Tutto e ‘Bene Quel Che Finisce Bene!

Our transportation plans have changed a little bit. I had already purchased train tickets from Ancona to Sorrento. It was to be our longest journey yet. We would need to pack, leave the villa, return the rent car and get to our train by 8:35. When I was discussing this plan with our Hertz guy the other day, Danita jumped in to ask, “If we were to drop off the car here at the airport instead of the train station, would that be ok?” “Drop-a off-a eeesaa drop-a off-a.”, was his reply. And yes, my mind started wondering then.

It took Danita another day to ask, “If we did not take the train, but took a plane from Napoli to Ancona, would you still be my friend?”

So from train to plane…that is the plan.

Even though our departure time was noon, I got up early, packed, showered and wrote a bit. Around 9:30, we were off to the areoporto.

My parents always wished I could experience the freedom of having a car in Italy. Hearing their stories of Daddy driving while Mom navigated, exploring towns off the beaten path and just the fun of driving in a different country (parking, driving in reverse down a hill top town), made me want to do so. My first try has been a great experience. Being able to pull a U turn and drive down a dirt road to get a closer look at fields and fields of sunflowers, exhibit one.

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Arrivi l’aeroporto, l’automobile di ritorno, Nessus problema.

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But when we walk into the terminal, we get a bit confused.

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Not a whole lot going on here. We ask. Ahhh…we are at the arrival building. So we head over to departures. And after a bit of waiting in the checkin line (even though there were only 4 people ahead of us) and at the termini…we board…a tad behind schedule but still ahead of what the train would have been…most likely.

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There are two flights involved in this passage. We will fly from Ancona to Roma, Roma to Napoli.

Arrivi Roma…and we wait. I didn’t pay much attention to the time, but I could hear others around us complaining that we were going to be an hour or so behind schedule. We board aereo due…

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And we wait and wait and wait. During this wait time, I am communicating with the shuttle company I had previously scheduled to pick us up at the Napoli Treno Stazione and take us to Sorrento. We worked it out where they pick us up at the areoporto instead, but now he and I are going back and forth regarding our arrival time in Napoli. At one point he asks me, “What time will you arrive in Napoli?” I tell him, since I am still sitting on the runway in Roma…it’s a little tough to say. He writes back later saying his information says we have taken off and should be arriving shortly. I look out the window, verifying we are indeed still on the Terra, and I inform him otherwise. At this point….we are behind what the train schedule would have been…most likely.

Due ore behind schedule…we are airborn.

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Let’s face it…things could be worse. Whenever we arrive, we can figure out a way to get to Sorrento. There may be more euro involved…but we can get there. Things could be worse.

Hang on…things are about to get worse.

Arrivi Napoli.
It takes about 30 minutes for the little baggage track to start rolling our luggage out. OK, there’s mine. One more to go. Waiting, waiting, waiting…

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When the termini worker holds his hands up and says, “E tutti…finito”, Danita and I just look at each other…straight faces…and she joins the line under the Bagagli Smarriti sign.

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I feel bad for her.  Her question, “If we take a plane instead of a train, will you still be my friend” is taking on a different twist.

Meanwhile, back at the luggage carousel, I am still communicating with Francesco regarding our driver and car to Sorrento. He writes asking if we have arrived. Then letting me know our driver is waiting. Then letting me know our driver is still waiting. I first tell him we are waiting on our bags. Then tell him we are waiting on one. Then tell him we are waiting in line to report a missing bag.

Meanwhile, back at the Bagagli Smarriti line, Danita is making her way up. She’s one due persona away, but the donna in front of her at the window WILL NOT let her complaint go. She goes on and on regarding the fact she has two small children who will have no clothes.

Danita mutters something about an impending meltdown…but keeps her cool. It is ironic that Vesuvius is a couple of miles away. I wonder which may explode first.

Next up, little Italian looking guy in front of Danita. When he opens his mouth to make his claim, we realize he’s not Italian, Italian, but of Italian decent from possibly the Bronx. He speaks with a little bit of a lisp which I am sure is exacerbated by the situation.

