Ultimo Giorno

Monday…my last day in Italia.  Being the day before I leave, there are certain things I must do; pack, check in for my flight, secure a taxi for the morning, etc.

The other day I bought a light-weight collapsable bag at Tiger.  I have been stuffing dirty clothes and a few odds and ends in it.  I plan on using it as my carry on, alleviating some of the weight in the Ferrari.  Each time I considered purchasing something, I really gave serious thought to the limits of my luggage, weight and capacity, and truly…for being over here for trenta giorni…I have not acquired much.

Here is a new packing strategy I will consider next trip- If I am flying into Firenze or someplace similar, I will pack ultra light, only bring a few outfits, small hairdryer, curling iron, travel iron, and essential toiletries, then buy things while I am here.  Visiting Zara was almost a daily routine.  I could cool off a bit inside (a bit…and don’t think H&M offers that option…it is hotter in there than the streets and their sewage system must have major issues, because the place reeks) and just walk around considering purchases.

As I may have already mentioned, Zara dresses Europe!  Almost everyone walks around with a  Zara bag, often used as a catch-all, but it shows they have been there recently.  I have shopped Zara a few times before my trip, but now I am a major fan.  If nothing else it is just fun to walk through.  I had read of the lower priced clothing chains, Zara is the most fashion forward, getting their cues from the current season’s runway shows and getting them to “us” with an affordable variation.  Thank you Zara. One of this trip’s MVP (most valuable pieces) was an uber light-weight, olive drab maxi with an elastic waist.  I wore it with a white T, a tied up denim shirt and the crispest look of all -with a tied up white shirt…very chic, even here.  I loved my Boden pieces (this trip and the last) but they are cotton and usually lined, well-made…but heavy when considering the Ferrari.

Anyway, back to the Tiger bag.  Inside, I am also putting the collapsable bag I brought and used as my carry-on last trip…just in case the Tiger bag exceeds the size requirements.  Throw a wrinkle at me…I’m ready!

Once I was pretty much packed, I still had a couple of hours before it was time to check in for my flight.  So I decided to load up the iPad and keyboard and go over to Il Mercato for the last time.   imageI watch, sadly, as my last 2 euro cappuccino is lovingly made for me.  I walk over to another vendor and buy tre almond croissants.  I know these aren’t exactly “italian” but I love them!  I became addicted during my first trip to Las Vegas with Mike and Joann.  And I hate to say this, pastries are not, for the most part, the Italians forte.  So as I said, I buy tre…one for now, one for the morning and one for my plane ride.  (And by the way…since it is obvious I am writing this post “post fact”…the poor day-after croissants did not hold a candle to their former selves.)imageI sit down and power up my iPad and keyboard…but the iPad is dead…I have definitely become lazy with my charging regimen.  So, I put it all away again and enjoy my breakfast.  Do you just love the little zucchero packet?  I discovered that the ones here have popular locations on them.  I grabbed a few…collector…NOT hoarder!

When I return to Bencidormi, I plug in and write for a bit.  It is also fun to hear the comings and goings here.  Yesterday Paola introduced me to two girls, I’d say late twenties, that were staying just for one night.  They were in town to attend a concert.  Their english was limited, but it was fun to hear and see them share their love for this singer with me- Jovanotti, real name Lorenzo Cherubini.  They were surprised I was not familiar with him…I am now.  When I said I was from Austin (that is where I usually start and then if someone is familiar with the area, I move on to Fredericksburg), they said, “Ooohhh!  ACL!”  Several people during this trip spoke of ACL.  Silly of me, I am sure, but I didn’t realize it reaches the audience it does.imageWhen it is time to check in for my flight, I am poised and ready, and for the second time this morning, things do not go my way.  I try several times: on my phone, on the iPad, on Roberto’s computer…nope, it’s not going to happen.  “See agent at ticket counter” is basically the message I repeatedly receive.  So I do what all independent, cinquantatre year old women do…call their mommas.  First I actually tried to text everyone for help, but as it is still very early in the US, that too takes a bit.  Avery responds (good girl) and texts back “Are you sure you want me to call them…it’s really early here.”  But I say, please do.  I thought maybe a US computer could better communicate with United…I was not worried, but I wanted to try all I could before just saying “whatever” and waiting until tomorrow morning to find out good or bad news.

So I hung around Bencidormi a bit longer until mom said she was getting the same message.  I did not want to spend my last day in the room, so I believed the great spirit of my travel would continue and all would be fine tomorrow morning.  (Again, hindsight 20/20 note- the message was due to the fact I had to show my passport before checking in.  Lesson learned.)

Before leaving, I downsized a bit more by ditching a couple books I did not care for at the Bencidormi “library” and headed out.imageAt this point it is a little past lunch.  I first think I am going to head to Le Volpi e L’Uva for a last crostini but end up just walking right past.  Another reason I would be hard to travel with…nothing is set in stone.  The only real item on my agenda today is to walk to San Miniato al Monte.  This is a church that stands atop one of the highest points in the city.  I read that there are Gregorian chants at 17.30 in the summer.  I think this would be a beautiful way to say arrivederci.

As I am upwardly roaming, I see this scooter and am reminded a scooter excursion is still on my “to do” list but will have to wait until my next visit.  I wonder if I can reserve a turquoise one?imageAs I mentioned, I passed Le Volpi e L’uva thinking I will grab a bite to eat somewhere else.  Then I approach the Clet studio again.  I had wondered if he manipulated any bicicletta signs.  When I go to the door, there is a sticky note that says, “I’ll be right back”.  I peer in the window and do indeed see a sticker with a bicicletta on it.  So I cross the street and sit myself down.imageFrom my vantage point I can see the door and will be up and in when the sticky note comes down.imageThat wait ends up being at least an hour.  Weaker have waited and moved on…but not me…imageThe climb continues.imageThrough the wall,imageup the MANY stairs,imagepast a guy that will do whatever for money (I threw a euro his way for allowing me to take his photo).  Notice how sweaty he is…and he’s just sitting there strumming(ish).imageAnd I arrive at Piazzale Michelangelo.  If you were with me in 2013, you will remember I visited here two times at sunset.  The first I captured several hundred photos of the sun setting on the Arno, and the second I took 2 shots with my phone…one being my favorite photo of the trip.

Today’s panoramic view is smeared a bit by the hazy heat.  But for many around me, this is their first time here and I listen to, “Can you believe this!?” in many languages.  It is indeed an amazing vista.  But up here there is very little refuge from the sun’s rays. So I reconsider my next step.imageI first go to a small church that I THINK is San Miniato.  It is dark and quiet and for the first minute or so, a relief from the sweltering heat. But after that minute passes, I decide to sit and try to will myself cooler.  I take out my fan, look at the clock and see I still have at least 3 hours before chant time.  A inner debate ensues.  Do I stay, do I go, do I find a cooler place to wait?  Although I do not consider myself a competitive person, when I get something in my mind, I do have issues.  I tell the part of me that wants to bail that I waited for Clet to open, I can wait to attend chants.  But in order to please all sides of me, I exit the church and look for some shade and a possible breeze.  While I roam, I notice yet another set of steep stairs.  I consider it kinda like a kid considers something they don’t want to do.  I look at it and think, eeeh, whatever’s up there can’t be all that great, although I can see the top of a golden gable, and I keep walking.  I am now on the road Elisa and I took on the way to her parent’s house.  There are VERY few people around, but I’m killing time.

The second time I pass the great steps, I cave.  I figure what have I got to lose…a few more pounds of sweat is all.  So I climb. And as always, I am rewarded for it.  This is San Miniato al Monte.imageAnd this is her view.imageI enter the basilica dedicated to the first evangelizer and Christian martyr in Florence.  It is said Minias is thought to have been a Greek merchant or Armenian prince (kinda a range there) who left home to make a pilgrimage to Rome.  Around 250, he arrived in Florence and took up life as a hermit.  The legend goes that Minias was persecuted and beheaded for being a Christian.  After his decapitation, he picked up his head, put it back on his shoulders and went to die in the cave on Monte alle Croci where he had lived.  The cave is now the location of the oratory and chiesa that bear his name.

