Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Nov 18 2011 Friday Firenze

I arrived today from Lax-Paris-Firenze, earlier than usual. The flight left LA about 3.30 pm on Thursday and arrived here in Firenze about the same time on Friday. My one bag weighed in at 21.8 k which gave me a nice margin of safety from the 23 k limit. Not too bad, considering I have eight 1/2 pound boxes of See's candy with me, plus California almonds and a golf magazine for Primo, puzzles, Hershey's chocolate chips, goodies from Williams-Sonoma kitchen shop for Marta, Rosa and their mother Martina, comics for Matteo, a car magazine for Mario, a white orchid for Marta, and beauty supplies I ordered from Florida for Mario's sister. I also brought Alessio and Asumi corn taco shells, longhorn cheese and a cooler grocery bag from Trader Joe's.

I had weighed the bag with my traveling scale before leaving home. It seemed ok, but I added my new Rick Steve's 2012 Travel Guide (the only guide covering Volterra) and my indispensable Italian books verb conjugations and dictionary to the outside pocket, just in case, for easy removal.

As usual, I didn't eat the dinner on the flight over but this time I slept right through the breakfast as well. I had eaten toast and an omelet before leaving home.

I had no trouble this time passing through security at Paris. I had 40 minutes to spare at the boarding gate for Firenze. I bought my favorite Dior lip gloss (23€) and some huge foil wrapped chocolate coins showing the Eiffel tower (1.90€). At the snack bar I decided to not get the delicious rice pudding with raspberry sauce which I had in May. Instead I bought some yummy strawberry yogurt (packed in a cute glass jar) and a dried fig tart. I filled my water bottle at the drinking fountain, saving 3.5€. I like to be frugal on some items so I can feel guilt free to splurge on the special things.

I ate the yogurt along with the standard but delicious AirFrance in-flight snack of butter-cheese-ham sandwich. The fig tart will be Saturday morning's breakfast.

I slept hard during the remainder of the 1.5 hour flight from Paris-Firenze.

I arrived teary eyed in Firenze. Even though for the last two years Alessandro was too sick to greet me at the gate, we always had the phone.

The restroom at the baggage claim is a popular place. To our amazement the woman's side was 'closed for repair.'  After a one second hesitation I followed another woman right into the unoccupied men's side. Ten minutes later, while I waited for my bag, I noticed a line of bewildered men waiting outside their own restroom which was still filled with women.

During disembarkment I noticed a new two storey terminal under construction. I'm sure the two stall restroom situation will be remedied.  (I read later this new terminal should be completed in 2012.)

In the interest of saving a little for future splurges, I took the ATAF Navetta Aeroporto (Airport Shuttle) for 4.5 € (saving about 20€ on taxi fare). I only had one bag and a small carry-on, plus I needed the exercise. The bus arrived at 3.45, left for the train station at 4 pm and arrived there about 20 minutes later.

I started the 20 minute walk to the hotel pulling my bag. Fifty pounds starts to feel heavy after a while. I noticed a food fare at the piazza in front of Santa Maria Novella. The city I see is working hard to upgrade the image and clientele here. The church Santa Maria Novella is so beautiful, but in the past its adjoining piazza was run-down. Now the piazza is newly repaved. With the police station nearby hopefully the unsavory element has moved elsewhere.

This little food fare and its white tents was a welcoming sight. I felt like Pinocchio, being drawn into the excitement of the carnival.

I saw salamis, cheeses, porchetta (which I love!), truffle products, jarred condiments, flat breads and fluffy breads, crepes with Nutella and cookies from Sicily. I could have stopped right there and bought one of everything. The proprietor of the Sardagnian stand told me this was the fourth and last day. They will be open until 10pm tonight.

I enjoyed the sights but decided to continue on and arrived at the hotel within ten minutes. From experience here I know one needs to be flexible and not pass something by, hoping to go back.

As usual, Alessio ran down the stairs to greet me with a huge bear hug. He noticed 'only one bag?' smiling, I told him I'll be going back to the US with two heavy ones.

