Il Morso del Brunch

OK… I know this is out of order, because by the blog we are about to arrive in Positano, but in real time…I’m back at ditta Artigianale in Firenze.
And because today is a holiday, and I know you have time to make yourself a nice breakfast…here’s what I want you to do.

* Slice two thick pieces of a good Tuscan pane you have. Lightly toast, drizzle with a bit of your best Extra Virgin Tuscan Olive Oil.
* Grab some ripe, cherry tomatoes, cut in half, crush and smear across your toast.
* Out of the fridge, grab that yummy, creamy pesto you made the other day, the fresh burrata and the arugula. Oh wait…also 2 or 3 slices of prosciutto crudo.
* Add a little arugula on the toast for color and crunch.
* Place the prosciutto lovingly atop.
* Now give yourself a generous portion of the pesto and burrata, you’ll want enough to savor some with each bite.

Buon Appetito!

Croutons con pomodoro struts into, prosciutto crudo, burratina e pesto.

20170704-105632-39392407.jpg

Seeing Sorrento

We are in Sorrento for only one day so we decide to forgo sunbathing, opting for seeing as much of the town as we can.

I came to Sorrento for tre notti in 2013. Although I have some sweet memories from here; the best pizza ever, the red lanterns floating up to the heavens, sitting on the roof top terrazzo of my B&B…at the time, I thought I would not return. And I think I have already mentioned, Danita and I come to the same consensus this time. It is busy and very touristy.

So you are now probably asking yourself, “Then why DID she return?” It was not on my original 2017 agenda, Positano was, and when Danita joined in the fun, I thought it might be a good idea to break up our trek…so, join us for a day in Sorrento.

Just off the palazzo where our room is, there is a newish caffe shop, Puro.

20170702-180830-65310690.jpg

20170702-180830-65310857.jpg

20170702-180830-65310525.jpg

20170702-180830-65310235.jpg
We make our office here (not in the swings) while I write and Danita follows up on her luggage. It is suppose to arrive this evening…

20170702-181331-65611748.jpg
After a couple of cappuccinos, we go back to the room and clean up.

20170702-181527-65727683.jpg
Today, our model is wearing AnotherPaige.

There are several places from my 2013 visit I would like to share…most have to do with food.

20170702-181734-65854022.jpg
Artis Domus stuck in my head like few others places have. And it is not because of the food here…I think I had a birra. It is because of the building and decor.

20170702-181955-65995661.jpg

20170702-181955-65995473.jpg
I have fantasized about buying that 2 story rock house on the corner of Austin and Adams, across from Market Platz, and turning it into my version of this. A coffee shop, small bakery and when I felt like it, a bar with aperitivo. I even had a name for it…A A Meeting…you know A like in Austin and A like in Adams…
The funny thing is as we are approaching it, a couple stops us and asks if we have been in there. I tell him I had a few years ago. They are ga-ga over it just as I was and recommend we go by again. Certo.
We make reservations to return for dinner…most likely.

Right now, pranzo is on our minds. We wind our way to another favorite spot,

20170702-182513-66313923.jpg
You might remember this tunnel (and my hesitancy to enter) from my last visit to Trattoria da Emilia located in Marina Grande.

20170702-182736-66456320.jpg

20170702-182736-66456555.jpg
We order another Caprese and I can’t be here, right on the water, without getting a specialty of the Casa…Acciughe Fritte…

20170702-183444-66884501.jpg

20170702-183444-66884705.jpg
Danita was kinda disgusted by them, but I got her to take a tiny little taste. I thought they were molto buono! We left no room for dolce even though there were several in la cucina that looked delizioso…I was tempted to order a Tiramisu because Daddy really wants me to have one for him…luckily the English guy beside us ordered one…AND he let me take a picture before,

20170702-184804-67684143.jpg
and after,

20170702-184857-67737854.jpg
Marina Grande is not to be missed if you are visiting Sorrento. It is a small, very authentic fishing village, where people carry on family traditions generation after generation…case in point…

image

Leaving Marina Grande we take it in its sights…

imageimageimage

winding our way back to a ceramicist shop we found earlier.

We each choose several one-of-a-kind pieces and have an interesting discussion regarding having them shipped home. We watch as they are carefully bubble wrapped and cannot wait until they reach Fredericksburg..most likely.

image

20170702-190137-68497064.jpg

Oh…by the way…I guess I have not updated you on Danita’s luggage…not here yet…So any shopping she is doing is on a MUST NEED basis…

We go over to the lookout point above the sunning piers. The vistas from here are amazing.

20170702-191913-69553104.jpg

We have encounter from a funny uomo at a men’s shop. He does a little jig to show us how comfortable the moccasins are he designed. We buy each of our sons a pair. They are really great looking. We especially like the “ascot” detail…his idea he reminds us.

20170702-192157-69717715.jpg

As I am leaning over to take the shot of the shoes, first taking them out of the bag, then out of the box, unwrapping them…finding the right spot along the busy street…I hear an English accent say, “Is there ANYTHING you do not photograph?” I whirl around and it’s Tiramisu from Emilia’s. Laughing, I tell him, “No…not much.” This encounter makes me giggle for a while.

