Weekend In Firenze

Each morning now starts with my Moka and me.  I am so happy with my 15 euro purchase!  Have I mentioned that July is SALDI/SALE month in Italia.  I’ve been told their sales are regulated and July is the time to stock up on summer clothes and house items.  So…when in Roma…or in this case Firenze!imageI spent the morning in the shared kitchen of Bencidormi.  While there, I struck up a conversation with a mom and her older kids heading to Roma.  She was a bit gloomy due to a transportation issue yesterday.  They had neglected to validate their city bus tickets and were fined 100 euro!  This just gave me a pit in my stomach, I hated it for her and know that it could be me at any point in time. She said that she felt taken.  The “officer” demanded she give him the 100 euro right then and there.  She plead her case saying it was an honest mistake, they had the tickets, they just didn’t know to validate.  She also told him she did not have that much money on her.  He said he must accompany her to a cash machine, which he did and she gave in to his demands.  Later they read the ticket a bit more and it states a person has 30 days (I believe) to pay the fine.  I told her I had just last night read a post explaining the term “Furbo” or crafty and how some Italians take advantage of visitors this way.  She was having a difficult time shaking it off and I do not blame her.  It is a hard, expensive lesson we can all learn from.  I wished them better luck with the rest of their trip and began my day.

Today is the 4th of July, so I dressed to give a nod to my Homeland and hit the streets.imageI do not have much of an agenda these last few days.  I just want to enjoy where I am and take advantage of the inexpensive and or free things Firenze has to offer,

Like…street art,imageand hole in the wall local places where  you can get a panino and a birra for 5 euro.  The first time I came here in 2013, I was so nervous to order.  But this being my 3rd (and final) time this trip, I am very comfortable giving a little more thought to my orders.  imageAs you can tell, I love this place and it is an absolute MUST for anyone during a visit, no matter how short, to Firenze.  Remember, there are 3 places now with the same name- All’Antinco Vinaio.  For some reason, the one on the right side (with the Uffizi behind you) is always really crowded.  The one directly across on the left, is crowded as well, but people tend to veer right.  Today, as I was walking into the one on the left, a guy working on the right said, “OK-a people-a…pay-a attention-a.  We-a have-a two-a shops-a.  The same-a people-a own-a…same ingredients-a.  There-a eeessa not-a as much-a line-a over there-a.  People-a….pay-a attention-a!”

Luckily I had claimed my spot in line before people looked around trying to decide what to do.  Today I chose, prosciutto, basilico, marinated carciofi and  my new friend stracchino cheese.  The soft, creamy texture of this young, cow’s milk cheese keeps everything in place.  imageAs I was enjoying/wrestling with my panino, the boss man comes by and asks me something.  (I know he is the boss man because it says BOSS MAN on the back on his t-shirt.)  I could not understand what he was asking me, and as I was trying to throw out a couple of guesses, he simply took my panino, went back behind the counter, rewrapped it and presented it to me again saying, “Thheeeesssaa way-a eeessaaa best-a.”  Point taken.

It also cracks me up that you do not pay until after you have eaten, and then you must flag someone down and wait for them to meet you at a little register…basically an honor system.

I love theeesssaaa place-a!

And I am not alone.imageAfter my 4th of July hotdog stand-in, I just roamed.  I have passed by Palazzo Vecchio and through Piazza della Signoria many times during this trip, but this time I took the time to visit with the statues in and around Loggia dei Lanzi.  It is mind boggling to me that these priceless pieces are just out in the open: The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna.  Here the term “rape” comes from the Latin raptio, which means “abduction”.  This depicts when the first generation of Roman men acquired wives for themselves from the neighboring Sabine families.

Theseus and the Minotaur and Perseo holding Medusa’s Head by Cellini (1554).  The story is in the whole, but the beauty to me, is in the details.imageI never tire of seeing what the street artist in front of Zara are up to.imageAnd although I did not get a photo of them (and I regret it), a highlight was seeing a family of 5 all sporting captain’s hats with Venezia in script across the front.  Don’t know why, but this just made me laugh.

