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!

Palazzo Life

Today, I begin my morning earlier than usual.  I actually have an agenda today.

9:00 mass at Santo Spirito was a very intimate experience as there were only about dieci of us there.

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As I was leaving, the priest came and shook my hand with a smile.  “Grazie , Padre.”  “Ciao! Prego.”   I Andiamo en Pace to grab a bite to eat.

I had seen a post yesterday by Curious Appetite sharing the thought of why drink caffe in the morning when you can have tiramisu from this spot, ditto Artigianale.

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I do not choose tiramisu because I figure a sugar high and a tower high might not mix well, but I will return.  This place is like Italy meets Seattle or Austin.  Clean, crisp, hip.  There are tre locations in Firenze.  I actually run across another later.  But this one is right down the via from me.

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Although ditta Artigianale is a place I could spend the morning…I have a tower to climb.

As I cross the Orno at Ponte Vecchio, there is a guy at work removing the Love Locks attached illegally to the bridge.  I guess there are rules to love.

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During the morning I was a bit nervous the lines at Palazzo Vecchio would be long.  I need not have worried.  I do  not think this is one of the more popular tourist stops.  During my hour or so in the torre, I encounter no more than quindici persone.  This with a light breeze made for a perfetto experience.

Andiamo!

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The brochure states there are 223 steps to the top of this 95mt high tower.  Note: these steps do not include the many you climb to get to the tower.

This torre is one of the oldest parts of Palazzo Vecchio, built around 1299.  So it is vecchio, vecchio.  The tower was built as a protection from external attack, but it was also a symbol of the government lording over the Florentine families.

First stop, the highest battlement level affording a lovely terracotta and blue view.

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Then, piu scale.

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Before you reach the bell chambers at the tippy(ish) top, there is a small prison cell known as the Alberghetto.  I am really excited about this.  Others, stick their heads in and pass it on by.  Non me!  I want to spend some time where Cosimo the Elder (in 1433) and Fra’ Girolamo Savonarola (in 1498) were guests.  I love being in an area where you know important historical figures walked…but standing in a 10×8 cell, really concentrates that experience.  Molto, molto cool!

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Can’t help but touch this…can you imagine the people and emotions that did!!??!!

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The current view out of the Alberghetto is of the Uffizi and then the Arno.  Back in the day, solo Arno.

And when you reach the top, another breathtaking view.

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I sent Daddy this photo and he joked about me scouting a spot for my cooking show…trying to top Giada.

There is an attendant at the top and I ask him if the bell above us is the “vacca “.  He says yes but is not sure where it got it’s name.  I enlighten him.  Vacca means cow in Italian and the bell’s toll, was said to sound like a cow mooing.  This bell was rung to summon the Florentines to Piazza Della Signoria to hear important news or to take part in a parlamento or voting.

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Yesterday Daddy emailed me with a “suggestion”…go figure!  Anyway, he said, “I know this is your blog, but I think  you should include at least a photo a day with YOU in it.”  Not gonna happen Doug, but this one’s for you.

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I am really looking forward to my friend, Danita, joining me in a couple of days, but there are definatley perks to traveling solo.  I do not think anyone would have wanted to spend 30+ minutes at the top of the tower while I sketched.  The few who came up would make you spin around the top, take a selfie or two and then say to their travel companion, “You ready?”

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Returning to Palazzo level, I tour the various rooms, appartamento said and halls.  Sings of my amici the Medicis are everywhere.  Much of their tumultuous lives took place within these walls.  As I experienced the low point of the cell and “read” the highpoints painted on walls and ceilings, I wonder how we would illustrate our lives, condensed to its major lows and highs.

Below depicts Cosimo the Elder giving Brunelleschi (kneeling) the green light to build Basillica San Lorenzo.

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Here Cosimo surrounds himself with many of the major artist of the time.  Oh Cosimo, center of the Renaissance Universe. Aspetta!

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As I have said, if there is not someone barring the door, I will enter.  Case in Point…

I am just roaming through, and I find myself in an above average crowded room.  It takes me a moment to register, at some level, that the people here seem to have “costumes” on…and ridiculous hats…Then a harmonica (still confused at this choice for this venue) begins playing “Here comes the Bride”…yep, I’ve crashed un altro wedding.  I lower my head, back out and then grab a quick shot

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As I stroll through the Palazzo, I am transported by Bella musica.  I enter the balcony over looking .  Even though I knew I was in a massive building, the grandeur and size of this “room” boggles my mind.  I find my way down to get a closer look/listen.

What a treat to be transported while admiring this impressive hall.  It was commissioned in 1494 by Savonarola, of all people.  He had led a revolt to oust the Medicis and founded a more democratic government, The Council of 500, hence the name “Salone dei Cinquecento”.  Piero Soderini was elected Gonfaloniere for life.  Leonardo and Michelangelo were commissioned to create great frescoes illustrating the great history of Firenze.  None of their work was ever completed, but sketches remain.

In 1540, guess who returned to power….si, bene! The Medicis.  The purpose of the hall changed to Duke Cosimo I de Medici’s “boardroom”.  And Vasari was commissioned to illustrate the Medici spun history of Firenze.

Front and center…Pope Leo X, aka Giovanni di Lorenzo de Medici.

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Like the falls of the Medici, it is time for me to return to the streets.

But they are EVERYWHERE…here, meet Maria de Medici…by blub.

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In the Art, Pray, Food cycle…it is time for food.

So let’s compare La Proscuitteria to All’ antico Vinaio…If the Voce della gente mean anything, All’ antico Vinaio would remain tops.

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But, taste should prevail…seeing sunlight through my prosciutto is a molto bene sign.

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And my choice remains true to Antico over La Proscuitteria.

Still working to recover some of the cab fare, I nibble all the way home and have a bicchiere di vino bianco in la Mia Casa.

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The evenings are meant for roaming.  What a treat it was to see this street artist and his patrons enjoying his work.

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Oh yeah…the evenings are meant for Spritz as well.

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Today’s offering of chalk art in front of Zara made me smile.  Quite the Mash-Up…da Vinci and Duchamp…can’t wait to share this one in class.

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As I walk along the Arno, on my way back home for the evening, I love seeing so many people stopping there day to admire the setting sun.

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The shot below is looking back at Ponte Santa Trinita and the sun’s admirers.

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With no more than the passing of dieci minuti, this was my view from Ponte Alla Carraia.  No words.

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At the appartamento, I removed my shoes and began to relax.  Wait…put those sandali back on!  I just read there is a free concert back at my Palazzo.  10:00 pm-3:00am!  Andiamo!

