there was a knock at the door and a wet Elenora had arrived. She had ridden her bike to the apartment and it was still pouring rain. She showed us the ins and outs, how the wash machine worked, where the fuse box was, telling us if we used the wash machine and/or dish washer at the same time the fuse would probably blow. She also showed us how to turn on and off the gas flow to the apartment. She gave us some suggestions for places to eat in the area and left us with instructions to just leave the keys when we left. We had not paid a security deposit for this apartment.
Despite it still raining, we decided to go out and explore the city anyway. It wasn’t pouring any longer, just a light rain. We dodged puddles and umbrellas on the crowded Ponte Vecchio Bridge trying to keep our eyes on the ever wandering Dennie with his camera. You don’t even realize you are on a bridge because of all of the shops lining the bridge. I made the comment, ‘Shouldn’t we be at the bridge by now?’ and then we were in the middle at the opening and it was like, ‘Oh, I guess we already are.’ Richard had packed an old poncho and put that on making him look like a Smurf and we teased him about his fashionable look. He did look cute and was staying dry unlike Dennie and myself. I bartered with a street vendor and bought a 5 € bright yellow umbrella to match my bright yellow jacket.
Built very close to the Roman crossing, the Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge, was until 1218 the only bridge across the Arno in Florence. The current bridge was rebuilt after a flood in 1345. During World War II it was the only bridge across the Arno that the fleeing Germans did not destroy. Instead they blocked access by demolishing the medieval buildings on each side. On November 4, 1966, the bridge miraculously withstood the tremendous weight of water and silt when the Arno once again burst its banks. There have been shops on Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century. Initially, there were all types of shops, including butchers and fishmongers and, later, tanners, whose “industrial waste” caused a pretty rank stench in the area. In 1593, Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers be allowed to have their shops on the bridge in order to improve the well-being of all, including their own as they walked over the bridge.
From the bridge we walked over to the Piazza della Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio. It really does surprise me that these works of art are so available to the public. By that I mean they are under roof, but they are not protected in any other way. I am so glad that they are not covered in graffiti or damaged. I visited this area twice and never saw anyone draping themselves on any of these beautiful sculptures. Definitely, a breath of fresh air that tourists were respecting these works of art as this is not always the case unfortunately.
Piazza della Signoria, The Loggia dei Lanzi, Palazzo Vecchio –
To the left of the door of the Palazzo Vecchio is a copy of Michelangelo’s David, marking the location where the original stood from 1504 until it was removed to the Accademia in 1873. To the right of the door is Baccio Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus from 1534, whose base is ringed by wonderfully expressive animals’ heads.
The Loggia dei Lanzi – In addition to some heavily restored Roman statues, the loggia is home to Benvenuto Cellini’s 1545 bronze Perseus, a tour de force of bronze casting, and Giambologna’s spiraling Mannerist Rape of a Sabine of 1583. The Rape of Polyxena by Pio Fedi and Giambologna’s Hercules and the Centaur can also be found in the loggia.
Our first up close encounter with the Florence Cathedral (Duomo). I remember thinking that when I had seen photos of the Duomo, it always looked like it was made out of cardboard. It just didn’t look real. It did not look that way in person, it also, was not nearly as white as it is in photos. The first image isn’t particularly interesting except that every time I look at it on my computer in full screen mode, it makes me gasp a little and sit back at the sheer enormity of it. The photo gives a glimpse as to the scale and massiveness. Click on the photo and see if it doesn’t have the same effect on you. You won’t get the same effect on a phone or tablet, so try it on a computer screen.
I was being very careful walking around Italy so far, unfortunately, I stepped on a wet metal grate in the street, my heel slipped out from under me causing me to fall backward. I hit the side of my head on a parked car on my way down, then slammed the back of my head on the street. I heard Richard call for Dennie to come back because I had fallen. Richard and several passing Italians quickly came to my aide with an older woman trying to help me up. I thanked her but refused her helping hand fearing I would take her down with me. Rather I crawled closer the car to get myself up. Richard and the kind people insisted I sit inside what I think was the entrance to a church. They waited, asking me if I was OK while they kept checking the back of my head for blood and or a lump, thankfully there was neither. I didn’t seem to be any worse for wear other than my pants being filthy and wet, but nothing hurt thankfully. We continued walking around for a bit and I decided that it might be best to return to the apartment since I didn’t know if I would suddenly get a very painful headache from hitting my head so hard. Richard walked back with me while Dennie continued on his way around the city. Once Richard was sure that I was OK, he went to meet Dennie and said that they would call me later. No headache happened and I unpacked my suitcase while watching the activity below my bedroom window.
