Cena con Gli Amici


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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


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.


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


Simple meal, simple conversation, simply lovely evening.


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…



Giorno Uno

My first night in my appartamento was ok.  I stumped by toe 2x during the night due to the 1″ rise from the hallway to the bathroom and vowed not to do it a 3rd.  The little airconditioner does not get to my home sleeping temperature of 64, but that was to be expected.  I woke up in the morning refreshed and ready to start giorno uno.

My day began at the TIM store.  If you remember, yesterday I spent about 2 hours in the company of Stefania, my personal (ha!) tech assistant but because I could not get the phone to go beyond the spinning “search”, I had to return.  I am not sure what time they opened, but I arrived at about 10, pulled my number and found there had already been 17 people in front of me; 8 or so of whom were still crammed in the small store.  Stefania was once again on duty along with another female phone specialist.  I went in with the attitude that I had nothing else pressing today, so just to be patient.  That sentiment was not shared by numbers 15,16,17 and 21.  It was amazing to me that people would openly fuss and heatedly complain about the amount of time the 2 workers were spending with “clients”.  I just enjoyed it as a form of Italian Theater and it helped the 2 hours go by.

Once Stefania called “diciotto”, I knew I would have her undivided attention for awhile.  Long story short, my old iphone was apparently “locked” even though verizon said it was not.  I considered putting the Italain SIM card in my new iphone, but then imagined getting a verizon bill on top of the amount of the SIM card and quickly decided against that.  I thought the cheapest, easiest way to go was to purchase an unlocked phone here…so I did.  You should have seen the faces and heard the groans of numbers 19-infinity as Stefania patiently showed me how to ramp up my new phone.  Now “all” my Italian amici can contact me AND I can google map a destination (even though once it shows me the location, it shuts down…oh well) out on the streets without fear of having a $1,000 phone bill when I return home.



When I went back to my appartamento to ditch the iphone and the new phone box, I researched a spot for lunch and headed Oltrarno (on the other side of the Arno).

A blog I frequent “Girl in Florence” (another Texas Tuscan) suggested Chicco di Caffe for a great lunch, budget friendly and loved by locals.


Rigatoni al pesto di asparagi e ricotta salata

Rigatoni al pesto di asparagi e ricotta salata

This primi plate and a bicchiere di vino bianco locale was a great recommendation.

After lunch, I searched out the studio of the street sign artist Clet Abraham.  Last year I got a kick out of his clever sense of humor and roamed the streets looking for the many different manipulations of municipal signage.  Since then, I somehow stumbled across who the artist was and that he had a studio in Ortrarno.  On the way, I saw several new works by Clet.imageimage

When I arrived I was disappointed that the studio was closed.  I stood there peering through the glass door hoping someone might be in and have pity on me.  No such luck.  I roamed a bit around the immediate area and decided to stop into an osteria have perhaps the studio would be open afterwards.

Osteria San Niccolo was a great choice for dolce and conversation.


Here I enjoyed one of the best Tiramisu I have ever had.  The zabaione was light as air.  After a short bit, a young couple walked in and told the waiter, “We’ll have what she is having.”  He was from Syria and she from Egypt.  Of course both spoke perfect english (damn us monolingual Americans!)  We enjoyed a lively conversation about the riches of traveling and experiencing different cultures.  They got a kick out of my “Eat Pray Eat” agenda.


Uno altro per la raccolta!

We parted ways and to my delight, the Clet studio was open!  What a coincidence I thought it was that the girl working in the studio was also just at Chicco di Caffe…she did not.  As I was choosing a few items to buy, I asked her if I could take a couple of photographs.  “Of what?” she said looking around  with attitude.  She agreed.  I took a few quick shots before she changed her mind.image

So cool to see an artist's workspace!

So cool to see an artist’s workspace!


I know this last one is a little blurry, but I feared she might lose patience with me at any moment.  I love the simplicity of stencil work.

After leaving Oltrarno, I just roamed noticing more and more street art that most simply are oblivious to.  There is a new guy out there, goes by the name “Blub”, creating a new street art series.  After researching the signature, I learned he is a mystery.  He has yet to reveal himself to the public.  He takes iconic works of art and iconic people and puts a diving mask on them. Way quirky, but I’m a fan.  He has a Instagram @lartesanuotare.  My eyes are peeled to see how many divers I can find on the streets of Firenze.

