Tuesday, June 9, 2015

26 May -- Evening in Firenze

I waited out the rain for 20 minutes this afternoon, standing in the entryway of a hotel. Just as I left the Botanical Garden, the sky turned black and it began to pour. By experience, I know, it's best to find a shop and enter. The location of the garden and the timing were not good for me today. The shops in the city center keep long continuous hours, which is not the norm for Italian shops which cater mostly to locals. The lunch hour is usually a two hour break, enabling everyone time to go home and eat. 

When there was a break in the rain I walked on for a few minutes. The next door I took shelter in was for Società di Dante. The frescos were so fabulous, I entered to take a closer look. And to take   pictures, with permission. No one was around. There was a wonderful Della Robbia enamel with vibrant colors on the wall. 

My next rain shelter was a kitchen shop which used to be located on the corner near my school, Scuola Leonardo da Vinci. Several years ago, they moved here. Via dei Servi, I think. I really did hope this shop had something I need. I was disappointed. Sorry signora, we do not have extra turning handles for the pasta maker. This will go onto my research list. Maybe Amazon.

I'm making my way slowly through the rain, toward my hotel. I had given up finding that shoe shop from this morning. But suddenly, there was my Feltinelli bookstore landmark. I entered the shoe shop and appogized for my wet feet. I took off my soaking socks and told the commessa, I had seen shoes this morning in the window and was back to try them. She kindly gave me paper towels to dry my feet. The sandals were perfect. I bought two pair. Made in Italy, cost about 35€. 

I cannot resist a bookstore. Leaving my umbrella at the front door of Feltrinelli, I went right toward study books for foreigners. Not all bookstores have such a good collection. I found several workbooks. Meanwhile, I was mentally weighing them. They can go in my purse. Really, this is my last purchase. I know I am precariously close to my weight limit. 

I was close to turning onto Via dei Tornabuoni. The rain had stopped for the day. Warm and sunny! I'm sure there was a  rainbow nearby. 

I looked in the shop and stopped in my tracks. I've only read about this! I stood outside, fascinated. I signaled to the man: 'come va?'  How is it. He smiled! 

This is Florence Kiss Fish where for €15 for 15 minutes or €24 for 30, one can have their feet nibbled clean of dead skin by the toothless garra rufa fish. Apparently for the last century, Turkish women have used these fish to perform pedicures.  

I read the brochure and decided it was safe. Italians are super health conscious and the government would be leary too. 
The other two customers were locals. I decided to be courageous. 

I would do this again! First, they wash your feet in an olive oil based soap. I inquired if it was safe for the fish. Next, you dry your own feet and step into paper slippers. The assistant helps you onto the seat. Then, rest the bare feet on the edge of the fish tank. Catch your breathe and feet into the water. And relax. After the initial giggling. People on the street stopped to watch. The little fish kiss away the dead skin. It felt like a massage. A bit creepy the first minute. After that, it was heavenly!

I paid for only 15 minutes. Next time I will go for the full 30 minutes. That man I had initially been watching, made an appointment for the following week.  My feet and ankles were totally smooth! 

Back out on the street, it was bright. The days are so long here. On Via dei Tornabuoni, where Via dei Rondinelli merges in, is a large heavy looking church. The doors were open! 

My first time visiting Santi Michele e Gaetano.  It's odd how there are so many churches so close to each other. It seems to be that each order had their own funding and followers. Very lovely inside and gray. Each church has it's own personality, inside and out. 

This church was rebuilt over a previous church between 1604 - 1648. The church was dedicated to one of the Theatine order's founders. Interesting they could not name it after him until 1671, when he was canonized. 

For the second time this trip, a photo reminder! I looked down at my phone and this was on my screen. Alessandro close by! I always light a candle and linger in these peaceful places. 

With a few hours still left in the day, I stopped at the hotel and then had a disappointing Pappa al pomodoro for dinner at my standby trattoria. Tomorrow night, pizza! 

Gucci Museo is supposed to have a great little cafe. I checked the menu for hot chocolate, but decided to buy an entry ticket and revisit. It's open late. I spent a pleasant several hours wandering and watching film clips. The sun doesn't set until after 8.30!

I just caught the sunset on my way to buy breakfast yoghurt. It's so beautiful here. It breaks my heart to leave.  On this bridge, about this time of night, Alessandro and I were lucky to be standing next opera singer S Kim when she burst into song, just for her husband. 

When I turn to leave, eye still on my lens, a surprise! I caught the moment. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

26 May -- Firenze until the big afternoon storm

Wiith only two days left in this trip, my to do list is almost all checked off. I have enough free time to feel the freedom of no destination. In my purse, I have paper printouts containing background information of some spots I hope to visit.  

Piazza San Marco is the general direction of my early afternoon. I have this map for directions to Sant'Apollina, which closes at 1.50pm. 

But first, lunch! I arrived at Mercato Centrale just a tad before the noon rush. I passed through the Borgo San Lorenzo area. It always makes me pause when I see this raw exterior of the Medici family  church. Perhaps it was their way of showing they were humble, despite their enormous power and wealth. 