There was a Ristorante setting up for the dinner hour, a barking dog, moms with their strollers and people gathering (since the rain had stopped). What a peaceful slice of Italian Life it was that played out below our windows. I was hoping to hear from the guys so we could get some dinner together. Yes! I was actually hungry, but then, I had not eaten anything yet today.
Although one of Florence’s smallest squares, Piazza della Passera is, without a doubt, one of the most characteristic in the Oltrarno neighborhood and a hidden gem, filled with artisan shops, food delights and a rich history.
During the thirteenth century, Florentine law divided up the city into various named quarters, which were each assigned a heraldic flag. The area, which now hosts Piazza della Passera, came under the zone Quattro Leoni (four lions), boasting a yellow flag with four red lions. One of the piazza’s renowned trattorias, 4Leoni, has retained this historical name from the time of the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo de’ Medici.
There are two versions—one perhaps more widespread and convincing than the other—as to how the square got its name. The first version is somewhat tragic: the direct translation of passera, meaning sparrow, may stem from the year 1348, when Florence was ravaged by the plague, as told by Messer Giovanni Boccaccio in the Decameron. Legend tells the story of children finding a dying sparrow in the piazza. Unable to save the bird, it died, bringing with it the Black Death, which subsequently spread throughout the city, killing over half of Florence’s population. The more generally accepted origin of the name emanates from the slang meaning of passera and has its roots in prostitution. It is widely believed that a brothel used to occupy the space, also explaining the square’s curious shape.
Eventually I called Richard since I didn’t hear from them and asked if we were going to meet for dinner. They were at a restaurant eating much to my dismay so I was on my own. I went out and walked around the immediate area looking for a place to eat or get something for ‘Take Away’. I really didn’t want to eat a big meal at this point. I walked past a tiny, tiny place with a tiny window that had 3 Florentine T Bones sitting there – the Bistecca size T Bones that is. I have no idea why I didn’t take a photo! This is something that I just have to eat and I am hoping that I can convince The Boys to dine on this local treasure. Florentine Bistecca is a dish that has to be shared since the cuts of meat are huge and intended for more than one person to dine on. I found a little Trattoria nearby that had refrigerator cases in the front. I purchased some Ravioli to take back to the apartment with Ricotta and spinach and was very good. At least that is what it tasted like seeing as how the little signs in the cases were in Italian. For 3 €, I got 11 huge ravioli, I ate 5 of them and put the rest in the fridge. While I was eating, Richard called and asked if I wanted them to bring me back a Gelato, I said no because for one I was full, and I had no idea what flavor I would want.
That night in the Piazza people gathered at the Gelateria and the small cafe as a man strolled around playing an accordion of all things. I went to bed with tantalizing smells of T-Bones grilling wafting up to my room and the sounds of Italian music from the man below and his accordion. It was a wonderful end to the day. I am loving Florence so far and cannot wait to get out an explore it some more in the next 2 days.
Thursday, Sept 24, 2015
Our second day we woke to bright sunny skies, a little cool, in the lower 60’s. Just perfect in my book! I was afraid that I was going to wake a bit sore after yesterday’s fall, but I woke up feeling the best I had since our arrival in Italy. The plan for today was for me to meet the Boys at Market Centrale for lunch. We had tickets for the Accademia Museum for 3:00 that afternoon. I took off in the direction of the Duomo in hopes of getting some better photos now that the sun was out. I had just arrived when my phone rang, Richard checking to see if I had brought the museum tickets with me. What a dope I am.. no, I had forgotten them. Back to the apartment I went to retrieve them, effectively wasting the morning with my forgetfulness.