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Quick note….I was having some MAJOR technical difficulties this morning in the appartamento. I almost threw the iPad out the finestra…but while I waited for Danita to recover from her flight and our first day, I came down to ditta Artigianale. Connect with their wifi and write over 1/2 of this on my phone….so, Per favore, perdona qualsiasi errore.  I’ll try to edit later.  Ciao for now!

Mapping it Out

I finally broke down and spent 2.5 euro on a map of Firenze.  I was hesitant to buy one because I was on the lookout for something unique…  Oh well, once I get through scribbling on it…it I’ll be unique.

I am currently taking a Map Making Klass through SketchbookSkool online.  I look forward to creating a really one-of-a-kind one of Firenze, and my entire trip, when I return home.

After working on the blog all morning, I am a bit hungry so what do you say we start with some cibo from the hood.

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Each time I step out into the stairway of my appartamento, I smile.  You can usually hear musica coming from a neighbor or Italian TV show playing, or just conversation.  I find it funny that things that would no doubt get on my nerves at home, here I find endearing.

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In 2015, one of my last meals in Firenze was my most memorable.  I had the gnocchi at Osteria Santo Spirito.  While I was enjoying it, I so wished for Avery and Dalton, feeling a bit guilty eating something I knew they would love.  Today, I am headed back to Osteria Santo Spirito but I am going to wait to get the gnocchi until Avery is here with me.  I tried to eat there the other night, but the wait was 2 hours.  I am thinking lunch is a better choice.  First, the crowd should be less and second, I will have the rest of the day to walk off the pasta.

I arrive and all the tavoli outside are taken, but there is plenty of room inside.

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I am pretty sure I already know what I am going to order, but looking over the piatti della  giornata is encouraged.  I loved the pici Cacio e Pepe so much the other night at Tamero and with it being a special of the day here, my decision is made.

I ask the girl if I can get a mezzo ordine, but she says no.  That settles it, nothing extra…just the pici.

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When the piatto arrives, I am surprised because she had assured me it wasn’t a very big portion.   I did however, eat almost the entire serving!  Molto Buono.

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I had a bicchiere del vino bianco della casa with my pasta.  Afterwards, I finished up with an espresso and a bottle of water.  While I was there, I made reservations for Avery and myself in July…outside table this time.

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The Basilica di Santo Spirito is at the top of the piazza.  I feel embarrassed to say I do not always remember which chiesas I have visited before.  I think it is because during previous visits, I cram as much in each day as I can and it all runs together.  I do remember visting Santo Spirito in 2013.  My bicicletta tour stopped in the piazza for gelato and our guide let us jump in for a minute if we wanted.

The other night, I put a picture of the chiesa  on the post, so I did not include one this time.  Although it has a very simple facade, the interior is an outstanding example of Renaissance architecture.

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The artwork housed here is impressive as well.  Michelangelo and Lippi are two of the heavy hitters represented.

And lest you think the Medicis did not have their balls in this court as well…Spotting the Medici coat of arms in Firenze is a fun and rewarding pastime.  This one is located in the ceiling of a side room off the courtyard.

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Photographs are not allowed inside the chiesa, but the interior’s size and impressiveness is a secret kept by the simple exterior.  As I wound my way through the main church, admiring capella after capella, I found Saint Rita in a very prominent spot towards the back.  Near her statue and painting,  was a little table set  with prayer cards and tiny little devotional books.  I had only seen one other like it in the entire Chiesa.  I found this very special and touching.  I made a donation and will be bringing them home.  Before I left, I also bought a candle up front and returned to Saint Rita adding our family intentions to the flame.

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In the piazza, I had admired numerous versions of the Holy Spirit or Santo Spirito on flags, stained glass, doors, etc.  This one was sold in the Chiesa bookstore, so added a couple with Saint Rita.

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I never tire of the variety of Street Art you can find in Firenze.  Here are just a few that caught my eye today.

As I was heading to do my passeggiata at ZARA, I decided to pop into Chiesa Santa Felicita to visit once again Pontormo’s The Deposition from the Cross.  I was disappointed to see it was being restored so not on view.  However, upside was that there was a sign that said there was a free concert in an hour.  I like music, I love free…so I sat down, opened my sketchbook and waited.

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It seems to be a trend that I am ending my evenings with beautiful lullabys.

More candles, more prayers.

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Althought I was Oltrarno at San Felicita, I do another spin over the Arno before going back to th appartamento for the night.  And right now, I cannot remember why, but I went into the Palazzo Vecchio…when there is not someone barring the door…I’m gonna try it.  Anyway, I go in, go up a few flights of stairs and see a sign for a Tower Tour.  This really piques my Medici interest.  Molto, molto happened here for many a Medici.  I finally find someone still at work.  He politely let’s me know all is chiuso.  Before I leave, he allows me to purchase a biglietto to tour tomorrow.

Perfetto!  Tomorrow…To the Top!

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Still bummed about the 17euro spent on my taxi last night, I absorb a bit of it by buying a bag of chips at my corner store and staying in.

Buon Appetito!

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Cena con Gli Amici

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Tip of the Day-

When in Firenze…Never Cry Over Spilled Wine…there’s always more to be found.

I am sure you are familiar with Clet Abraham’s manipulation of street signs.  This was a new one to me.

Again..A slow start to the day after spending the morning documenting the previous day.  I am learning this rhythm is not so bad…I miss much of the morning heat, head out, and am ready for lunch…the meal of the day.

Again, today, no agenda.  I just enjoy roaming about.  It is fun (and more relaxing) to imagine I live here…let’s say I am a writer for a living…or better yet, am independently comfortable…and I just go where the Firenze breeze (thank goodness for it) blows me.

Today, I actually started out looking for a place I like that has this wonderful, sugar coated, donut of sorts…couldn’t find it (even though I passed it last night) and decided it was more like lunch time.

My usual “go-to” panino shop is just down the block a bit, but after hearing a few locals kinda dis it, saying they cannot keep up the quality with all they serve, I decide to go to La Prosciutteria.  Looking back at 2015 posts, we will see this is the first place I met Elisa and Paola.

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I choose schiacciata (and yes…I stumbled over saying it), prosciutto, crema di ricotta and pomodoro freschi.  The only reason the lettuce is on there is because I thought the girl was calling me “lady”…but she was really saying “lettuce?”…See, the language issue goes both ways.

It was buono, but…now don’t think I am all uppity here… the prosciutto was shaved a bit thick.  She adjusted the slicer right before me and I wondered about it…I have now tried La Proscuitteria for panino and will return…to judge…cuz’ it’s been due anni, All’Antico Vinaio.

