Posts Tagged ‘duomo’

What A Pitti

May 19th, 2009

May19th

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Today we are leaving to go to Montalcino.  However, we do not meet up with JeanE and Kathie till 5pm at the train station, so we have the whole day here in Florence.  However, due to my mom’s fall, she can barely move as her whole side is in pain.  So we decide to do very minimal today.  Nope, we will not be hitting the Pitti Palace or the gardens as intended.  I actually didn’t mind as I wasn’t really looking forward to that long hike again up the hill.  If I could have done something tourist this day though, I think I would have hit the Duomo museum (Mary Magdalene statue) or the Borgello museum (Donatello’s David and other sculptures).

After a great night of food and fun, and lots of wine, it was a slow moving morning.  We took our time eating breakfast, and then packed up our rooms and left our baggage with the front desk.  And then we just sat in the bar area.  We discussed things like bidet usage, we did work on the Internet and computer, and we looked at pictures.  My dad ran all over town looking for my moms cross necklace, chain, and angel pin.  He was successful on 2 of the 3, but quite sweaty after literally running around.

We ate lunch down the street at a pizza place, and we were approached by a lady about a charitable organization.

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We head thru the market one last time for shopping.  My mom bought more scarfs, probably, I don’t really remember.  But it was time for last minute shopping in Florence before we headed out.  We got towards the end of the market, and we sat my mom down, left her a couple bags, and my dad’s camera.  Then the 3 of us walked back to the hotel to grab all the luggage.

We got the luggage and then trekked it through the town.  Luggage is heavy when you are carrying multiple pieces for multiple blocks.  We have had to do these long walks usually when we first get to a city, and when we leave the city.  I didn’t want to get any hotels right near the train station, as that tends to be more of the seedy parts of town, as well as a little bit of distance from the city centers.

We made it back to my mom, and then trekked through the city some more until we arrived at the train station.  We were scheduled to meet our new travelers here, as they were coming in from Venice.

We waited about 20 minutes, protecting our bags from pick-pockets and crowds, and eventually JeanE and Kathie met up with us at the McDonald’s there.  We then walked to binari 2 and waited about 45 minutes for our train.

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We took the train, and the first stop was about 5 minutes away, it was a secondary Florence stop.  Then it seemed that everyone got on the train.  Meanwhile, my dad is asking my mom for the camera and she has no idea where she put it, or if she even had it.  I have visions right now of when my dad emptied the entire suitcase of clothing once, in the paris airport, looking for something that K.C had misplaced.  We have stacks of luggage now, all over the seats on top of each other, and there is no way he could possibly do that now.  Though, I am sure he wants to.  He is frustrated and agitated, as travelling with many people is not easy.  We try to calm him down by letting him know that at this point, its either in the bags, or its not, and there is nothing he can do.  But more than likely, it is somewhere in the bags and we will find it when we reach our destination.

It’s really crowded on the train right now, and we have our luggage taking up seats and people are irritated with us. This Italian guy sat down across from Lisa and  is breathing his bad breath in sighs of frustration on us.  I’m having a hard time concentrating on typing and its really hot and uncomfortable.  I think it must be train rush hour time.  Meanwhile, my dad is irritated because he thinks that he may have lost the camera or misplaced it somewhere in Florence.  Meanwhile, we have met up with 2 new travelers and so there is always transition time of getting used to people and group dynamics.  I am curious to see how this will all work out.

We sit on the train for about 20 minutes without it moving, when over the speaker in Italian, they announce that the train is having problems and we would need to exit and find a new train.  Brilliant.

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Downtown Buonconvento

We hop off the train, high-tail it to a different track, only to see the train that we really wanted, was just leaving a different track.  We hop on a new train.  Lisa runs down the track to ask the conductor if it is the train we want, and he says no.  We all quickly jump off the train with our luggage before it takes us to an unknown destination.  We eventually find the right track, after lugging the luggage up and down stairs.  At one point, I thought there was a nice citizen.  I was carrying multiple bags (mine, Lisa’s, Jeane’s…I don’t remember anymore), and taking my time up the stairs.  Someone came by and grabbed the side of one of the bags, and helped me carry it to the top.  How nice!  How kind and caring these Italians are.

