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Monday, November 29, 2010

Typico Firenze Giorno

Before coming to Italy, several people asked me, "What will you do in Florence for six weeks by yourself?"  I usually replied, “I don’t really know.”  Now I do.  

A few weeks ago, I left my apartment and headed for the Palazzo Strozzi to see the exhibit of ‘Bronzino’ masterpieces. Palazzo Strozzi is located on Piazza Strozzi.

I turned left off via dei Calzaiuoli instead of right and found myself on via Mozzi in front of a leather shop named Pazzi.  I chuckled to myself and headed toward the Ponte Grazie.  

I passed up the Ponte Grazie and traveled along Lungarno Zecca Vecchia for awhile, crossed the River Arno at the Ponte Vecchio to do a little window shopping.  

Then I walked along the Arno on Lungarno Guicciardini which becomes Lungarno Soderini and then via Bobolini.  

Along via Bobolini, just after I passed the Giardini Bardini, I turned onto via Baldini before turning right onto via Torticelli and then left on Viale Machiavelli which becomes via Berelli and then via Zanelli.  After all this walking, I ended up 
on Viale dei Strozzi instead of the Piazza Strozzi so I waited till another day to see the Il Bronzino and decided to just have lunch instead.

By now, I’m starving but do I eat at the osteria, the hosteria, the trattoria, the caffeteria, the pasticceria, he straiccheteria, the yoghurteria, the gelateria, the vineria or the pizzeria? 
On this day I chose to eat at Trattoria La Media which was sweeta even though they sat me next to the meata.

and then I walk back to my apartment to put my feet up until  it’s time to start all over again!

And sometimes I just go to the Piazza della Repubblica 

and ride the carousel.  

Disclaimer:  More than a few liberties were taken with matching photos with location and while all the street names are Firenze streets and many of them are in the order I've given them, some are not.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Something's Changed!

Last night about 6:30 pm, I stopped in the mercato after leaving Moyo’s where I go to write the blog.  I’m attempting to navigate Borgo degli Albizi shoulder to shoulder with the newest throng of tourists    My  hands are full, one with my purse and computer, the other with my bag of groceries, and I am continually saying ‘permesso’ as I push my way through the avalanche of people.    

Just as I’m looking both ways before crossing via Proconsola, a man grabs both my arms, kisses me on both cheeks and swings me around.  He is speaking Italian so fast I can’t understand even one word.   I think he has mistaken me for someone he knows, so, I say, “Non capisco.”  He doesn’t let go of my arms but slows down his speech and repeats, “molto bello, molto bello” over and over again.  "Turista?  Studenti?"  (it was dark out.)  I say, “Turista.”  He says, “Posso communicato?  You, me.”  I say, “No.”  Sad face,  "Oh, bellissimo.  Famiglia?"  I say, “Si, si.” He accepts that with a smile and pulls me to him as he kisses me on both cheeks again.  Continually saying “molto bello” before letting go of my arms.  I must say I smiled all the way home.  Then I checked my purse to see if my wallet was still there.  It was.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Assisi Ascension

Wired from cappuccino and pastry in bars in Arezzo and Terentola, I finally arrive in Assisi three and a half hours after leaving Firenze.  I took the local trains.  But I got to see wicked storm clouds brewing over snow capped mountains and rivers leaping beyond  their banks in Cortona, a beautiful lake that I think is Lake Trasimero, and experience lots of Italian high school kids from Perugia to Assisi where it is blessedly not raining.

For me, Assisi is a slice of heaven on earth.  Peace palpitates through my heart as I walk the artistically paved streets and climb precisely laid steps through Assisi’s narrow corridors. 

The artisanship of the stonework buildings speaks to me in a visceral way that I find only in the works of Michaelangelo’s renaissance art.   

Beauty speaks every time I peek through a crevice or peer over a wall.  

I gesture with my camera in a couple's face between their kisses and request they take my photo on St. Clare’s piazza. It's what you have to do to get their attention.  And they seem happy to accommodate.  Well, let's make that 'willing' to accommodate.

If you climb the stairs right up the street from San Francesco, you will be greeted with this cozy spot 
and be able to eat the best cheese I’ve tasted in Italy (and that’s a high compliment) and feast on gnocchetti delle paesano, the best food I’ve had in Italy (and that’s more than a high compliment) and drink Umbrian wine at Al Camino Vecchio, like I did.  And it’s okay to enjoy every morsel because you’re going to be climbing more stairs and more hills.  

And as you ascend, you get to see the most amazing light display spotlighting specific beauty within the Umbrian mountainsides, the plains, and Rocco Maggiore.  

