Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Well, we arrived in Florence yesterday, and yes, it pleases me! I brought my own computer so I could do a better job of tracking our activities for this Italy Women 2010 adventure. My photos, as usual, will have to wait until I have a more compatible way to download them to this site. Mea culpa!
Our flight was NOT canceled Sunday as I had feared, but we did fly north of Greenland to avoid the ash from the unpronounceable volcano in Iceland. Added an hour to our flight from Montreal to Munich, and gave us a very close connection to Florence, but that little airline, Dolomiti, waited for those who ran like wildfire through the Munich airport, and we arrived on time in Florence.
After dragging our bags up to the 4th floor lobby at the wonderful Albergo Pendini (a very tiny elevator, holding two of us at a time), I took my small group for an orientation around the area. We are on the Piazza della Repubblica, so we walked to the Piazza Signoria, through the arch of the Uffizi, and on to the street bordering the river, across half of the Ponte Vecchio just for a taste of the view up and down the Arno. A bit of a late lunch at one of the many cafes surrounding us, and then back to the hotel to check in, unpack, and take a NAP before dinner.
Our first real meal in Florence was at Il Porcospino, in the capable and flattering hands of Franco, who greeted me warmly and showed us to our outdoor table directly across from the Medici Chapel. Complimentary prosecco and bruschetta (they pronounce it properly over here, of course!), followed by a wide variety of delectable treats: crostini with pate, tortelli with porchini mushrooms and meat sauce, insalate caprese, a shared tiramisu, ending with another complimentary drink . . . limoncello. I’m not crazy for that stuff, but the other women lapped it up!
We walked back toward our hotel, but wandered instead into the piazza again, lured by the strains of a fabulous operatic voice . . . a young woman singing brought tears to my eyes. My room is just over the piazzza, so I dragged my exhausted body upstairs and opened the window, assured that this unnamed woman would sing lullabies long after I closed my eyes.
This morning we all met in the hotel dining room for their complimentary and quite sufficient breakfast. Promptly at 9:30, our private walking tour guide, Elena, was waiting for us in the lobby and we walked out together under an overcast sky, ready for whatever information Elena presented to us. The fancy shopping street, Tournabuoni, offered many historical buildings, the church of the Holy Trinity (where I, the heathen, lit a candle for my mother . . . something I do every day when I am in Italy), and storefronts with names like Gucci, Ferragamo, Bulgari, etc.
Crossing the Arno at the Ponte Santa Trinita, we wandered back streets full of antique stores, until we were in the square in front of the Pitti Palace. Elena told us stories of underground and overhead passages constructed for the old families in power in the 1500’s through the 1800’s. Mistresses, disowned family members, and all the details to fill any Italian scandal sheet!
After three and a half hours, we were back in front of our hotel, and we walked to our lunch spot, the Cantinetta Antinori. The Antinori family is the largest wine producer in Italy, and their little Cantinetta is intimate, with impeccable service and exquisite food. We ordered a bottle of their Bramasole Syrah from the Cortona area. Fresh pea soup, cold veal with salmon sauce, baked branzino, warm pear tart, and a basket of delicious bread sticks filled our table and ultimately our innards.
When we finished our meal, we walked out into pouring rain, opened our umbrellas and made our way to the CLIC, the language school I attended in 2007. Waiting for us when we arrived on the 5th floor was my private teacher, Leonardo, wide smile as usual. For the next hour he patiently talked to us (and coached us to respond) only in Italian. Some of my former language skills returned, painfully slowly, and Cyndy, who had been my fellow Italian student in Fort Collins, came up with some phrases from the past as well. We’ll do it again tomorrow, but it will be short and sweet.
A wander around the area near a wonderful leather journal store, a dry run past Il Latine, our dinner destination for tomorrow night, and we were ready to head back to our hotel. A quick bite at Paskowski’s, right on the piazza, filled us up and emptied our pockets. Fairly reasonable solid food, but the tea AND the bottled water were 7 Euro each. Yikes!
Time for bed. The serenaders are in competition tonight. A less talented opera singer opposing a young man singing Sting’s songs, among others. Not as soothing, but I’m in the middle of the night action, that’s for sure!
A full day tomorrow, and I am awaiting my next magnificent view of The David in the morning.
Buono notte . . .