Five minutes later, he came by begging for change.  I was set up.  The “norm of reciprocity” strikes again.  Eventually our train arrived, and it was the nicest train we had been on yet.  We enjoyed a 2 hour train ride through the country side.  We were covered with green hills.  It was beautiful.

We arrived at the Buonconvento train station and saw for the first time my parents new car.  While my dad was walking the couple blocks to pick it up, we rummaged through our bags and found his missing camera.  He will be so happy.  Because they have a convertible, we couldn’t fit everyone (this time) and our luggage so Lisa and I stayed behind to wait for trip #2.

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We walked thru the streets of Buonconvento, used the restroom, checked out the 7-11 type convenient store, and eventually sat outside the tiny train station at a little restaurant and ate a snack of pasta with bolognese sauce.

Dad came back and picked us up, and we drove the 10 minutes to Montalcino, with the stars above us, the top down, and my dad blasting Michael W. Smithmusic because its the song on his ipod that gets the most bass and he wanted me to experience the woofer in the back.  Very funny when a 1980’s Christian pop/worship music singer is your idea of heavy bass.  It was a beautiful drive.  One that I wish we could do again, over and over.  It was a very pleasant evening and it was nice with the wind in our hair.

We arrived in town, walked our bags up and down hills and made it to the cute little apartment with a fabulous view of the green country side.  There was pizza waiting, and jugs, yes, jugs of wine waiting.  We ate, we drank, we looked out through the peaceful valley, and we enjoyed catching up with everyone.

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Golden View, Open Bar

May 18th, 2009

May 18th

pharm_smWe did email for awhile this morning after breakfast and then left around 10:00 am to head to the market where my parents bought lots of scarfs.  We did some more shopping in the market, I love that place!  We made our way towards Santa Maria Novella train station as my Mom wanted to visit one of the oldest Pharmacies that is nearby it.  It took us some time to finally find that place, and along the way shopped some stores inside the train station, where my mom bought a cd of organ music as a souvenir, and I bought a live Radiohead cd as well as an Eels cd.  We finally found the pharmacy and it was room after room of history of herbs and remedies and even some fresco’s.  It is one of the oldest businesses to still exist with the same name, having started around the 1600’s.

We ate lunch next door at a curbside cafe and had a pizza.

3seg_smWe went back to have our 3 hour tour, via segway, of Florence.  I was really excited about this.  I have heard so much about them, and how much fun segways can be, plus I am a fan of Gob and his segway riding ways.  I thought this was going to be an awesome way to travel around from site to site and see the city.  Plus, with a tour guide, I was happy to perhaps be learning something new.

I love traveling to places I went back in 1997, because I learned so much before, and it is nice to share the little tidbits that I have learned, with those that I travel with now.  I really feel that the history, the cities, the architecture, and the overall travel experience comes to life when you know just a little bit more about a church, about a work of art, about a time of life.  When it isn’t just a painting anymore, but about a cultural struggle to find relevance and to survive harsh times.  And although I learn a little bit more on these trips, most times its just a rehashing, or a remembering of things I have already learned.  So I was really looking forward to the time with the tour guide.

debbiesegway_smThe segway tour did not start well though.  My Dad was the first one to get the little training session, and he was very shaky and hesitant at first.  He would push and tug on the segway and move really herky jerky like around in a little circle.  The tour guide stood next to him to make sure he didn’t get out of control at all.

So now that my Dad got it down, it was my Mom’s turn to step onto the segway.  She had noticed my dad’s hesitations, and decided to go balls out in learning.  She was much more convicted in her pursuit, and went for it.  However, the trainer did not stay near, and did not give her proper verbal instruction, and before we knew it, she was bailing off the back, twisting her body, falling on the hard cobblestone with a segway almost falling on top of her.  It was a very awkward fall with a twisting knee and body, and a painful thud on the stones that were laid in the street thousands of years earlier.