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Finding it difficult to communicate the name of the hotel he will be staying at, he resorts to the old A like Apple explanation. He’s going through everything, “I like Igloo, M like Mountain, P like Pig, E like….E like…” Here he gets stuck. Finally he leans in under the little glass barrier as he finds his solution, “E like Eggwoll”…

E like Eggwoll??? Oh my gosh, THIS nugget might have been worth all this delay. E like Eggwoll…WHERE does that come from? Danita and I just look at each other doing a pretty good job of containing our laughter. Later Danita shares she thought he said, “E like eyewoll”…which would work perfectly in this situation…whatever it was, it was priceless!!

Meanwhile back at the luggage carousel…Let’s check in with Francesco. He’s being super patient as we are now well over due ore pasted our scheduled pickup time.

Glancing around at others who are waiting to report their lost baggage, I see a little this…

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Paperwork finished, promises of a within 24 hour delivery made…most likely…we make it out where our driver is to be waiting.

And sure enough…There is Mario…

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When he sees us laughing and waving at him…he looks down at his watch and gives us a look. That stops us in our tracks and Danita spouts something about he better not go there….He follows up with a “No problema” and escorts us to the car.

As we pass Vesuvius on our way out of Napoli…I giggle.

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I will end today’s post with highlight of our day.
Enter the Limoncello Cocktail at D’Anton…

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While I threw off the bagged out boyfriend jeans I had on all day, Danita scoped out this quaint little spot right across from our room. Brava mi amica!! Brava!! As we later reflect, Sorrento is a place we would probably not return…although we enjoyed our short time here. But this cocktail, was worth all that preceded it. We add to it a piatto di aperitivo and are revived.

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While we sat, a storm entertained us. Gabriel moved our table under an awning as the rain poured down and the lightening danced.

Another bella example of Tutto e ‘Bene Quel Che Finisce Bene…

Un Altro Giorno, Un’altra Spiaggia

As I mentioned yesterday, it is going to be another low key day.
When Danita returns from her run, she says, “OK…I’ve got an adventure for us.”

We throw on our suits and head out the door. Today, we walk all the way through town and through a park. Soon after exiting the park, the terrain changes drastically…hence the “adventure”.

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Luckily Danita let me borrow some rubber bottomed flip flops to help me negotiate these steep slopes. She’s wearing her running shoes knowing the importance, having been about 1/2 way down already this morning on her run.

We make it down, down, down and it was worth the haul. This beach is MUCH less crowded, the water is prettier AND…

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They also have SPRITZ!!

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During the walk up, we affirm ourselves because in Danita’s words, “Many could not have made it to the bottom. Most could not make it to the top.”
Yay Us! Gelato per tutti!

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And wait…I spoke too soon regarding our disappointment in the food here…a few blocks ago, I notice a young girl gnawing on a piece of rosemary focaccia…si, ho buoni occhi…and I start sweeping my eyes from side to side as we walk. Vittoria!!!

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Pizza…mi porta a casa!

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When I was standing in the middle of the via, getting this shot…a man laughed as he walked by and said, “Arista…” As he rolled his occhi.

Right about now, we realize we have left two bottles of Marche Verdicchios in the freezer back at the villa…Pardon the quality of this photo, but I was laughing so hard trying to capture the moment questioning, “Disperato?” as I poured.

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As was already decided, dinner at the villa tonight. We did grab a bit of pizza and also have some burrata left from our first night, a couple of pomodori, a few olives…but there’s an enoteca we’ve seen advertisements for…and being who we are…we wanna go. So we hop in the car, not even cleaning up from la spiaggia and find it. And what a find it was!

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Our intention was to go in and get a regional bottle or two, but when we asked about regional wines…our little friend began to pour…

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And cut, and slice. We sat and chatted with a local man…picture Pablo Picassoesque, only Italian, not Spanish…while his wife was busy shopping. We were having a difficult time communicating with our little wine guy in the ascot and cool occhiali, so this guy stepped in as if to say, “I’ll interpret…proceed.” Well, that just made the situation funnier and the hour here more enjoyable. We even got Danita to try a regional red…

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Which Le piacque!
Every wine they sell here at Enoteca Azzurra is regional. As we were having taste after taste, cheese after cheese and salami after salami, I asked…”Che soon regionali?” “TUTTI soon regionali!” He replied as he showed me his little map.

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And by the way, I asked if I could have the map…Nope.

