(excerpted from my voluminuous diary of a trip to Tuscany 12-26 September 1994)


FLORENCE

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photo in Piazza della Signoria, Firenze ©ejm94 (jpg 3.34kb)

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Florence

Monday 12 September 1994 11:45 pm 18C clear
Florence Hotel L82000 per night, breakfast included
The flight from Toronto to Milan was quite turbulent at times. When we were flying over Europe, we saw the alps and unknown cities and villages. The drive from Milan was long. We got off the autobahn at _____? and headed into Levanto. The road wound steeply around past olive groves, bamboo plantings and grape vines. We arrived in Levanto, a picturesque resort town on the Mediterranean. It was sunny and about 27C; T, P and I decided we NEEDED to go for a swim. The water was silken and warm. Afterwards, we walked a short distance up narrow streets past beautiful balcony gardens to a wine selling establishment La Cantina Lavantese. Then back onto the highway to get to Florence. After lots of false turns passing a gyspy camp on one of them, we finally arrived in the center of Florence not far from our hotel. But we were in a maze of one way streets and it was dark. T negotiated with a taxi driver who led us to the square with the spectacular big cathedral. There was as quite a drama as a couple tried to the take the taxi as T was asking his questions. The concierge of the hotel (not our hotel) came out and joined in. We finally got into our hotel at 9:30 pm.

Tuesday 13 September 1994 6:30 am ~15C overcast
Slept pretty well in spite of the motorcycles echoing very loudly in street. Directly across the way from our room is a church b.1611 with a stainglass window. An organist was playing last night when we got in. I now see an ad for a concerto d'organo at the front doors of the church. Whoever it was must have been practicing. A garbage truck just came noisily by and now church bells are ringing wildly. We'll see if we can move our room to the centre court because when we're a little less tired, we may not sleep as well.

5:30 pm sunny ~27C
Our hotel room is quite noisy but keeps reminding us of India. The organist was just practicing again. We won't be able to move; the hotel is full. (When making reservations, always remember to ask for a room facing the courtyard!) A horse just clopped by below and I can hear two-stroke engines going all the time. There is a cafe‚ directly below, where the sound of cups clattering drifts up constantly.

T and I walked out this morning with P and went all the way around the Banca Commerciale before finding the very grand entrance. There, we had no difficulty at all cashing our travellers' cheques. We then continued towards the Ponte Vecchio, buying cartoline postale (postcards L300 each) e francobolli. (stamps L1000 to Canada) I was very proud that I negotiated buying one more stamp for another postcard. They didn't have any 1000s left, and were going to send me away until I suggested two 500's -all in Italian. This is fun! T is much better at speaking than I am though. I keep trying to rely entirely on my knowledge of music notations. But saying "piu lento" to someone speaking very quickly doesn't get one very far if one can't understand anything but "lento, andante, forte, piano, presto, etc, etc...."

The streets and buildings around the Ponte Vecchio are amazing but very crowded with tourists.photo Boboli Garden, Florence ©tph94 (jpg 1.79kb) By 10:00 or so, it was already quite hot just as the photograph book at home said it would be. We continued over the Ponte Vecchio past the Pitti Palace into the Biboli gardens. There was a beautiful fountain there along with many pathways up to a spectacular view of Florence and the surrounding area. One side of the area looked onto the city and the other looked onto olive groves stretched out for miles.photo Boboli Garden, Florence ©tph94 (jpg 1.79kb)

At a church near the pitti palace, T asked a cleaning lady when it was built. The cleaning lady really liked T and was very sweet talking to him. She said the first church on that site was 4th cent and addition was put on in the 5th cent. Then she showed us a Boticelli saying in Italian that here was the lady (the Madonna ) wearing clothes but the same lady is at the Uffizi gallery down the street without clothes. The madonna did indeed have the same face as the Venus rising out of the sea. What a place Florence is!! Boticellis just lying around in a church that isn't in a guide book. Who needs to stand in a monstrous line up to see the famous ones?