The present Basilica was built in 1018.  The altar preserves the bones of St. Miniato.  imageTo learn a bit about this structure, I put in 2 euro, grabbed a chair and listened.imageThe mosaic of Christ between the Virgin and Saint Minias was created in 1260.imageThere are also beautiful frescoes attributed to Taddeo Gaddi. As well as a magnificent funerary monument, memorial to Cardinal James of Lusitania who died in Florence. His is the only tomb in the church (detail of chapel bottom left).imageAt this point I am working really hard to hang around until chant time, but my croissant is wearing off.  On my way out, I notice a sign that basically says, “Are ya hungry?  Come by our Farmacia for fresh baked goodies.”  This excites me, but I remember when Costanza and I were at Vallombrosa Abbey we just missed the time and the farmacia was chiuso.  But I head across the gravel path and am thrilled to see movement inside.

imageI open the door and enter the piccolo space.  There are a few souvenir items, a rack of small cellophane bags containing baked goods and a small freezer of Monk made gelato (yes everything is small…)  While I am considering my “lunch” options, the monk (seen crossing in front of the basilica in previous photo) at the register is engaged in a conversation with a local man. I grab a bag of Lingue di Gatto and mandorla biscotti and wait at his elbow.  When they decide to rest a moment, he looks up at me and then notices my necklace.  His first word is, “Nice” motioning to my Benedictine cross on my Virgin Saints and Angels charm.  He then tells me how much I owe him.  I hand him a 20 euro bill.  Then I notice there are cans of soda on the counter and ask if he has cold ones, “certo” he replies.  In my defense, ya never know.  I have been handed a hot can of coke, taking a few sips of the frothy, warm bubbles feeling too bad to refuse.  He retreats to a back room (small no doubt) and hands me the coldest coke zero of the trip.  I don’t know whether to strap it to my neck or drink it.  Now, more focused on me because the local has left, he again tells me how much I owe him.  I pause for a moment.  My mind racing to remember for certain or not whether I had just handed him 20 euro…Do you question a monk?  Do I pay again feeling OK that it all goes to the church?  He’s looking at me and I meekly say, “I gave you a 20.”  He looks around for a moment and then says, “Oh, yes.”  I start laughing and tell him I was a bit nervous to question him.

I retreat outside finding a shady spot along a wall overlooking the cemetery and devour my Lingue di Gattos (cat tounges).imageThese were so yummy.  As you can see by the ingredients they are pure and simple.  I think they just make the batter, smear a bit on a pan, bake and bag.

image

I return to the famacia to buy (and devour) another bag of Lingue di Gatto.  The monk comments further on my necklace.  The monks of San Miniato are part of a Benedictine order.  He is pleased with my “strong!” symbol of Christ.  I take this opportunity to ask him when the Gregorian Chants will begin.  His answer confused me a bit, but what I got from it was that he would be singing mass at 5:30 and then afterwards, the “young monks” would come to vespers.  He suggests I stay for that.  What does one say to a personal invitation but “Si”.

Second important question, “Dov’è il bagno?”  He points me in the direction, I weave about the grounds a bit and find it.  This is one, as many are, where you have to pay to go.  I even received a receipt!  When I entered and read the receipt I laughed out loud.  “S.I.T.”  Yes, I think I will.imageI reentered the basilica and sat down in the main area.  A bit later, I see a young man, delivering a much, much older monk down to the crypt.  I start to think this is where mass will be.  When I attended mass at San Francesco d’ Assisi, the evening mass was in the lower area as well.  I descend the stairs and see a few locals (including the man from the farmacia) already seated.  I do this all well before the older monk gets to his assigned seat behind the altar.  It was both endearing and comical to watch.  The younger man exited once he had the sambuco situated.

I could go on and on about mass; how my monk shuffled in with the chalice, seemingly late going by the glances from the already present monks, the beauty and control of his voice as he sang mass, watching the sambuco ebb and flow, receiving communion from my monk with him shifting to his broken English just for me…but suffice it to say, I am thankful I stayed.

After a few people left (there were only about 10 of us in mass) and a few others entered, a woman came up to me and quietly asked “Che ora di vespro cominciare?”  Startled, I struggled to quietly communicate with her.  I think I made it clear they were supposed to begin (as far as I could make out) after mass, around 6:30.  “Sei e mezzo” I responded with what I am sure was a stricken look that read, “What makes you think I know italian?!”  She came back with, “Sei e mezzo?” and I “Si, sei e mezzo”.  This seemed to go on for couple of rounds.  She finally walked up to the front, took a vesper hymnal from a box and settled herself.  I went up and took one too.

imageIn a few minutes, a group of young monks (including the sambuco’s assistant now in robes) with my monk trailing, ceremoniously entered the crypt.  Again, a beautiful tradition to witness and be a part of.

I exited the church around 7:15 with the sun considering setting but in no hurry to do so.

I took one last look at this bella città and headed back down into it.imageThis is my favorite time of the day, at home and here.  During the heat of the day and amongst the crowds, I can be 100% ready to return home but lay the relaxed evening in front of me, drag the furniture to the streets, fill the glasses with apèritif and I start to miss it already.

I so want to pull some of our furniture to Austin Street and enjoy this tradition.  How do you think the good City of Fredericksburg would respond?  Is anyone willing to split the ticket?imageAs I wind through the streets, I mentally say my goodbyes to all I love about Firenze.

Arrivederci Street Artists.image

Arrivederci Blub.imageSadly, my last meal was a disappointment.  I returned to my old street, Borgo Santi Apostoli, and gave a recommendation a try.  Mangiafoco will not be a place to return.  I would have been pleased with this dish if I had doctored up some frozen, grocery pasta.  It wasn’t awful, but it falls to the bottom of my list of meals no doubt.  I’m sure the staff’s attitude clouds my review, as well it should.  I have yet to be made to feel like I am a hindrance as a tavolo per uno… until now.imageArrivederci Spritz!

imageArrivederci Street Musicians.imageAnd a big, sweet, heartfelt arrivederci to the people of Italia…especially those of you who hang out your windows for entertainment.imageYes, I agree!  This has been a thumbs-up adventure!

Grazie Mille Italia!!

Weekend In Firenze

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

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

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

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

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

I love theeesssaaa place-a!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our story begins here…image

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

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

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

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

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

Buonanotte!

La Scuola di Cucina

 

Today I am very excited to begin my day at il Mercato Centrale.  One of the two cooking classes I signed up for the other day “made” and it starts at 11:30.  The reply email they sent said I needed to come early so I could get the paperwork completed before class began.  I showed up bright and early, completed my paperwork then got a bite to eat for breakfast and worked on writing you.  Wifi is free at il Mercato Centrale so I thought I would make the most of it.  The wifi at Bencidormi is much like the wifi at my first appartamento in Firenze, although you “have” wifi, it isn’t strong enough to allow  you to get your emails.imageI work for about an hour and then it is time for school to begin!imageThe name of the cucina area of il Mercato Centrale is you see above “La Scuola di Cucina of Lorenzo de’ Medici” and it is worthy of the Medici name…state of the art everything.  I’m excited just to be in here.  There are only nove of us and as luck would have it…I get my own cucina…everyone else had to double up.imageClass begins by an interpreter explaining that our english speaking chef is ill and an italian speaking chef will be filling in and she will be interpreting.  Again…LUCKY us!!  Along with the chef and the interpreter, there is a sous chef to help us.