I timed my roam to be oltrarno in time to attend mass at Santa Felicita.  This is probably the oldest chiesa in Florence after San Lorenzo.  Churches have stood on this site since the 4th century.  A new one was built in the 11th century with additions and changes coming over the years.  In 2013, I peered into the church through a window along the Vasari Corridor.  The Medici family used to do the same, attending mass without the masses.  In 1565 Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici “requested” that a corridor be built connecting the old palace with their new residence, the Pitti Palace.  Since the corridor passes through Santa Felicita, the church began to play a very important role with the Medici court.

The Deposition from the Cross (1528) by the Italian Renaissance painter Jacopo Pontormo is a piece we discuss in Art II during our study of Mannerism.  The painting is located above the altar in a small chapel in the back of Santa Felicita.  I was not aware this was its home when I chose where to attend mass.  It is very surreal to look up and see a piece in person that you’ve only seen in slides.image

Yesterday (I think it was yesterday) when I purchased my Sunday evening ticket to the Medici Dynasty Show, I also saw a flyer for a movie about Dante.  I “know” roughly 3 things about Dante, but staying in his city for so long and seeing him honored everywhere, I thought, what a better time to learn a bit more.  However, I did not buy a ticket because originally I was to meet Elisa and Costanza tonight.  That “Girl’s Night Out” fell through so I found myself free after mass.  I could not remember exactly what time the movie began or exactly where the theater was.  I did remember that you received a glass of wine with your ticket and that the little guy at the “Tourist Point” had waved his hand behind him and told me some number attached to the word “meters” when I asked about the location of the theater.  So, I decided to go back to the “Tourist Point” which I found closed, but walked in the direction of his hand wave and there it was, the Odeon Teatro.  image           Housed in Palazzo Strozzino, built in 1462, the theater opened in 1922.  To this day the Odeon retains the original sculptures, tapestries and its wonderful stained glass cupola.image

The film The Mystery of Dante, was artsy and strange.  It made me think and want to know a bit more.  Dante was a poet who has inspired some of the most outstanding minds in history and what I took away from the film was that his work is not to be globally understood, but that each individual needs to journey through it, drawing their own conclusions about his words, applying it to our own lives.  Maybe I’m completely wrong, but I came away with: there are individual translations and applications and that is what Dante intended.

A single line that did resonate with me was, and I am paraphrasing I’m sure, “Hell is a huge cabinet of reflection.”  Personally, I cannot imagine anything worse than having to watch our mistakes and poor decisions on a never-ending film loop for all eternity.

Cheers to living the straight and narrow!imageAfter my evening at the cinema, I walked to Il Mercato Centrale, ordered a Margherita Pizza asporto (to go),imagewalked back to my room,imageand enjoyed it there.imageSunday morning I again enjoyed some time writing in the cucina at Bencidormi.  Today I met 2 gals from Ireland.  They had just hit town and were checking in for one night only.  I overheard them asking Paola what the best way to see the most of Florence in one day was.  Being my Father’s child, I chimed in.  I poked my head around the corner and raised my hand.  My suggestion was for them to go on a guided bike ride like I did in 2013.  This 2 hourish ride gave me a great overview and allowed me to get my bearings.  Brid quickly replied in her oh so cute accent, “Oh yeah, but you’re fit Paige.”  I assured them it was a flat, easy ride.  In the end I think they went for the hop on hop off bus.  I really wanted to ask if I could join them for their tours today and help them get the most out of a day in Florence…but I didn’t go that far.  I helped them make a plan for hitting Venice tomorrow and our paths didn’t cross again.

Afterwards Paola and I talked a bit about the fun (and not so fun, she assured me) aspects of running a small B like this.  Meeting and helping people make the most of their visits would be rewarding I think.

On to my day.  In 2013 I visited the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo.  The exhibit then was all about the rise of Salvatore.  It was beautifully done and a first class experience.  This year I was told the exhibit had changed and highlighted the building, Palazzo Spini Feroni, that housed the famed House of Ferragamo.  imageimageAfter a quick early lunch and dolce (THE BEST cannoli I’ve ever had!  I wished for my brother Jim, who favors this treat.)  I headed over to see my old neighbor Salvatore.  The exhibit was again, top notch and because it is the first Sunday of the month…entry was FREE!