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Roaming brought me in front of the Salvatore Ferragamo store.  Although I have never purchased anything there except for a few post cards and a mouse pad…I am a patron of his wonderfully curated Museo.  Each year I visit, it is a highlight.  This year’s exhibition marks the 90th anniversary of Salvatore’s return to Italy from America.  The entire Museo gives the feel of boarding a luxury liner as you sail with Salvatore.

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Around 18:00, I return to the appartamento to consider my plan for visiting Elisa and her famiglia.  Elisa was the girl I found through the Florentine in 2015.  I have many very special memories including her, her family and friends.  I know memories like that cannot be duplicated, but we’ve planned to see each other for an evening.

When I look at the address Elisa shared with me, at first I think, no problem.  Then, as the time draws nearer, I look closer and it is about 3 miles away.  I do not mind walking there, but returning late at night…makes me uncomfortable.  I share my concerns with Elisa and she shares the bus schedule with me.

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Seems easy enough, right?  I decide to give it a go, but of course, head out super early.  I am expected at the office of Elisa’s mother at 8:30 pm.  I head to the train/bus station at about 7:00.

Elisa instructions said Santa Maria Novella Station.  When I get there, I look at the bus schedules but do not see 1A.  The next bus that pulls up, I put one foot in and ask, “Dove bus uno – ah?”  Pointing is good and all when you’re talking feet…with no obstructions, but as I mentioned earlier, the stazione is under construction…so I head in the vancinity of the point.

So now I am across the street from SMN stazione…bus pulls up, I put one foot in, “Dove bus uno–ah?”  Again, I follow the point around the corner on Via Nazionale.  Bus pulls up, this time I show him the address I am wanting.  God bless him…he give me sign language for “Una- Ah” (One finger, two fingers making a triangle) as he says, “U-N-A…A-aa-H-hhh.”  like I am…impaired…which I guess I am.

Next Una-Ahh (1A) bus that pulls up…I get in…only to be asked off.  “Nessus biglietto.”  Ok…”Dove biglietto?!”

Why oh Why do I make it so hard?

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With my 1.20 euro biglietto in hand…I wait with all the other bus riders, moving to dodge the fumo di sigaretta as much as I can without appearing rude.

Bus Una-Ah  arrives, I show the address I am wanting to go to on my phone to the driver as she exits the bus to…you guessed it, fumo.  I ask her, “Will I know Che si fermano?” She glares at me through the fumo and says, “Si.”

As I enter the bus, I jockey for a position that allows me quick contact with my driver amica, but also a clear view of what the stops are.

As we drive, I am ticking off the stops Elisa shared with me.  All seems to be going as planned…until it isn’t.

If you refer to your scheduled stops, you will notice that after Modanna Della Querce comes Caracciolo…but it didn’t.  The next stop was Maffei.  Let me tell you, I was not the only bus rider concerned.  The entire group started hurling…Italian words…at my amica the bus driver.  I turned around to look at the Filipino/Italian woman behind me, and she just rants and shakes her head…I nod like, “I know…I’m with you!” But infatti, I am confused as all getout and a bit concerned.  At the next unscheduled stop, Boccaccio, EVERYONE exits.  EVERYONE but me.  I just sit there, bus idling while I look around…unsure of how to proceed.

My bus driving amica exits the bus, lights up, picks some tabacco from her tongue and motions for me to see her.

She once again asks to see the address I am attempting to find.  She looks for a bit…looks around the area and then says through the Fumo, “theesa eeessa bus-a uno-b.”   I say, “No, no it isn’t…it’s bus una-ah”.  She doesn’t speak but points up to the digital readout above the bus window…sure enough…it says 1B.  A bit frantic now, I tell her, “But it said Una-Ah when I got on.”  She said with a straight face, “Eettta Changed-a”.

I am fortunate enough that she showed me the way to find the path I wanted…over a small bridge, through some trees…

At this point I know I do look disabled because I cannot quit audibly saying “Eetta Changed-a” as I laugh and walk away.

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Moral of THIS story…I’m paying for a taxi on the way home.

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Over the footbridge and through the trees, I do indeed find the via I am searching for.  I find Mara’a ufficio building, ring, and am let in.

Although this is where Mara works, it was originally the home she grew up in, hence the kitchen and all.

It was wonderful to see Mara.  She looks the same as she did two years ago.  Elisa has matured over the time and Angela is now pregnant.

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We enjoy a light meal all’aperto as we talk about what is going on in our lives.

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Simple meal, simple conversation, simply lovely evening.

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As darkness falls, I’ll admit, I get a bit nervous about my trek home.  I am being very clear that taking the bus home, which Elisa recommends, is not going to happen.  She tells me this is a very safe neighborhood.  I share that safe or not, I have no clue to where I am.  So Elisa calls a taxi for me.  We say our arrivederci’s and share well wishes and in no time, my cab is here.

I am not thrilled about spending how ever many euros this taxi is going to cost, but as we speed through neighborhood after neighborhood, I tell myself it is money well spent.  I had told the driver my destination was Piazza Santa Trinita, this would allow me a short stroll over the Arno to my appartamento.  I began to recognize the area when the cab came to an abrupt stop and the driver fussed about a small crowd blocking the street.  I told him that this would be fine for my stop.  I paid my 17.5 euro (ouch!) and hopped out.

I was greeted with a serendipitous end to my evening.

Dolce musica, dolce sogni…

 

 

Tuscan Dinner Crawl

Do you ever find that some days truly do not begin until the evening?  I am finding that to be more and more of my groove here in Florence.

I knew today’s highlight was going to be the Tuscan Dinner Crawl I had scheduled with Curious Appetite, so the earlier part of the day was the “same ‘ol same ‘ol”…roaming streets, popping into chiesas, observing people (I promise I am saying “same ‘ol” wink a gleam in my eye)  and then it was back to the appartamento to freshen up for the evening.

Our meeting point was just across the river, so although I did not have to be two hours early…I of course was…but I planned it this way.  We were to meet at Piazza Santa Trinita which is just around the corner from my 2015 appartamento, right off Via Tournabuoni.  There are two little trattorias I had wanted to try a Spritz at (research), so one of these was on the agenda.

The first I tried, “Solo Spritz?” “No signora.”   Off to the next.

“Solo Spritz?”…”Certo, prego!”   Perfetto.

