Lunedi a Firenze

Before Avery arrived, I asked her to be considering things she wanted to see and do while in Florence.  The fact that I can walk around aimlessly for days, does not mean others care to.  With only four full days in the city, there were decisions to be made.

Her list consisted of a cooking class, vespa tour, seeing a few specific works of art, wine tasting, a possible day trip to Venice and simply enjoying Firenze.  A cooking class and the Vespa tour topped the list.  The day trip to Venice fell to the bottom.  Before she arrived, I secured a cooking class through Curious Appetite.  Il Mercato Centrale did not have classes that fit our schedule and I felt we could do better than the one I took through FlorenceTown (although I enjoyed it very much).  I was looking for a similar experience to Cooking in Rome with Chef Andrea…a bit more intimate. Our class was scheduled for Tuesday and the Vespa tour for Thursday.  I was surprised when I went to the site for the Vespa tour that the tours fill up quickly, so I am glad we are on their books.

Today, Monday, we simply plan to roam.  The major museums are closed on Mondays, so seeing the David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus will have to arm wrestle with a day trip to Venezia for Wednesday’s itinerary.

I let Avery sleep as late as she liked then we start our day at Ditta Artiginale and  a seasonal Shakerato.  Ice coffee on a Florentine level.


We decide not to grab a bite to eat here as we intend to make our way over to Pugi, correcting yesterday’s disappointment.

After a jolt of caffeine, we are raring to go.

The street art scene has not changed much in the past two years.  Blub an Clet are ubiquitous, but I am disappointed not to see much new on the scene.  Then roaming the Santa Croce area I see this.IMG_0610IMG_0632

At first I think the MALE at the bottom translates to “bad”… this piece moves up to my favorite yet.  Love the color, movement, space and graceful use of line.

We pop in to a book store searching for more Great Gatsby.


I find comfort and intrigue in the ordered chaos of many Italian book stores.  When we asked the owner for Great Gatsby, he walked right to a shelf and started handing Avery book after book saying, “Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald…”


And then finally, a hard back copy of Il Grande Gatsby.  I think this is such a cool thing to collect.  A friend of ours also just added to the collection, giving Avery a copy from the high school library…where it all began.


Time for a bite to eat and this time, Pugi is aperto!


I know I’ve probably already given this advice during this trip as well as previous ones, but if you are in Firenze…a stop in Pugi (the original across from Saint Mark’s) is a must. Danita named it one of the best bites of the trip and now Avery is a major fan as well.IMG_0604

For less than 3 euro, you can enjoy as much or as little of any topped flatbread style pizza you would like.  Our go-to’s?  pomodori, cipolla, salsiccia and peperoni.  This time Avery also tried a zucchine topping.  The girl loves her zucchine!

We stopped into Zara, although July is not the best time for a visit.  July is the month of Saldi in Italy and during a major sale, it is like Zara removes all the good stuff and brings in everything that hasn’t sold in the last 10 years or so….although I did snag my “molto elegante, molto chic” pantaloni last week.

I think roaming the streets of Firenze late, late in the night and early, early in the morning would be an adventure.  As much walking around as I have done, I have yet to see any street artist (besides the chalk artists) in the act.  I would love to see the process and speed at which they work.


Later, Avery gives her overall trip an 8.5 out of 10 rating.  The heat of July is the culprit for losing an entire point.  No matter what the temperature reads, the fact that you are surrounded by radiating concrete, adds to it.

To combat the heat in Firenze, you have due choices…gelato or cocktail…


You know I have been a major fan of Eduardo’s by the Duomo.  Elisa first brought me to it in 2015, and I had never been disappointed.  But after talking to several Foodies in Firenze, the two Gelaterias that come up are Il Procopio and Perque No!  Only the best of the best for my figlia.  We find Il Procopio in the Santa Croce area and Avery chooses Limone e Basil…refreshing, tart and light.  We decide trying to recreate this for guest would certainly wow!  Avery wants to take it a bit further by making a prosecco float with it.  That’s my girl!