Waiting in line to buy the bottle of our choice, the first taste we had…

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“Pablo” asked, “Di dove e?”, “Sono da Texas.”….”AAhhhh! TEXAS!” He exclaims as he nods knowingly pointing at my hat…”Cow-boy-a Hat-a”…No, it is NOT a cowboy hat…although I heard a little Italian kid calling it that as we trekked down to the beach…it’s a fedoraish…lots of people are wearing them, but when they learn we’re from Texas…it’s a cowboy hat.

Back at the villa, we create un altro incredibile board, enjoy our verdicchio

 

The night is lovely.  La Luna is overhead (thinking of you Avery and Dalton)… Salute un’altra bella Notte in villa.

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Sunning in Sirolo

Yesterday, we decided if this place had a cutting board and kitchen towels (and better AC), it would be perfect.

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Still working on the AC…in tutti I’ilalia…

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Moka is brewing, I am writing, Danita is on her run…a perfect morning at the villa.

When the runner returns, she brings with her some treats from town. While enjoying our breakfast, a man enters our outdoor entry way. I wave, as several had entered mistakenly, but he motions me to come to him. I walk out as he is tries to make me understand something about fiori…he can tell I’m not comprensione and says, “Uno momento”, jogging away. I followed thinking he wants me to identify something. At a distance, through the gate, I see a girl come in with a bouquet of fiori…and it hits me. I exclaim, “OHHH MMYYYY GGOOOSHHHH!!”, a little more excitedly than usual for me. From inside the villa, Danita, concerned, says, “What?!” “You’re getting flowers,” I respond as I watch it all play out.

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“How the heck did he manage this!? Communicating with someone here is difficult enough when you are standing right in front of them…but communicating over a phone line thousands of miles away…he’s determined.” -Danita J

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Out with the fake old, in with the new…

With this bit of excitement under our wings, we head to town to find la spiaggia.

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A local advised us to take the bus to la spiaggia…so we wait.

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We purchase due sedie e un ombrello and have a wonderfully relaxing afternoon.

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With our Kindles and due Spritz…we were set.

Around 5:00, we started wondering how long the buses would run. If we missed it, the trek would be up, up, up. So we gathered our things including our nuovi asciugamani and head to the fermata dell’autobus…and wait. Experience has proven that even if only a few people are waiting 20 minutes before a bus comes, there could be 80 by the time it arrives. And that is pretty much what happened. But…we’ve learned to shove on.

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Not the first time (or the last) we’ve been on an over capacity transportation vehicle this trip.

Our villa is situated right out of the main part of Sirolo, more on the edge of a neighborhood, and edge of a cliff. The walk back removes you from the few tourist here, (we rarely hear people speaking English), but you are close enough to walk right back for aperitivo and dinner. Which we did.

This has been the only disappointment of Sirolo so far…good Spritz in town, poor, poor aperitivo snacks. Roaming around a bit later for dinner was also a let down. We’ve decided the aperitivo we prepared last night was the best in town.

Plans for domani? Different beach, dinner at the villa.

Paradiso in Sirolo

 

Grab your bags guys because we have another day of treno travel ahead of us. Ma prima, we need a bit of breakfast and to say our arrivedercis to Concerto.

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When the taxi arrived, the discussion was already how hot the day was to be. Driving to the stazione, I witnessed how far I had roamed in hopes of finding more mosaics. No wonder I was hot, tired and “cranky”. But “let’s” not forget…I am over that.

At the stazione, we did more rounds of the Stazione Shuffle. These treno bound for Ancona are popular! Time to shove on…See you in Ancona, “Most likely.”

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The train ride is about due hours with 10 stops or so along the way. We are once again in the entry way for the first hour and a half or so, then as people uscita, we get seats. Out the windows, we get our first glimpses of the Adriatic. It is lovely…however, I have yet to see any waters that rival the Mediterranean Sea at Cinque Terre.

Arriving in Ancona, we still have another couple of modes of transportation to experience before arriving to our room in Sirolo. Adding to the 1sts of this trip…I have rented a car!! I am very excited, but of course, a bit nervous as well. I figure this is the way to give it a whirl, having a companion to navigate as I drive.

Anyway, the car rental spot next to the stazione is not open on Sunday’s so we need to get to the rental spot at the airport. As we head toward the uscita, I begin….just begin to mention our option of taking a bus…”Nope, not gonna happen.” -Danita J.