I filled my water bottle again.

While observing at the meat markets last week, I suspected my favorite 'panino di trippa' is not what I have truly believed it was. Last year when I took private cooking lessons from Elisa, we made trippa.  It was then that it dawned on me. Trippa was tripe but not the same meat as in my favorite florentine sandwich. 

What am I eating and why when I ask for trippa, am I getting Lampredotto. Lampretto is what I love. I looked it up on-line. 

Tripe comes from one of the first of three beef stomachs. The lampredotto is the fourth and final stomach. It looks totally different from tripe, which is whitish with a honeycomb texture. It doesn't matter that I don't know what the English word is. I would never ever buy it outside of Italy. 

I'm at the 'Antica Tripperia Nerbone,' which was established in 1872!  I paid the 3.50 € at the cash register and asked for a panino di trippa. This time, finally I caught him say under his breath, 'lampredotto, ok'.  I took my receipt and scooted down to the panino line. I watched and waited my turn. This nice man has made me a sandwich twice a year, for how many years? 

I showed him my receipt and told him what I wanted, in addition, a ladle of each of the sauces: cool green and hot red. As I looked at him, I realized he resembled the TV character Don Matteo. 

I was having a real conversation! He asked me back if he were the most handsome. Certo!! Wow a small flirt and all in Italian. I asked him if this panino he was preparing for me was trippa or lampredetto. 'Lampredotto. They are similar.' So now I know. 

I sat like a local at the end of the counter.  There's a narrow white piece of marble, which is long enough to seat two people comfortably. My counter companion was a Florentine woman and her lampredotto was a bowled soup version.

I can't describe how scrumptious that sandwich was.  We watched the counterman make other types of sandwiches while we ate.  The lampredetto sits inside that vat of juices. Yes, he is bello. Very handsome. 

I walked back through San Lorenzo. I'm not sure of the location, but my next stop closes at 1.50. No time to window shop, although I saw sandals I know will be comfortable. I made a mental note that the shop is diectly across from Feltrinelli Libreria.

I walked right by the very plain entrance to Sant'Appolina. It was a Benedictine Convent (1445).  Here in their refectory is the Last Supper, painted by Andrea del Castagno in 1450. It was not seen by the outside world until 1860. The top part had been whitewashed over. 

It makes me sad to read Andrea del Castagno died of the plague in 1457, while painting another Last Supper in Santa Maria Novella. That fresco has been lost. 

I should have taken notes. Sometime this week I was in a church which had had its entire interior whitewashed by a "new pious priest in charge" to show his power. Really sick to try to destroy art on purpose. Here, art is religious, but it's also historical. It bridges today with the past. I've read that Lorenzo de Medici felt it was his civic duty to support the arts in everyway that he could. 

I think the expression of art to leave behind a record of an existence is a unique tool humans have been gifted. I am wondering where are all the artists today? Museums, churches, buildings, bridges, music and other works of art here show our human timeline. I come here and ponder the greater meaning of life and our responsibility to nurture our own talents. I come here and feel the tug to change the direction of my own life. 

This place is now protected and run by the government. There was no entry fee, but I was required by the guard to sign my name in the registry. I passed a foreign couple exiting.

I was alone! 

The painted 'marble' panels show one which signifies an extra agitation taking place. Judas is portrayed as a dark satyr, an ancient symbol of evil. 

Amazing detail of glassware sitting on the tablecloth. 

Such a wonderful place, missed by many people on their visit to Firenze. Because I've combined my love for language, culture and history, I seek out these treasures. So close yet so far from the swarms of tourists. This was painted in 1450 and today it's 2015. It's like time travel. How many people have passed time within these structures. And the paintings...real people posed as models. Artists toiled for years. Wishing I could live here. There is so much to absorb and study.

I had to turn on the iPhone data to locate my next stop, the Orto Botanico di Firenze (Botanical Garden), which is maintained by the University of Firenze. I thought I was going to the gardens near Via della Collona. Alessandro used to teach in the classrooms off Via Laura. I need to research that garden for another trip. This is an unexpected treat. 

I was the blue dot on the map. The entrance to the garden is on the far far side, although various iron gates, allow one to peek in. It's got a huge high wall around it, like a convent wall. 

This garden was created in 1545 by Cosimo I de Medici (The Grand Duke of Tuscany). It's Europe's third oldest garden. Its original focus was medicinal plants while in 1753 it became an experimental garden. It's been open to the public since 1684.  

This was not the earlier private Medici garden where Michelangelo was apprenticed as a young boy. That garden did not survive to present day but it was located nearby, closer to San Marco Museo, I believe. 

There was an entrance fee of 3€. A sign noted there is an internet crowdfunding to raise needed cash. I didn't see any visitors today. Several students were sitting on park benches, reading. 

The weather suddenly began to change just as I took my last pictures. The dark clouds were bringing heavy rain. I decided to make my way back to the city center, where I could find some shelter. It began to pour! More than my folding umbrella could handle. 

These ladybug type insects were long, not round as I'm used to seeing. 

Water lilies and the worsening condition of water is threatening some species.