In the end I could not bring myself to spend roughly 100 euro for the least expensive Ferragamo perfume, but I did buy 4 postcards depicting some of his most famous creations and a mouse pad.  Walking around with a red and gold Ferragamo bag, no matter how little was inside, gave me a spring in my step.imageIn the early evening, I headed for a little bar at the far end of my street, Via Faenza.  The name of this hot spot is “Freddy’s” and there are ALWAYS people spilling into the streets enjoying a spritz and conversation.  I cannot tell you the number of times I have passed and eyed this place during my visits.  Today I was lucky enough to find one table free for me!  image

During my spritz, I too got to enjoy a bit of conversation with a woman from Denmark.  She and a group were here taking a health course of some sort in Fiesole.  She said she had been here for almost 2 weeks and was ready to leave and probably not return.  She did not say this with disgust or anger…I asked what city she liked better and she said, “Paris” with no hesitation.  She expressed she felt in Paris the way I feel here.  During this trip I have come to the realization that it is OK…if not great… for people not to like the city you love.  People enjoy and are comfortable with different things and experiences.  I no longer feel I have to either sell someone on my view or worse…reexamine my own thinking there is fault in it.  Now I just need to translate this thinking to all other aspects of my life.

Next on the agenda is to head to the San Lorenzo area.  The play I am attending is performed in the San Giovannino dei Padri Scolopi Library in Piazza di San Lorenzo.  It is part of an architectural complex dating back to 1351 and is in the triangle where the Medici family lived.

Our story begins here…image

What a wonderful, albeit HOT, experience that was.  The story is shared by the last two heirs of the Medici Dynasty, Grand Duke Gian Gastone and his sister, Anna Maria Luisa.  Viewers travel back in time to Palazzo Pitti in 1737, shortly before the Grand Duke’s death.  The show culminates as Anna Maria Luisa initiates a treaty with the Lorena family, who were to take over Florence after the Grand Duke’s death, stating the artistic patrimony of the Medici family would remain the property of Florence, “as an ornament of the State, to be used by the public and to attract foreign visitors”.

The two actor play is presented in a very intimate setting allowing viewers to understand this point in history as well as the priceless gifts the Medici family gave to the world.  I highly recommend this show…just bring a hand fan with you.

As I was approaching the Arno, I got a glimpse of the pink sky out of the corner of my eye and then quickened my pace to the center of Ponte Vecchio.  Again, I did not plan to be here at sunset, but here I am.  Timeless no?imageAs I was heading to Piazza Santo Spirito for dinner, I decided one bridge in sunset was not enough, so I quickly walked to Ponte Santa Trinita to get another breathtaking view.  imageHeart full but stomach empty, I was hoping to get a table at Osteria Santo Spirito.  This was the spot the Australian couple had recommended to them by friends.  I had peeked in the last day of the first part of my trip and vowed to return.

When I approached, it was already bustling with people.  I thought perhaps arriving a few minutes before the people who watched the sun totally set might be a good idea….I’m not the only one with good ideas.  I walked in the doorway and asked for a tavolo per uno.  I was told there would be a table inside in about 20 minutes.  “Great!”, I said thankful, but then asked, “Nothing available outside?”  I was told it would be at least an hour.  I said inside was good.  But then, moments later, they guy came back by saying he could have one outside in 5.  Even better.  Then for the next 10 minutes or so I did my subtle little dance hovering, looking hopeful to remind, but trying to be cool as well.  I am probably not that good at it, but it has been working.  And it worked again tonight.  As couples and groups were turned away to wait for more than an hour for inside or out, I was seated at a corner table facing across the tables and out to the piazza…Power Table!imageThe gnocchi Gratinati al Formaggi Tartufo had caught my eye on the menu, but when I saw and smelled it pass…I knew it was for me.  This is the piccolo plate.imageWith every bite, I wished for Avery and Dalton and almost felt disloyal enjoying something I knew they would love.imageI ate slowly enjoying the food and the atmosphere.  A few meters (wink, wink) away, yet another outdoor concert was gearing up.  By the time I left, it still hadn’t started (after 22:00) but the sound checks were commanding the night.imageAfter such a wonderful, but filling meal, I was very thankful for my mile and a half walk back to my room.

Tomorrow will be my last day in Firenze and Italia, I needed to plan my day and my exit.


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