We lifted her and her bloody cut open knee of the cement, and my Dad walked her back to the hotel while the rest of us did our training.  My dad came back and we then took off for our tour.  There was another couple, then myself, Dad, and Lisa.  We started at the Duomo and the bapitstry doors.  The square was filled with people, and I thought to myself “I’ve had a hard enough time walking on two legs in this square, how am I supposed to control a segway.”  But I managed.  It’s really like Lisa told me.  She said that you just stand there and merely think about which direction you want to head, and the segway magically takes you in that direction.  We hit major stops, learning new things along the way.  Every new stop, my Dad would ask our tour guide a question.  Even though she corrected him every time, every time he would mis-pronounce her name.  And his question at every stop, was about jewelry stores, angel pins, and cross necklaces.

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We went by church’s, the river Arno, the ponte vecchio, the uffizi.  We were showed the flood lines when the city has flooded in the past.  Ironically, the last two major floods in the city, both occurred in November.  So don’t travel there in that month.

clowndebbie_smWe were shown the fashionable district, we passed the ferrari store where I took a picture for Juan (though, I don’t think I ever sent it to him).  I learned about the Strozzi family, and the opposition they had with the Medici’s.  Our tour guide showed us these “wine windows” that were about a foot or two off the ground, on some of these palaces.  Apparently, when the palace owners had had enough wine for themselves, they would stick the bottle out these little wine windows, where the peasant waiting there, the citizen waiting there, could then have some wine of their own.

I want a wine window.

We also learned, that the Piazza Republica began as the Jewish ghetto, and a flower and food market.  That it is the exact center of town.  And that the Arch building and the saying on it, is hated by most Florentines.

We learned that in the Piazza Signoria, that most of the statues are still, in fact, the originals.  Even though yesterday at the Accademia, we saw “the rape of the sabine woman,” that that one, inside the museum, was actually the copy.  The original still stood in the square.

We learned that at the top of the Santa Croce church, there is a star of david, and that the architect was jewish.

We also went by the little studio where Michelangelo carved his david statue.  By the way, on this trip I read the wikipedia entry on David, and learned a whole lot about it.  For instance, did you know that the 26 year old Michelangelo beat out Leonardo Da Vinci, to carve the statue?

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After our great tour (surprisingly, dad’s and my legs were rather sore), we went back to the hotel.  Our hotel was one of the stops along the tour.  Apparently they had renovated it and found that it used to be a look out tower, it used to be a roman bath, and it used to be a prison.  Part of it was now a museum and you could climb down the stairs to see it.  It was rather cool.  I liked this hotel a lot.   It was perfect location and had great service.  You can read my review of it…if I ever finish these journal entries and write my reviews.

openbarnight2_smWe changed and cleaned up for our dinner reservations.  We had made reservations for the open bar, golden view restaurant again, even though Lisa and I had eaten there 2 nights earlier.  The view was unbeatable, and the food was delicious, so we thought it would be a grand evening.  With live music starting at 9pm, we made reservations for 8pm.

We took our time walking there, taking pictures on the ponte vecchio, looking at jewelry stores for my mom, and enjoying each others company and the beauty around us.

We arrived at our reservation, and they had a window seat prepared for us, and glasses of champagne.  The windows were open and we were basically in a little open terrace, with the river and the bridge right next to us.  It was breathtaking.  We took many pictures, and got started on the first of what became three bottles of the vino della casa rossa.  Yum.

The meal and our time was very precious.  My mom would remark the next day that it would be one of the half dozen meals that she remembers for the rest of her life.  We laughed, we told stories, lisa told some great jokes (who tells jokes about organ musicians, and funnier yet that my mom would know it), and we drank and ate till we could eat and drink no more.

Black truffles were in season, and our waiter told us how they train dogs to retrieve truffles.  We decided to give them a try in our appetizers on top of crostini.  We also had a cheese plate with different melon, a pear and honey spreads.  Had a great and weird pasta noodle with bits of octopus.   I’m getting hungry again thinking about it.  I think I better wait to show the food till I do my food picture review post soon.