Asumi was out, so Alessio and I took care of signing me in with my passport, which of course is required by law here. We talked at length about Alessandro. Alessio will research the cemetery hours for me tonight. I'll be taking the 7 bus from Piazza San Marco up to Fiesole Saturday morning. He thinks I can then walk to the cemetery.

I found gift cookies and chocolates in my room with a sweet welcome note signed with hearts from Alessio and Asumi. The cookies will be a nice snack with milk when I wake up at 3am.

Within minutes I had changed to fresh clothes and then I was out the door, with my hotel night key in hand. Shops will be open until 7.30 or 8.00.

First priority stop was the shoe shop Cresti Mephisto on Via Pietrapiana 73r. It's right near Piazza S. Ambrogio. Last November I bought the most comfortable French leather boots there. My boots were in the window! Unfortunately my size 8.5 was not available. The commessa even called their other shops for me. I'm speaking Italian and being understood. Hurray!

Next I stopped at the Billa grocery store which used to be named Standa. I bought Mukki milk (.88), 3 clementine tangerines (.57), half pound of fresh dates from Tunisia (.99). The price of milk has gone up a little from .75. For less than 3€ I'm set for breakfast tomorrow. The dates will last me all week. The milk will stay cold on my outside window sill tonight.

As I walked past Brunelleschi's Cupola I noticed the museum bookstore was open. This shop has the best historical books and novels, in all languages. On my shopping list is the English translation of: The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. I bought the one copy on display.

I window shopped down Via del Corso toward Piazza della Repubblica.

My next planned stop was Edison Libreria (Bookstore). I have a shopping list of books too. As I passed through the piazza and stopped for a moment at the carousel. I have so many picture of this carousel but it always draws me in.

As I turned toward Edison, I noticed a tiny florist shop right at the corner. I've passed this place so many times but it's just the place I need to stop at tonight.

I noticed small pots of Hyacinths bulbs, just getting ready to bloom. I'm speaking Italian with a little more confidence. I asked the commessa if it was allowed to leave flowers such as these at a tomba (grave). She said certainly, it would be fine and this little pot would be ok untended. I asked about the color. Oops, these are pink, not pink for a man! We picked purple, which is the official Florentine color. She showed me the color of the pot signifies the flower color. I asked for a small green ribbon, which she attached to a little wire and then secured it in the dirt. She asked if this was for my friend, my love? I told her yes, and I had missed his funeral two months ago. She was touched by emotion and reflected for a moment. Sometimes words are not necessary to show understanding and compassion.

7.30 and I was beginning to feel tired. Edison bookstore was my last stop. I looked everywhere for Fabbio Volo's newest book. I finally asked and was lead to a 4 foot tall stack of red books on the floor near the entrance. The commessa corrected my Italian. I love it when people do this. "Il libro di nuovo" not "il libro nuovo." I need to make a note to look up the phrasing.

I love the way Edison displays their books. Some are shelved but most are stacked. I bought two books: 'Le prime cose del mattino' by Fabio Volo and 'Le Perfezioni provviosorie' by Gianrico Carofliglio. I just finished reading another book by Carofiglio. His attorney/legal system oriented books are much more difficult to read than Fabio Volo. I enjoy both authors. I try to stay away from reading American books which have been translated. I'm interested in cultural aspects of these books as well as improving my Italian.

With my purchases in hand, I walked down Via Porta Rossa toward the hotel and my favorite neighborhood restaurant, Trattoria Le Antiche Carrozze.

Having already seen me dragging my suitcase by three hours ago, I was greeted for the second time today by the two waiters who I have known by sight for the last three years. A nice surprise! Free WIFI at the restaurant. I checked email and Facebook. I wonder if I can get a connection from the street?

I enjoyed Penne all'arrabiata and lots of water. I could only eat half of the pasta serving. The nice waiter could see how tired I was and brought me the conto (bill) right away. 12.50€ included pasta, 2.00 cover charge, and 2.50 for water. I poured the extra water into my empty water bottle before leaving.

I walked a few steps down the medieval Borgo S. Apostoli to Hotel Cestelli and let myself in with the night key. It was 8.15.

Without organizing my suitcase, I got ready for bed, opened my window and pulled the inside shutters closed. It was 9.00 and in moments I was sound asleep in my favorite Room 6.