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Italy, Sunday October 4, 8:30 am-9 hours ahead of PDT

Buon giorno! It is another beautiful day in Florence; it will get up to 80 again today. Yesterday we wandered the city, mainly on the Otrarno (the other side of the river) and according to dad’s pedometer we clocked in around 9 miles of walking. Yes, my feet have a few blisters and could really use a good rubbing!

We started the day with a cappuccino; Mark had a sweet roll and I had a small panino, then we went back to the Wind store and got my internet working. It took a new key, but it works. (and now the fuse in my plug in has blown and I am on battery power for now. Of course! Nothing is easy with this computer!) We were on our way to the Ponte Vecchio, and we came upon the Saturday market. Oh happy day!!! The local vendors had all kinds of cheese (I bought some taleggio), wine: 3 bottles for 13 euro! Sausages (I bought salami of wild boar, and some lardo. HEAVEN on my tongue!) There was honey, olive oil (last year’s crop), pastries, cookies, crafts, and even a stand with vegan cheese! I find that slightly ironic in Italy but I knew Erin would want to know about that. The poor vendor was off to the side of the market on the perimeter. I didn’t try it, I thought they might run me off if they knew what I had in my bag. Dad and I ran the purchases back to the apartment while mom and Mark went on to the Piazza del Signoria to take some more pictures. We all met up and headed to the river.

It is very crowded here, certainly more so than in November. Tourists from all over the world and many of them are Italian. We walked with most of them across the bridge and checked out all the massively over priced and very beautiful jewels. We got across and headed up river a few blocks to il Cantinore for lunch. We walked down several steep steps to a room below the street level. Then we walked down a few more steps to the restaurant. It is considered polite here to greet the shopkeeper whenever you walk into any shop, before you do anything else. Cheery calls of ‘buon giorno!’ came from all the staff as we rounded the corner and we were off to a great start.

It has become our favorite fashion of eating to order many dishes and share them all. Mom had a glass of white wine and the rest of us shared a liter of the house red. We had an antipasti of whipped cauliflower topped with a ‘pate’ of porcini mushrooms: It was SO good, I am going to figure that one out for our catering menu. Also some mixed ‘cold cuts’, a bit of prosciuto, coppa, salami… like nothing we can get at home. The flavors are so much…more here. Mark ordered a ‘pizza bread’, which was topped with and was hot from the oven, and we also had the typical bread with their house olive oil. Dad ordered some soup: it was a tomatoey soup thickened with potatoes and near the consistency of our tomato-garlic soup, but a little thicker. The fresh taste of the tomatoes was bright and delicious! Mark ordered a ravioli that was stuffed with cheese and surrounded by raw veggies and shaved parmesan. This is differet from what you may imagine. A few large, lovely ravioli made from a delicate, fresh pasta that was very light and pillowy. There was not a sauce other than a bit of olive oil and the thinly sliced veggies offered a fresh crunch to each bite.

I ordered a roasted pork dish that came with roasted potatoes. The pork was prepared 3 different ways and the potatoes were so flavorful and roasted so perfectly that we were all making yummy noises. As fabulous as that dish was, my favorite was the last: one large (nearly the size of a deck of cards, but square and taller) ‘tortelloni’ stuffed with a mixture of mashed potatoes-the pasta was superbly tender and fluffy. It was covered in a ‘bolognese’- a meaty tomato sauce that was made from wild boar. It was pork only better and every bite was delicious. We sopped up the sauce with the bread at the end. Each dish was a nice, manageable portion and with the 4 of us passing them all around we made quick work of them. We were by no means stuffed at the end of the meal, though we could not have been more satisfied. We ended with some espresso and we stumbled out into the daylight to continue on.

It was now after two and into siesta. The churches were closed so we made our way to Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens. We spent hours wandering the massive grounds which range from manicured lawns to forests, ponds, castles, grottos, and many other landscapes. We were fairly exhausted by the end of our tour and we didn’t see even close to all of it. We missed much of the palace, though we felt good about what we had seen. We were discussing our next course of action when a nice gentleman came out of an office near where we were sitting and explained to us about where to catch a city bus and how to do that. We had a plan! We found where to buy the bus tickets and walked several blocks down river to the nearest stop. We caught the bus and went up to Piazzale Michelangelo, which is way up on a hill and offers panoramic views of the city. We saw at least 4 brides/grooms having their pictures taken and thousands of tourists as well. The views were spectacular and the sunset was beautiful-though the moon rise was even better.

We wandered around trying to figure out where to get the bus pass back, as we had used more than our allotted time. It took 3 tries, but we finally found it and we caught a bus back. Except it didn’t really go near where we wanted to go. We stayed on it to the end of the line (all buses end up back at the train station so we knew we could catch anther one there) and waited for another bus. When it finally came it took us only about a half a mile and then the driver kicked us out because the air shocks weren’t working. We hoofed it back, albeit painfully by that time. We got to the place where we wanted to eat dinner and it was closed. I had to use the bathroom, we were all tired and hungry, and we were at a momentary loss for what to do. We ended up across the street from out apartment at a little
pizza and wine joint. The food here was fairly mediocre for Florence, and yet it was better than anything you can think of in our area for Italian food. Dad had grilled prawns and veggies (this is not a seafood area so as fresh and lovely as they were, this was not the greatest choice); Mom had ribollita, which you may have had at the cafe. It is a tomatoey soup that is thickened with bread and everyone does it differently…this one was chunky and again, not my favorite way to have it, but very flavorful and fresh. I had pasta: it was a long noodle like spaghetti, but was more square and textured to hold the sauce. It was a cream sauce that was made from black truffles and the magnificent flavor rendered me momentarily speechless. I wanted to curl up inside that dish and be enveloped by that flavor. It. Was. Delicious. Mark had a ‘pizza’… super thin (like a cracker) crust, charred by the grill, and topped with sausage and gorgonzola. Oh my gawd this was fantastico! They got our orders confused with another table’s and none of our food came out at the same time so we grazed for a long time and that was the perfect ending. Cantucci e Vin Santo topped it off nicely. We hobbled across to the apartment, up the 35 stairs, and I took a bath before retiring. I wore ear plugs and it helped A LOT with the noise while they were in. I took them out at some time because they were so uncomfortable and the partiers were still out and about.

I am losing battery power so will have to finish later… We have reservations at the Uffizi at 10 am and the Accedemia at 4 pm where we will see David. Between we will go to the Duomo, the Campinile and surrounding area.

Ciao for now!