Luckily I padded my timetable because it took quite a while for my Spritz to arrive.  I busied myself drawing their oh so cool logo and listening to Italian conversations at  the tables around me.  Speaking of Italian conversations…I am pretty secure in my prediction that I will never be able to “converse”.  As I have mentioned before…there is SO much more than knowing (clearing throat here) the “correct” word of an object.  Per esempio- Remember the first night I arrived and I was at il Santini having a glass of wine?  Well when Filippo called me on the phone, I answered it “Pronto”…and I swear I said it with authority and I even found a bit of roll in my “r”.  Filippo’s response?  “Wwwhhhattt?” Oh gee!  Then when I followed with “hhheeelllooo?”  I sounded equally confused.

Bottom line, I will continue to learn, continue to try, but saying “Schiacciata” when ordering my favorite bread will always, always throw me.

OK (which is Italian too…I got this one), il mio spritz e arrivato, and it is perfection.

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The Spritz was presented with this perfetto little pizza.  I am definitely going to try these when I return.  It tasted like a small version of what my Mamma makes.

When the Spritz and the bite were gone, the drawing was complete, I was ready to meet my dinner companions.

With yesterday’s group, fresh in my mind, I was a bit apprehensive.  However, during the Chianti tour I kept telling myself, with 2 times the money and WAY less people, the crawl experience was going to be bene.

Approaching Santa Trinita, I began my assessment.

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I stood around for a bit, then approached the girl in the burgundy dress.  Yes, this was Bianca, our guide.  We had an opportunity to chat a little before the other four (yep, solo quattro) arrived.  Bianca has been working for Coral (Curious Appetite) for about a year and a half.  Bianca is from Australia and studied Textile Design in college.  Bianca likes being able to dress “practically in a ball gown” to come to work each day.  Picture a young Liza Minnelli…lashes and all.

The other four arrive, brief introductions are made and we are off.  First stop, Aperitivo…due.

Il Borro Tuscan Bistro-

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Wow! (I think that is Italian as well)  What a lovely way to begin the evening.  Il Borro is right off the Arno- Arno, via, Il Borro, and it is owned by the Ferragamo family…enough said.

As explained on their menu, “We do not offer simple dishes but emotions, believing that every moment deserves special feelings, that any moment could become experiences that involves our senses…”  For more reading pleasure, check out their website.

They do not offer suggestions but “proposals”.  Bianca’s proposals for aperitivo are; Spritz, white wine, Negroni…each of these will “open our palate enabling us to enjoy the evening and eat more”.

I choose what Bianca calls “double bubble”, the Spritz.  I am tempted to try my second Negroni ever, but stick with what I know I like…and can handle.  This spritz is a bit sweeter than my previous one at Da Florence.  Bianca tells me that depends on the Prosecco used.

I also had an “Ah-Ha” moment when it comes to Goat Cheese.  I did not know that goats only produce milk after having their young…not all year round like cows.  So, late spring, early summer is the time for “fresh” goat cheese.  Viceregal e Imparare.

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“Crawling” with us this evening are, Rob and Robin, newlyweds from Ottawa, Canada.  Robin works for the government…yes she’s met Justin Trudeau and Rob is an accountant.  I believe he used to be a tax accountant and now works for a non-profit.  And Odelia (Odee) and Andre from New York, via San Francisco and the mid-west I think.  Odee has been in the Fashion Industry but returning to school to get a Business degree (see kids…we give good advice) and Andre is in Advertising.  Samsung is his current client.

Early on, during introductions, I mention my blog and Odee says excitedly (by the way, Odee says EVERYTHING with an innocent excitement), “OOOhhhhh, YOU’RE Girl in Roam?”  I definitely need to practice my response to this.  Although it has only happened twice, I know I respond with this “no, it couldn’t be my blog you read” confused look on my face.

Throughout the evening, the conversation is friendly, light and I believe genuine.  Topics range from Art to Human Connections to Food (certo).  When politics are mentioned…it is like someone sticking the tip of their toe in a tub of undetermined liquid.  Rob reminded us not to discuss Politics or Religion.  But it is kinda fun to watch the eyes dart from side to side.

From Il Borro, we walk Oltrarno to Tamero Pasta Bar.

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In 2015 I enjoyed a Spritz and Panzanella salad here.  I am affirmed to learn this is where people in the know go.  I asked Bianca how they choose which spots to bring clients to.  She turns to me blankly and says, “We taste.”

And taste we do.  Curious Appetite has Tamero bring us a plate of their best pastas.  Each one delicate and perfetto.  I think I will be returning for the pici cacio e pepe.  Molto Buono.

As at Il Borro, Bianca lets us choose the wine we would like with dinner.  I choose a nice, crisp Vermentino with her guidance of course.

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Throughout the evening, I am educated on the late 20’s to early 30’s life.  For example, Rob and Robin met “Speed Dating”.  They enlighten me that Speed Dating is so much better than meeting on-line.  And what they say seems true.  One can sit, face to face for five minutes and pretty much decide if there is any connection.  Rob says you can talk for months on-line and then meet a person and the realities hit hard.  I ask Rob and Robin what they talked about for their first five minutes…”Trashy Reality TV” replies Robin, “The Bachelor”.  (Shout Out to Avery!)

On the flip side, I often show my age…for example, writing in my little book as we go.  At one point Andrea says, “I wanna read that book you’re writing.”  I told them Bianca looks like Liza Minelli…blank stares.  Andrea made me really laugh at one point connecting me with his mother and grandmother.  “Thanks Andrea…” I say laughing as I grab my pencil, pretending to jot this nugget down.  I tell him there is no shame in being 55.  He tells me I’m “owning it”.  Do I have a choice?

Next stop Club Culinario Toscano da Osvaldo Ristorantino.

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For Bistecca alla Fiorentina, we traverse back across the Arno to the Santa Croce area.  We are greeted at the door and shown to our own room.  Here, Bianca orders for us and the vino is Chianti…certo. (No Rooster though.)

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With our Bistecca, we have spinaci e fagioli bianchi.

During dinner we discuss how art was the first form of Social Media and I throw around a bit of my Medici “knowledge”.

At the end of dinner Bianca asks if we want gelato from a nearby spot or do we want to wander a bit.  “Wander”, we all say.

We end up at Il Procopio.  You can tell this is a local spot.  Families take up the plastic chairs along the sidewalk.  One little girl, takes her chair and places it smack dab in the middle of the via to enjoy her sweet treat.

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Andrea and Odee are pleased with their choices, and the evening as a whole I think.

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I choose una piccolo coppa of pistachio e panna cotta.  This is the creamiest gelato I have ever had.  The pistachio had a little saltiness to it, which is right up my alley.

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After dolce, we begin to stroll back towards Pizza Republica, dropping Rob and Robin off near the Bargello.  Bianca mentions how wonderful it is when groups can connect and enjoy each other’s company.  I agree with her that those moments of sharing and connection are heightened with Buon Cibo!

