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Florence

Author: Host Ciao (More Trip Reviews by Host Ciao)
Date of Trip: December 2012



Ciao,

If you seem to be getting a hint of garlic with this, you probably are not wrong. It was supper! I found a trattoria near the central market and near where I had eaten before and read a menu I liked. First I had Fettunta, grilled bread rubbed with garlic and then liberally sprinkled with olive oil. Oh so good and oh so garlicky. Then I had my favorite pappa il pomodoro, tomato and bread soup and finished with my favorite Florentine dessert cantucci and vin santo--hard almond cookies dipped in Vin Santo, sweet dessert wine. And, of course, I had to have a half bottle of chianti with it. All for food for now.

I have been busy and my feet have been talking to me, but I persist. and change shoes to go out at night so different toes can talk too. Saturday I went to my favorite museum here the Duomo Museum. Here now you can see all of Ghiberti's golden Door of Paradise from the Baptistry, finally all restored and finally all together in one piece-a wonder. Here also I can stand in front of my favorite Pieta by Michelangelo--at least it’s my favorite when I’m in front of it. Of course last week when I was in front of M's last Pieta, The Rondini Pieta in the Castello in Milan, that one was my favorite. Depends on what I'm standing in front of--one to go in Rome. I have one quibble with my favorite museo. Donatello's marvelous wooden Penitent Magdeline has been moved to a hall with other lesser (imho) statues. It used to stand in front of a large Crucifix. Where else does a penitent Magdeline belong? It was so right! Now, while the Crucifix is still there, the room is given over to what I imagine they hope will get more notice--a large silver processional cross and a beautiful silver altar front dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Magdeline belongs there!

Don't forget the Carmex or whatever you use. I did and because it is a bit cold and my lips were starting to hurt, I had to spend 6.30E or some such ridiculous amount (over $8) for a tube of what I guess is a good brand--Eucerin--but I'll stick to Carmex.

As you know I am in Florence and staying at Hotel Casci, which I like very much. It is in the center and a family run 2 star hotel. I'm not writing much tonight because a 12 hour day even doing what I want to do and riding a bus part of the time is a long day. More on that later.

Can’t remember if I said much about my tour Sunday, but it was a tour of the Cinque Terre. There were six of us and the driver guide so we were in a van. We drove for about two hours to the first town and then walked down, down, down to the center and the marina. Luckily we didn’t have to walk back up. After a short time in that town we rode the train to the next one. We were supposed to walk on the Walk of Love, the only flat trail in the Cinque Terre, but it has been closed since there was a rock fall a couple of months ago.

We then wandered the second town (yes, Iàm avoiding the names because I can’t spell them without my map which is back in my room.) Trust me they are five beautiful towns that you do not drive in. You park and go and walk or train between them, or boat, but that was closed for the season. For the next train ride our guide left us and we were on our own for the ride to Vernazza, where we could wander and eat. I stopped at one of the restaurants he mentioned and had Triofe with pesto--a small twisty type of homemade goodness. Good also was the pesto sauce, and I have to say it looks pretty much like the kind I make myself every summer with my basil crop. The guide met us there with the van. We made it to four of the five towns, and then up to the top of one of the highest hill for the view and the chance to see the only mechanical thing they have to help the wine harvest--a sort of flatbed that they can stack boxes of grapes on and that runs on a single rail to the commune winery. Then we headed home--a nice tour.

First a confession. I found my Carmex and hour after I wrote. It was in that nice plastic bag that TRS likes to see when you fly. Also another confession, I didn’t eat Italian this noon. However, I did not enter the McCafe, Burger King or Subway which are all not too far from here. I went to Santa Croce to visit the church and the annual German Christmas Fair was going on. So I had sausage with kraut, German tasting anyway.

I have been to several of the great galleries with one more to go tomorrow. First the Accademia. After I admired David from all angles, I wander the other rooms. Then two days later I went to the Uffizi. Tomorrow the Pitti Palace. It’s a lot of art, true but I wouldn’t miss them. I will admit that I prefer my religious art in churches, but these galleries have a great lot of amazing religious paintings. I don’t use an audio guide because I don’t want the details on the artist and techniques and I can pretty much read enough Italian to tell what’s in the pictures. When it gets to be too much, I start to play guess the saints before I read the description. I hope nobody minds. I don’t do it to be disrespectful. Some are easy like St. Sebastian with anywhere from 1 to 20 plus arrows, Lucy with her eyes on a plate, Lawrence with his grate, St. Peter Martyr with the knife in his head, St. Peter with his keys and St. Paul with a sword. The more local ones defeat me!