As is normal for me, while they are introducing some things, I take peeks inside the cabinets and drawers, in awe of my piccolo cucina.imageimageOne of my favorite features (which some of you may have but I do not) are the pop up outlets.  When the sous chef showed it to me and I giggled and ooohed…I am sure she thought…”here we go”.imageNow for today’s lesson.  We will be making-imageOur ingredients are-imageAs any good teacher does, Chef Alessandro first demonstrates how to create the dough and the individual fusilli. He says that originally fusilli was made using knitting needles but  we can use anything to twirl the dough around…even  the stick of an umbrella he laughs…no-a excuses-a.  We will be using little, wooden skewers.    He takes the time to demonstrate how to make several other types or shapes of pasta using the same dough; orecchiette or “little ears”, pappardelle, and scialatelli to name a few. You can tell this man enjoys his job.  Here he is telling us to “Make-a a leeettle rope-a”.image Each cucina begins making their own dough.  Chef Alessandro walks around giving feedback and assisting as needed.  This place will not allow you to make an inferrior product.image

As we finish kneading our dough to a smooth, elasticy, consistency the interpreter tells us that Chef Alessandro has said, “Since the dough has done so much sport, it must rest.”  We wrap it in cellophane and begin our pesto.  I have made pasta dough before and I have made pesto before, but I have never made a pesto with fresh tomatoes.

We begin by taking the juice and seeds out of our tomatoes.  If I were at home, I would save this to add to bread crumbs as I learned in Costanza’s cucina.  But here we just use the meat of the tomato, blending it a bit with our hand blenders.imageNext we add the remaining ingredients; ricotta (which I have also never used in a pesto), basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and salt.  With the garlic, Chef said that it is a matter of taste.  He only like to add a little to his.  He also advised us to always take out the small heart or root in the garlic.  He says it is better for the digestive system if you do.imageimageAnd then at the end, add olive oil.  Tuscan Olive Oil has a very forte or strong flavor so it is suggested it not be used for delicate flavors.imageAnd of course, it is always important to taste to see if you need to add anything else.  I found it interesting that although each cucina had the very same ingredients, each pesto was a different color and texture.imageTime to set aside the pesto and return to our rested pasta dough.

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You can see how tedious this work is.  The Chef adds that it is fun to get a group together, open a bottle of wine sitting around talking and rolling and sipping.  This, he says, makes the dinner, the evening and the friendships that much better.

At one point, Chef Alessandro came by my cucina tossing my fusilli about a bit saying, “Aaahhh…you-a are-a very aaanggryyy.” “Cosa?”, I replied.  He said, “You-a are-a very aaaannnngggryyyy.”  And then I got it.  “Hungry?” I said patting my belly.  “Si, si, aaannngggrrryy.”  I said, “Hungry” patting my belly and stressing the H and “Angry” making an angry face and growling.  He started laughing.  As he walked off I heard him repeat, “Aannngrrryyy…gggrrrrrr!!!!”.

Once the fusilli was created, we turned our water to boil, salting it before adding the pasta.  We were to boil our pasta for 3 minutes.  imageRemove pasta from the water with a strainer, transferring to a mixing bowl.  Chef A said this pesto can be served room temperature or heated.  He warned though that heating does change the flavors.  He said what he likes to do is to add the pesto to the pasta, then while mixing for 2 minutes (the interpreter laughed at his precision) add a bit of the hot pasta water to create a creamy texture.  This is what I chose to do.imagePlate, garnish and then top with a drizzle of olive oil.imageAnd there you have it, Fusilli con Pesto alla Siciliana.imageimageBuon Appetito!imageThere I am up there on the Big Screen.imageAfterwards, Chef Alessandro graciously autographed our aprons and posed for photos.imageimageI have participated in several different cooking classes during my last two visits to Italy.  This is one I highly recommend.  I think the 50 euro fee is a bargain.  You get to work in a fabulous cucina, top notch instruction from chefs that are qualified and love what they do, enjoy a wonderful meal that you prepare, wine and you get to keep the apron plus a little folder and pen they provide.

Bravo Cucina de Medici!!

 

Popping Over to Pisa

At breakfast this morning there was a new treat.  It looked like a lemon square (could I be so lucky?) but when I asked Verusca, she said, “riso”, with  finger to cheek adding “buono”.  Ah, rice…I’ll try.  It was good and subtly sweet.  I asked Verusca to write the name of it in my book.  She thought for a moment and then said, “Ah…Torta di Riso”.  Cake of Rice…ya don’t say.  Finger to the eye here in a sarcastic way.

Today, I am heading over to Pisa.  I was trying to decide whether to take a day from Lucca to do this or use one of my many days in Florence to make the journey?  Lucca is a wonderful town, no doubt, but as far as things to do and see…so I chose to go today.

First let me say that Pisa seems to have a bad reputation.  Florentines really don’t care for Pisa.  When I told Massimo that I would be visiting Lucca,  he was happy, gave it his stamp of approval.  But when I mentioned a day in Pisa, his face contorted and his voice changed.  “Aaooo…Peeezzzaaa.”  Some hand gestures underscored his opinion.

Ma, I’m less that 30 minutes away, I need to see for myself.

I ask Verusca to call me a taxi.  I am going to need one tomorrow to go to the stazione and I want to get a feel for the price, plus I don’t want to start my journey hot and sweaty.  She calls, I wait.imageWell…I learned that taxis are expensive in Lucca.  When he arrived, there was already a 5.30 charge on the meter.  I questioned this a bit and then the 10 euro bill when we made it to the stazione.  The driver pulled out his laminated price sheet and tried to explain all the different charges to me.  I know I will be walking home from the stazione this evening.

While at the stazione, I decide to buy a 2nd ticket to Santa Marie Novella Firenze for tomorrow.  The original one I purchased from home home isn’t to depart until late in the afternoon, not arriving in Firenze until after 22:00.  It is worth the 5.40 euro to be settled in my last place well before then.

I also learned, at least I think this is correct, that the stazione at Lucca does not have validation machines on the individual tracks.  Because the ticket I purchased can be used on this route for 30 days, you must validate before you board.  I was rushing to get to the treno that had just arrived on the track, thought I would validate there and could not find one.  So…turn around, run down two flights, through the tunnel, up two flights, around the corner to the validation machine.  THEN back the same route, trying to get there before that treno leaves.  I will say my legs started to give out a bit, and I kept having to tug at my “undergarments” (washing with no dryer, they are growing a bit…you probably don’t want to hear that, but it’s Life on the Road). All this made me chuckle between heavy breaths.  In situations like this I just play like I am a contestant in The Amazing Race” and I will make my son proud if I make it to the next check point.

During the short ride to Pisa I catch my breath as we pass fields and fields of sunflowers.  Che bella!imageI am seated near 2 english couples.  I know they are also headed to the Leaning Tower because it is ALL one of the women can talk about.  She sounds just like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady…before her transformation.  I wish I could mimic it through text, but I just can’t.  Entertaining though.

I had read the Tower et al was closest to Pisa’s smaller stazione, so the 5 of us exit there.  I have no mappa and no clue where to head, but with comfort in numbers…I silently follow the voice.image

When we turn a corner and the Tower comes into view, I can’t help but announce to the woman, “There it is.  You wanted to see it and there it is.”  Just like with seeing any iconic building for the first time…it is pretty cool.image

As I approach The Field of Miracles, I join the masses and head for a ticket booth.  I knew the tickets to climb the tower were timed and I wanted to get one as early as possible.  I buy a ticket to see all 4 of the main buildings here; the Duomo, the Baptistry, Camposanto and The Leaning Tower…certo.

With an hour before my Tower Time, I head to the baptistry then the duomo. The medieval cathedral is named Santa Maria Assunta.  Its construction began in 1064.  The mosaics inside show a strong Byzantine influence.  These tend to be my favorite depictions of Christ.  I do not think I  have seen any mosaics more beautiful than these.imageimage

My third stop, and the real reason I came, was Camposanto.  I first learned about Camposanto when Mom and Dad shared the movie The Rape of Europa with me.  Since then, I show it every year to my Art II students.  It is a wonderful documentary detailing the fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War.  If you have not seen it, I highly suggest it.   imageCamposanto, or Holy Field, was constructed in 1278 around sacred dirt brought back from Golgotha during the Crusades.  In 1278, one of the architects of the Leaning Tower designed a marble cloister to enclose the holy ground.  Frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi, Spinello Aretino, Benozzo Gozzoli, Andrea Bonaiuti, Antonio Veneziano and Piero di Pucci decorated its walls.  Tragically, the frescoes were almost completely destroyed by an American bombing raid during WWII.  The wooden roof caught fire, its lead panels melted and the hot metal ran down the frescoes. Camposanto was the burial place of the Pisan upper class for centuries.