We easily grab a taxi, he too talks about the heat and humidity today as he is loading our bags. We hop in and say “areoporto”. We begin to drive…and drive…and drive. I am getting anxious and confused as we are looping back to areas we just came from via treno. I figured there must have been a stop closer to the areoporto than Ancona proper.

Arrive areoporto. Taxi driver let’s us out as I tell him we are only here to get a rent car, then we are off to Sirolo. Kind uomo that he is, he begins to give me directions to Sirolo… What route to take, which to avoid, what to do at each roundabout…I jot these tips down for a little bit, then just give up, writing “yeah right” as he speaks.

Enter areoporto. Small and completely empty…wait, there is one window open at one car rental agency…but it is not Hertz. By the way, I did call the Hertz number earlier letting them know we were experiencing some treno difficulties and we were running a bit late, but that we would be there.

We approach the closed counter, I dig for my paperwork, Danita calls the number. I hear the word “unfortunately” from the other end of the line and my heart sinks. Then I hear him say he will return after 3:00. We wait.

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All goes well with the rental. I set aside my dream of driving a Fiat 500 manual shift in Italy and go with an automatic. The way travel can go in Italia…I decide to lower my chances of issues. We get a dark silver VW Golf. Cute enough and drives well.

As my dad advised, we took a couple of roundabouts due volte, but we arrived at the gates of Villa Vetta Marina, nessus problema. I had also called Antonio of the villa earlier, letting him know our arrival time was to be a bit delayed. He said he would meet us at the gate…

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I can see Antonio through the gates and excitedly let him know we have arrived. He gives me a Un momento hand as he is giving another guest specifics, then he comes to us.

We pull in with “ease”. As Danita mentioned earlier, “The streets in Italy, were not made for cars.” Antonio gives us the quick, solo Italian tour. When we would ask something in English or my molto limited Italian…we would just get blank stares.

Antonio exits, we unpack and check out this molto Bella place.

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Moka and wine glasses are found…we will stay!

I know I cannot adequately describe this villa. It and its surroundings are simply poetic. Everything is so lovely inside and out.

On the way here, I shared with Danita that I have not been here, I have not been to the Adriatic, I found this place and it looks amazing, but I hedged, as I braced myself, that sometimes, (I know…I’m bursting your bubbles here…) sometimes, things don’t turn out like you imagine. This, mio amici, is not one of those times. YAY!!!

Andiamo soul Mercato.

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Even having to pay for your grocery cart here in Italy is fun.

Piccolo mercato, but everything we need is ecco.
We grab burrata, pomodori, fflllaaaattt-a bbrreeaaadd-a, olives, another yummy looking formaggio and vino…certo…due bottiglie…we are currently researching Vini branching Della regions Marche…

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We head back to our villa, Danita goes for a run while I prepare our aperitivo…ah the happy couple…

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I will tell you, Danita’s last words as she tied her running shoes were, “This is a perfect time for a run…it looks like it is going to rain later.” And rain it did.

The first big clap of thunder drew me to the window. More thunder and lightening followed. I considered jumping in the car and going to find mi amica, but I do not know the area, nor have any idea of what route she may have taken. She’s a big girl, so I wait, enjoying the storm as I do.

She returns, soggy but smiling. We sit under the cover of our portico loving every moment and morsel.

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Mi displace**Not sure how to “bleep” words on here…**

One of life’s lessons is that with every storm…or at least most…a rainbow can be found.

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I told you this place was poetic.

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If one rainbow isn’t the one you are looking for…look closer…there may be due.

Andiamo a Ravenna

As I mentioned, Danita’s hotel is just a few meters (look at me using my metric) down from mine, so before our first day of treno travel, we grab a quick bite and cappuccino at her place.

Her concierge (rough morning for him…more on that from Danita) calls our cab and we are scooted to Santa Maria Novella Stazione…a bit early….certo. I know we only need to arrive 30 minutes max before our treno departs but I do not want to rob Danita of the Esperienza Della Stazione.

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Dieci minuti before our treno is to partire, it arrives, we board, find our reserved seats…no issues.

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I hope you enjoyed that seamless segment of our treno travel…because that is where it ends!
Arrive Bologna.