Tuesday afternoon I had a very good walking tour with Context Travel, my favorite. It was called Dante's Florence. We visited the Dante Museum, the church where he supposedly first saw Beatrice and a couple of other places. The three of us on the tour and the guide went to a bar for hot chocolate and read one canto that the guide really likes (in English, of course) and then listened to Roberto Begnini (Its a Wonderful Life movie) read it in Italian. The guide said he has it memorized and does a three hour reading at Santa Croce every year. He is from a small town near here. Why this tour? Because for some strange reason I decided a few years ago to read the Divine Comedy and did a few cantos at a time and all the notes that John Ciardi could put into his English translation.

That night I went looking for a place to eat and after reading a menu that sounded OK and not too expensive I went in. And I promise you this is true! After I sat down I looked at the name of the restaurant. It was Dante and Beatrice! Promise.

Its cold and raining here but the big Christmas tree is up in Duomo Square but not lit yet; the streets are strung with lights--a different type for each street it seems.

I am off to Bologna tomorrow and don’t know what awaits as far as computer use is concerned. Today I did and Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, and I mean did. To my dismay the ticketing was different so I had to buy two tickets both with parts I had no intention of using. If it were not my last day I probably would have saved the garden for later, but I hadn't been able to see them last time. Before that I wandered through the Paletine Gallery and the Royal Apartments--all kinds of paintings there, some very famous. There are information cards in each room and they tell you which ones are important or famous by outlining in red. So you can read about as many as you want to, and believe me there are lots--walls full! On that ticket I did not go to the modern art section---not my thing. Anyone interested in furniture would also like this because especially in the Royal Apartments they give descriptions of that and wall coverings, etc.

Then I wandered the gardens and there were lots of people there. I made it almost to the top by taking the side paths that aren’t as steep. At the top I could have gone to the Porcelain Museum, but didn’t really want to so I headed back down on the opposite side paths and managed to get off the main paths and not know where I was. Had to go up a ways again and then down. Then it was even more down, but not as steep to see the grotto were copies of Michelangelo's Prisoners are kept. All told 4 hours of wandering in the cold! Sometimes I know I'm crazy.

I did find a restaurant that had a selection of soups so warmed up with tortellini in broth for lunch.
Tonight I was heading to Mass that I though was at 5:15 though not the usual English Mass. The priest had told us that. Fought my way through the crowd watching the lighting of the giant Christmas tree and found out Mass is at 6:30. It was quite a gala tree lighing with drummers and flag wavers and a count down from 10. I will take a picture later when the crowd is a little less.

Do want to mention that the tour I took Wednesday--the long one--was with Walkabout Florence, a company that I found two years ago when I took the same tour. It was quite a large group, a bus full. We went to Siena and had a walking tour--very, very hilly and especially hard going down. Then we had lunch at an organic farm with a wine tasting. We had bruschetta, pasta with Bolognese sauce, salad with prosciutto and salami--with these we had white wine and then two reds. Dessert was sweet wine, Vin Santo, and cantucci (hard almond cookies) to dip into it. This is about my favorite dessert here in Florence. We had free time in San Gimignano, the town of towers and hills--though not as hard to navigate as Siena. Our final stop was Pisa. It was late and the cathedral and Baptistry were closed. The tower was open and some chose to climb it, but I’m not about to try 200 steps. Anyway it is a very good tour to get an idea of the three towns.

Though I am swearing not to do this on and off the train bit again, I would like to come back to Florence for lots of reasons, but I think the main one is to see--finally--the main altar in Santa Croce without any scaffolding. When I walked in the church, I said oh no still covered. The guard at the door heard me and said it should be done next March. I told him that this was at least the third if not the fourth time I had seen it like this. He said work started in 2005. I really, really want to see it. I guess we'll have to see.

All for now and all for Florence
A presto



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