Exploring Chianti

 

Buongiorno…let me have my caffe primo then we can start our day.

Before I left for this trip, unlike the previous trips, I basically had zero planned ahead.  Other than my stops, the rest of the daily details were left open.

One of my fairly spontaneous decision was to go on a group tour.  Obviously, I have proven myself NOT be to be a group tour kinda gal.  But as I perused the offerings, my eye fell on “Greve in Chianti”.  Greve is a town Mom and Dad have visited several times.  In September, they hold their annual Harvest Festival and my attending someday has been a topic of conversation.  No…it is not September, but for the price offered, this is a way for me to see Greve without a car.

I have several tips I wish to share in regards to today’s outing…many of them I will keep to myself, but the first is; if you are meeting your tour at Piazzale Montelungo, approach it the easy way, through SMN Station, platform 16.  Walk ALL the way down it, exit the station, go down the ramp, and you have arrived.  I on the other hand, had no idea, followed my gps map the wide way around the station, through areas of construction, over barricades and I arrived.  I found out this more efficient way by roaming a bit before the meeting time.  I of course arrived two hours early, allowing time for any directional issues.  When I walked up the ramp, just to explore, I looked way ahead and thought, “Hey…isn’t this the station I just circumvented?”

Anyway, I arrive at what is basically a parking lot and a bus stop and I begin scoping out the caliber of persons I might be traveling with all day.  This activity did not warm my heart.  I will leave out my mental groupings, but will share the thought that I did not fit into any of them.  As it turns out, the biggest group (both in numbers and in egos) were the early 20 somethings that were either in Florence “studying” abroad or had just graduated from college and were taking this trip “before having to DO the Real World”.

I will admit there were a couple of times before boarding the bus, I considered forgoing my investment and bailing.  I was not sure how many times I could hear “Hair of the dog, Bro” or words my generation deem inappropriate for a social (let alone private) events.

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OK…get on the bus, let’s commit.  I promise there are high points.

But first, let me share another not so high point…I will sum up our “guide” by saying I think this excursion was her try out for a sitcom pilot  either in Japan, Italy or possibly Russia.  Enough said.

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The bus pulls in to the steep, rocky drive and all 70 of us (yep, 70) unload.  All 70 of us enter a small room where the proprietor of the winery attempts to share his life’s work with us.  It is difficult to hear him over the continued sharing of what clubs are good in Florence.

Here, we tasted four wines.  I was very surprised when we left that many chose to purchase bottles.  Later, at our second stop, many were disappointed they went all in too soon.

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Load up, it’s off to Greve in Chianti.

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Entering the piazza, I imagined it packed with festival goers and Mom and Dad in the middle having a wonderful time…wishing I were there.  Now, I wish for the same.

During this stop, we do. Not have a scheduled wine tasting, but we are free to roam about for a full 20 minutes…yep, 20 minutes.  I reluctantly follow our guide into a meat shop she has been going on and on about.  I am rewarded for being a sheep.  I am the second in line to order a panino.  Prouscuitto, Pecorino and Tartufo (truffle) spread.  Buono!

I have a few minutes remaining so I head to the church at the top of the piazza.  Somehow I know Mom and Dad went here.

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When I enter la Chiesa, I am greeted by the Holy Spirit.  La Chiesa is cool with a lovely scent.  There is soft music playing, and I am the only one here.  I light candles for Mom and Daddy.

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Andiamo!  Back to the bus.  Time for our 2nd winery.

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Benvenuto a Poggio Amorelli.  When we exit the bus and enter the winery, we are greeted by a wide-eyed passionate uomo.  I took a short video of him speaking to us, but I am having a difficult time adding videos to the page.  But if you are ever in Chianti…look him up.

He tells us as he holds his arms up to the barrels, “Deeesa, eeesa magical placeaaa”.  And you can tell he truly means it.  He goes on to tell us about the tank-a-s and how organic the process is.  When he mentions pesticides and the like he says while crossing his arms over his chest, “Theeesa eeesa forbidden”.

When he tells us about the quality of their oak barrels, he says that French oak is “the-a best-a…” Adding, “theeessa eeesa hard-a for me-a to say-a”.

Although we will be tasting Chianti Classicos and Sooooppper Toooosaaans, “White-a wine-a lovers….do not-a cry-a”.  They also make a Vermentino in another area.

The breeze on the terrazzo is bella and I think most are impressed and have an enjoyable visit.  As I mentioned before, the conversation is now how much better this wine is than our first stop, many are disappointed with their previous purchases.  I found it hard not to order 3 bottles to be delivered.  But I console myself knowing they have an online presence.  I was impressed by all four wines we enjoyed here.

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The Vermentino IGT made at their Poggio Barbone winery would be a perfect vino bianco della casa.

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The Super Tuscan IGT can be delivered to tu casa for 79euro a bottle.  Hurry, only 2000 bottles max.

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The proud mascot of Chianti Classico.  No Rooster…No Classico.

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Wine, view and presentation…this stop was bene!

Before heading back to Firenze, we made one more stop in a town I was not familiar with- Castellina in Chianti.  Like many small villages, you park at the bottom of the town and then walk up to the village.  This discovery was the highlight of my “Chianti Excursion”. When I returned to my appartamento, I emailed Daddy to see if he and Mom had visited.  He thought it sounded familiar, but when he looked through her journals, it was not mentioned.  I told him this was to be his next real estate search.

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The signs say it all.  This villaggio incantevole is close enough to the hustle and bustle but far away enough to escape it.  A twenty minute (yep) visit was not long enough!

As we bump along back to Firenze, the Tuscan sun is setting over it’s infamous landscape.  I am pleased with my day and my decision to stick with it.

I cross over the Arno back to my appartamento and am contento.

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Spritz Life

 

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Buongiorno tutti!  Here’s a typical working morning in Firenze.  Me, on my high tech equipment writing you and Giovanni-the younger and Matteo the AC tech working away.  I’d love for you to hear the dialogue, but I thought taking this pic was weird enough.

But-a things-a are-a good-a.  Matteo diagnosed the issue and fixed it straight away.  There is a part they ordered, but it is not necessary for it to run…So…we are up and running with the Original, Original unit.  Whoooo-hoooo!

Now for some pranzo.

One of my favorite dishes here in Firenze is pappa al pomodoro.  This is a hearty soup(ish) made with tomatoes cooked with left-over bread.  I first had it a Trattoria Katti in 2013.  I’ve also made it at home with the tomatoes from Blaine’s garden.  It is kind of an odd thing to crave…a thick, hot soup in the summer, but here in Italy, it is all about using what is fresh…except the bread.

