We 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.
We 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.
The 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.
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.
We 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?
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.
We 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.
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.
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.