A few sights from my morning travels:
On the way back to the city center, I ran into the Boys and we continued on our way to the Market Centrale. Our plan was to eat at a place that was recommended by Elenora, the gal who checked us in to our apartment. I was looking forward to walking around the market after seeing it on Cooking Channel’s show, Extra Virgin. Since it was noon, it was very crowded on the second floor where the restaurants were located. There wasn’t any where to sit and eat nor could we decided on anything from their menu. There was very little seating anywhere as it is quite common in Italy to stand and eat and drink at many Trattoria’s and bars. On the way out of the Market we strolled around downstairs a little marveling at the items in the cases. It is pretty unbelievable what you can find for sale. The Italians really do use every piece of the animal, wasting nothing. Cases full of every cut of beef and pork you can imagine, and some that you don’t want to 😉 We wondered how people knew which butcher to buy from since there were several locations selling the same things. But then, I’m sure the locals have their favorites. The cheeses that were displayed, the huge slices of T-Bone, packages of sausages, cases full of, nuts, mushrooms, olives, olive oils just every imaginable item one would want. We walked through rather quickly so I really wanted to be able to come back and look more closely in hopes of finding some Olive Oil, or the Truffle Oil that I sampled, to send home. A few of the tasty treats below.
Once back outside we wandered through the stalls selling leather goods and other items. Nothing was bought by any of us, although Dennie did stop at one that was selling scarves or some such thing. We wandered into a place after reading the menu, but we couldn’t tell if they were serving or not. There were people at the bar and we stuck our heads into the restaurant portion but it was dark. I should explain that a bar in Italy is not what we here in the US refer to as a bar. Bars serve things like sandwiches, pastries (depending on the time of day) espresso, wine – often there are refrigerated cases as you walk in that you order from, there may or may not be a menu on the wall. It depends on the type of bar as to what they serve. They are usually quite small, but some have dining areas inside as well. More often than not, people are eating and/or drinking standing at the bar as is the custom in Italy. They are also gathering places for locals and if you see a bunch of locals gathered, I would recommend eating there! Richard asked the man behind the bar if we could sit down to eat, he turned on the lights and showed us to a table giving us some menus. We didn’t know if we had committed a faux pas or not but assumed that if it wasn’t OK to sit down to eat, we would have been told. Shortly a woman came and began setting up other tables. We decided we were just a bit early since soon others came in and sat down to eat as well. Once again I just wasn’t that hungry and was really getting kind of irritated since one of the things I had been looking forward to on this trip, was the food!!!! I had a salad while the Boys split a Caprese Salad and a Prosciutto pizza. Richard also had a fancy coffee drink. I think they said this was the first time they had had Prosciutto and were non-committal on if they liked it or not. I sampled a little piece of the Prosciutto and it was excellent, almost buttery! I can taste it just thinking about it.
With our tummies full we walked around the area and headed in the direction of the Accademia Gallery to find out exactly where we would need to go to enter the museum. As we discovered with Dennie the day before, you just might get sent to several different locations before arriving at the right entrance. The day before we stopped to see where he needed to go for his tour of the Uffizi Gallery and I think we got sent to 3 different locations in the area before being sent to the correct one. I purchased another Thimble of Espresso, this time for only 1 €, and then another because really, they are quite small. It was then time to trade in our on-line tickets for our actual tickets and make our way to the short line that our tickets afforded us. By this time the line was beginning to grow and we did wait for about 15 minutes.
Wow.. how impressive is the David! He really is quite amazing and you can get very close so Dennie and I had more then enough opportunities to take unobstructed photos which was wonderful. From there we went into the Gipsoteca Bartolini. I was astonished that all of this was so accessible. I kept asking Richard, what would happen if someone were to trip and knocked something over? Of course, I was thinking of someone like myself! I mean, everything is within reach, just right there in front of you. Richard and I marveled at how plaster could be made to look as if it were robes draped over the subject. Truly amazing. Actually, we didn’t realize that this was plaster, we thought it was marble. Despite my not enjoying museums or knowing anything about art, I was very glad that I did this. Richard kept saying that it was so much more enjoyable than the Vatican where they shuffled along in the crowds, trying to see over and through people, not really being able to appreciate what they were seeing.