So I walk and I wander and I feel love all around me.  

I also watch a little TV (have no idea what that light is) 

and then Francis and Clare welcome me.  

I may need to come back to the Umbrian region another time to explore.   Although the weather is very cold, Umbria feels warm and welcoming.  Like a remembered home with lots of pleasant memories.

All Sam's Fault!

Just when I thought I had mastered the trains, I boarded without first stamping my ticket in the yellow stamping machine.  But I remembered Doreen reading to me out of the tourist guide that if you forget  to stamp your ticket, write the date, time, and location you boarded the train on the back of the ticket and sign it.  I did that.  When the ticket agent came by, I explained that I had to rush to catch the train and forgot to stamp the ticket.  With a pleading look, I showed him my written statement.  He asked, “All way Santa Maria Novella?”   I said, “Si, si.”  He signed the front of my ticket, “No problema nesta treno.”  I heaved a sigh of relief.  The fine can be anywhere from five to forty euros and I had two more train agents to face.

This train turmoil was all Sam’s fault.  Sam is a young man who does international consulting work on his own.  He currently lives in Madrid and is taking some time to see Italy.  I met Sam while at the bus stop in Assisi.  He stood next to me and whispered those magical words that I’ve been longing to hear, “Do you speak English?”  Then, somewhere in the course of our five minute conversation at the bus stop, he asked if I liked red wine.  Be still my heart!  English conversation AND red wine. 

After being flung about on a careening bus ride back to the train station, Sam invited me to have a glass of wine while we waited for our trains.  We were just like the Italians.  Talking and laughing over each other.   I was having so much fun, I had to dash at the last minute to board the train.  Let’s see, Enriche was in his 20’s, Sam?  Probably 30’s.  At this rate, I’ll meet a male kindred spirit in his sixties when I'm 90. 

Thanks, Sam, for the conversation and the wine.  Enjoy the Amalfi Coast and I'll enjoy Le Cinque Terre!

Photos from a most beautiful day in  Assisi next time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Plea to the Rain Gods

Please, please, please stop raining.

And even in the midst of all the rain, they keep moving David (a copy of course).  They moved it from a niche in the Duomo to the front of the Duomo.

I thought, "Well isn't that a great third or fourth spot for David since he's also guarding the Palazzo Vechio and the Piazzale Michaelangelo (copies of course).

But then I heard music and when I looked out the window, I saw this

and this.  And I don't know where they've taken David now.  Oh, and at the same time I was watching out my window and making funny face and hand signals to the guy in the window across the street, a photographer was yelling, "Signora, Signora may I come up."  "Si, si," I said.  So I let this stranger into my apartamento.  He took his photo while I took mine and he left.

I think my next stop will be Assisi.  I'm sure it will be raining there too.  That's not a negative attitude, it's just fact.  :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Vigilante's Venetian Views

II left Firenze at 8:30 am in the midst of pouring rain.  'Thank god I'm going to Venice.'

Guess what! Here' my first view of Venice.  AND of course, the highly fit gondolier in the black and white stripe shirt, tight black pants, and straw hat forgot to show up and I had to take the water metro with the common folk.  

While trying to figure out which stop would leave the least amount of walking in the rain, I missed it totally and ended up having to go to Lido. Not the island I wanted necessarily.  No less than five people looked at me kindly and said, 'finito' when I didn't want to leave my seat.  So I disembarked in Lido instead of Venice, walked around the gangplank, and re-embarked.

  This time I sit where I can read the names of the 'prossimo fermata' or 'nesta stopa.'  During the 45 minute sojourn, the views I see of Venice make me think that Africa was pretty sweet.
I manage to pay attention to the stops, though, and get off at the station I want, flip open my umbrella, walk across a bridge, and stand face to face with Savoia and Jolanda, my hotel.  Be still my heart.  Tears fill my eyes.  I am overcome with joy. My hotel is right here.  You see, my teeth are chattering and I'm shivering from the cold and the wet.

My room is teeny-tiny (about the size of yours,Dee, in Firenze) but it has heat, real heat, not a space heater that blinds you as it swivels past your eyes and it has a shower with hot water that doesn't scald you.  I've decided in my apartment that the word for hot should be scaldo, not caldo.  Was it really just a few weeks ago that I was complaining about being too hot and having only cold water in the shower?  Never satisfied. And this room has a carpet, damask wallpaper and gold drapes with balled fringe.  AND it's totally 
Q-U-I-E-T.  I'm in heaven.  

