Monday, November 18, 2013

Can You Ever REALLY Get Enough of Italy?

That is the question we ask ourselves every time we come home from Italy.
"Wouldn't it be nice to go back and spend some time by the beach?"
"Couldn't you hang out in this piazza, people watching, everyday?"
"I wish I could eat this gelato every day!"
"We should rent a Tuscan farmhouse this summer!"
Ah...Italia. We love you so.
This trip held a lot of significance for me personally. Living in Florence my junior year of college is what inspired my love of travel , solidified my independent spirit and created my life long love for all things Italia. So it was important to me to show Pete and the kids the town I called home and all the memories that are with me from Florence!
An 18 year old in Florence versus a 45 year old (with husband and two kids in tow) in Florence is a completely different experience, but it was so fun to practice my Italian (dismally I might add), haunt my old haunts and have the memories come flooding back. I wish my photo albums of 18 year old me weren't in storage back in the US...I could post some embarrassing pictures!
I tried to be much more organized this trip since our last trip to Rome was grossly under planned (I was working last year this time). I had reservations for dinner every night, had pre-booked tickets for the David, the Duomo and the Uffizi and generally had our days planned to maximize our days in Florence.
Day 1:
Walked the streets of Florence to get the lay of the land
Ponte Vecchio
Pitti Palace & Boboli Gardens
Wine Bar in Oltro Arno
Dinner at Vecchia Bettola in Oltro Arno
Day 2:
Walked to my old hood in Piazza de la Cure and to Syracuse University in Piazza Savanarola
Accademia Galleria to see "David" (or the tall naked guy as we called him)
Bus to Fiesole for the sunset and a glass of vino in the piazza
Day 3:
All day guided tour of San Gimgnano, Montereggioni and Siena with Beppe!
Private wine tasting at Sant 'Appiano
Bought some delicious bread and cheese in Siena for a flat picnic
Day 4:
Climbed the Duomo
Visited the Uffizi Galleria and Piazza della Signoria
San Lorenzo Market
Visited Piazza Santa Croce
Dinner in Piazza Santa Croce
Day 5:
Quick lap around the Duomo to find May a Florentine sketch book and squishy pigs for the kids
One last gelato
We booked a flat just minutes from the Duomo which was comfy, quiet and had everything we needed. We arrived late on a Friday night and immediately hit the streets in search of dinner and a glass of Chianti. Several people had recommended Cibreo which was conveniently located close by our flat. The waitress was great and immediately told us this was not a pizza and pasta place...which was fine by us. The kids had chicken meatballs, Pete had a salt crusted pork chop and I had a rabbit medallion filled with sausage and wrapped in prosciutto...YUM! We sat outside on the street, overlooking a bustling piazza filled with lots of young people drinking wine out of the bottle.
Saturday was busy and the streets flooded with tourists. We had gone to bed late the night before and slept til 10 so we got a bit of a late start ~ it's ok, we are in Italy! We wanted to escape the throngs of people so we hit the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. Hot and muggy with lots of mosquitos but gorgeous views of the city and the surrounding hillsides. We wandered around the Oltro Arno all afternoon and ended up at a quaint street-side wine bar for a pre-dinner drink. A friend had recommended Vecchia Bettola for dinner and she was spot on. Delicious, spicy, vodka red sauce pasta was MAJOR. We entertained a little Italian boy while his family enjoyed dinner - there was a bit of a language barrier.
On Sunday, I dragged everyone to see where I studied at Syracuse University. Villa Rosa was the same as I remembered and it was a shame it was a Sunday and closed. We tried to find my flat on Via Brunetto Latini but I could not remember the address number and nothing looked familiar. The piazza in my hood was familiar and we stopped in a café for some espresso and Italian pastries.
A quick peak in to see the "David" and then a bus ride up to Fiesole for the sunset and a glass of wine.
Our day out with Beppe to the small Tuscan towns of San Gimignano, Montereggiano and Siena was excellent. Beppe was a character and although he wasn't a guide per se (really just a driver), he had lots of knowledge about the area. It was warm that day and just perfect for strolling these quaint towns. We did some shopping, some touring and some eating. Sitting in the Piazza del Campo in Siena, sun on our shoulders, eating gelato, will not be forgotten by any of us for a long time. We ended our day with a private wine tasting that Beppe arranged for us at Sant 'Appiano Winery. Lovely old Tuscan farm house that had been modernized into a small winery. The kids nervously had a go at tasting two of the wines...May made faces the whole time but I think Henry might have liked it a little too much...
Our last full day was busy with lots of walking, climbing the Duomo and touring the Uffizi, Santa Croce, Piazza della Signoria and San Lorenzo market. Our kids are not big museum people and the significance of the Uffizi was lost on them a bit but they can at least say they saw the "Birth of Venus". I loved seeing all the sculptures and of course the architecture! When we were in Paris, we didn't even go to the Lovre...oh well. Our day ended sitting outside at a lovely trattoria in Piazza Santa Croce. Three American students had set up their easels just beside us so May had a great time watching them paint and reporting back to us their progress.
My impressions of Florence after being away for 20+ years:
  • It seemed smaller that I remember and much shorter distances to walk. My flat seemed like it was so far from the city, when in reality it was about a 20 minute walk.
  • Everything seemed really well maintained-the buildings, the art and the historical places. The frescos were bright, colourful and recently restored.
  • With the above being said, I will say I was shocked at the amount of graffiti everywhere and on every surface. It made me sad.
  • Their green spaces (with exception to the Boboli Gardens) need some tending could have been the end of the summer season but the piazzas with garden/lawns were looking run down.
  • I still can't speak Italian very well. After a couple of glasses of wine, however, I think I am fluent.
  • The Italian people are warm, friendly, and just love kids. It's all about familia for them which is fantastic.
  • We saw loads of students who were there studying abroad -it was fun to see and we encouraged the kids to take advantage of a study abroad program when they are in college. I imagine they might want to come to Italy solely for the gelato.