Below is a photo of Camposanto showing the destruction of the air raid.imageHere I stand in the same place the above photo was taken.imageimageThe fresco below is shown in the documentary and when I first saw it, I was taken with it. In my opinion, it is so contemporary for the period created.  I love this piece.  It was very moving to me to turn a corner and see the original.  I have researched a bit and cannot locate a name or artist.  I was also disappointed to not find a postcard of the piece.  Oh well, I guess a photo taken by me is better than a postcard anyway.  You can see that I am off center a bit.  There is a pillar obstructing the perfect angle.imageOK…now onto what most would consider the Main Event.  Walking around The Field of Miracles is quite commincal.  Almost EVERYONE is striking a pose attempting to get a shot of them keeping the tower from falling.  The dialogue between taker and poser is also very funny to listen to. “A little right, no… move a bit, wait…no…come forward, no…ok…no…” And when the poser goes to look at the “original” photo of them and the tower, NOT A ONE is happy with their photographer.  NOT A ONE.  “You held the camera crooked.  Now the tower looks straight.”  “You are a horrible photographer.”  “I’m not even touching the tower!”  My favorites were the ones that would strain their faces for the photos.  Funny, Funny, Funny.imageAbout 20 mintues before my scheduled time, I go take my borsa to the locker room.  They will not let you carry any bags up the tower.  I did take my wallet out and brought my cameras, certo.

I will not waste your time on my dissertation on the lack of line respect and etiquette in Italia…and it is usually NOT by Italians by the way.

Once inside the center of the tower, the effect is very strange.  It is like being in one of those Fun Houses at a carnival.  Add to the mix that the stone is slippery and I’m wearing leather bottomed sandals…After a brief history of the Tower, we are allowed to begin our climb. image

You can see we are not the first to ascend.image

Andiamo…only 294 more to go.

The view from the top, although obstructed by wire barricades, is lovely.  As many writers note, the green of the grass against the white of the marble is striking.imageOnce down, my day in Pisa is pretty much complete.imageAlthough I arrived in the lesser Pisa stazione, I decided to make the longer walk and depart from Pisa Centrale.  My sole reason is to be able to see and share Tuttomondo (The Whole World) painted by Keith Haring.  Much of what I read states this was Haring’s last mural before his death in 1990.  In Art III this year, my students chose a Haring piece to replicate for a photo op at the studio602 Art Show.  So I walked this extra mile or so for them!image

imageWhen I arrive back in Lucca, I am starving, sticky and hot.  On the way to rectify some of those things, I pass this window again.  I had passed it my first day and then that night, those fish were in my dreams.  I couldn’t stop thinking about them.  So I bought due.  Their purpose is to remove the yolk from an egg…I’m sure I’ll use it for that but bottom line, I thought they were cute.imageIn the evening before dinner, I make good on my promise to Antonio and go for one last spin around the ramparts.  Tonight the wall is full of runners, kids playing, people rehearsing for a play, and friends relaxing after their day.  A heated discussion is going on here, obviously about some aspect of their game.  I feel like the wall is Lucca’s crown.  It is a place that sets them apart and holds them together.image

For dinner tonight, I turn to Rick Steves.  He highly recommends Trattoria da Leo.  I seek it out and as he suggests, I arrive early.  Steve says it is a “mom & pop” kind of a place serving traditional Tuscan/Lucchese dishes.  I am the first seated, then blink and all the tables are full, disappointed people being turned away.  Grazie Steve!imageAt my waiter’s recommendation, I chose the Tortelli al Ragu di Carne.  Blaine and Dalton would have love it.  With that, I had a basket of bread (they lost money on me there), a bicchiere di vino rosso locale and acqua frizzante.  I ate it very slowly so I could enjoy the comings and goings of others.imageHere is another dining tip I would like to share with you…when asked what you would like for dolce, linger a bit over due choices.  Convey with sounds and body language that you cannot decide between two,  in this case Tiramisu and torta al cioccolato.  If you’re lucky, your waiter might begin a sentence with, “Eeeefffa you-a would-a like-a,” …I’m thinking, “come on”…  He continues, “I could-a take-a you-a half-a and half-a so you-a could-a try-a.”  Oh, what a great idea!  That would be molto bene, grazie!  In the end I joined Team Torta al Cioccolato with my waiter.

imageHappy and full, I stroll through the streets comfortable with the way back to my room.  When I approached the Felice pizza shop I went to my first evening, I find the street blocked with wood, men and the lady that is usually behind the counter.  I begin to turn around and then I decide I want a photo of this.  I walk up and say, “per le pizze?”  She nods “si” as she sweeps up behind them.  I love these little glimpses of their real lives.imageAll is quiet at the piazza tonight.imageI open my window and am lulled by the clinking of glasses and plates and the low hum of conversation.  Buonanotte.image

Mi Piace Lucca

imageThe morning began as most, just a new place and a new office.  Breakfast here is offered until 10:00, so I walked out my door and into the cute little eating are at 9:00.  Verusca made me uno of my due cappuccinos and I enjoyed my usuals.  imageCouples sat sharing tables, planning their day.  About midway through my breakfast, a last couple entered but with no where to sit.  Verusca asked if a single lady might join me, freeing the table she just sat down at.  Certo.

After a few minutes of silence, I asked, “How long are you in Lucca?”  She said she did not understand.  I asked, “Quanti giorni a Lucca?”  Still she made it clear she did not understand.  A woman at the next table leaned over and loudly translated my Italian to English for the woman.  I just thought that was so funny.  I can make my self not understood in my mother tongue all by myself, Grazie!  No I am not being mean…it’s just that several started laughing a bit, knowing I had already tried English.  As I said…it was funny.  The remainder of my breakfast was in silence.imageI roamed about until the sweet sound of a choir lead me to this church.  Ilaria and I had visited the outside of it last evening and she had said the frescoes inside were quite beautiful.  I found myself in Chiesa di Sant’ Anastasio.  The old church is used by the Romanian Christian-Orthodox community of Lucca.  The inside was packed with families standing during the homily.  There were no chairs except beautiful, gilded thrones of sorts along the side.  In the back, there was a counter to buy candles.  People were coming up to do this during mass.  They would purchase, go outside, light the candle and add it to  a collection burning out there.  I assume it was a special day.  I think perhaps honoring those who have passed.image

Last night, when I asked Ilaria what some of the symbols of Lucca were, this tree topped tower made the list.  The tower was built in the 1300s by the Guinigi family.  The trees planted at the top represented rebirth and renwal.  imageMaking the easy climb (230 steps) grants you a beautiful, 360 view of Lucca.imageimageSpeaking of 360 views, there is another on my list.  I head to one of the many bicicletta shops around the city.  I choose Poli.  The Poli family has had this shop since 1934.  When you walk in, they simply ask for your driver’s license or a form of ID for them to hold onto, choose a bike for you, and you’re off.  image I am happy with the bici chosen for me….Ecco….the Italian flag!image

I ride up the ramp from the shop to the wall, and am off, enjoying the views, the freedom, the breeze as so many before me have.

Very little remains of Lucca’s first fortification circle of walls built by the Romans.  In the 11th and 12th centuries the construction of the first medieval walls began.  The last expansion was in the 16th and 17 centuries.  The walls are formed of eleven ramparts joined by curtains for a total length of over four kilometers.

When I return my bici and pay my 2 eruo….yes due.  I walk from the shop area (If you are from Fredericksburg and have ever been into Rode’s welding shop, it is what springs to mind here) to the “showroom” (wink, wink).  I am walking dodging half opened boxes, slipping on plastic wrap and admiring the enlarged black and white photos hung haphazardly around.image

Antonio, the owner, sees he has a live one and comes to share narration for the stills.  The previous is a photo of his father and mother.  He looks just like his papa.