My friend Sandy had forwarded me a post by TooMuchTuscany, “24 Culinary Things to do in Florence” and as fortuna would have it, pappa al pomodoro made the list.   It says the best place to enjoy this is at the historic Trattoria I’ Raddi.  Again, fortuna is on my side…via dell’Ardiglione 47 is just around the corner.  Andiamo!

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When I arrive at I’ Raddi, I am reminded of the other little Oltroarno trattoria I ate at in 2015.  It too was recommended as a spot where locals eat.

“Tavolo per una per favore.”  I am seated right away and asked if I would like acqua.  “Frizzante per favore.”  I love, love the water bottles they bring to you.  They are often unique to each trattoria and this one is a cutie.

I don’t really even look at the menu as I know exactly what I am here for.  But then I decide to see if melone e prosciutto is in casa, but I do not see it.  I decide to order with authority.  “Per favore posso avere papa al pomodoro e melone e prosciutto.” His writing stops, he looks at me, holds up a hand, backs into the kitchen, returns with a “si” and continues jotting it all down.

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The pappa was perfetto.  And when I asked for olio e pepe, the melone e prosciutto may have been the best I’ve ever had.  I love that this was not on the day’s menu, but the cook made this lovely piatto just for me.

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When I brought my conto up to the counter, the little guy at the register, kept flipping through the day’s menu and shaking his head, trying to tell me that melone e prosciutto was not on the menu and he had no price.  I guess he just had to make it up.  Order with authority…that’s me.

A couple of months ago, I bought the book “An Art Lover’s Guide to Florence” by Judith Testa.  I like the format.  You can jump around to whatever interests you.  Today, it is the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria deal Carmine….and again, it’s right around the corner.

As she mentions in the book, the unknowing visitor would most likely walk right past this unassuming monastic church.  “But if they do, they’ll miss one of the city’s greatest treasures: the spot where Renaissance painting was born.”

Sharing my love of Art History with my students is a highlight of my job.  Often, my Art I students are nun to thrilled to learn that every Monday, instead of doing “studio art” we explore Art History.  However, the change comes usually around Egypt, by Ancient Rome, I’d say 97 percent are hooked.  And when I can give accounts of me actually seeing a specific piece, they love it even more.

During our study of the Early Renaissance, we look at and discuss Masaccios’s work and specifically “Tribute Money”.image

My favorite aspect of this fresco is there are several stories/events begin told in one continuous work. Masaccio keeps our eye on the main player, Saint Peter, by clothing him in the same colors (orange and blue…complementary colors) in each episode.

On the left you see Masolino’s Temptation of Adam and Eve and on the right Masaccios’s Expulsion of Adam and Even from Paradise.  Listening to the audio guide (which I ALWAYS recommend) brought my attention to the rendering of the forms in each.  One right before the worst mistake ever is made and one when the realization of consequence hits.  Looking at Masaccio’s two is heart wrenching.

Another small, yet important detail in many of the frescoes in the chapel, is that the artists considered the actual light source coming from the chapel windows in their paintings.  The shadows cast are where they would fall if these forms were to come to life within the chapel walls.

Then I had a surprise visit by none other than Emperor Nero.

imageAfter our study of Ancient Rome when I ask my students their favorite POI (Point of Interest), I’d say at least half have to do with this guy.  If you are at all interested in the Emperors of Ancient Rome, I suggest watching “Rome- Engineering an Empire”. I watch it two times each school year never tiring of it, always learning something new.

After being inside for a bit, I decide to once again, aimlessly roam.

 

I know I have shared something similar with you before, so “same song, different verse”.

I was actually roaming the side streets of the Duomo looking for a children’s toy store I like.  I need a city map and seem to remember they had some unique ones.  Now if I could only find a map of how to get to this store.  No fortuna today.

But I did find myself in front of San Marco and just in time for mass.   Visiting a chiesa is a beautiful experience, but attending mass takes it to a whole new level.

There were about dieci, what I assume to be locals, in the front so I join them a few rows back.

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The above photo was taken after mass when the presiding priest had removed his toupee but not his amazingly stylish glasses, donned his newsboy cap and sat at the organ playing as the cinque or so parishioners remaining held concert.  Again, this moments are priceless!

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One of the books I recently read highlighting the Medicis was, “Death in Florence- Medici, Savonarola and the Battle for the Soul of the Renaissance City” by Derek Perkins was a favorite.  I am conflicted by this Dominican friar’s agenda.  Was it God’s or was it his?  I guess this question is true for anyone’s agenda.  I’ve done a tiny bit of research to see what the Church currently thinks of Girolamo Savonarola.

San Marco was the home from 1489 onwards of this friar.  He became the prior of the convent and unleashed a campaign against the Florentines’ lavish way of life.  Of course he was on the wrong side of the Medicis (even though Lorenzo the Magnificent called Savonarola to his side while on his death bed) as well as Pope Alexander VI Borgia.  With enemies like these, Savonarola was burnt at the stake in front of Palazzo Della Signoria in 1498.

It is said that Michelangelo could still recall Savonarola’s voice in his head as an old man.  Powerful stuff!!

When I exit the Chiesa, I walk across the piazza to Pugi.   Although I have enjoyed their fare before, it is number dieci on TooMuchTuscany’s culinary list, so I think perche no?  Schiacciata all’olio is a salty bread made with Tuscan extra virgin olive oil.  Due Della mie cose preferite…salty and crunchy.

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If you ever question your direction…look for a sign…

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Back Oltrorno, I am on a quest for my first Spriz of the trip.  Remember earlier when I bragged that I “order with authority”?  Not all that true..  I have been wanting to lead the Spritz Life for several days now, but have found by the time I am ready for one, all the seats are taken.  Previously, I head out with resolution and settle for a class of wine at an enoteca that does not serve the Spritz.  I am sure you are rolling your eyes at this conundrum…it’s not a terrible spot to be in, but tonight…I am determinato.

My neighborhood chiesa is packed with locals and tourist alike, enjoying pizza from a nearby pizzeria.  Later I text Avery this photo and say when she visits we will do the same.  Her response, “Duh!”

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At the corner of piazza Santo Spirito, I see an empty table and I grab.

“Una Spritz per favore.” “Chips-a?”  “Si, grazie.”

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Buona Notte!

 

 

 

 

Palle!Palle!Palle!

Trying not to add to the heat of the appartamento this morning, my start was a bit slow.  Si, when Fiippo left me last evening, the portable AC unit was working…but at about 12:30 am…beep, beep, beep and the unfortunate “clunk” of a machine shutting  off.