Passionate protesters

More Duomo

A bustling Florence on a Saturday

Ponte Vecchio

The colours in Italy can not be beat

Love this ivy covered boat house along the Arno River

Sleepy cat on a moped-
he blended in so well he was hard to see

Pitti Palace

View from the Boboli Gardens

Random old wall attached to the Pitti Palace

Love contemporary art mixed with the luxurious gardens

One of my favourite shots - public drinking fountain in the Boboli Gardens

It was hot and humid with lots of mosquitos in the gardens-
we all got bit except Pete!

Love these trips as the kids are forced to get along and play with one another-
of course, it doesn't happen 100% of the time ...

A walk down memory lane...standing on the street I lived on,
although I couldn't remember which was our apartment...
memory lane isn't too reliable anymore!

San Gimignano

San Gimi

Another 75 degree day in Tuscany

Walls of San Gimignano

The 14 towers of San Gimignano - at one time there were 72!

Montereggiano - completely walled in Tuscan village

Daily gelato quota

Wine bar in the Oltro Arno

Chianti Classico

Siena's Cathedral was incredible-favourite by far!

Piazza del Campo



Loved this whole setting with the old door and the prolific bougainvillea

Whatever is behind these doors must be kept safe!

Wine tasting at Sant 'Appiano

Lovely Tuscan light on not so lovely Italian hair with no blow dryer

Lobby of our flat with Medici coat of arms = perfecto!

Mind your head Pete!

On the way up the Florentine Duomo

A LOT going on in this fresco

Looking down from the mid-way point of the climb

We made it - amazing views throughout the lands!

Sweaty tourists

Inside the Duomo and lighting a candle for Sarah Mary

A little afternoon street music in Piazza Santa Croce

Reflection from the windows of the Uffizi

Piazza della Signoria

Gelato # ?????

The only way to eat gelato
Piazza Cisterna in San Gimignao

Autumn in Tuscany

San Gimi


Another favourite picture!

Piazza in Montereggiano

Favourite pic #3

Wine tasting...when in Rome, er, Florence!
Fiesole sunset
Veccchia Bettola

Villa Rosa-my school in Florence

Chasing pigeons...

 They were so tame they didn't even fly away

Top of Fiesole

Glass of wine in Fiesole

Excited to taste some vino!!