Below is one of his papa with members of Team POLI.imageWhile I am in Poli, there is also a young Russian couple.  They are enjoying listening to the stories shared in broken english and spurts of italian as well.  At one point, Antonio grabs my camera from me and thrusts it at the Russian girl, telling her to take a photo of him and la signora.  As you can see, he is happy with himself and I am tickled by his tactics.  It is HIS shop after all.

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After my triathlon (walking, climbing and biking), I have worked up quite an appetite.  I want to eat light so I can eat again later…is that bad?  (If you say si…we can never travel together.)  I choose panzanella and a bicchiere di vino bianco.  Perfetto summer lunch.imageAt this point in the trip I am embracing the vino/caffe cycle.  One relaxes for the moment, the other gets ya going again.imageI head back to the room for a bit to regroup.  If you visit Lucca, be sure not to buzz the wrong buzzer.imageIt is obviousthe Renato family deals with this issue all the time.imageExiting in the late afternoon, I notice there will be some sort of something in the anfiteatro tonight.imageMy main goal on tonight’s short list is to revisit Santa Cristina…the cool enoteca Ilaria walked me through last night.  However, when I first walk by, there is no one there, so I go do a bit of research at the Arts and Crafts festival.  There I find several pieces I would like to take home with me.  My favorite is by an artist who takes reclaimed wood, paints it then crudely carves in simple objects.  I really wanted a silver one of a moka machine, but knew it was much too heavy to lug home.  I made some notes and will try to replicate.

In my pocket, I always try to keep a few spare euro to applaud the very talented street musicians and artists.

wpvideo Nh5aIlDu]imageAfter 19:00, I return to Santa Cristina.  Still the only one there, I decide to start a trend and order a spritz.imageSTILL the only one there, I move on to my meal of the night, prosciutto e melone.  I am molto felice at this point.  Look at this presentation!  They seem to do many thing right here at Santa Cristina.  imageCristina, the owner (she adds, “no Santa”) is from Scotland and has been in Italia tre anni now.  She has has this place for due.  I look forward to creating my own Aperitivo Hour at la CONN terra.  All of you reading this now are invited!  The concept is so rich and the preparation so little.

I enjoy sitting, sipping and eating, watching the world go by.imageLeaving Santa Cristina, I head in for the night.  It is early, but I am tired and need to write to you.  At about 22:00, my room starts thumping.  I can hear, let’s call it “music” muffled with a steady beat.  For the first hour and a half, I try to ignore.  It is not bothering me, just making me curious.  Finally at about 23:30 I head down (in my pjs and scrubbed face) and around the corner and witness for most, the night is still young.

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Passing by the gelateria on the corner, I succumb, grab a dolce and call it a notte.image

Arrivederci Monterosso, Buongiorno Lucca

During my stay in Monterosso, I never unpacked, so repacking was pretty easy.  Last evening, I decided to purchase an earlier treno to La Spezia.  My connection there was only 10 minutes and that makes me a bit nervous.  So instead of spending the morning on the terrazzo, I will make a quick exit and spend my time at the La Spezia stazione.  Not apples and apples I assure  you.

Checking out at Hotel Margherita, the desk girl was her rude self.  I usually try to consider that a person might be having a bad day, but the due desk girls this year are the same due desk girls as two years ago…so, I think it’s them.  She would rather twirl her hair and look at her computer monitor than clarify the treno schedule.

Although I like the location of Hotel Margherita and I LOVE the terrazzo, between the maddening internet connections (and reconnections and reconnections and reconnections and….you get the idea.  If I had a euro for every time I had to reconnect, I could buy this place and have all hire my congenial friends…who’s in?) and having to put out the desk girls,  I might research a different place for a return trip.  In the hotel’s defense, the manager/owner is very attentive and kind.  My assumption is that the majority of the staff here are family.

But another point in the + column is it is down the ramp and due steps to the sinistra to the focacceria.  I grab a couple plain pieces for the treno.imageimageJoining the roller bag group heading out, I dodge the roller bag group heading in.  When stopping to take this parting shot of la spiaggia, I hear a girl declare, “THIS is what heaven looks like.”imageFor those of you who followed in 2013, I know this very similar to my “National Geographic” shot then.  Sorry…it’s hard to take a bad photo here.  The water is especially clear today…certo.imageI board the treno to La Spezia, standing in the baggage area for the 15 minute journey.  I intend to say Arrivederci to the sea at the last Cinque Terre stop, Riomaggiore, but my carriage was stops in the tunnel, so this shot through the grimy glass will have to do.image

My “reserved” spot.image

Two couples board the train in Vernazza.  They stand in the baggage section as well.  They are German.  When the ticket guy comes around to check our validations, theirs are not validated.  Remember a tip I gave you from the last trip…ALWAYS validate your ticket.  Even if no one has checked your tickets in your last tre treno rides…ALWAYS validate.

This shot shows his weariness from listening to every excuse under the sun, in every language under the sun.  He is SO not interested.  Each of the quattro try their hand at an explanation.  He keeps the same look and the same posture.  He points to the sign that says there is a 50 euro fine, but tells them he is charging them 5 euro each.  They finally pay.  When he leaves, although I don’t understand German, I am sure they are talking about him.  And I’m thinking “ya,ya, ya” and chicken sounds can’t be a compliment.image I arrive in La Spezia and wait.imageOh, have I shown you my new charm from Storie in Italy?  I got mom one too.    It is the window at Chiese di San Giovanni Battista.  Bella no?  It adds a bit more jingle to my jangle.image

I arrive in my connecting stazione of Viareggio.  Boarding here to Lucca seems the most hectic yet.  People hesitate to board.  People hop off once they have hopped on.  Everyone is asking someone.  I realize all it takes is for one person to say, “Si Lucca” and we all end up somewhere else.

A woman in a Trenitalia jacket walks by.  She is on the phone and gives me the universal signal of “NOT NOW” when I lean out the carriage.  I blurt out “Lucca?” anyway and she give me an almost imperceptible nod.  That’s going to have to be good enough for me.imageArriving in Lucca, I walk out of the treno stazione and make a decision not to grab a taxi.  WIth no mappa, and no prior knowledge of the town…how hard can it be?  Oh silly Paj!

I cross a couple of streets and head towards the wall surrounding the old city.  I seem to remember my hotel is inside the wall.  imageAs I approach the wall, it curves and from a distance, looks like it deadends.  Then I see a girl stoop and go through a small opening.  I feel like Alice in Wonderland.  I follow.  That leads me to a tunnel…you might remember, I’m not a fan of tunnels…through a small courtyard, up a couple short staircases that zig-zag.image

And I arrive atop the wall.  Now, destra or sinistra?  A girl passes me dragging her roller bag along and asks if I need her to look up my hotel on her phone.  How kind.  She does, and it says to head straight.  After she heads left, I decide I’ll head that way too.  I’d rather have an overall view from the wall, than get in the mix of the buildings just yet….Anyway, straight over the edge of the wall is not an option I’m entertaining… at this point.image Around the wall I go, note a little trattoria I might want to come back to, and then approach a gelato vendor for guidance. imageThrough his very italian directions, I do get “canale” and his arm pointing forward and forward then “grande statua”.  So I head straight looking for the large statue.  image

Straight along the canale, by the family of anatra, past where the lady lives that likes pink, and sure enough, there is a grande statua.  Sinistra there. imageI wind around a bit, ask a few more locals, consult my italian phone (by the way, every time I try to use google maps, it closes down) and there…it’s that easy.  B&B Anfiteatro.imageI told you I had not researched Lucca at all.  Well I had found out there were Puccini music festivals here and have a ticket reserved for tonight…but that is ALL.

The owner of the B&B marked the ticket office for the concert for me on a mappa.  While I am waiting to be checked in, I also grab a leaflet for a night tour of Lucca.  They are offered Thursday and Saturday nights…today is Saturday right?  I think if it works into my plans, I will pay the 10 euro to get acclimated a bit.  The concert is scheduled for 7:15 and suppose to last about an hour.  The tour meets at 9:00 in front of one of the major chiesas.  That might just work out.

