Thursday, September 10, 2015

Florence Revisited

View from Madeline's room in Verona
      I checked out of my room at the Don Bosco, but left my bags in my friend Madeline's room, since she was staying at the Don Bosco for an extra day. After I dropped off the bags, she and I went out in Verona and had the best pizza that I've had so far at a cute little place called Due Cose.

Madeline and Coca Cola.
Molto buono pizza margherita. 

Outside Hotel J and J.
      I returned to Florence on the Frecciargento (the silver arrow), and the Hotel J and J upgraded me to a suite. Not that I needed so much room as I am on my own, but I'll take it. It's enormous. I spread out all over the place and the bathroom was very large as well. I'm going out of Italy in style.

Big upgrade.
     I got in so late I went to dinner at the same little restaurant nearby that I'd had such a good meal in on my first night in Florence.

Cantina Barbagianni
Nice british lady with an Antipasti plate to die for. 
     I had a lovely meal, which included a plate of pecorino cheese and honey flavored with truffle. I took a picture of the neighboring table's food - yes, a true foodie am I - , because their antipasti plate was so stunning.

Man, dogs and gelato. 
      After dinner, I took a passeggiata.  I saw a man outside a gelateria with his three dogs, who were all very focused on the gelato.
      The next day I hit the streets to wander about once more.
Chiesa San Lorenzo.
       I went to S.Lorenzo and walked through the market.

Dog spotting. 

Bike parking.
         I went into the S.Lorenzo market and bought some food products.

Fruits and veggies, italian style.
Alessandro's back at Il Barone.
      I stopped at the same place Dan and I had visited when in Florence three years ago. We'd bought a knife with a horn handle there. The owners were a pair of italians named Paola and Alessandro. I'd taken a joking picture of Paola and her co worker Carolina with the knife over her head, threatening to bring it down on Dan. It was a funny picture and I'd sent it to Paola, but she never responded.
      It turns out that Paola remembered me. In fact, she had gotten the picture all those years ago, and what's more, they had it up on a tv screen that was at one end of their stall, where pictures of their clients was scrolling. Dan is famous in Florence!
      I bought some more products, and on Paola's suggestion, I went to a famous trattoria around the corner where Carolina also works. She told me there would be a huge line, because it is that famous, but that I should "fai l'italiana" (make like an italian), butt my way to the front of the line and ask for Carolina. So I did that (there was a huge line) and asked for Carolina. They sat me with a table of other people. Carolina even remembered me from the picture taking episode, too. What fun. I had a very sardine lunch experience - it was pretty tightly packed - but the food was good.

Sardine-like lunch at Trattoria da Mario.
        I thought about maybe not going out for dinner after that big pasta lunch, but I'm glad I did. I still had one night left in Florence and I thought, "My goodness, what else could I possibly fit into one night?" Turns out quite a lot, but I'll tell you about that in my next post....

Friday, September 4, 2015

Hello Verona

     I left the Monna Lisa with a parting shot in the mirror in the hallway and headed for Stazione Campo di Marte.

There was a motorino/bike jam behind the cab. 
     I was booked on La Frecciargento, which means the silver arrow, but I did capture a passing Frecciarosso as it sailed by.


La Frecciargento (The Silver Arrow). Sounds like a comic book hero, doesn't it? 

La Freccia Rosso. (The Red Arrow)
     I arrived in Verona. It is a lovely city. It reminded me of Venice, with all the white marble pavement, but less stinky and not sinking into the sea.    

     I took a cab to the Instituto Don Bosco and as I suspected, since it was so cheap, the room I am staying at is connected to the Catholic Institution. Not a monastery, exactly, but lots of crosses and pictures of monks lining all the walls, although the room was bare of pictures. I didn't mind, though, because I had my own bathroom and there is air conditioning in the room. It was even made more charming by the random strains of someone practicing opera singing as I walked down the corridor to my room.

Not the Monna Lisa.
Balcony's of Verona.
     After getting settled in my,  I went out to walk around Verona. I walked to the station to buy my return ticket to Florence so I wouldn't have to worry about it on Monday. On the way I met an Italian woman walking with her poodle in a bag on her front. She told me her poodle's name was Lucky. I'll say. That's one lucky dog.
Lucky dog.
Piazza del Erbe.

BMW cruiser like ours back home, parked on the marble pavements of Verona. 
     That evening I finally managed to find some other folks from the Tag Teach Conference, and we went to dinner at a great little restaurant in a medieval loggia in the center. The loggia was once where the wool merchants bought and sold wool. Now it was a restaurant and we had a lovely dinner to the sound of church bells and a violin and accordion player sitting in the tiny piazza. I had pasta with clams and a very good antipasti.
Left to right - Madelaine and Pat from Carolina, Carolyn from Montreal, and Doris from Switzerland. 

Amarone, the local wine of Verona.
    All in all, It was good start to my stay in Verona and I'm looking forward to the conference tomorrow.
Sunset view from my room at Instituto Don Bosco. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Monna Lisa Good-bye

Last night Tiziana and I went to Prato to hear Interpol.
     Last night Tiziana and I went to Prato with her car to hear Interpol, an "indi rock" band. The concert was in Piazza del Duomo, where the cathedral is. We had dinner before at a little Osteria and I had ravioli with sugo di cingiale (wild boar sauce). The waitress made it herself and it was well done.
      The concert was on a stage at one end of the piazza. The lighting and effects were stunning,  complimenting the renaissance architecture. The music was atmospheric and quite good. Though it was very, very loud. I guess I'm getting old, because I'd forgotten my earplugs - so I stuffed my ears with kleenex.