“Seriously!?”  I thought…and may have muttered audibly.  I tried to lay there as still as possible (both in body, mind and spirit),  dozing for another 10 minutes or so.  I then woke with the thought that maybe the breaker was triggered, and I just needed to flip.  So I stumbled up (please remember that I have not slept in about 30 some odd hours), but no,  not the issue.  I went over to the unit, punched a few buttons and got the thing beeping and running again…for 20 minutes or so.  After the 3rd set of beeps, I decided the sound was more torturous than the heat.  I pointed the portable fan Filippo had been wise enough to bring, kicked the sheets off and did my best, knowing things would eventually get better.

First order of the day, contact the brothers.  Second, grab something to eat.

I joined every other tourist in Firenze at Mercato Centrale, treating myself to not one croissant, but due and a cappucinno…certo.  At that time of the day, most were doing the Spritz, birra, pizza thing.  I found myself a corner of a tavola and settled in for a bit.

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A different goal I set for this trip was to create a bit of “art” along the way.  Notice that is art with a little “a”.  Last summer, I discovered Danny Gregory.  Danny is an illustrator turned Drawing Guru.  I bought a couple of his books, developed a deep crush and had hopes of adopting his “draw daily” lifestyle.  During the school year, I could not make it stick…OK…I did not stick with it.  I thought this trip was a perfect opportunity to develop a fun, creative habit.

I do not think of myself as a “talent” other than I like my mind.  I do not have the talent transferring my thoughts/ideas to paper well.  As a child and a teen, I had no “stage” talent.  Like Marcia Brady, I considered curling my hair on stage in the “Miss Northbrook” beauty pageant.  Anyway…let’s not go there…so I reluctantly packed art supplies for this trip.  These few supplies; sketchbook, pens, prismas, travel water colors, took up valuable space and my “monkey” (that is what Danny calls that little voice we have that puts us down” kept chattering that it was silly.  But as silly as it is, I have been enjoying it.

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Another goal for this trip, especially while in Firenze, was to take a closer look at the impact the Medici family had on this city and on history as a whole.

I have read several historical books based on the Medicis and have watched a couple of documentaries and historical fiction films about them as well.  I feel like know quite a bit, except for the piccolo fact I cannot keep all the Giovannis, Cosimos, Pieros and Leonardos straight…I really need a visual of the Family Tree.

Today, I dedicate to the Godfathers of the Renaissance…The Medicis.

First stop, the Basilica di San Lorenzo.

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La Basilica di San Lorenzo is the oldest church in Firenze, first consecrated in 393.  In 1419, Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici made this fixer-upper his charge.  Filippo Brunelleschi, of the dome of the duomo fame, was the architect hired.  The church contains other important architectural and artistic works by Donatello and Michelangelo as well.

San Lorenzo was the parish church of the Medici family and is the burial place for molti a Medici.

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Throughout the architecture, interior and the city of Firenze,  you will find the Medici coat of arms.  There are several different stories which “explain” what the balls or palle (in Italian) represent.  Whatever their meaning, these guys had ’em.  Generation after generation illustrated thought, commitment and fortitude.  Medici men were always “All In”, even when they wanted to appear they were not.

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One of several works by Donatello is the bronze pulpit (one of two) depicting the Passion of Christ.  1460-1465.

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The Martelli Annunciation by Filippo Lippi was painted in 1440.  This was not commissioned by the Medici family but by Niccolo Martelli, a rich Florentine  citizen.

The Sagrestia Vecchia or Old Sacristy is one of the most important monuments of early Italian Renaissance architecture.

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Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi (busy guy) for the Medici Family, hence the palle!palle!palle!  In the center of the room is the sarcophagus of Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici and to the left is the bronze sarcophagus of Giovanni and Piero’s de’ Medici which was created by Verrocchio, teacher to Leonardo da Vinci.  Some of the work on the piece is attributed to Leonardo.  So when we use the term “patron” to describe what the Medicis were during the Renaissance, it is simply not adequate.

I found this interesting…To the side of the lanterned dome Brunelleschi designed, there is a smaller dome which depicts the night sky of Florence, July 4, 1442 (how they know that, boggles my mind).  The odd thing is, there is no documentation of any public events for the night of July 4, 1442.  So this is an insider’s mystery.  Either the artist and/or the patron knows the significance.  So intriguing!

Next stop, Palazzo de’ Medici.

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I was kinda giddy as I walked in the footsteps of the Medici.  I imagined them entering the relative safety of their palazzo as the Florentines shouted, “Palle! Palle! Palle!”  The intent of their shouts determined by its delivery.  The family definitely had their its ups and downs.

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In the courtyard, though the archway there, Donatello’s David once stood.

Next stop, the grocery store…the Medicis did not shop here per se…but…

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And before one puts their groceries away…one must draw them.  (The oddities of solo travel.)

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During the day, I had a chance to speak/meet with Filippo again.  He came by to respond to my news that the original…well not the “original” original…we all know the original, original AC is on the blink…I’m currently talking about the “original” interim AC…anyway, he came to take ANOTHER look at this unit.  He told me he had come earlier, spent 25 minutes here and it was working fine.  As I write this, it makes it sound as if Filippo is put out with me…not at all.  He has been nothing but helpful and kind.   These brothers care about their guests.   As we stood talking about said 2nd unit, it shut off AGAIN.  I clapped and was so thankful for him to see it in…uh, non-action.  He makes another phone call to Giovanni-the younger. As he’s talking, he looks at me and gives me the universal “thumbs-up”.  When he says “ciao, ciao, ciao, ciao” (By the way, the record number of ciao’s while saying goodbye is 7…I heard it on the streets yesterday, and I counted.) he says to me, “Two good-a news-a-s”.  The two good-a news-a-s were 1-Giovanni-the younger found and purchased ANOTHER portable unit (Filippo explains during the Firenze heats, these units sometimes cannot be found in a 200 kilometer area) and the second good-a news-a-s was a technician will be coming domani to fix the Original Original AC unit…the real original.

Filippo once again instructs me to go eat and drink and when I return, my brand new interim (due) unit will be up and running.

I remain Oltrarno (which I am loving) and return to a 2015 favorite, Le Volpi e l’uva.  You may remember I had a wonderful evening here with Curious Appetite’s Coral Sisk experiencing a tiered wine tasting.

For dinner, Crostino con salsiccia and Un bicchiere di vino bianco…freddo.

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And for dolce…watercolor.