On my way to the Puccini ticket office, there is plenty to look at…although I don’t know what any of it is… image

I pay 18 euro for the Puccini biglietto and find a spot to wait.  I order a spritz and watch and listen for the next 45 minutes.image

I arrive at the concert one of the first 10 or so.  I choose a spot in the front.  Within minutes the church it is held in is full.  We are given a program which includes bits of operas from other composers along with Puccini.  Lucca is Puccini’s birthplace.  But from the information, it sounds like his success was not welcome here for years.image

First the pianist enters from behind the panels, then the first of the due tenors we will be hearing.  The acoustics in this small chiesa are amazing.  The strength of the performers’ voices doesn’t hurt.  The following video is poor visual quality.  I think photo were allowed, but most people were trying to be discreet.  This was the encore of the evening.

This was a special experience.  I suggest working a concert in if you are visiting Lucca.  They perform every evening of the year.

Now for some cibo.  I have not eaten since my torta this morning.  Earlier I passed this pizzeria and there was quite a crowd.  I have learned that crowds indicate good food…most of the time.  So with 30 or so minutes before the night tour begins, I pop in.  I tell the older woman behind the counter, “Due pr favore.”  Luckily she did not ask “due what?”, because I do not know the italian equivalent to “Whatever”.image

She hands over two piping hot pieces of margherita on a little silver tray, I add a piccolo Moretti to my bill and it comes to under 5 euro…my kind of place!  I sit on a stool in front and enjoy.image

I look at the time and it is 5 til 9:00.  I walk around to the front of the church to see if I see anyone congragating.  My plan is to ask if it is not too late for me to pay and join those who have reserved.  I’m still not 100% dedicated to the idea.  I do not know the area well enough to find my way back to the B&B in the dark, so that is a question I will need to ask as well.

When I arrive there are about 7 or so women standing near a woman with a little guide sign.  I walk up and ask if I might join.  The very friendly guide tells me, “certo”. I then ask the 2nd question of where the tour ends.  She tells me they end at the Anfiteatro…perfetto!

Then, the really lucky news comes.  I am the only english speaking member so the others will go with another guide and I get this one all to myself.  Another great decision Paige!image

My guide’s name is Ilaria (Hilary in English).  She is a middle school English teacher and part time guide.  Our first stop is to find a restroom.  She takes me into this way cool enoteca.  They are kind enough to allow me to use the facilities and take a couple of photos.  I will definitely return here during my stay.image

Love their shelving system!image

During our “tour” Ilaria and I basically just walk and talk.  To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much about Lucca.  I do know one of their symbols is the tower with the trees growing atop it.  Also, there is this symbol by one of the churches.  It was a reminder to the merchants and bankers that use to deal here to keep a straight, honest path. image

This, Ilaria says is a version of the Volto Santo or Holy Face of Lucca.  There were several of these decorating a medieval wooden door.image

 

Ilaria also pointed out a few places I might want to eat and recommended some of Lucca’s traditional foods.  Our entire walk, I kept telling her how lucky I was to have this private tour.  She said it was nice for her as well.  I did consider she might be missing out on tips from a larger group, so I made sure to share my appreciation in euros.  At the end of the tour, Ilaria deposited me at the door of by B&B and bid me a buonanotte.image

Venerdi in Monterosso

This morning was a tre cappuccino morning.  I started with my normal due, but the owner of the hotel, comes to the terrazzo asking if I want another, and I say, “Certo!”imageAs I sit and write, I enjoy the comings and goings of the locals.  Each morning I see the same mothers pushing the same strollers with the same older child hanging onto it in tow.  I hear Giovanni, the owner of Locanda Il Maestrale, where I stayed with Mom and the kids, whistle.  I think he is calling a dog, but I watch to see a worker of his bringing something he has requested.  She is much too slow for him.  He runs to her, grabs the burro, runs back to his door, muttering the whole way.  I am sure good help is hard to find and keep here.

You can judge the timing of the trains with the sounds of roller bag wheels on the tiny street just below me.  A group is sad to leave, a group is bubbling with anticipation.

A white haired man has walked by several times, leaning forward with purpose.  I imagine that will be Giovanni in 20 years.

My quiet morning ritual is shattered as an Australian couple skypes (loudly) with their mates back home. Seriously, is this OK?

So I prepare for la spiaggia.  But first a stop down the ramp and 2 steps to the sinistra.  I was beckoned to my favorite focacceria earlier when the baker opened the back windows.  The wonderful smell of fresh bread with onions wafted up to the terrazzo and called my name.  I may have already mentioned, but this little place is such a find.  I just go in and say, “Vorrei che questo e questo”.  The baker’s wife puts her knife down on the one you want and then you can say, “di piu” or “di meno”.  She cuts it, puts it on the scale and then tells you how much.  For what I get, it is usually about 3 euro.  Such a deal!

I looked up the word “farinata” and it means “gruel”…some words just get lost in translation.image

Now for my last morning at la spiaggia.  I have decided not to spend the molto euro on the chairs and umbrella.  I just free beach it again.

It always takes me a while to decide where to land.  I’m a grass is always greener gal for sure.  This time I decide to forgo the cool kid section and go far right instead of far left.  Now, do I claim my spot in the “front row”, not knowing the tide or do I call “back row” with the barrier of the large, large rocks behind me.  Knowing I can’t have it all, but trying anyway, I split the difference.  I figure there is enough room in front for someone to claim, but I think the back is too small for anyone to want.  I am hoping for some shade later.image

For a few, sweet moments, it’s all mine…and then…Down in Front!imageThe fabulous aroma from my lunch could not be ignored, so I dig in.  My choice of focaccia with cipolla and focaccia with salsiccia e funghi was perfetto!  No doubt I could eat this every single day.  imageTwo young boys pass by me searching for the perfect dagger shaped rocks.  When they find a contender, they put it in their pockets then grab swiftly to judge if it is a keeper.  I’m reminded of Dalton playing on this very beach not much older than these two.  One of my most cherished possessions is a heart shaped rock he presented to me here.

And then, as I am minding my own business and focaccia, rocks start to fly.  A family of cinque…CINQUE!!!  is moving into the piccolo spot behind me.imageI know you can only count quattro, but that is because the dad is laying in front of the mom!  His feet are literally in her face…and hers in mine.  Shortly after this I start my scoot to the front row….making sure NOT to crowd anyone else.  The perils of Spiaggia Libera!

Leaving mid morning tomorrow, I pack away my beach attire when I return to the room and dress to enjoy my last evening in Monterosso.imageThe weather is glorious in the shade, but still quite warm in the evening sun.  Not wanting to spoil my appetite with gelato, I try some fresh limone granita.  Blaine would love this.

imageDuring my passeggiata, I stop by Bottega d’Arte to grab a couple more Storie in Italy charms.  image

Each charm features a photo taken by the owner.  I ask her to point out the ones that highlight Monterosso.  When she hears the jingle of my bracelet, she’s tickled to see I have been here before.  This is one of those “one of a kind” (although they do have another location in Vernazza) shops you just want to be a part of.

Talking to a young woman who has moved her life to Italy also gives you an insiders look at Cinque Terre.  We had a conversation regarding how the area has changed since my first visit and her move here.  It saddens her to see the masses passing through, being brought by boats from La Spezia.  I am sure it is a difficult balancing act.  You want business, you want followers, but you want the place you fell in love with as well.

I ask her, just between us, where is the “New Monterosso”?  Meaning, where is the new, beautiful location that has not been “Touristized” yet.  She looks around and then says, “I think it’s Puglia”.  Perfect, Puglia has been on my radar for my next Storie in Italy.image

I also say Ciao to Federica owner of lanapo where I got my fab sandals and cute Cinque Terre t-shirt.  If the Ferrari could handle it, I would get a little heeled pair as well.  More on my new and improved packing plan later.image

At 7:00, it is early to eat dinner by Italian standards, so I am the first seated at Il Casello.  This is another favorite restaurant of ours.  We have seen it change over the years.  When Mom and Jim and I were here (was that ’99?) it was a walk up panino and birra spot.  Loved it then!  Now it has grown.  The owner is Italian and married a girl from Austin.  He lives here in the summers and there during the school year.image

As I sit with a bird’s eye view of my spiaggia, I notice many are still there from earlier…talk about making a day of it.