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To be honest, days have passed and I do not even remember all the issues we encountered…but I’ll do my best.

We wait a bit in the Bologna Stazione, feeling pretty confident about this excursion (silly, silly me). I see our train number but the platform numbers to not jive. I’m still calm at this point as I approach one of many Trenitalia uomini who attempt to assist. First one says, no…we should be on binario 10…so we scoot to 10. Those of you who travel by treno are aware of the ups and downs, literally and figuratively, involved in changing your binario. Danita is determined to use the lift each time and I agree…for now.

On binario 10, we begin to wonder…because again…the information in my hand and the information on the board and the information on their little poster thingy and the information we are getting from the workers on the platforms…don’t jive.

Starting to get a bit nervous now…I go to the window to ask. With 4 people in front of me, I am aware this could take 4 days…I could go into a 10 paragraph account of the conversations had while I was in line, the faces and gestures made by the uomini behind the windows, sharing their treno expertise with those in need…but I will stick to the facts.

During all this, there were additional tickets bought…

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There were trains we tried to shove ourselves onto but could not. It is one thing when traveling solo…I can and will squeeze on if need be. But when traveling by twos…makes it a bit more difficult. Stay tuned though…it can and WILL be done.

I make it to the front of the line and my exasperated uomo tells me the next direct (and by that I mean we do not have to switch trains…silly you, did you think that meant there were not 10 stops in between?) train to  Ravenna ,on the way to Ancona, is in an hour from binario 7….Andiamo a 7.

We arrive at binario 7, which is between 2 stalled trains. We get “comfy”. Danita starts to read and I…I don’t remember what I did…write, edit, not sure. Anyway, a few minutes later, Danita says, “I don’t know how smart it is for us to be here all alone between two stalled trains where no one can see us.” Great…add that to my worries.

I hear an announcement in Italian for the train we originally wanted, different time…you guessed it, different track. Andiamo binario 3.

This time, I’m taking the stairs. I hustle up as the little blinking light indicating departure is flashing away. I look behind, no Danita. I make it to the top of the stairs, see a full to capacity treno…look behind, no Danita. The door closes in front of me. I push the button, opening it again…welcoming looks, by the way, on all the faces inside, stick my foot in…look behind me, the top of Danita’s head coming up the stairs. We both shove and I mean shove in with our luggage…look at each other and start laughing. Andiamo Ravenna….most likely.

After molto, molto stops and very little relief in capacity, (we ride the whole two hours in the entrance area…notice Danita’s foot at the bottom right of the photo below.   Comfy as can be, on the floor of the train, with her kindle…Doug cringing here!) we arrive in Ravenna.

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We take a taxi (no discussion needed) to our B&B.

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I tell Danita, “Wait…I need to get a pic.” She replies, “With sweat from the front or back?”
We are greeted by Concerto. Kinda of a younger, flirtier version on Franco (mi amico in Capri). He insists we do not touch our bags, but when he goes to lift Danita’s he makes a groaning noise and asks, “Quanti giorni rimani in Italia?!”

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Our first order of business is to wash our hands, crank the air down (remember…we are in Italy…not going to get a whole lot of relief) and go find a place to get a bite to eat. Concerto is concerned because this is not a time where much is open. It is about 2:00 or so. He does recommend a place near San Vitale (the reason we/I am here), so we head there to find our paradise in Ravenna.

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Tre Piccoli Porcellini…

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As we enjoy this respite, we try not to slip off our chairs from the sweat. Everyone is talking about the high heat…but it’s in celsius…so all we know it is indeed molto caldo.

If you are in Ravenna, we highly suggest you put Casa Spadoni on your list…maybe due or tre times…as we did.

After our wonderful lunch of caprese and bicchiere di vino bianco…oh and let’s not forget the best pane we have had…we head for the mosaics.

The Basilica of San Vitale is one of the most important examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in all of Europe. In Art II, this is where we pick up our Art History lessons.

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Ravenna, more specifically the mosaics of San Vitale, has been on my “want to see” list for years. I feel I bring so much more to our class discussions when I have had the experience of standing in front of the art.

The groundbreaking of the building was in 527 and the consecration in 547.
The Apse mosaic depicts (all in tiny, squares of glass mind you) a young Christ atop the world. Christ’s right hand is offering the martyr’s crown to Saint Vitale and on the left, Bishop Ecclesius offers a model of the church to Christ.

