THE END OF WEEK ONE

Friday, 11:45 p.m.

I can’t believe our first week in Italy is nearly completed, but we have been very busy, so I’ll shorten up all the details. The women on this trip are a great fit . . . kind, adventurous, ready to eat anything and to consider one another in every decision. Grown ups! That’s what I love!

On Wednesday, we visited the Accademia to see the magnificent David. I never get tired of just sitting and looking at him, walking down the long hall with Michelangelo’s Prigioni (The Prisoners) lining each side of the entrance to The David itself. Next we headed to the Medici Chapel and studied the restoration of the mosaics there. A lunch at Il Porcospino and then another walk to the CLIC school for our second language lesson with Leonardo! Are we fluent yet?

Dinner at Il Latine meant sitting at a table constantly being replenished with piles of food . . . bruschetta of all sorts, potatoes, spinach, a platter of beef, veal, rabbit, chicken, pork and a slice of lamb, lots of good bread, a basket/bottle of Chianti, and of course dolci . . . a mixed plate of delicious desserts. Several bottles of water, some cantucci (biscotti) and vin santo for dipping, and a tasty moscato to finish everything off . . . much too much for us. So we bagged up the leftovers and deposited them with a beggar and two dogs a half-block from our hotel. I hope they all went to bed with full tummies.

On Thursday, we were up again and out by 9:00 in order to get to the Uffizi Galleria at our reserved time, 9:30. So much art, so little time . . . actually, I think I’ve seen enough at the Uffizi by now, but there is always an interesting exhibit beginning JUST after we leave town! We grabbed a casual lunch at an outdoor cafe behind the museum before going our separate ways. Cyndy and Jan decided they would spend the rest of the afternoon at the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens. Paula was exhausted and wanted to go back to the hotel to rest. I decided to see how many old haunts I could find without using my Streetwise Florence map. With my trusty pedometer on my right hip, I set out past the Duomo and a bit to the right (that’s the kind of directions one gets here anyway!).

Ah, there’s the restaurant one of our groups went to a few years ago . . . and there’s the internet cafe I visited regularly over the last few years (though there are many many more these days, and our hotels now have wireless in the rooms . . . both a blessing and a curse). And THIS alleyway looks familiar, and this . . . in a surprisingly short time, I could see the facade of Santa Croce through the opening down a street to my left. Another two curving blocks and there is was, at the end of a favorite piazza, and for the first time in twelve years of visiting Florence, the church at Santa Croce was without scaffolding across the front of it. The restoration of the outside is completed, and the facade is beautiful! (I have a photo, but I’ll have to load it when I get home . . . technical difficulties.

I found one of the benches with enough room to give me space from the other “sitters”, and sat down, opened my umbrella, dug my book, The History Of Love, out of my bag, and read for an hour or so. A young man was playing a guitar on the square across from me, the carabinieri (one level of Italian police) were checking his permit to see if some official in Florence had allowed him to sing, pidgeons scuttered across the old stone blocks of the piazza, and the visitors moved to and fron in front of me, behind me, all around me.

An old woman with a fisherman’s hat on her head sat on her walker seat and screamed over and over again, something about her “chapeau”, while a frantic younger woman tried to quiet her. Another car full of carabinieri sat on the sidelines, the uniformed men and one uniformed woman getting out of the car, ready to see what the old woman was yellling about, but of course, they didn’t do anything . . . they are fairly ineffectual much of the time, or at least that’s been my experience. Sorry, carabinieri . . .

After my Santa Croce time, I wandered back toward the direction of my hotel, down a different street . . . I sighed. A straight shot from a slightly different direction would have brought me to this place in much less time, but without the adventore or the sense of accomplishment.

Back at the hotel, I knocked on Paula’s door and we went back out to the streets to see if the button shop was now open after the afternoon closure, quite typical in Italy. Samba was indeed open and I bought Euro 40 worth of beautiful buttons to add to the ones I’ve gotten here every visit. ONE OF THESE DAYS, I’ll make those fabric bags that I’m always planning in my head, and use the buttons to close the flaps on the purses. But not today. Today is Paula’s birthday, and we hunted for gelato for her. I found a Ben and Jerry’s and got regular, harder ice cream, then met with Cyndy and Jan after their Giardini Boboli, Giardini Barbino, and Pitti Palace experience.

Before dinner, we finished off the exploration sequence with a walk to Ferragammo’s side entrance, where down in the lower stone level is a shoe museum. The exhibit that had just opened honors Ferragammo’s longstanding relaetionship as the shoe designer and craftsman for Greta Garbo. A documentary video, three rooms full of Garbo’s dresses, and displays everywhere of the shoes she purchased from this old building in the last century fulfilled our haute couture desires for today and we departed hungry and looking for a nice sidewalk cafe.

It was a very long, diverse, fulfilling day, and we were all ready for bed. But it was not to be, at least not for me . . . another story for the next post. Now I have to get ready to check out of the Siena Palazzo di Valli . . . but I get ahead of myself.

Next time.

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