Italy revisited 2016 travel blog

Haven’t written in a few days. We’ve been busy. We arrived in Pienza and found the agriturismo right out of the main village. Definitely in the country. It was beautiful, the room, apartment was lovely, separate bedroom, very nice and roomy. Large piece of land, they make there own wine and I think olive oil also. The room was filled with “you can buy this.” Big beautiful pool with a view that was amazing.

We went outside to walk the grounds, and it hit. There was a scent that knocked your socks off, and it wasn’t pleasant. The wind shifted and George said he thought it was a pork processing farm and area below us. I wondered why there were plug in room scents everywhere. Lucky for us, it was air conditioned, and when the wind was blowing the other way it was not bad. Two nights we could stand it.

I got a little car sick on the rainy, curvy drive, so I wasn’t feeling much like dining out. We did have a need for a laundry and we found one it town. After laundering, we walked through the town, I loved it , FLAT… We stopped at a little enoteca had a spritz (Aperol) and some bruschetta, mine was delicious, George got a dried sandwich. They don’t put anything to moisten the bread on a panini. He ate half of mine.

Still feeling a little off, so a quiet evening. I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but all the places you stay now seem to offer breakfast. We have experienced amazing breakfasts, as in Norcia, and simple, but filling ones, as in Rome. San Terenziano, they scrambled eggs and made bacon for us, besides the cat, that was the great treat, but no toast, oh well, the pastries are great.

In Pienza, we were in a small room for breakfast, no one would sit outside. There was an American couple, and a group of 6 Korean’s. The breakfasts were wonderful. They always had fresh berries with a creamy yogurt, and cakes and pastries that the owner’s mother made. There is always a selection of meat and cheese too. The funny thing is that in every place we have gone they have cereal dispensers, sometimes with granola or bran flakes, but always with cocoa crispies. Not in Norcia, and I don’t think where we are now, which I will share later, but everywhere else, there they were.

The second day in Pienza we drove to a little town Montefollonico to have lunch. We were again given a recommendation to go to La Chuisa. We arrived around 1:00, the owner Umberto, came out to greet us, and immediately took us into the kitchen to meet the chef, Dania. He told us the history of the restaurant, and of course talked about all the wonderful dishes and the great wine, and people who have come there year after year.

He sat us in front of a beautiful fireplace, no fire, it was finally dry, the day before, they had a fire all day. We ordered our spritz, then our lunch. It was really wonderful, George inhaled his lamb, and his pasta, I still not feeling tiptop, tasted is was very good, but had to take it home with us. We enjoyed some wine and Umberto of course and headed back to Pienza to pack for Florence.

We drove to Florence on Sunday, lucky for us, our little hotel was on the “quiet,” side of the Arno. We walked around the hotel, everything is chaise from 1 to 4, on Sunday, some all day, where we were at least. We figured out the buses, with the help of someone in our hotel. Took our picnic supplies and George went to the bar and got us a couple of spritz’s. He really likes them now. It’s also the only drink you can get with ice, at least where we have been.

Monday morning we had mapped out all the places to go that weren’t closed on Monday. Tuesday we scheduled the Medici Cappella, the Bargello, and the Ufizi. We bought the tickets on line before we arrived. Monday we of course headed for the Duomo and Bapistry first. It was just like Rome, we had been spoiled going to these small towns and seeing few tourists. Not in Florence, We had to wind through some narrow streets when we got off the bus, but we saw it and just kept going. We went in, and I think we were supposed to pay, but we just followed some people in and there we were. When we left, we walked across the plaza to see the Bapistry, George decided not to climb Giotto’s Tower, I did it twice when I lost my glasses, and went back up to find them. I was in my 40’s…never again.

It began to rain, and then it began to pour and there were great gusts of wind. We popped into a little place on the plaza and I had the most expensive cup of tea and George the most expensive caffe latte, but we were dry, and we stayed until the rain stopped, there were several others followed the same path. We then went to the Medici palace, which was filled with a collection of furniture and art. I fell down a couple of stairs, and it took a little while for me to collect myself, with the help of George and a lovely woman who worked there. We headed out again to find an English bookstore, so we could get a new supply of paperbacks. At the store we asked the owner to suggest a restaurant, which he did. Trattoria Alfredo, trusty google maps took us there, I have to say, that lady has found our way to every place that we have asked, she did get confused a little in Rome, but everyone gets confused there. the restaurant was filled with locals, people on their lunch breaks. We sat at a tiny table, got a spritz and ordered, we got a bruschetta with tomato. George ordered a pasta with fresh porcini and I a simple fresh tomato sauce, they were both wonderful and inexpensive. So grateful for the suggestion.