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Un Uomo walks into a Gastronomia…

This is my first stay in Firenze Oltrarno…on the south side of the Arno.  The name means “beyond the Arno”.  My flat takes its name from the church Santo Spirito do Firenze.  As I wait for Giovanni, I take in my immediate surroundings.  I see a little grocery, a wine bar, a boutique or two and a trattoria.  What more could a girl need or want?

I am also located just a street or so off the Arno.  This is molto bene as I will always be able to head to the river if I get turned around.

Instead of Giovanni meeting me, Filippo his older brother arrives on his Vespa.  As he lets me in the appartamento, he tells me this is a favorite of what they own because this neighborhood is where the Florentines live…not the tourist.  Perfetto!

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We walk up a couple flights of stairs and enter one of the many heavy, brown doors off the entry.  Welcome to my home for the next dieci giorni.

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The appartamento is just like the photos I saw…however, if I were to live here…the plaid, blue cover on the bed would have to partire! (Infatti….it’s in a closet now).

The room excites, but the temperature is a concern.  Filippo quickly moves to the AC unit to crank it on.  It beeps, runs a second or two…then beeps some more and shuts off.  LONG (still going on) story short, the AC unit does not work.  I have just walked from the station at a decent clip, lugging my worldly possessions and I am dripping as we stand there.  Filippo assures me everything will be fixed to my satisfaction.  I believe him (still).  I am at day 2.5 and as I write this, Giovanni and the AC technician are performing an assessment/surgery on the unit.

As Filippo works to solve the issue, he sends me down to a bar 30 meters away, for me to get a bicchiere di vino.

And thus, my first visit to my neighborhood enoteca.

Il Santino Gastronomia is about the size of my bathroom at home.  It is full of wine, formaggio and pig’s legs…again, what more could a girl need/want.

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I choose a glass of Barolo and it comes with prosciutto…certo!

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For this I am extremely thankful.  The last cibo I had were my oyster crackers in Franfurt.

The highlight of my day was when a man entered the bar with a 8″ wheel of formaggio…no bag, no briefcase…just a man and his wheel.  He presents it on the counter next to me and the three on staff huddle around as he passionately describes the virtues of his gift.  (I am reading between the italian here.). One of the staff, cuts the wheel in half, then takes a few wedges from it.  Each of the staff holds it up to their noses and their eyes roll in the back of their heads.  They chatter away as they devour their wedge, then go in for more.  The youngest girl (seen carving the pig’s leg) turns around to grab honey to put on it.  She’s thrilled with her condiment but the eldest on staff, is so disappointed in her. “Aaahhh…No, No, No!” As he shakes his head.  My assumption is that the cheese stands alone.

During this consumption, the cheese guy stands there like a proud, proud papa.  The eldest staff tosses a small, crumpled pad of paper on the counter, the cheese guy writes something, “Buono, Buono!” Is shared by all, and he leaves.  I just can’t imagine an encounter like this taking place anywhere else, and I LOVE it!

A few moments later, the girl notices my look and says, “You want-a to try-a?”  Naturalmente!!  Dont’s be ridicolo!  And yes, it was, molto buono.

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I am so happy and satisfied at the moment, the AC situation seems secondary.  Proving myself as a patron of formaggio, the guy behind the counter puts another sample in front of me as he declares, “Theesa essay paradise…”  I’m in.

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About now, my phone rings and it is Filippo asking where I am as he enters the bar, (which means his right foot goes from street crossing threshold) orders bicchiere di vino bianco and pays my bill.  Mi piace Italian hospitality!

With this kind gesture, there is bad new.  The AC unit is not working.  He tells me to go out, enjoy my evening and when I return, there will be a portable unit and a fan to cool the appartamento until a technician can visit…could be several days.

I do as instructed.  I roam around for a bit, reacquainting myself with the area.  Filippo is correct, life is SO much busier on the north side of the Arno.  I walk by the duomo to see if my favorite gelato spot is still there and I am rewarded.

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After a quick spin through the hubbub of Fashion Week…

 

I return to the appartamento to be greeted by my new, yet unreliable (more on that later) friend, calling it a notte.

Chapter Tre

On the plane ride over, I considered that when I start a new notebook or sketchbook, I always skip the first couple of pages, leaving them pure and unmarked.  Then I tentatively begin on the 3rd or so page.  I think this says much about my personality. I’m not comfortable putting, what I fear will be my mistakes, out for the first thing people will see.

All that means I am a bit nervous to jump in and start a 3rd edition of this blog…but here we go.

Currently I am sitting in my too warm of an appartamento in Firenze.  I have my major travel day and my first night behind me.

For this 3rd sojourn, I decided to do some things differently.  I chose to fly out of Houston directly to Franfurt then to Firenze.  My thoughts were less stops, less planes, less issues.

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As I said, I am in Firenze, so I have little to fuss about, but let’s reflect…shall we?

Boarding the plane through 1st class is such a great marketing strategy.  Struggling with your carry on though the fortunate already lounging with their feet on ottomans and as they sip their champagne out of glass puts one in their place for sure.  My place was an isle seat next to a young mother and her uncontrollable 3 year old.

For some reason, this young boy thought I (and everyone else on the flight) was there to serve him.  In his three year old mix of Arabic and English, he demanded his milk from me.  His mother laughed and put in her apology for his behavior on the remainder of the flight.  OK…most of you know me and can picture me calmly informing this young boy that I had paid for the flight just like he had and he would have to think of another method besides asking me or banging his tiny but effective feet against the wall.

This poor, young mother.  Not only was this her current (as well as future) lot, but she later shared to me that “Galveston beach is the most be-a-u-tiful beach I have EVER seen!”  There is SO MUCH I could teach her.

The plane was not equipped with phone charging jacks and the last thing the attendant mumbled as they prepared us for take off was, “I regret to inform you the wifi is not working on this flight”.   I know how I spoiled I sound, and it did not take me long to settled back into the 90’s but I was looking forward to accessing a course I am currently taking on my iPad.

Let’s fast forward shall we?  Frankfurt was no issue.  Plenty of time to walk to my other terminal and enjoy my bag of HEB brand Oyster crackers.  I am not going to waste my calaries on plane fare.

Flying into Tuscany brought a calming smile to my face and heart.  The beautiful green and ocher hills, the cypress trees standing at sentinel.  I had returned.  When I shared with my friend who will be meeting me in a week or so, that you can easily grab the bus from the airport, take it to Santa Maria Novella station and then walk to your appartamento, her response was, “Uh yeah…I won’t be doing that”.  I did with little issue.  What comfort it is to know your basic surroundings and be able to navigate(ish).

I arrived at the address given to me, called Giovanni and waited.

image          A street where I live…