When I look over the menu wanting to order the Fritto Misto, I notice it says Shrimp and Calamari.  I ask my waiter what happened to the fresh anchovies?  He says, “Americans-a don’t-a like-a anchovies”.  Here is another example of the way things are changing around here…this and the signs that advertise “American Breakfast Served”.

I tell him that Americans don’t know these anchovies.  He takes a step back, gives me a sideways look and begins to clap saying “Brava!  Brava!”  He says he understands that but, “Some-a times-a eeeta eeesa just-a more-a easy-a to say yes-a than to explain-a”.  I tell him I think that is sad-a and I want the Italian Fritto Misto…he ways “Certo!”

This may have been my favorite meal yet.imageAfter dinner I walk around taking in the setting sun and the local color.  Change, I guess, is inevitable.  All in all, Monterosso is still one of my favorite spots in Italy.  One I know I will return to.  And with views like this and seafood like that, I think I can even convince Blaine to give it a try. imageimageimage

What must it be like to have lived your entire life here, watching the world walk by?  These women’s heads would move in unison as someone worth evaluating would pass.  I love seeing these groups of locals chatting evening after evening.  Although full of change, there is a stability here.  I’m reminded of this as I decide to end the night with some dolce and there is the same person behind the gelato counter who was here in 2007…and she’s still smiling.image

Mangiare, Bere e Divertirsi

My morning began with laughter, which is good.  At breakfast (yes of torta e caffe), I asked if I might borrow a knife.  They agreed.  I used said knife to attack the melone I bought last night.  Mom would have croaked!  There was melone everywhere.  Later I found a lone seed and chuckled.  Daddy would have not been happy about the choice of my “cucina”…but the bathroom sink was all I had and I was craving some melone.  A dull knife and a bathroom sink was all I needed…luckily.image

Heading down to la spiaggia, my backpack runneth over with goodies, but my plan was to enjoy most of the day there.  Yesterday I had spied a nice rock at the far end of the spiaggia libera, today it was to be mine.image

Not wanting my treats to get warm, I did not wait long to enjoy my spread.  Napkins were not part of my planning and that melone was juicy.imageThrough observation, it was clear that the far end of the beach was where all cool kids hung out.  Which was entertaining…for a bit.

Groups had met up here, thrown down their black backpacks, and swum out to the distant rocks.  There they taunted and leapt, shouted and splashed, each trying to outdo the other.imageimage

As you have probably noticed, the beaches here are not sandy beaches, they are rocky.  Walking is a painful experience (funny to watch others but painful for you).  At first I thought it was just us foreign tenderfoots, but as one of the cool kids walked by complaining, his friend bent over and with a flourish, starting clearing a path, which of course, revealed MORE rocks, then told his friend, “vi, vi, vi”.

The cherries are as good as I remember!imageTo my left, the cool kids, to my right, far right, the boats full of daytrippers continue to come in one after another.  Monterosso is definitely busier during the day than I remember.  This year was the first I witness antena with scarf tied atop, as a guides scurried through with their chicks.  More on “Changing Monterrosso” later. imageAfter la spiaggia, I return to the room, throw on my now favorite Firenze dress and notice that it is “Spritz O’Clock”…well whatya know!

Hotel Margherita, as many places do, offers an aperitivo deal.  Here I can pay 5 euro for a spritz and a cute little tray of snacks accompanies it.  So I sit, read, snack and enjoy.imageWhen it was time to make a dinner decision, I turn to tripadvisor.  I do not do that much here, but had already heard where the hotel staff recommended, visited my usual haunts and wanted to see if I was missing anything.

The two top recommendations were here in the “old” section Monterosso.  So I went to scope them out.

The top choice is Da eraldo, but as the 20 seats (max) are currently taken and people are being turned away, I figure I am in for a bit of a wait.  I approach the waiter, greeter, chef’s helper and say, “Tavolo per uno?”.  He says in a very soft-a voice-a, “There-a eeesa only one-a of-a you-a”. Solo uno.

He tells-a me-a….sorry, I mean, he tells me that if I will go-a and sit-a in-a front-a of-a heeema, at Eliseo’s, he will come get me when there is a tavolo.  As luck would have it, Enoteca da Eliseo was number 2 on tripadvisor’s list.

I order a bicchiere di vino rosso and watch Da eraldo turn disapointed people away.  The couple seated at the same tavolo as myself, has a conversation using about three languages.  It is fun to be able to understand a bit more of italian.  I still do not know exactly what they are talking about, but I can get a gist at times.  And for added enjoyment and ambiance, Pavarotti sings from inside the enoteca.imageimageimageAs always, I hope to secure an outside tavolo, but am instead shown into the piccolo, piccolo area inside. It is kinda fun watching the world go by framed in the doorway.

Inside, my back is basically IN the kitchen…so the seats you see here and the ones outside are all!  If you plan to visit, lose all but 2 or 3 in your party and prepare for a wait.

In this small area, you cannot help but hear (and understand as they are all speaking english) other’s conversations.  The young students are all discussing their adventures on this trip so far.  Most are in Italy for a short time with other countries on either side of their trips.  I so wish my kids could take advantage of an experience like this.  Travel is the best educator I know.

imageThe chef and my guy (very tall for such a soft voice and demeanor) were more than happy to pose when I brought out my camera.  Here, the musica is more upbeat.  An italian version of “Gloria” blares from the rigged speakers.   They-a do-a love-a our-a 80’s musica.imageFor my dinner, I chose a sample piatti tre pastas.  Pappardelle ai frutti di mare, Testatoli in salsa noci and lasagne al pesto.  I had read not to miss the pane here, so I made sure to request it.

When my guy presents my dishes, he says, “May-a I-a suggest-a beginning-a  weeth-a the seafood-a paaasta primo.  Eeetsa flavors are-a the most-a delicate-a.  And-a then-a end-a weeeth-a the pesto, as eeetsa flavors are-a the most-a strong-a”.

I am so very thankful I chose the sampler portions.  It is all molto buono but I cannot finish any of it.  When He comes to clear my piatti, each dish has some left.image

I am sitting watching the world go by when I feel a tap on my shoulder with a “Signora” attached to it.  I turn to see the chef.  She is leaning down, still with her hand on my shoulder.  “Eeessaaa there-a errors in-a my-a dish-as?”  I feel awful.  I assure all was molto buono but I wanted to make sure I got a chance to try and enjoy them all.  At this she grabs her chest and makes this, “Oh I am so grateful to hear that” pantomime.  The girls in front of me turn, smile, and begin to take bigger bites.

I would recommend coming to Da eraldo and ordering the appetizer sampler plate.  Unfortunately it is suggested 2 or more share this fabulous looking spread.  My friend will tell you he’s a glad-a you-a chose-a theeesa plate-a.  Eeeata eees the plate-a which-a theeeesa trattoria began-a as well as how to go about enjoying it.