Gipsoteca Bartolini – In 1784, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Peter Leopold, converted the friary hospital of San Matthew into a gallery so that students in the adjoining Accademia delle Belle Arti , or Fine Arts Academy, could study the greatest works of the past. Therefore, in the “Gipsoteca Bartolini” visitors will find a selection of the finest 19th century plaster casts by Lorenzo Bartolini, one of the great sculptors and brilliant professors of the Academy.
THE DAVID –
This astonishing Renaissance sculpture was created between 1501 and 1504. It is a 14.0 ft marble statue depicting the Biblical hero David, represented as a standing male nude. Originally commissioned by the Opera del Duomo for the Cathedral of Florence, it was meant to be one of a series of large statues to be positioned in the niches of the cathedral’s tribunes, way up at about 80mt from the ground. Michelangelo was asked by the consuls of the Board to complete an unfinished project began in 1464 by Agostino di Duccio and later carried on by Antonio Rossellino in 1475. Both sculptors had in the end rejected an enormous block of marble due to the presence of too many “taroli”, or imperfections, which may have threatened the stability of such a huge statue. This block of marble of exceptional dimensions remained therefore neglected for 25 years, lying within the courtyard of the Opera del Duomo (Vestry Board).
Michelangelo was only 26 years old in 1501, but he was already the most famous and best paid artist in his days. He accepted the challenge with enthusiasm to sculpt a large scale David and worked constantly for over two years to create one of his most breathtaking masterpieces of gleaming white marble.
The Hall of Prisoners
From the museum we started making our way back “home” to have dinner. We stopped in Piazza of Santa Maria Novella watching a young woman trying to eat something while a large flock of seagulls tried to take the food away from her. It was pretty comical actually. The skies were very threatening and the temperature had dropped making it rather cool. I was wearing a short sleeved tee shirt and pants, Richard was wearing a sweater and jacket – he always seemed to be much colder than I. Dennie always had a long sleeve heavy shirt. I was always in a short sleeved tee shirt and probably would have had shorts on were it not something that just screamed American Tourist LOL. We decided we had better get moving and we discussed dinner plans. I had been hinting since yesterday, and all day, that I really, really wanted to get Bistecca Florentine and had convinced the guys to as well.
On our way back I was feeling a bit too cocky and comfortable and was not looking at the ground as well as walking a bit faster than I should. BOOM! down I went once again. Face first this time, teeth hitting the ground and not only the same side of my face as yesterday, but the same spot! Because I hit my mouth, there was blood this time. Again, nearby people stopped to help and told me to stay down as I tried to get up asking me if I was OK. Someone actually pushed me back down as I tried to get up telling me to just sit a minute. I was SO angry, not at the people trying to help but with myself. I always get mad at myself when this happens, and I get mad at the MS too. Even though this time, it was my fault because I know better than to not be looking at the ground when I walk, especially when I am on uneven surfaces like these broken old sidewalks. I know that I have to be extra careful and be extra mindful of making sure that I swing my left leg just a little bit more so that my toe doesn’t get caught. What was I thinking?!? So stupid!! Richard with his quick action and quick thinking, he wiped the blood from my mouth and above my eye but it immediately began to swell above my eye. There was a Farmacia across the street and he suggested we try to get an ice pack for the swelling.
I wasn’t hurt really, it always amazes me that I despite my falls, some quite hard on my knees, that I usually don’t hurt myself too badly – other than my ego of course! The first person in the Farmacia didn’t quite understand what we were asking for despite my pointing to the obvious, swollen eyebrow area. We were able to convey what we were looking for and she produced a box of the type of ice packs that you crack in order to activate. She opened it, cracked it, but nothing happened. She got another person, who cracked it harder and sure enough, it activated. I made my purchase and we walked out, me holding it to my face as we made our way through the streets of Florence. We stopped near the Duomo to get some more photos. A little fall doesn’t usually stop me, it just slows me down a bit. The ice pack certainly helped to keep the swelling down above my eye, and I altered the ice pack between my mouth and my eye, concentrating on my eye since Richard said it was pretty swollen. I knew it must be because my vision was limited out of that eye. I know that I wouldn’t have thought to get an ice pack were I alone, I would have just kept on going after cleaning myself up. Just as I did in San Francisco a few years ago when I did the same thing. I knew I had chipped some teeth this time. I had to stop on a small side street away from most of the people at one point, to swirl some water and spit out some of the bits of teeth into the sewer grate. I know, I know, how lady like huh? But I didn’t want to swallow it. At this point, I wasn’t sure how much more that particular spot above my eye could take and hoped that I was done with the falling. I would later discover that I had quite a bruise on my hip, bruised forearm and a scraped elbow.