Not quite sure where we were, George pulled out is map, and my phone was dying so we focused on finding the bus stop to get back to the hotel. We did pass a gelato store and took a break to test it. Not the best, but pretty good. After a bit of snarking at each other on which direction we should go. Trusty google and good ol’ George got us to the bus stop, for the trip home. We then prepared for Tuesday’s adventure.

We had to be in Florence at the Bargello by 9:30, which meant we needed to catch the bus by 8:45, so we could get there on time. We did arrive a little early and were let in. We finally figured out, but the time we hit the Ufizi, they didn’t really care what the ticket said about the time. The Bargello was filled with, sculpture and painting, Renaissance mostly. It was great, because we were early and few people were there. Next we had the Medici Chapel, we went early and tried and went right in. Lucky for us, we managed to get through before a tour group of high school children from Germany trouped in. I took another spill there, something to do with looking up and not watching where you are walking. The chapel is going through a restoration, as is most of Italy, it is a beautiful building and should be seen if you have the opportunity, we saw the tombs of the Medici’s designed by Michelangelo, there were drawings that he made for the tombs and some of his art. They also had a display of relics from saints that the Medici’s collected, each relic was encased in very ornate cases. Some had bits of bone, one had a skull, some were things that could be worn. They were adorned with precious stones, out of gold. Beautiful, and a little creepy.

Because we had gone through our first to places earlier then expected we went to Santa Croce Basilica. I think we were more impressed with its beauty and history then in any other church we had visited. The dignitaries of Florence are buried there. Galileo, Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli, Rossini, I can’t remember all of them. I wonder what was in the water. So many important contributors to our lives from Florence. the chapels were filled with Frescos, the stained glass, looked as if it were just created. We were able to walk into the rooms where priests would prepare for the mass. Large rooms with ornate cabinetry. Small chapels where they prepared. Next to St. Peter’s I think it is the most beautiful church I’ve seen.

We found another place to eat, which was great. I had a zucchini salad which was wonderful and a duck rage on pasta, delicious. George again with the fresh porcini pasta, no fresh porcini at home. This place was also one that the locals patronized and we sat at a table with a woman and her daughter, who was just finishing a semester in Florence, and then three business people, we talked to all and it was a fun and delicious meal. Funny thing on the menu out in front, it said “no steak, no ice, no takeout,” great meal.

We then gathered our selves together and set out for the Ufizi. We had such a great morning with few tourists, and because they gave us a time, thought it might be like the Borghese, which everyone had to leave after two hours…No not so much. We went around the corner and were struck by the number of people and lines. I had the vouchers on my phone, but we knew we had to get the tickets. We must have looked like deer in the headlights, both of us standing there trying to figure out what to do next. A lovely young woman walked up to us, asked if we spoke English and sent me to a live to get tickets and George to stand in line for the gallery, she said more efficient and she was right. However, I went to door #3 where the tickets were to be redeemed, and there was a long line, I stood in line for a minute or two and noticed that the people were not moving. I asked in broken Italian if they were in the line, no…three lines letter I found the correct one. I found George and we went right in. The Ufizi is really big. They tell you to begin on the second floor (125 steps). We found the acensorie, and took it up to the second floor.

There are wide corridors, and they were filled with hundreds of people, tour groups, each group having someone holding up a flower or a bear or a flag, each one speaking a different language. Off the corridor are rooms, each room focus’ on a particular artist or a type of painting style or era. The corridors are lined with busts of various emperors, military, popes, princes and any other dignitary. Along the shelves near the ceiling are paintings of probably the same dignitaries or any Florence person who held office. No names, just lots of paintings.

Two of the rooms were swamped and even attempting to get in was oppressive the first one was Botticelli, his most famous paintings were there, almost everyone would recognize Venus rising if you saw it. We walked away while it was jammed and were able to sneak back in later when the crowed had thinned a bit. The other room was Da Vinci, our timing was much better there and we were able to walk through it and take some time. We were exhausted and tired of crowds it was after 4:00pm and we had to find the bus and of course get gelato. Exiting was more of a challenge then we would have thought. We went through four different shops, selling purses, books, trinkets, guide books in every language, and finally retrieved George’s backpack.

One of the big challenges in Florence is finding a free bathroom, so I took advantage of the one there, down two flights and through a tunnel to the line. A fight almost broke out when some oriental women tried to go in front and the German lady at the front of the line said back, back get in line. The German’s are quite forceful when it comes to there place in lines.

We left and wandered back across the Ponte Vecchio and looked at all the beautiful jewelry, ate our gelato and google maps found our bus stop. George actually had figured out where it was too, but nice to have a back up. On to Camogli.

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