Renaissance fountain and Indie rock.
      Tiziana decided she wanted to wait for the band to come out after, but they never did. We waited for an hour and finally I said - Enough, it's time to go. It was 1 o'clock in the morning! So we left and got lost on the way back to Florence. I didn't get in until 2:30 in the morning. Luckily, I could sleep in and I did. I slept until 10:30 and felt dazed all day, but it was a fun night.
     Tiziana and I laughed a lot. Easy to do with my half baked italian. We were standing in a group waiting and Tiziana said she'd be so disappointed if the band didn't come out and say hi. I said, in italian, "You're crying." But I used the word lacrime, (instead of piangere) which is apparently the special word italians use for the Madonna crying that you see in churches. Everybody was laughing.
In front of the plate store.
      The next morning, getting a rather late start, I continued my wander/shopping expedition. I saw strange little cars, dogs in the market, and bought some gloves. I stumbled across a little workshop that made mosaics, which began when the medici put it together to do the mosaics at the medici chapel.
Strange little car.

Dog in the market. Not something you see in America much.

The mosaic workshop. I just walked past a door and looked in and there was a sign saying come in. So I went in. 

A mosaic like this takes about three months to put together. Gorgeous. 

Buying gloves from this hidden gem of a place courtesy of the Monna Lisa hotel. 
Waiting at Piazza Becheria. 
         After my walk, I went back to the hotel to change and waited for Tiziana at Piazza Becheria so we could go to dinner. We had a fantastic meal at Cibreo, where the waitress remembered when Dan and I went there the last time. We made friends with all the wait staff because we went early - 7pm. - and were the only ones in the restaurant. Tiziana had to get home to get ready for Andy and Vaud's arrival. By the time we left, the place was full, but when it was time to order dessert, I ordered the merange (however you spell that) and Tiziana was full, so she didn't order anything. In the end, they kept coming by and dropping off free desserts "just because", until we had three. A budino of cream and a fig tart. We said goodbye and I rolled home.

Lovely dinner by candlelight.

The antipasti plates were adorable and delicious. 
I remembered the merangue cake from the last time. Tiziana with the budino on the house. 
Yet another free dessert. Fig tart. Really good. 
     It is time to leave the Monna Lisa. A great hotel in the heart of a great city. I am typing this once more on the balcony overlooking the garden (though it is dark, so I can't see too much). The fountain is softly pattering and I can hear the distant sounds of motorinos in the night from over the courtyard walls. It's been a lovely stay. Till the next time, Good bye Monna Lisa.

Monna Lisa gardens at night. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Florence Fun

Visiting the Bargello Museum
      On my second day in Florence, I chatted with a nice lady named Kim, from Salt Lake City. That morning she and I visited the Bargello Museum together, before she left for her weekend poetry workshop in Tuscany.  She took this picture of me at the Bargello, a beautiful museum of Renaissance sculpture, with 4 Michelangelo sculptures, several by Donatello (early renaissance master) and tons of ceramic tondos by Della Robbia. The Bargello was the renaissance hall of justice and used as a prison and torture chamber centuries ago.

Later that afternoon I climbed a mountain to visit S.Miniato.  See the church reflected in my glasses?
    I went that afternoon to visit S.Miniato al Monte, and hear the gregorian chants. Unfortunately the time was wrong on the website and they weren't going to chant for another hour and a half. I stayed for the Latin mass, but couldn't stomach staying another hour on the hard church bench for the chanting. My but couldn't stand it, really. So I walked back down the hill to Florence.
I came across a sculpture garden on my way down the hill. Lovely whimsical sculptures blended into a public rose garden. Fantastic. 

Taking my own picture in the mirror.
      The next day I decide to go for a wandering walk. It is blistering hot here, although the heat is supposed to break by Wednesday, so I go out early and plan on taking a nap during siesta time. I had hoped to visit the Museum of San Marco, but it is closed for renovations until some unknown date. Hey! Now I know I'm in Italy. I love that Museum. I'll just have to come back another time.
       On my walk, I discover a lady who does embroidery while you wait and I have some things embroidered. I've never seen this in America - another proof that I'm in Italy.

Embroidery while you wait.
Graffitti with bikes. Cool. 

      As I walked by an open courtyard, I spotted a church hidden away. It used to be a convent, but now it is a school. I went into the church and there was a lovely chapel painted by Perugino (an early renaissance artist). Yet another hidden gem stumbled across in Florence.

Renaissance painted ceiling of random obscure church.

Lunchtime for the locals.Tripe on the street.

After my walk, I had to stop in a Farmacia to get plasters for the blister I got. I'm walking a lot, which is great, because I've also had a straciatella gelato every day I've been here so far. With whipped cream. :)

Tiziana with Pina Colada.
      I took my nap and then it was time to meet Tiziana in Piazza Becharia. We did a little shopping, and caught up with each others lives over a drink that comes with a free buffet in the Piazza. Another great day in Florence!