Monday, May 5, 2008
Well, our 2008 adventure began even before we boarded the plane this time, because of course we were on Alitalia Airlines. Though their phone agents are wonderful and helpful and charming, their e-mail notification system (when the schedules change or the planes are broken or the flights are canceled . . . which is OFTEN) sucks! I won’t bother to fill you in on the gory details, but suffice it to say that instead of leaving by limo (HUMMER, NO LESS!) at 4:30 AM on Sunday, we left an hour earlier than that, groggy from barely a half-nights sleep, and headed for DIA.
Once we checked in, all was uneventful, and we arrived at the lovely Hotel Pendini at about 1:00 on Monday afternoon. Ten women, a reasonable number of bags, and not one was lost in the flight pattern, Denver, JFK, Milan, Firenze!
A bit of an orientation walk for some, a nap for others, and then dinner at Il Porcospino, where Franco was charming as usual, the dinner was delicious, and we all fell into bed soon after returning to the Hotel.
Tuesday, May 7, 2008 – a very busy day. The Pendini serves a wonderful and varied breakfast and we all gobbled ham, cheese, yogurt, cereal, croissants, espresso, etc. Then we headed over to the Duomo and Battistero to meet our guide, Elena, from Tours by Roberto. We listened to her extensive history explanations, which included answers to our varied questions, for three hours as we walked together on a beautiful morning.
She finished her tour at the Palazzo Strozzi, just a block or two from the Cantinetta Antinori, where we indulged in a delicious lunch before walking to my language school (see last September’s entries), where the staff had graciously invited us to two one-hour language lessons with my privato, Leonardo. He is delightful, an excellent teacher, and remembered everyone’s names after only one introduction!
When our lesson was completed and the second fiasco (finding the right bus stop after asking five Italians who “didn’t know” . . . (non lo so), we eventually got on Bus #12 to visit the Piazzale Michelangelo and the Church of San Mineota. Mass with the chanting monks, views over the entire city of Florence, a gelato on the way from one to another, and weather we would have paid big money to get, but which was free of charge . . . what could be better!
Dinner on our own, and six of us wandered to an old haunt of Barbara Leyendecker’s art-study days, Il Pennello. Low key, small ristorante, delicious! Of course . . . remember, we’re in ITALY!
Wednesday, May 7 – another breakfast and out to the museums day. Our first appointment was at the Accadamia to see the spectacular David, Michelangelo’s masterpiece. I never tire of looking at this magnificent statue, and sat for awhile on a stone bench directly in front of him, writing about his presence in front of me.
Below: Ponte Vecchio on a brilliant day!
We were able to make our way slowly and separately to the market at San Lorenzo and the area around the Capelle Medici before our appointment at the chapel at 12:30, so I bought the tickets for the group and walked across the cobblestone street to Il Porcospino again. It was 11:00 a.m. and the restaurant wasn’t open yet, but Franco was there in a t-shirt and baseball cap and he made me a cappucino, guided me to an outdoor table, and kissed my cheeks in appropriate Italian style! One by one the rest of the group wandered in, got a bit to eat, and took their tickets to the Medici Chapel while I checked my e-mail, returned to Il Porcospino and ordered some lunch.
I said, “Pasta con ragu” and Franco shook his head. “You can get that anywhere. Let me make you something special, dear.” So out came three large homemade ravioli with ricotta and artichoke, covered lightly with a bit of meat sauce. My usual Caprese salad (see photo right here . . . makes you HUNGRY, yes?)
and a glass of wine, plenty of still water, and I was set. I sat there until 2:30, waited for the rest of the group, and headed back to the language school for our second language lesson.
This time three of the women didn’t attend, and Leonardo amazingly named everyone who was around the table, and the two who didn’t come! We all had great laughs, attempting to communicate in Italian, some people not ever having studied a word of Italian, I with my meager language lessons.
I was pleased to find that more of my Italian knowledge surfaced than I had thought possible, and we again had a wonderful experience. This time, we had leisure time to walk back to the hotel or stop in shops or have a quick cappuccino/espresso, etc. We all met back at the hotel at 6:00 to prepare for our dinner at Il Latine (do you get the picture . . . fun, food, museums, food, lessons, food, food, food), a truly unique dining experience. I’ll save the description of THAT for tomorrow.
At least now I have caught you up to more than the first three days of our travels.