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An aspect I enjoy speaking about are mosaics of the East Roman Emperor Justinian I and his Empress Theodora. This depiction undoubtedly illustrated that the Emperor is head of both church and state.

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The triumphal arch mosaics of Jesus and the Apostles is equally breathtaking.

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At this juncture, Danita heads back to Casa Spadoni and I roam and roam with the intent of finding the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe and its mosaics but only find Sant’Apollinare Nuovo…kinda. Anyway…I’ve let that go.

Disappointed in myself (but remember…I’ve let that go) and hot, I return to Casa Spadoni where Danita has made herself at home. We have an aperitivo, Spritz for me…Vino for her.

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We both decide we need a couple of these maialino bicchiere, and while the waitress, Giada, (yes, we are on a first name basis with the staff) is washing us some, she notices me drawing. From the corner of my eye, I can tell this excites her. She returns with her sketchbook and pen pouch, offering me anything I need.

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We share, as best we can, the enjoyment we find in drawing. She, much more talented than I, loved showing me her work, explaining a bit of many of the pieces as she did.

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I think it was the highlight of her day someone took the time to listen and see this side of her.

With our aperitivo in us, we return to the B&B, shower and nap.

Neither one of us had much interest in getting up for dinner, but we rallied and returned to…Casa Spadoni.

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Our first time, walking back to the B&B, we were not sure which way to head when the road forked. From a window above us, a man called out, “Do you need help-a?”

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This time, walking back, we laughed when we realized we were basically standing under the sign of our B&B when we were confused.

Tutti e ‘bene quel che finisce bene…

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Last Day in Firenze (for now)

Some of you have communicated with me that you get concerned or disappointed when there is not a post to greet you each morning. I appreciate the (positive) feedback very much. I do want to share with you a few of the struggles I go through…daily with this darn thing.
Let’s take this morning for example….

Danita, like I did myself, pushed through Day 1, not resting until the Italian day was over, trying to adjust her body to our new life. So, at our “Buona Notte” last night, it was decided that she would sleep until she woke up and then we would connect. This would give me time to write a a bit.

What is the saying?…Best Laid Plans?…

I got my photos to transfer over, having edited earlier…began to write, and got about tre parole in and the cursor would stall. I would be typing away, deep in dialogue with myself…thoughts from my head to the keypad, look up and the cursor would be blinking away. Then the screen would go blank with a “friendly reminder” saying there was an ERROR and work had not been saved. I sat…I’ll use the word “patiently” here…for about tre rounds of this, then I told myself if it happened ancora…I would walk away. After at least sei volte di piu, contemplating throwing this thing out the finestra each time, I walked away.

I returned to ditta Artigianale for some caffe.

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While I enjoy this place, I look at my list I previously made, checking off what we had accomplished giorno uno.

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I notice this establishment offers free wifi and connect completing the Palazzo Life post using solo mio thumbs.
With food and drink at my finger tips, this could become my nuovo ufficio.

A couple sitting next to me in a little side lounge area was enjoying a refreshing looking lemony beverage. I leaned over to inquire if they spoke English…they did.

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(CinCin Cierra!)

The couple was from Sweden. They come to Firenze twice a year. They used to fly, now they drive. Driving enables them to bring more wine home. Certo. While I was engaged with them, Danita texted, “I just woke up”…”Going to get dressed. Need coffee.” I asked her if her place was still serving. “No it’s noon”. So she came to me.

After a cappuccino grande, we headed back to Mercato Centrale. Most of the meat venders were closed or closing for the day, but Danita still got to see some of the glory.

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As we walked by one of the amazing vendors I had visited in 2015 gathering ingredients for our cooking class, he stuck out his hand with something he wanted us to try. To be polite…we did, walked a few steps away, then I promptly returned to buy some of that crunchy goodness under the salty goodness of the salami.

I ask him, “Come si chiama”, as I pointed at the crunchy goodness. His response as he handed me more…”ffffllllaaaaatttttt-a bbrreadddd-a”. Maybe this is where the term “Wise Guy” originates.

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From the Mercato, we roamed to Ospedale Degli Innocenti.