My first to see.  Botticelli's cherub.

My first to see. Botticelli’s cherub.


Even the ermine has a mask!

Even the ermine has a mask!

As often happens with street art, someone has added a mustache to Dante.

As often happens with street art, someone has added a mustache to Dante.

Other works seen along the way…imageimageimageimageimage

This one is a great example (I censored) of building on the “work” of someone else.  I laughed out loud.  Clever, clever!

Next stop il Mercato Centrale.image

Mom and Dad told me about this place.  It is fairly new.  They just celebrated their 1 year anniversary.  It is an open air food court of sorts.  Located above the traditional Mercato San Lorenzo, it is a foodie’s paradise.  You can graze from stall to stall enjoying pane, carni, pasta e dolci.  Of course there is also a bar area in the middle serving espresso, spritz and wine.  This is a wonderful place to get out of the heat for a bit, reconnect with free wifi and relax.

Roaming about, I passed this street artist several times through out the day documenting his process and sharing my spare change.imageimageimageimage

At last it was time to meet Elisa.  To catch you up on my Italian Amica, I knew for this trip I wanted to add to my “language experience”.  I had searched and searched for a unique, one on one approach.  The only thing I was finding were traditional language schools that offered 1 hour lessons to weeks of classes.  Then I found The Florentine.  This is a bi-weekly newspaper printed in english covering italian news, events and culture.  They also have a classified section.  At first I was very excited to find this.  There were several people offering their services to tutor.  Then I thought it was a little “craig’s listy” and probably not a wise idea.  My third thought was “what the heck” so I contacted 2 females.  Both responded.  The first said she was interested but did I speak italian so that when she is explaining the history and culture I would understand…nope…that’s the point of this.  The second was Elisa.  She shared her interest in learning what I had in mind.  I foolishly responded back asking about her experience with the Italian language.  She said she had lived in Florence all her life and her parents were Florentine as well.  Check language and city culture/history off my “interview” questions.

Elisa and I continued to design our program.  She was so generous with her time and ideas.  We “met” through Skype to nail down our plan.  A plan which now included accompanying her and her familia to their sea home, cooking with her mom and great aunt, going with her sister to a friend’s agriturismo for more cooking and eating, exploring the markets, cooking and sightseeing with her friend Paola and spending a day (again cooking and eating) with another of Elisa’s friends, Costanza, at her country home.  Ya might say I hit the jackpot!

Well tonight that adventure began.  I was to meet Elisa atLa Prosciutteria for an aperitivo. image

Although I was fairly comfortable finding the spot (it is on the same street as yesterday’s panino), I headed over a bit early.  When the people inside on the right left, I snagged that prime spot and waited.

A few minutes later, a woman I knew was not Elisa seemed to be looking for someone.  We glanced at each other a couple of times and then she asked, “Paige?”  Si, si!  It was Paola.  This is Elisa’s amica that I will be spending time with later in the week.  What fun this was going to be.

Shortly after Paola, Elisa arrived.  We chatted and joked like old friends.  They were kind to my attempts at their bella lingua as we shared wonderful food, drinks and stories.


Salute! Cin, Cin!

Afterwards, Elisa recommended a new gelateria by the duomo.  We grabbed her bike from a nearby rack and walked over.


The line attested to Gelateria Edoardo’s reputation.  Who can complain waiting in the shadows of the duomo?  Not I.


Both Elisa and I chose cioccolato e zabaione on a wonderfully crisp, fresh cono.  On our passeggiata through the still crowded,  cobblestone streets, Elisa ran into a couple she knew.  The woman had been her english teacher while in middle school.  It was heartwarming to see their greeting and listen to their lively conversation.  I joined in and immediately knew these were people you could talk with for hours.  I know Elisa, Paola and others will continue to make this trip a once in a lifetime adventure and a  sweet, sweet memory!

As it is almost 3:00am here, I wish you sogni d’oro and a presto.