After dinner I walk enjoying the pink sunset over the sea.  I know you have seen similar photos last year, but…can ya ever get tired of this view?imageimage

The sea-a….sheee-a eeessa very calm-a tonight-a.image

A Meta Strada

I started my Wednesday with torta e caffe.  Ya gotta love a country that starts their morning with cake and coffee!  Afterwards I sat on the terrazzo and wrote for a bit.  As I may have mentioned, and will undoubtedly mention again, the wifi here is maddening!  Truly, I know I am in paradise and should just let it go, but being able to attempt to catch up with you was a goal. So when I had had basta, I took my frustrations to the sea.  The sea is always good for that.  I intend to pay the 40 or so euro one day for the chair and umbrella, but today, it’s the spiaggia libera.imageThe water was freddo, but I’d ease in the shallows every once in a while and look for sea glass.  A cinque minuti hunt proved profitable.  My cappello has seen better days.image After a few hours in the sole, I returned to the room, cleaned up and commenced to roaming.  I was not sure where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. I headed through the tunnel enjoying the guitar music the closed area amplified.  The guitarist was quite good.  He was playing Carly Simon then segued into James Taylor, certo!imagePast the tunnel and through new town I roamed.  As you can tell, yesterday’s questionable weather is a thing of the past.imageWalking along a park, I am sad to see what it has turned into.  Instead of kids running and playing on the equipment, it is now simply a place to find shade to play on their phones, che triste!imageOn the first pass by the stazione, it is very crowded.  On the second, not as much.  I enter and buy 1 ticket on the regionale treno.  My plan is to head to Riomaggiore.  There I have due goals.  Uno- fritto misto in a cone.  Due- find Bar e Vini a Pie de Ma and have un bicchiere di vino con una vista!  Andiamo!!image Goal uno- check…well kinda.  I could not find the piccolo, very local shop I stumbled across last time.  Instead there was a slicker place.  The kind with a company sign outside and instead of paper cones, a factory made cup kinda thing….gasp!!  On the up side, the calamari was pretty good.image Goal due- Although this was one of my favorite spots before, I could not remember how to get to it.  On my last visit, I was told about it by a guy that worked at my hotel.  He said you would not find it if you did not know where you were going.  Well, this time, I know where I want to go, but I still cannot find it.  I go through the long tunnel from the stazione that leads to the village.  The whole time I am thinking, “This doesn’t make sense.  It is ON the water.”  So after I bought and ate my fritto misto, I remembered the bar was on or near Via dell’Amore, and I asked the way. Sure enough, back through the tunnel and up a couple flights of stairs and I arrived.imageThis has got to be one of the best bar views around.  The place is super low-key.  They don’t come up to you, you go in the small building and ask for what you would like, then you choose your spot, sit back, relax and enjoy.  It is simply a MUST if you are in the area. I enjoyed il vino bianco, il sea, la vista and the uccelli che ballano nella brezza.imageBack at the stazione you can look up and see where the bar is.  This time I will not forget.image Being in a place like this for several days is very special.  It is wonderful when you can find a rhythm.  It is even more wonderful when your visit coincides  with an event in town.  Something I have learned in my travels, when you hear a band playing…find it. I followed the sound of a 3rd string band playing a slow march.  When I caught up with it, there were two groups of people; onlookers like myself and those in a procession.  Today is San Giovanni’s Feast Day and he is the patron saint of Monterosso….didn’t know that.  But there he was, being carried through the town (twice) by locals dressed in ancient garb and with the strongest of the group carrying a large, large crucifix.  Included in the procession were visiting priests and bishops.  One boy walked with a PA system rigged to a beam.  Through this, the faithful would follow along reciting prayers with their priest.  imageOnce they made their way down (slowly) to the port, I thought the festivities were over.  I went to a family favorite restaurant Al Pozzo.  The dish I love is on the menu as only being prepared for due, so before being seated, I went in the area before the kitchen and asked if I may be granted the favor, again this year, as to have the Gnocchi con Gamberi e Crema di Pomodor prepared for one.  The waitress inside agreed. However, when I was seated and ordered a mezzo portion of this, as Avery says “Heaven on a Plate”, my waiter told me “No.  Solo per due.”  “But in the cucina, they told me certo.”  He then cast me the funniest, “if you say so” look in pure italian. Bottom line, my wish was once again granted!  imageWhile enjoying every bite of my gnocchi, the procession strolled by again.  And then, a loud, loud boom was heard and felt.  Just as I know  what to do when I hear a band, I likewise know what to do when I hear a loud boom…look skyward.

 

I love firework displays.  I especially like them when I am right under them.  I will never forget being on a blanket at Lady Bird Park with mom and the kids.  It was Fredericksburg’s (some special year) anniversary, several years before we lived there.  The fireworks were directly above us.  Before that I remember a 4th of July in Aspen with Blaine.  This evening, I will remember as well. As the little girl continues to declare, “Che Bello!!”. The mezza luna is a sign that I am halfway through my trenta giorni in Italia.  When the luna is full, it will be time to return home.  Until then, there are more adventures to come.imageOn the way home, I followed the candle lined streets to a small market where I bought melone, ciliegie, prosciutto e pane in preparation for tomorrow’s morning at la spiaggia.image

Ciao di Nuovo Monterosso!

Although I had a wonderful evening the night before, my night was a bit restless.  Sometimes your heart is just heavy with “home”.

image

My train was to depart soon and Milena and I were STILL trying to figure out how to add each other to WHATSAP-a.  She was determined.  A short while back, Milena had a guest for 14 days.  An older woman named Maggie (I was called Maggie more often than Paige). After 14 days of enjoying each other’s company, they stay in touch for free.  With 30 minutes or so until my treno….Milena has success!

Milena’s oldest, Gaia, took a couple photos of us.  I liked the one on the steps, it is the same place we took our first photo 2 years ago, but Milena was not happy.  So…we took more.imageWe said our goodbyes outside the station, sure we would see each other again.  I reiterated that she, the girls, Roberto, his daughter, could come stay with us anytime.  Roberto had joked that I was going to have 6 guests at Christmas.  As mom said, “What a hoot that would be!”

To arrive at Monterosso today, I will be needing to change trains two times.  Connections make me a bit nervous, but I’m pretty comfortable this year that whatever happens, I can figure it out.

First, Firenze/Rifredi.image

Travel day…the train slows near stations, picks up speed through open areas.  The sounds created by the wind entering the tunnels is creepy.  I think this is where the sound people of Harry Potter movies got the idea for the ghosts and spirits.

I take note of several hillside towns I would like to visit.  Some I don’t know the names so I just write what they are close to- “Hills outside Empoli” for example. Another called “M something”…that one will be easy to figure out.  But one name I know is Cortona…que bella.image

Carrara was not one of the stops where I needed to exit, but I am always fascinated when I pass the mountains where Michelangelo chose his marble.image

Next stop, La Spezia.  And this time I do not make the mistake of exiting at the previous lesser La Spezia station.  I do smile as I watch a couple of newbies that do.  I remember two years ago being so nervous that I would board the train to Monterosso and be thrown off because I possessed the wrong ticket.  This time, not so much.imageExiting the treno at La Spezia, the clouds made it look like the air would be cooler…nix that.

I grab the next treno to the Cinque Terres and position myself near an exit.  It is a nicer train, and many are putting their luggage in the upper areas and getting comfortable.  They must not know it is a 15 minute ride.

As always the first view of the sea, as we zoom in and out of tunnels, is exciting.  This is the first time I have seen the sea with dark clouds above it.

And then….I arrive.  The sea-a…she eeessa not-a calm-a today-a.

I make the walk through the tunnel connecting new Monterosso with old Monterosso.  I am staying at the same hotel I did last time, so no need for a mappa or asking for directions.

I check in, am given the same room as my last visit.  I do not unpack, but just open the suitcase to take out a few items.  With no biscotti to quell my hunger during my ride, ho fame.  So I head for Smorfia Pizza…great memories there.

imageAfter I eat my entire pizza and enjoy 2 piccolo (there really were piccolo…like tester size) birra, I go for a walk through this quaint, little village.

Ooohhh…there’s a new little shoe shop.  I’ll just go in for a look.  I have no room for anything new in my Ferrari.

Well, meet my new sandals.  I love them!  This was the last pair they had in my size (no really!) so I could not risk them going home with another.  Unlike my sandals I had made for me in Capri, I am going to wear these.  What use are they sitting in my closet?  It is special to have something specific to a town or area.  And it feels great to support local, young artisans.  The oh-so-cute owner, shared a website where the sandals can also be found.  I will post when I, one again, dig the card out of my treasures.  Find her on facebook in the meantime. But REMEMBER…you saw them HERE first!

imageAs I was doing the photo shoot for my nuovi sandali, the vecchiette on the bench did not understand what was going on!  I got a kick out of watching them watch me, discussing with confusion.image

 

During my first evening, I just roamed around, reacquainting myself, already wishing my famiglia were here to share.imageimage