“No problem of the Renaissance era moves the heart more than the abandonment of newborn children. Innocent, helpless, forsaken, and most often female, left by the roadside, in a ditch, or on a doorstep, the prey of animals and I’ll-intentioned individuals eager to sell them to brothers, their plight inspired a desire to see these gettatelli (little throwaways) cared for properly. Although throughout the medieval centuries and on into the Renaissance, many European cities built multipurpose charitable institutions to care for the poor at all stages of their lives, Florence was the first to commission an institution exclusively for the care of orphaned and abandoned children.” – An Art Lover’s Guide to Florence by Judith Testa

As we approached, I was struck by the significance this beautiful place would have for Danita.

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The conception of the Ospedale Degli Innocenti was in 1410 and histories of Italian Renaissance architecture mention the facade of the Innocenti as the first important work of early Renaissance architecture. Architect Of the facade?…yep…Brunelleschi. And who funded much of the completion?…yep…the Medicis. Ya gotta love these guys! Palle!Palle!Palle!

The first foundling, a baby girl, was abandoned on February 5, 1445 in a ceramic basin/manger set between statues of Mary and Joseph, intended for that very purpose. This manger was later replaced by a wheel, half of which extended into the loggia. People leaving their babies could place them on the wheel, turning it into the Innocenti and their identity would not be known.

As we walk under the loggia of the Ospedale, we start up a conversation with a couple from Australia. I was telling Danita what I knew about the history, I paused for a moment and the gentleman said, “Go on…” Turns out he is from Italy but has lived in Australia for 53 years. He says, “Longer than you”, meaning my age. I reply, “solo da due anni”. He is thrilled to learn my attempts at his mother tongue. He asks where we are from and after hearing “Texas”, he lights up and says with gusto, “Ahhh…John Wayne…Bang-Bang”…yep….that’s us.

Next we make two returns…the first, to the shoe shop where Danita bought her scarpe yesterday. Turns out they are a bit big.
The next….

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After one bite, Danita says, “This could use just a bit of salt.”
Wait, wait…I bought this little tin in 2013 here in Firenze…Perfetto!

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Correction- tre restituisce…

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Back at La Menagere, we sit, relax and concentrate on cooling off. Cooling off in Italy in the summer takes concentration as there is no to little a/c in any establishments. So we decide to maximize our efforts with ancora Spritz and bicchiere di vino bianco. As I order the Spritz, “Espresso?”, ” No, SPRITZ”, “Ah, Spritz-a”, “Si!”, we brace ourselves for a lesser Spritz. We do not sit at the bar again, opting this time for low slung, soft chairs and a small table, so we feel sure I will get the Spritz in the bicchiere with no garnish. But we laugh when my fancy Spritz arrives.

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The waitress stoops down to tell me that next time, if I want Molto garnish and fruit, I can order the Spritz La Menagere for only 2 euro more.  Molto garnish than this…Grazie, sto bene.

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We roam our way back Oltrarno via Zarra, walking through Piazza Santa Spirito on the way home. Danita likes the vibe as much as I do. Although side note here…I had read, and was told by both Bianca and Elisa that Piazza Santa Spirito can be a little rough and gritty. Bianca just advised me not to make eye contact with anyone who might be dealing drugs…will do…great advice. Elisa said it had gotten better over the past few years, but when she was in school, she didn’t go there.

Anyway…daylight here now, so no worries.

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Danita and I are both drawn to imagining evenings shared around a table like this.

Day one, hour one, Danita said, “Now who would drag a table out to the street?”  I told her that after my 2015 visit, I vowed to do just that.  I wanted to have an aperitivo out/in Austin street, dragging a tavolo or due out and having friends bring chairs.  Sadly, it never happened.  Un giorno…

We make a quick spin around the piazza. I buy a piece of Arte  perfetta.

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We end this portion of our day back at my appartamento enjoying the last bit of vino from Filippe, a left over piece of Pugi and the remains of the…say it with me…ffflllaaaattt-a brrreeaddd-a from the Mercato.

Then taking a bit of a rest before….you guessed it….mangiare e bere nuovamente.

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On a street where we meet.

A late night, decidedly Italian meal at il Santo Bevitore, recommended by Filiippe.

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Benvenuto Danita!

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The Tuscan sun is up, my amica has arrived…all is good in Italia.