We all met for lunch at an enoteca: Cantinone gallo nero. There we had the most amazing lunch. T had penne with a fresh tomato sauce and a toasted bread with truffles and garlic. I had bread soup(!) a speciality of the region. The description of the soup was disgusting sounding but the actual dish was fantastic. I was given a bowl with half tomato bread soup and half bean and vegetable bread soup. That was followed by toasted bread with porcini. The wine was a 1990 chianti that was unbelievably good. We then all walked together to the piazza della signoria and saw the replica of Michelangelo's David. I couldn't believe the beauty of the fountain in the square. photo in Piazza della Signoria, Firenze ©ejm94 (jpg 2.14kb)Ammanati's statue of Neptune far outshone the David (maybe because I had seen so many reproductions of that famous fellow - familiarity breeds contempt....) We went into the Palazza Vecchia built in 1298. The reliefs and paintings were spectacular.

We went at about 4:30 to the tourist information and found that there are hotels on the way to Vol Paia so it looks as if we can walk. The next town is about 14K away. G suggested that we check at a book store for walking maps and we did find one. We're really going go do it.

(This is fantastic! The organ next door is going full blast playing Bach and the church bells are all ringing and ringing and there is a motor sounding and cars buzzing by all at once. Florence is very stimulating but I'm looking forward to a smaller centre.)

11:30pm
We just had the most amazing dinner with Iano DaGrazia at Aquacotta!!! We met him at his shop where he picked out several bottles of wine for us to have with dinner. Then we all walked over to the restaurant and watched and listened in amazement as Iano and the restaurant staff disgussed the dinner preparation at length.

The restaurateurs kept coming out to show us the things that would go into our dinner. First came plates of porcini mushrooms. They were big, plump and white - beautiful. Later, we were shown some spectacular looking yellow and red peppers. And back the plates were taken again to the kitchen for the chef to do wondrous things.

Antipasti:
frittata: potatoes zucchini
eggplant
crostini:
   -gorgonzola, arugula
   -chicken liver pate
   -olive pate
Victorian vegetable looking like Okra
   (when growing apparently looks like a giant thistle)

Pasti:
farfalle eggplant & pancetta
tagliatelle porcini

Main:
whole grilled porcini mushrooms with wild mint
blue steak
deepfried porcini
fagioli (fresh) with olive oil
liver grilled

Cheese:
peccorino - Sardinian aged
fresh figs

dessert:
raspberries & white peaches in the dessert wine, Moscato d'Asti

Wines:
Berdicchio di Malelica 1992 Bisci (anise woodsmoke)
Gini LaFrosca 1993 Soave (T loved this one)
Sorai chardonnay 19921 Gini Monteforte d'Alpone
Dolcetto d'Alba 1993 Vignalenga
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1990 (corked)
Villa Monte Rico 1991 Vino da Tavola SanGiovese
Barolo Manzone Le Gramolere 1990
Vigna Larigi 1992 Barbera (this was unbelievably good!)
La Spinetta Briccoquagllia 1993 Moscato d'Asti

We had the white wines with the starters and moved on to the reds for the next courses. Each thing was served with a different wine. And we didn't nearly finish any of the bottles of that absolutely marvelous wine. It nearly killed me to move on to a new one as I was savouring whichever one was in my glass. I can only hope that the staff had a wonderful party with what we left behind.

T asked a waiter for stuzzicadenti (toothpicks) and the fellow happily translated back, "the tooth sticks!"

Wednesday 14 Sept 7:40 am 18C sunny
It was very hot last night. I woke up with a start, drenched in sweat about 3:00 am. There was a drunken fellow singing in the street below. He shuffled off. I lay in bed listening to the silence until a motorcycle zipped by. Then some people started talking animatedly. About 5 minutes later I heard a very sharp "sh" and they immediately stopped. Then silence and blissful sleep again. Breakfast time now.

Today we walk!!



walk from Florence to VolPaia

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