20170702-192553-69953080.jpg. See…I looked at this sign, liked it, walked a few steps, then went back to take a photograph of it. I think Danita needs this for her ufficio.

Around 18:00…we think it is time for a cocktail…and we know just where to find the one we want. Andiamo! To D’Anton.

Last night when we were here, we went on and on to Gabriel and his girlfriend on how wonderful this cocktail was. We asked for the recipe and he gave us everything but the “secret ingredient”…that even he does not know…yeah right…
On my way to the bagno, I tried to scope it out. I saw the bartender pouring something from a small bottle wrapped in paper. During the day today, we would walk into enotecas and look for just that, a small bottle wrapped in paper. No luck. For a while, we thought Tiramisu English man had cracked the code when he mentioned he went to a Limoncello factory and there was melon flavored limoncello there that was a pinkish color. But after further research, that didn’t make sense because it has a milky consistency and the “secret ingredient” didn’t…it just kinda added a pinkish hue to the top of the cocktail. As we left yesterday, we told Gabriel we would be back and he told us he would give us a hint then…Yes, I know…that totally discredits the “I don’t-a even-a know-a” line. Anyway…you know us…and we WILL find out.

Enter D’Anton. Tonight, we are waited on by Francesca, Gabriel’s sorella. Order due Limoncello Cocktails…and they arrive with no pinkish hue. I tell Danita, “There’s no secret ingredient”, she responds flatly, “I know”…I push my chair back, glass in hand and head for the bar. The girl recognizes me from last night and says, “I know-a…I forgot-a…I bring-a to table.” Secret solved!

To make this cocktail at tu casa, you will
Gin, and if you want to go all the way, your gin of choice will be-

20170702-200425-72265783.jpg

Limoncello, Juice of a Limon, Basil Leaf, Twist of a Limon and….

20170702-200532-72332477.jpg
Angostura Bitters…a splash of Secret Ingredient.

20170702-200648-72408453.jpg

Grazie Mille Gabriel e Francesca!

image

 

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.

20170702-090225-32545798.jpg

20170702-090225-32545532.jpg

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

20170702-095309-35589687.jpg

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

20170702-095600-35760830.jpg

20170702-095600-35760613.jpg

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.

20170702-100247-36167769.jpg

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…

20170702-100727-36447782.jpg
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.

20170702-101344-36824464.jpg

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…

20170702-101629-36989854.jpg
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.

20170702-101949-37189777.jpg
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.

20170702-102919-37759108.jpg
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…

20170702-104027-38427767.jpg and a whole lotta this…

20170702-104112-38472084.jpg
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…

20170702-104247-38567490.jpg
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.

20170702-104824-38904789.jpg

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

20170702-105016-39016141.jpg

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.

20170702-105611-39371955.jpg

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”.

20170630-203230-73950779.jpg

20170630-203231-73951142.jpg

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…

20170630-204158-74518311.jpg

20170630-204158-74518129.jpg

20170630-204158-74518466.jpg

They also have SPRITZ!!

20170630-204941-74981465.jpg

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!

20170630-205407-75247622.jpg

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!!!

20170630-205949-75589876.jpg
Pizza…mi porta a casa!

20170630-210211-75731700.jpg
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.

image

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!

20170701-192752-70072148.jpg
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…

20170701-193214-70334935.jpg
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…

20170701-193640-70600099.jpg
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.

20170701-194137-70897696.jpg
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…

20170701-194901-71341865.jpg
“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.

20170701-201814-73094648.jpg

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.

20170627-100153-36113682.jpg

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

20170627-100339-36219799.jpg

20170627-100340-36220155.jpg
I hope you enjoyed that seamless segment of our treno travel…because that is where it ends!
Arrive Bologna.

20170627-100526-36326936.jpg
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…

image

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.

image

20170627-103902-38342494.jpg
We take a taxi (no discussion needed) to our B&B.

20170627-103956-38396685.jpg
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?!”

20170627-104431-38671044.jpg

20170627-104430-38670893.jpg
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.

20170627-104956-38996571.jpg

Tre Piccoli Porcellini…

20170627-104956-38996794.jpg

20170627-104956-38996988.jpg
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.

20170627-110108-39668627.jpg

20170627-110109-39669024.jpg

20170627-110108-39668837.jpg
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.

20170627-111424-40464454.jpg

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.

20170627-111921-40761726.jpg

20170627-111921-40761561.jpg

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

20170627-112229-40949110.jpg

20170627-112228-40948601.jpg

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.

20170627-112943-41383625.jpg

20170627-112943-41383349.jpg

20170627-112943-41383966.jpg

20170627-112943-41383794.jpg

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.

20170627-113332-41612409.jpg

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.

20170627-113501-41701762.jpg

20170627-113502-41702098.jpg
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.

20170627-113802-41882686.jpg

20170627-113802-41882857.jpg

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?”

20170627-113941-41981754.jpg

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…

20170627-114333-42213390.jpg

Cena con Gli Amici

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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?

image

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

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

image

Simple meal, simple conversation, simply lovely evening.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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-

image

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.

image

“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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.)

image

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

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!