Brava to Danita! She did her homework. When she texted saying, “Do you know where I am? I have no freakin idea where I am!” She sent me the address and was literally a block down. I am at 26, she at 14. A meraviglioso inizio!

Within an hour, (a Firenze First I believe), Danita had bought some strappy scarpe and we were on our way to Pugi.

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Danita is not one to stray from her healthy diet, but spoiler alert….we return!

Before she arrived, I made a little list highlights we could hit. After all, I only have a day and a half to get her to fall in love with mi citta. On that list was seeing The David (hey Sheryl!). So andiamo to Galleria Accademia. My intent was for us simply to do a reconnaissance run. You know, scope out the line. Make her aware of ticket cost. That sort of thing. We approach this common sight.

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At about the time I was explaining ticket prices and what we would see inside, a guy approaches in a white shirt and red tie. “Hello Ladies, do you wish to see the David?” However did you know?! Medium story short, before I could say Buonorroti, Danita had purchased due biglietti from the street guy and we were being ushered to the front of no line….in we went.

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Seeing this work of art is an experience that is not dulled by frequency. Created 1501-1504, out of Carrara marble, David stands 17 feet tall. This beauty at the hands of a 26 year old. I recently read Michelangelo had created a wax model of the statue. He laid it on his side and submerged it in water. As he sculpted, he would drain a bit of the water allowing an inch or so of the wax to be exposed. With this method, he approached his masterpiece detail by detail.

“Worth every euro.” -Danita Jarreau

We are fairly close to the Mercator Centrale, so I take her for a quick spin through. I am aware the REAL market is closed already, but am hopping we will return tomorrow morning. What cook can come to Firenze without witnessing the magic of the market?

Next, we roam…and are rewarded. We stumble across Le Menagere.

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We are drawn in by the same feel as citta Artigianale…clean, crisp, urban and hip…ok, and we are tired, hot and thirsty.

At this point, Danita has yet to enjoy a Spritz. Even at my casa in Texas, she says she’s never had one. Well…I can fix that.

“Due Spritz, per favore.” “Espresso?” “Si…I mean No…SPRITZ”, “Ah…Spritz”. “Uhm…Si”. “One momento.”

“Vale ogni momento.” -Paige Conn

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So happy to have two of my migliori amici meet.

This Spritz was not only il piu bello crafted I have ever seen, it was also the most wonderfully refreshing. We sat all proud with our works of art at the bar. Other women would come up to the bar and order a Spritz, the bartender would sling some ice, Aperol, Prosecco and club soda in to a glass…and then shove an orange slice in. The disappointed customer would look over at our glasses with severe Spritz Envy. Most would just slump and sigh and walk off with their lesser Spritz. But there was one lady who was not to be slighted. She stood there, pointed at ours and said, “What about my cucumber?” The bartender looked at her and said, “Cosa?” “Cucumber. (Pointing) I’d like cucumber.” The young bartender smiled accommodatingly. The woman had a moment of triumph…then he grabbed a black straw and stuck it in her drink. “Ecco”. Another woman’s Spritz dreams dashed.

This made ours all the sweeter…certo!

After seeing how aptly our bartender used a bar spoon…I needed one. Off to Bartolini. And yep…they had just what the bartender ordered.

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Il milo cucchiaio l u n g o…It is going to make some magic!

Back to the appartamento for a little rest before…ok, let’s be honest…before we drink again.

At sette, we have reservations at Le Volpi e L’Uva. Danita is having a bit of a time getting use to the pace of the Italian waiter. Thing just don’t click along like she’s used to. We are in no hurry I assure her. Our next appointment, sunset.

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Traveling with others can be tricky. But we’ve decided as long as we get a few particulars out of the way ahead of time…all should be bene. First, where Paige takes buses or let’s say walks miles (uphill) to a spot…when Danita says no, (and as we all know…she is certainly no slouch to exercise…just not the euro pincher I am) the answer is no…same in English and Italian, so…No means No.

So it is a cab ride up to Piazzale Michelangelo joining the throngs of people to watch the sun go slowly down.

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This is my third visit to this vantage point…each time the vista is beautifully unique.

The Tuscan sun has set on giorno uno of Paige and Danita’s Italian Adventure, but not before a bicchiere o due di vino a La Loggia- Mangiare Con Gli Occhi e Buona Notte!