When we got back to the Oltrarno around 6:00, it still looked like it wanted to storm at any moment and was getting rather cold. We walked around trying to find a place to eat , but this being the Oltrarno, and not the city center, most everything was closed, not to re-open until 7:30 the earliest. This was the first time we ran into this also very common custom in Italy. Restaurants close mid afternoon, not to reopen again until 7:00 or later. I was pretty cold at this point and wanted to return to the apartment to get a light sweater jacket that I had and on the way there, we found a restaurant that was open.
We ordered a 1.2 kilo piece of Bistecca Florentine. Bistecca Florentine is only served one way. First, you select a size that you want, in some places they will present pieces of meat for you to choose from, then it is grilled 7 minutes per side. That’s it, no choice to degrade and destroy the meat by people asking for it to be “well done”. It is grilled to perfection. Thankfully The Boys agree with me that this is the proper way to prepare meat. Finally, some real Italian food!!! With my lack of appetite I had not tasted much yet and what I had in Rome, didn’t impress me much. This was heavenly!!! I even ordered a glass of wine, something I don’t drink but a few times a year. There was some question as to if I should be doing this, what if I had a concussion? but I threw caution to the wind and indulged. The first few sips did sting my busted lip, but it was worth it. Everything was so delicious and left me so glad that we had done this. It was so good that when I return to Florence, I just may do it again, hoping that I will be able to find a place that I could select a much smaller piece of meat so as not to waste it since I certainly couldn’t eat it all myself. I was quite confused as to why the camera on my phone was refusing to focus when I tried to take pictures of the food. I tried turning on the flash, but it didn’t go off. Hmmm.. maybe it had been fallen on too much???? The photos are pretty dark unfortunately.
After dinner we walked over to the famous Gelateria La Carraia that the Boys had gone to last nite. The selection of flavors made it difficult to decide what to get. Oh my gosh.. now this is what I had thought that gelato was supposed to be like. So rich, so creamy, so delicious and for 2 large scoops? just 1.5 €. How could that be?!? And our dinner, for all 3 of us, with wine and appetizers was only 60 €. I was quite happy so far with prices in Italy for food. Very reasonable, certainly a whole lot cheaper than back home. My huge glass of wine was only 5 €.
We slowly strolled back to the apartment eating our gelato. Despite the fall, it was a perfect day and I walked 9-1/4 miles. As if to make it even more perfect? As if Italia were celebrating my dream trip unfolding right along with me? There was a huge fireworks display over the river that I could see and hear, from my bedroom window. I was loving everything about Florence so far. My only regret was that we only had 1 more day.
Friday, Sept 25, 2015
And another simply gorgeous day in Florence! We all hit the street running at about the same time, but heading in different directions. My first stop was Piazza Santa Spirito. I was hoping to get a look inside some of the shops in hopes of watching local artisans at work. Something I had really been looking forward to doing on this trip. I passed by but one Cobbler. Once I reached the Piazza I immediately saw the Palazzo Guadagni where I had originally made a reservation for myself. As long as I was here I thought I might as well check it out for a return trip to Florence. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to actually get inside other than the lobby area. The location however was great, right on the Piazza. I wandered around the different vendors, much like a flea market here in the US, but there were a few selling fruits and vegetables. I went inside Basilica Santo Spirito and it was just gorgeous. It just amazes me each time how nondescript many churches can be from the outside, and then when you walk in they are astonishingly beautiful! Photos were not allowed however, I took one through the front door. It looked like a courtyard inside the church, you think you are outside. Very interesting.
Within short order I ran into the Boys and after much discussion decided to go to Piazzale Michelangelo with Dennie leading the way to the bus stop. It was a beautiful ride up to the Piazzale and the views were astonishing from up there. It was picture postcard beautiful as they say. Had I not been seeing it all for myself, I would not have believed it to be real. You could see up into the Tuscan hillside, neighboring villages off in the distance. Absolutely breathtaking. It was extremely difficult to choose just a few photos to post, so forgive me if I chose too many.