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We enjoyed all of our foods, including the steak florentine that my Dad had longed for.  We lingered.  We finished 3 bottles of wine, had desert, enjoyed the live jazz music.  It was a gorgeous night.  We lingered over 3 hours there, telling stories, getting to know our waiter, enjoying the food, the fun, and the company.

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Just Her Type

Afterwards, around 11:30 pm or so, we walked back to the area of our hotel.  We laughed.  We stumbled.  We fed a pig a coin.  We looked at the chalk drawings on the ground.

Lisa went back to bed (after our gelato stop), but Debbie, Steve and I found ourselves in a street, where a street performer was trying his trade.  However, the best part of his act was when a garbage man came down the street he was working.  Obscenities ensued.

We grabbed walked back to our hotel.  It was a beautiful night.

 

 

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With A Stroke Of Gelato

May 17th, 2009

May 17th

My parents were set to arrive this morning by train, and we were scheduled to meet them at the doors of the baptistry.  We set a meeting place for the right doors, if facing the Duomo at 10:00 am.  This went off mostly without a hitch and we were reunited and all speaking Italian.  Ok, we threw in a couple Italian words, and said our hello’s and hugs.  But who are we kidding, our Italian is very minimal.  Every time my Dad tries to speak or say an Italian word, he starts saying words in Spanish.  My mom says “his Spanish has never been better.”  My mom will say “figlio” over and over, and her other one is “we’re andiamo-ing.”  Myself?  I have had impeccable Italian (tho, I may not be able to spell it).  Due adulti biglietie per favore.

Let me back track for a moment.  This will go down as one of my favorite memories, and something I will always smile and laugh at. Lisa has had some Italian experiences, being from an Italian family, and having lived in Italy for language school once.  So I had requested of her to write a paragraph of italian sentences for me, to greet my parents with to impress them with how much Italian I knew.  She kept asking me what I wanted to say, and I really didn’t care, mainly a salutation.

So last night, after we had been back from dinner for a little bit, and we were half asleep, she starts chattering.  She starts telling me “I know what you should say to your parents when they arrive:  Welcome to Firenze, with a stroke of gelato.”  It made zero sense, but cracked me up.  I think she was thinking “stroke of genius,” but said gelato instead.  I think she was either part asleep, or tipsy from wine,  or exhausted from all the walking we have been doing.  I know it doesn’t make much sense but it made me crack up so much, and will always make me smile.

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One of my dad’s desires was to get an Italian leather jacket.  For the price and quality, I knew that Florence would be the place for him to do this.  So after they arrived, we decided to go shop at the Florence central market.  I described the market briefly yesterday, and today it was time for more shopping.

Even though this market stretches for many many square blocks, my parents wanted to buy the first stand they came across.  I had to remind them that every 3rd stand was a wallet, or shirt, or knick-knack, or leather stand.  I also reminded them that this was a place that, you didn’t have to, but you could barter and haggle for a better price.  We shopped for scarves, wallets, belts, soccer jerseys, t-shirts, and of course my dad’s leather jacket.

We came across a stand, and he pointed out to me the style he wanted.  It was a two tone between dark brown and light brown.  I asked “are you a woman?”

We started browsing, and of course, the salesman calls him into the store directly behind his stand.  Now he is trying on jackets left and right, and getting himself sold.  He is already in too deep with this sales rep.  Once you give them an inch, they will take a yard.

My dad explained the style of jacket (two tone) that he wanted, and the sales person said “no, that is a ladies style.”  We ended up hearing many different sales lines as they started bartering for the jacket that he decided he wanted.

“This is the last one we have.”

“You won’t find a better deal.”

“This is the sort of deal I would only give my brother.”

And as soon as my dad said “no, I’ll think about it and come back,” the salesman started offering the jacket to the next person in the store and started saying “shame on you for not taking this deal, it is the best you will find.  Its the equivalent to two pizza’s and a bottle of wine.”