I decide Venice be damned, I'm just staying in my room for the rest of the day, maybe tomorrow and the next day too.  I switch on the TV, something I haven't done in three months, and learn immediately 'breaking news' that Prince William is engaged to Kate Middlesomethng.  Then I watch the Simpsons and Friends in Italian. Pretty funny actually.  

Finally, my stomach gets the best of  me and I begrudgingly leave my heated room, armed with my new leather jacket, my scarf (which no respectful Italian would leave home without) and my trusty umbrella to brave the weather just as far as the nearest caffe.  Allora!  To my surprise, I encounter this when I step out the door.
And I haven't walked ten feet yet.

 I LOVE Venice.  I find a great caffe to have coffee and pastry right off with friendly people who make me feel welcome.  It's a great people watching spot too.   Later, I find the perfect restaurant where I have Cipolla (the best onion soup ever) and Grigliata di Scampi.  I'm almost embarrassed to say that I didn't even know that shrimp even have claws until being in Italy. (Doreen ordered shrimp last weekend.)  So I wasn't aghast when my scampi arrived with claws.

I can breathe here.  Maybe it's the combo of quaint Italian and ocean and open sky.  

I walk and walk in the rain for four hours with intermittent stops for food and drink.   I just feel happy here.  Maybe it's the half liter of red wine (They didn't have 'un quarto.'  What's a girl to do?) so I'll wait to put a down payment on an apartment. Just kidding.   I felt happy even when I was still hungry.  It's very interesting to me, though, that while I'm enjoying Firenze, I have felt very alone there and the people are not only not friendly, they're pretty rude.  I have not encountered this level of rudeness anywhere I've traveled before even in Paris. And I don't feel it here in Venice either.  People actually smile here when you look at them.  

I can't wait to see if it all still feels the same tomorrow.  According to the weather report, it will probably rain for the next two days, the entire time I'm here.  That's okay.  I'll just have to return for a longer stay in the spring.

Buona Notte!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Uncrowded in the rain!
I'm shaking from blog withdrawal.  Like a true junkie I used up all my minutes for a month in a couple weeks.  And I'm sure you've missed hearing from me too!  :)

I've been searching all over town for a place where I can sit comfortably with my computer and write.  I tried The Clubhouse which indicated it was a 'free wi-fi spot.'  They told me I needed a 'document' which I agreed to give them for copying (my driver's license or passport).  To prove I'm not a terrorist.  Then the waiter said I would have to fill out a form.  I agreed.  I ordered 'la minestra di pane' which was delicioso but I never managed to get anyone to take my 'document' or to give me a form to fill out.  Finally today I have success at 'Moyo.'  They accepted my document and gave me a wi-fi card without filling out a form  I just had to spend money on food and wine which is okay with me.

Just want to let you know I've mastered all the means of transportation in Florence.  I have taken the ATAF bus to Fiesole, the Lazzi bus to visit Lucca again, and the SITA bus which took me to Siena where these guys looked down on me while I talked with Mary Ann, my sister, on the phone.  She stayed up till 3AM to call me.  I ruined a whole tour group's photos by sitting on the steps of the Selambeni Piazza monument to talk with her.

If you ever go to Siena, try this little place called 'Zest' for a meal or simply a dessert and coffee or wine.  A lovely man asked me if I wanted a 'nice' vino rosso or a 'NIIIICE' vino rosso.  I chose the 'NIIIICE.'  Brunello di Montelpulcino.  And it was 'NIIIIIIICE.'

Oh yeah, I saw lots of other nice things too.
I wonder when narrow, winding streets and old houses on hills will no longer turn me on.

As for Florence, I have learned to be calm in the midst of chaos, so I think that's a good life lesson.  Just when I thought the worst was over, this happened.


But I enjoy taking photos from up high of the carabbiniere (sp??) because they wanted to confiscate my camera when I took a picture of them on the street.  I didn't know they are the military.   Of course they do carry guns along with their white leather purses.

Mostly I enjoy walking Firenze in the evening.

Even when it's crowded, it's quite beautiful!

Next stop:  Venice.  Yes, I've mastered the train ticketing too.

Monday, November 8, 2010

High on Firenze

Doreen visited me over the weekend and the first thing we did was get high.  Yep we climbed 463 steep, narrow steps to the top of the dome of the Duomo just to see my apartment from a new angle.

It's the second rooftop to the left of third level of the bell tower.  There's no way you can imagine what the bells sound like inside my flat when they ring every fifteen minutes, but Doreen knows.                    

Then she made me buy a leather jacket.  I told you she'd whip me into shape.