Once Dennie and I had our fill of taking photographs over an hour later, we hopped back on the bus. I had wanted to explore the Oltrarno more but I neglected to get off the bus when it stopped there. Instead, I rode back to Santa Maria Novella Train station with the guys. I walked back from there and I will admit, I did a complete circle and ended up right back at the train station! I knew that I would come to a fork where 3 streets met, but could not for the life of me, remember which fork was the right one. Ultimately, I took a very long detour, but since I like to walk, it was OK, other than the time I wasted. This was the first, and only time, I took a wrong turn during our 2 week trip. I am not counting getting on the bus and going the wrong way ha ha. Since I had not eaten anything yet today I grabbed a quick sandwich of Arugula, zucchini, mortadella and mozzarella on focaccia bread. 1.5 € -these kinds of small sandwiches are more than enough if you want a quick bite to eat. Panino are also quite commonly found in these shops and are also reasonably priced.
Eventually I made it back to the Oltrarno and took a walk over to the Palazzo Pitti. In front of the Palazzo Pitti is a large, sloped stone area that people stop to enjoy much like a small park. The fact that they are stone, not grass, is quite intriguing. I have seen photos of Siena, and it is the same thing there. It just does not look comfortable at all, but obviously is not unusual at all to Italians.
I took another walk over the Ponte Vecchio and it was much less crowded since it was late in the afternoon.
I met up with the Boys later for dinner and we chose Ristorante Ricchi Pizzeria, eating outside on Piazza di Santo Spirito. It was a beautiful evening to spend dining outside for our last evening in Florence. 2 more first food items for me, I always like to try something I have never had before on each trip I take. I had Smoked Scamorza to start and Parppardella with ragu of Wild Boar – it was excellent!! It was not gamey tasting at all, it tasted like a rich piece of beef. The Smoked Scamorza was wrapped in Prosciutto on a bed of arugula. Arugula is something that I had a lot of while in Italy as well as radicchio. I love arugula and wish it were available for a longer period of time here at home. that was a bit more salty than I like. Radicchio is something I have been wanting to try so now I know that I like it! The Prosciutto on the pizza at lunch yesterday was much better, this was much more salty than I like.
This was the last day in Florence and I am upset that I had not seen but one local Artisan at work. Obviously I didn’t walk down the right streets, or maybe because of looking down at where I’m walking all the time, I just plain missed them. I realize more and more how much I miss because of my need to look at the ground and it irritates the hell out of me. I am going to have to start forcing myself to just stop, step off to the side, look up and down the street to see what lies ahead and head in that direction. Despite my loving to walk everywhere I visit, I still find myself walking to something too often. I am on a mission and miss too much along the way. I am a bit more conscious of this in my last few trips, but I need to do a better job of concentrating on not being on a mission. Each day in Florence I made the comment that we should have spent more time in Florence and less in Rome, for my tastes anyway.
Photos of us at Piazzale Michelangelo
I enjoyed Florence a whole lot more than Rome to be sure. I am realizing that what I didn’t like about Rome was that it seemed to be a city of ‘gotta go here, gotta go there, gotta see this, gotta see that’. While there are crowds in Florence, especially around the Duomo to be sure, unlike Rome, the City Center is a Pedestrian only area making it much more enjoyable. Make no mistake, there are plenty of things to see while in Florence. The ambiance of the city itself was just so much more relaxed, more accessible, more compact and easier to get around. Other than when lugging suitcases, or heading further out of the City Center and Oltrarno you really can walk everywhere.
Rooftop views from our apartment. I just love juxtaposition of the old and new on the roofs in Italy. Satellite dishes on roofs that may be almost 2000 years old? Whodathunk it?
Street scenes around the Oltrarno –
I think you can see why I enjoyed Florence and especially the Oltrarno area so much. I know that I’ll be back for a longer stay. There is much left for me to explore.
As always, I would love any feedback you may have. Your experiences, likes, dislikes. Did you enjoy Florence? Did you find it as inviting as I did?
And now, at last, I can begin writing about Venice – I hope you’ll join me as my adventure and long time dream, plays out.
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Grazie! and Andiamo!!!