I felt that my dad had gone too deep into the bartering game, and had gotten too good of a price, to walk away now.  It was the jacket that he wanted, and a darn good price.  Eventually we convinced him that he should do it, instead of searching for 5 euros cheaper.  But this process will be one that I cherish and remember and laugh at about the trip.

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We made  our way over near the Accademia to find a place that Rick Steeve’s recommended in his book, for lunch.  On our walk there, we ran into a lady and her daughter, that were currently living in Montalcino, that my parents had befriended.  We ate lunch, and then made our way over to the Accademia for our appointed time to see Michelangelo’s David, as well as some of his pieta’s and other pieces.

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My Dad's Illegal Picture Of David

There is one statue of David, and many many replica’s around the world.  Even here in Florence, there is a replica in the Piazza della Signoria–the original location of the statue.  Mark my words:  The replica’s are good an all, but they do not possess the grandeur of the original.  The original is far more powerful, angelic, graceful, and humble than any other of the many replicas.  My parents had previously taken a day trip to Florence and looked at the David replica and said:  “The copy of the statue of “David” by Michelangelo in the public square was good enough, rather than face more lines to see the original.”  I believe she would now say, after seeing the original, that she was very mistaken.

I remember back in 1997 (and I wrote about it recently), being literally blown away at the first site of the David.  I walked into this room, more like a long hallway, and my eyes were drawn to these half finished statues that Michelangelo had done, that lined the sides of the hall.  As soon as I took my eyes off the floor and the side statues, and looked up and down the hallway, I saw it, in its white brilliance, and fell backwards (not fall as in hit the floor, but fall as in had to take a few steps back to keep my balance).

I didn’t feel the same magnitude of awe, respect, and strength this time as I did my first, but I was still amazed and taken by its beauty and its determination.  Last time I was here, they allowed pictures, and you could walk right up to the David.  This time, no pictures were allowed, and they had a perimeter around the statue.  I was also reading on this time, of the statue being attacked by a man with a hammer back in 1991.  The pieces that broke off, eventually were studied, and the marble was found to be porous, which caused them to worry about cleaning with water that it undertook in 2003.

We sat and stared at his ass, his slingshot draping down his back, and the veins in his arms and legs for awhile, in sheer amazement.

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We then headed towards the Santa Croce Church, and the Pazzi Chapel.  Santa Croce is a large church that has a cool temperature inside, many naves lined with fresco art, and many tombs of famous Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, Rossini, and Marconi.  Our tickets were designed with pictures of small snippets of the art inside the church.  We played a game of “try and find your snippet” that was a fun treasure hunt.

Connected to the Santa Croce, is the Pazzi Chapel.  I think this is a really beautiful chapel.  It is simple.  It is elegant.  It is small.  It has elegant simplicity.  It was designed by Brunelleschi and is a pattern of arches, circles and squares.  The walls are mostly bare except for a few areas of art.  I think I could sit in the chapel, alone, and meditate for hours.

We grabbed a gelato from the “famous” gelato shop that my dad had to try and then started our long walk to the Piazza Michelangelo.  Down the river, cross the bridge, up the hill, up the steep many stairs; this was a lot to ask of my mom and the status of her knees.  We finally reached the top and soaked in the view (with a trillion pictures) of the city of Florence and the river arno.  It was beautiful.  Then, my Mom decided she wanted to go further up.

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We hiked further up the road to San Miniato al Monte church.  There was a vespers going on and so we wandered the cold sanctuary while monks were chanting.  There is a great view up here as well, and afterwards we took a funny picture of Steve, Debbie, and Lisa all pretending to be statues.  Each of them had no idea what pose the other was going to do, yet they all ended up with a very similar pose.

It had been a long day of walking, and now my favorite part of the day:  dinner!  We went to one of the restaurants that Rick Steeve’s recommended and I must say, this one was a dud.  Although I enjoyed the family style atmosphere, the service and the food were very lacking.