Next stop…Aperitivo…

Enjoying the Aperitivo Crawl with Curious Appetite gave me insight to places I had not been before.  Now, I get to share that “research” with others.  And the most impressive Aperitivo to date? The Fusion Negroni at Fusion Bar, Vicolo dell’Oro, 3, Firenze.


I will admit, the presentation of this classic Florentine cocktail is a big part of the fun, but the libation itself is worthy of all praise…Well, confession…this is the only Negroni I have ever had…so I really can’t compare to others…but now, others WILL be compared to it.

I want Avery’s first Negroni experience to be as memorable as mine and if that means I must endure another…I’m just that kind of a mom.


Salute to Firenze, to Count Camillo Negroni, to ice spheres, to Mother/Daughter adventures, to Italy, to Aperitivo, and to all that is good and special in our world.



Fortified by rest, munchies and gin we begin our walk to Piazzale Michelangelo to catch the setting sun.  Once we are Oltrarno, I just start heading left and up, “knowing” this will get us to our desired destination.

A bit in to the trek, I think, “gee…this is a bit steeper than I remember…oh well, no matter, we’re headed in the rightish directions.”

A little bit further, a girl who had been walking ahead of us stops, turns and asks, “Is this the way to the fountain at Santo Spirito?”  uuuhhhmmm….no…not at all.  I give her rough directions and she retraces her steep climb.

IMG_1407A bit later, I see a sign for Forte di Belvedere.  I “know” Fort Belvedere and Piazzale Michelangelo are both high and to the left…so again, I think we’re good.  Avery questions me a bit, I answer leaning into the slope but not slowing my pace.  I tell her (now that I am starting to wonder) that no matter what, we’ll figure it out.  Luckily there was still much light in the sky, because if it had been dusk, I too would have been a bit worried.  There were very few people about.  The two separate people we did see were crashed among the olive trees along the medieval walls of the Fort.

What goes up…must go down.  Turns out Forte di Belvedere is quite a bit higher than Piazzale Michelangelo, so we get a bit more of exercise in for the day.



We end up being spit out at the arch in the wall along the passage I “usually” take to our destination.  So, a bit more of a hike…up the long stairway…and we arrive…easy as that…

The crowd is huge, everyone vying for a spot along the wall to get a couple of hundred shots.  Each time I visit, I am thankful Mike and Joann told me about this place…another MUST on any visit to Firenze.


Avery and I, like everyone else, took many shots of the setting sun with its rays dancing through the clouds.  Each moment brought another ooohhh or aaahhh.  To be honest, I don’t know if these are our best shots, I’m just choosing a couple to share.  I know I will never get a better one than the one from 2013.


On our way down, we decide we’d like a nice, light dinner and a nice, bicchiere di vino freddo.  We stop in the San Niccolo area and enjoy just that.


We are seated next to a young guy and girl who exert so much energy being negative.  I can’t decide if they are American toying with English accents or actually English.  Either way they are a reminder of one of my favorite aspects of traveling in Italy…Ignorance is Bliss…what I can’t understand, doesn’t bug me…what I can….does.


Giorno Uno

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

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

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



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

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


Rigatoni al pesto di asparagi e ricotta salata

Rigatoni al pesto di asparagi e ricotta salata

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

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

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

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


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


Uno altro per la raccolta!

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

So cool to see an artist's workspace!

So cool to see an artist’s workspace!


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

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

My first to see.  Botticelli's cherub.

My first to see. Botticelli’s cherub.


Even the ermine has a mask!

Even the ermine has a mask!

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

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

Other works seen along the way…imageimageimageimageimage

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

Next stop il Mercato Centrale.image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Salute! Cin, Cin!

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


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


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

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

Best of- The Rest


This gallery contains 27 photos.

As you can tell I have put off and put off this final post.  I felt as long as I left something hanging, I was still living in the present regarding my trip and not the past. Now that I … Continue reading