Con la Famiglia

Disclaimer!!!  What you are about to read has taken me days and days to update…it is driving me crazy.  The site seems glitchy putting photos where I do not intend them to be, the wifi is spotty and the worst is when my ipad just chooses to freeze up and I return to lost work.  Please bear with me. ________________________________________________________________ Tuesday morning I slept in a bit, resting up from my late night/early morning blogging (heading into another late one tonight!) but I began my morning in true Italian fashion.I am definitely going to buy one of these before I come home. After my jolt of caffeine, I ironed and packed an over night bag.  I am to meet Elisa in front of the biblioteca at 16:00.  I left the appartamento a couple hours early so I could take my time finding our rendezvous point.  When I stepped out my door, I decided to buy my first bag of cherries.image And then I am off. The biblioteca is located near Piazza di Santa Croce so decide with a bit of time to spare, I will revisit this beautiful chiesa.


A statue of Dante Alighieri ( Italian poet, 1265-1321) looks down on you as you approach.

The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the principal Franciscan church in Florence.  The building was begun on my birthday, May 12, 1294.  It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italian, such as Galileo, Machiavelli and my personal favorite, Michelangelo.image This beautiful tomb is a work of Vasari (1570).  The 3 scultptures in the foreground illustrate Sculpture, Painting and Artchitecture mourning the loss of this Reniassance Man. I understand Michelangelo was originally laid to rest in Roma but that his body was stolen away in the night to return to his beloved Firenze.  Each time I have stood in front of this, I simply cannot wrap my head around the significance of whose company I am in.  Seriously!…I am standing with Michelangelo Buonarroti! Other works that take my breath away, not only by their beauty but also by the realization of who the artist  is and his presence, are Giotto’s crucifix and his frescos of the life of Saint Francis.  Giotto’s emotion and expression revolutionized art exuding feelings and deminsionality.  These works were covered by others then rediscovered in 1853.  Can you imagine what is still yet to be rediscovered?!imageimage image

Lighting my first candle praying for Mom's recovery.

Lighting my first candle praying for Mom’s recovery.

I sit in the basilica rest and reflect. Then I head to the Biblioteca Nazionale and wait.image Elisa arrives right on time (I used my telefono italiano to touch base) kiss,kiss…and we zoom up past Piazzale Michelangelo and beyond to her parents home.  There we are greeted by Luigi (it’s just fun to say isn’t it…Luigi), her father, Mara, her mother,  Anna, her 2nd cousin and Stella the cane di famiglia.  Elisa, knowing I am a insegnante di arte showed me her room she painted years ago while listening to her favorite band Coldplay.image I told her she would fit right in at studio602!  From the casa di famiglia, we switched cars, cramming the cinque of us + Stella into the , as Luigi announced, “Not an American car!”, and headed to the sea. A couple of days ago I questioned this adventure.  Would I jump into a car with a family I did not know at all and accompany them to their other home in an area I had no idea where it was in relation to …….anything?  I think not, BUT, once I sat with Elisa Monday night, my nerves quelled…it felt like it was suppose to- un’avventura.  We sped down the autostrada darting and weaving with, can you believe it, Luciano Pavarotti canto from the car’s speakers. As we drove, greetings were discussed, American and Italian.  Elisa asked what the formal and informal way of saying hello was in American.  I told her, How are you was formal, What’s up is very informal and the head nod with “sup” is VERY informal.  She laughed and practiced.  Elisa’s momma, Mara, added, “Aaaahhhhh, what’sa upa is like the app What’sa appa.”  Elisa and I were very impressed with Mara’s street smarts. The passing views varied from small cities to the beautiful, rolling, green and ochre hills Tuscany is famous far.  After about an hour and a half, Luigi asked if I would like to see the sea.  Si I replied.  This is one of the things I thought this trip was about.  We stopped in front of a fort constructed half way through the sixteenth century by Cosimo I de Medici (I doubt the Grand Duke himself was slinging mortar, but you know what I mean).  These military structures span the Tuscan coast  and formed an impressive military front to defend his cities from attacks.  image


And this l miei amici, is the extent of my visit to the “sea” proper.

imageElisa says in late June, July and August, the beaches are packed with vacationing Tuscans. Next stop, the local Macerlleria (butcher shop).  image On Mara’s list was (in english) spleen, chicken liver, prosciutto and salame.  Since I had not eaten all day and it was now about 18:00…the samples of prosciutto and salame were my favorite parts…by far.  At one point Elisa laughed and translated that Anna commented I had better not eat any more or I wouldn’t have room for dinner…no worries Anna. During the next brief part of our drive, Elisa points out a tower on a hill.  She says this tower figures prominently in Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Something about a man being locked up with his family in this tower, they all die and the man is forced to eat his son…huh…I’ll have to look into that.image And we arrive to Castegneto Carducci, a small comune in the Province of Livorno located about 90 kilometers southwest of Florence. Giosue Carducci (1835-1907) was an Italian poet who grew up in the area.  Elisa’s family has two places here, both of which they rent out.  Elisa and I will be staying below and Luigi, Mara and Anna, above.  The rooms Elisa and I are in were a blacksmith shop in the 1800’s.  Luigi is a bit of a History Buff so there are implements and little descriptions of things all about.image Elisa and I go on a short walk about the village and when we return, it is time to eat. imageimage

The melone e prosciutto were amazing!!

The melone e prosciutto were amazing!!

So if the Dante/cannibalism story was not creepy enough, during our fabulous dinner, Luigi tells a more current gruesome story.  Apparently…this is what I gather through translation, hand motions and Anna’s disapproving glances…there was a killer in Florence that targeted young lovers, “only couples” Luigi adds several times, as if to comfort my solo self. Through the story and let me underscore, hand motions, I nod and nod and I am sure look concerned.  Mara tells Luigi he is scaring me and that I will not sleep well tonight.  I tell them it is not tonight that I am worried about.  As my dad does, Luigi’s voice raises as he shares the story, as if the increased volume will bridge our language barrier.  After we finished our cena fuori, Elisa and I accept Luigi’s invitation to take a walk around the village as he shares his knowledge of the local history. imageAnd of course, there is a stop for caffe for Luigi and gelato for Elisa and me.


Elisa chooses cono con stracciatella and cioccolato and I try marscapone con nutella and stracciatella. Molto buono. Grazie Luigi.

We return to the casa where Mara and Anna have already retired.  Elisa asks me to be ready for the cooking lesson tomorrow morning at about 9:00.  I settle into my bellissima camera for a buonanotte.


The glass door separates the bed and bath from the living and kitchen. To the right, facing the garden Elisa has a similar set up. This way 2 families can rent the space.


The winding , stone steps lead you to the updated bathroom. “Pay attention to the heada” warns Luigi.

2 thoughts on “Con la Famiglia

  1. Happy to see your blog is up and running again! So entertaining to read. Your brother and I went to mass at the Basilica di Santa Croce and it still holds a place in our hearts. How nice to be able to see it again through your eyes. As always, you do such a good job of transporting the reader.

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