Nothing a gelato couldn’t solve on the way home.  We stopped for a bit to enjoy the statues in Piazza Signoria.  What a day!  It was great to be here with family, and to experience so many awe inspiring things.

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Quest For The Perfect Pizza

May 16th, 2009

May 16th 

mercato_smIt was kind of odd, being in a big city again.  It kind of felt like I was in civilization again.  That isn’t a good or a bad thing, it just felt like there was a large town now, and lots of people.

I really wanted to get some items posted to my site, so we spent a good chunk of time this morning on the Internet in our hotel’s bar.

After that we started heading out into the streets, walking around, enjoying sunny Florence.  Two days ago on our hike in the Cinque Terre, Lisa lost her sunglasses.  And today, when we left the hotel, I had forgotten mine.  So we hit up a sunglass store and shopped around.  We now both have some european shades to add flair to our trip.

We continued across the duomo piazza, past the rustic building, to the central mercato.  In Florence, they have 4 or 5 blocks that are just street vendor after street vendor.  Often times, the vendor’s push cart is merely in front of their store that is in the building behind them.  Some pushcarts are selling leather wallets, others are selling leather purses or belts.  Some sell souvenir tshirts, while others sell glass or necklaces.

I love this part of Florence.  It is kind of like a giant flea market or swap meet if you will.  11 years ago when I was here, we’d have to walk through this market every day to get to the park where our group would eat our lunch of nutella, bananas and cold cuts.  I have very fond memories of walking through here.  Plus, I love shopping here cause you can barter and find cool items.  Today I bought some soccer jerseys, a belt and a wallet.

I had some friends going to Florence 10 years ago and they bought me a wallet.  It is a wallet I have used since then.  Of course it has been falling apart for a few years, but I said I needed to replace it with one from Florence.  Today I did.

pizzabargello_smWe followed this up with lunch near Piazza Della Signoria.  This piazza is near an old fortress/palace which is now a governmental building and a museum.  In this piazza are replica statues of David and many others.    We had a pizza and it was one of the best yet.

This is a good time to talk about my pizza quest (if I haven’t already).  Once again, 11 years ago, I ate pizza in Italy, mainly in southern Italy (Brindisi, Rome…) and it was amazing.  I will never forget it.  It was not like pizza at all.  I would cut into the dough, which was soggy with its toppings.  As soon as I would cut into it, the pizza would practically drain off.  It was like a big doughy, tomato-y, cheesy soup.  Since then I have always held, that pizza in italy is so entirely different than we have come to know it in the states.  

During this trip, the pizza has been delicious, and different from the states, but nowhere near what I remember.  I am on a search for the perfect, soupy pizza.

Today’s pizza was much soupier, but still not the same.  Though, I have developed a theory on this trip.  The pizza has gotten better, the further south in Italy we have travelled.  I think it might be a regional thing.  Much like their sauces are regional (creamy base to tomato base), maybe their pizza is too.  Do I really have to travel back to Brindisi to experience this again?

obarwine_smWe were still sore from our hike a couple of days ago, and still interested in finding a massage to work those kinks out.  We asked our concierge and the best they had to offer was having the masseuses come to our room.  I’ve never done that before, and it was a little weird having it in our own room, but of course once I slipped off into relax mode, I forgot all about that.

After our massages, we were in our room, and we heard a lot of clatter from the street below us.  We looked out our window and the street was packed with people, in orderly lines and groups, like a giant marching band.  It was like a parade, but it was a protest.  It was a giant protest march.  The signs they were carrying spoke of communism, of schools, of 1972.  They were singing, chanting, clapping, playing drums and instruments.  It stretched from the Duomo, all the way to Piazza Signoria.

obarview_smFor dinner tonight, we went to the Golden View, Open Bar restaurant which is just on the other side of the Arno.  It was spectacular.  Great views, great food, lovely company.  The restaurant was all white and had a really bright and cheery atmosphere.  We started our meal with some mixed Crostini.  Our second course was some Gnocchi for Lisa, and some Penne for me.  Then, Lisa had some Chicken I believe that she loved, and I had a giant steak Florentina.  I figured, when in Florence…

All were extremely delicious, and the wine and service were great too.  It was unbeatable.

