Day 21: Florence
Since we are running a little late and the walk is bit further than I had counted on, we jump into a cab for the last part of the trip.
Sally and Kay have been following a similar itinerary to ours….they were in Rome, Puglia and Basilicata and will head for Piemonte next…but this is the only time that we are going to overlap. Breakfast is quite elegant at the Helvetia and Bristol…service is attentive, the room is very attractive and the buffet is overflowing….and we have a good time discussing our mutual trips and the upcoming election.
After breakfast, we head for the shopping district to check out a few stores; Diana has her eyes on an Italian scarf. On our way, we pass by the house on the Via del Sole (just off the Piazza Santa Maria Novella) where my sister Barbara lived in 1993 while on her Fulbright and where we stayed when we visited her on our first trip to Italy. Diana makes some purchases at the historic and very elegant Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella
while I go off in search of a bus map at the tourist office. The weather is now threatening so we hail a cab to go back to the apartment. The cab driver tells us that he may have difficulty getting to the address because there is a demonstration march scheduled–to protest the Berlusconi “education reforms”–that will close some of the streets in the area. Sure enough, when we meet the marchers at the Duomo, the driver says that he can get us to the apartment but only by taking a very circuitous and expensive route. So we get out at the Duomo and walk the rest of the way as the rain begins to fall.
We decide that this is a good day to do a laundry since there is a small laundromat just around the corner from the apartment. We generally have a good sense of Italian laundromat procedures but this one is a bit tricky and we need to get assistance from the two young people–one Italian, one American–who are also doing their laundry. While the laundry is being done, I take the opportunity to explore the neighborhood north of the Duomo where we haven’t stayed before. It is a less touristed area than we generally stay in and businesses that serve local residents predominate. There are a lot of university buildings in the neighborhood and we have seen students everywhere. (Diana spends her time trying to pursuade the undecided young American to vote for Obama. He has an absentee ballot that he plans to fax to the Embassy.)
After the laundry is finished, folded and put away, we get some sandwiches at a local alimentari, have lunch in the apartment and wait for the rain to stop. When it is does stop, we walk to the San Lorenzo market area
and do some shopping….Diana buys some scarves and a wallet….and then we take a roundabout route back to the apartment. The weather is threatening and since the end of daylight savings time the previous weekend, it is very dark by 5 pm.
We don’t want to go too far for dinner so we head to a trattoria that I had found during my wanderings, which is only two blocks away. When we go inside, the Trattoria San Zanobi is almost empty but we get a warm welcome from the woman in charge. Dinner is very good…..I have a pasta dish with mushrooms followed by trippa alla fiorentina while Diana starts with crepes in a cheese sauce followed by the bistecca alla fiorentina and roast potatoes….all very satisfying. With the meal, we drink a very pleasant young Chianti and have an interesting (if halting) conversation with the proprietor about the upcoming election. She is one of the few people we met in Italy who seems to have some hesitation about Obama but we can’t quite figure out what the hesitation iss based on.
Tomorrow we are going on a day trip with my colleague (and our friend) Maddie to Pietrasanta, a small city near the Tuscan Riviera where we have been invited to visit a hotel. Then we plan to do some touring around the area.