We walked home happy and satisfied, taking pictures of the river, the bridge, and all the crazy town folk.

 

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Friends In Florence

May 15th, 2009

May 15th 

ilpirata_smWent to Il Pirata for breakfast and enjoyed a couple of delicious Sicilian pastries, and then we caught the train to La Spezia then Pisa and finally on to Florence, having to change trains at each station.  Carting luggage up and down stairways onto the wrong tracks and then finally to the correct Binari.

Arrived and exited the Firenze train station, but exited the wrong side of the station, and then started walking in the wrong direction away from the city of Florence.  Oops.  400 yards away, we asked for directions to the Duomo, and was told to go back the direction we came from.  

We found our way to the hotel, and it was a beautiful hotel in which part of it was a museum as it used to house a roman bath, a jail, and a lookout point.  It definitely was the 4 star hotel that it advertised itself as–at least compared to the other places we have stayed.

republica_smAfter checking in we took a little stroll to Piazza Republica and ate a pizza and some wine.  Following that, we headed towards the duomo, to check out its graceful, colorful beauty.

After our 7 hour hike yesterday, we were kind of interested in a massage, and so when we stumbled across a place that looked like one, we headed in to examine it.  But it was mainly a tanning and waxing place that was a little odd, and they had no openings for massage.

Spent some time on the Internet, and then walked towards the River Arno to find a restaurant.  We went down the street next to the Arno, but there wasn’t anything interesting there.  So we crossed the Ponte Vecchio to the other side, and guess who I saw at the base of the bridge?

I noticed the back of his hair and the side of his face first.  I’m less than a foot away from him, and I realize that it is a Wold brother.  Was it Josh?  Jeremy?  I don’t recollect the name at first.  I say “Josh Wold!” but didn’t get a response.  Then I said “Jeremy Wold” and didn’t get a response.  But then I realized that it was Josh, and said it even louder.  This time he turned around.  

Josh is the brother of one of my dearest friends, David Wold whom I met and lived with in college.  Josh was currently living in Holland, and was merely in Florence for the weekend.

pvech_smWe had a short conversation and then continued on our ways.  Why is it, when travelling on trips like this, that it is bound to happen that you run into someone that you know?  That has happened to me frequently.  When has it happened to you?  and with whom?

I took a picture of the Bibo restraunt where we all ate 11 years ago.  They weren’t quite open yet so we went to a nearby restaurant where our waiter Victor entertained us with his friendliness.

What The Duomo

May 10th, 2009

May 10th

We awoke around 6am, packed, ate breakfast, and then eventually made our way up and down the town stairs to the ferry.  Took the 30 minute ferry ride to Varenna and then the 10 minute walk to the train station.  We waited at the train station for about 45 minutes and then caught the hour train ride back to Milan.  In Milan we stayed about 20 minute walk from the station and about a 20 min walk to the city center.  We only did one of those walks, you guess which one?  Ok, it was the one when we didn’t have luggage to carry (and when we knew which direction to head).  Checked into The Best Western which was nicer than any USA Best Western.  Flat screen tv, wood floors, a nice bed, and our first bidet of the trip (that went unused).

After about an hour of getting in, utilizing the wifi internet, the reception still wasnt done with our passports  or had our game tickets (yep, got tickets to the soccer game!) so we decided to go walking towards the city center.  We didn’t exactly know where we were going, but I figured that eventually we would see a big duomo in the sky.  We did.  They had this long corridor of shops before you got to the duomo square.  I saw a sportings good store and went inside in search of an AC Milan jersey, and an Inter team t-shirt for a friend. We found both!  Hopefully my friend likes the shirt, or else I will keep looking.  I was excited to get the jersey before the game.  It was a little pricey as it was more of an authentic jersey, and not the cheap ones they sell from the generator powered push cart vendors.  In the shop, we talked to two sales people who were wondering if we lived in the O.C (“Don’t Call It That”) and wanted to exchange houses with us.

alduomomilan_smWe then continued on towards the Duomo where lisa gave a hello, a “how you doin” in italian.  We got accosted by street salesman selling their knickknacks, and by others who were selling bird seed.  When we wouldn’t buy the seed, they would throw some near us and then the birds would descend on us.

 

We made it to a street-side cafe, and had a lunch of pizza, and a panini.  Very delicious (channeling my inner Dr. Carlander).

duomocafe

Made the walk back to the hotel, and picked up our soccer tickets.  Face value of 43E, we paid 150E per ticket.  But it would be worth every euro to me.  I changed into my jersey, uploaded some pictures to the computer as backup, and then made our way to the game.

Earth To Italy

April 27th, 2009

So I have been planning a trip to Italy to travel around as well as to visit my parents.  Finding hotels has not been an easy process.  For instance, during my time in Rome, there will be a sporting event that could equate to our Super Bowl. Google Earth has this great feature where you can turn on icons to represent lodging.  But even with that great tool, almost every place I searched for in Rome ended up being unavailable.  Eventually I found a place through http://www.vrbo.com.  

I figured out general locations where I wanted to be situated in each city.  Then, when looking for a room, often the hotel would claim that they are near that location.  But Google Earth has been a great tool in this.  I would merely punch in the address of the hotel, and it would show me exactly where it was in relation to where I wanted to be.  You would be surprised at how many hotels claimed to be near the Duomo in Florence, only to be not so close.

At this point I have everywhere booked, except for 3 nights – 2 of those nights are in the Cinque Terre.  Here are the screenshots from Google Earth and websites where appropriate.

 
Here is my itinerary:

  • May 7th leave San Diego
  • 8th land in Milan
  • 8-9 Lake Como
  • 10th Milan (I am hoping to  get tickets to the soccer game or the opera as a fallback)
  • 11-12 Venice
  • 13-14 Cinque Terre
  • 15, 16, 17, 18 Florence
  • 19, 20, 21, 22 Montalcino
  • 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 Rome
  • May 28th Fly home

 

Lake Como
La Pergola

La Pergola, Hotel and Restaurant, drawn from a sixteenth century-building, lies by the lake, in a most typical fishermen’s hamlet called Pescallo, right on a shore of the promontory of Bellagio, turning south-east and facing the Lecco branch of Lake Como. The House was drawn from a building dating back to 1500, and assigned to a convent in the past centuries. The centre of Bellagio is but 10 minutes’ walk, among the luxuriant olive trees and mediterranean vegetation spread out on the Spartivento Point.

La Pergola

 

Milan
Best Western Cristoforo Colombo
About a 15 minute walk from the train station and about a 15 minute walk from the Duomo.  Im desperately hoping to get tickets to the Juve v. Milan soccer game, but am considering the opera as a backup plan.

milanhotel

Venice
Hotel Ai Do Mori
They have a crappy website.  They need Gorirra.  But it is only about 10 meters from St. Mark’s Square.  

Venice Hotel

 

Cinque Terre
Vernazza
Ivo Camere
The apartment which is also in the center of the town is accessible via a characteristic “carugio” (small side street) and is steps away from the piazza and the sea. 

vernazzahotel

 

Florence
Brunelleschi Hotel 
Hotel Brunelleschi is located in the middle, pedestrian area of the historical center of Florence, just steps away from the Cathedral and the Signoria Square, from a part overlooking the Via Calzaiuoli.

Florence Hotel

 

Montalcino
With My Parents
Next time I get the address from my parents, I’ll take a Google Earth pic.

montalcino

 

Rome
Private Apartment
its perfect location. From there the most important sights of the City can be reached with a short walk. You are just in the heart of the centre. 200 metres from Piazza Navona and Pantheon, 300 metres from Spanish Steps or Trevi Fountain and, in the opposite direction, just crossing the Tiber, you can reach Sant’Angelo Castel and St.Peter Cathedral (400 metres).

Rome Apartment

This Week I'm Thinking About: Bill McCreery