Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 4: And then the sun came out

And Florence was even more beautiful than it was when it was gray and drizzly.

On Saturday morning, we were up and out fairly early. We decided to go to the other side of the river, the Oltrarno, and go to either the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens or to the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Both were recommended for their views of the city; the Piazzale had yet another David; the Pitti had a costume museum and the gardens. My vote went for the Pitti.

But first I had an unexpected encounter with fabric. I'd run across a few fabric stores the day before, around the markets, but they were closed for the long Italian lunchbreak - 12:30 - 3:00 p.m. on average, and I couldn't wait around.

This time, we literally bumped into a store called Margherini Tessuti. It wasn't open either, but it was early, and the sign on the door said it would open at 9:30. It was 9:20. I wasn't budging, because I could see in the window that there were some nice fabrics to - at least - be fondled. Though I had hopes for more.

Signor Margherini himself opened up within a few minutes, and in we went. I went straight to a fabric I'd seen from the window. It's a green and blue plaid boucle, which he told me was Chanel. I don't know if it is or not, but it was gorgeous, and the quality was fabulous. I wanted it. Of course.

He spoke almost no English except for a few sewing words, so we communicated mostly in gestures. He certainly understood the worldwide phenomenon of woman stroking and falling in love with fabric.

I asked how much it cost. (I can ask that in lots of languages, for what it's worth). He told me. It was a little high, and when I hesitated, he took it off the bolt and spread it across the counter to further tempt me. I was tempted. I also saw that there was just a skooch under two meters, and he lowered the price.

I gave in, and reached for the credit card. Out comes a flood of Italian, with apologetic gestures. Between the three of us, it was understood that his bank did not let him take plastic on the weekends. Mario and I dump all our cash on the counter and come up short, but Signor Margherini smiles, scoops up the money, and folds and bags my fabric, all the while chattering away and making sewing gestures and pointing me at sketches on the walls as suggestions what to make with my fabric. When we left, he kissed me on the cheek.

From there, we decide we should probably hit an ATM so we're not wandering around without money. FYI, ATMs are not frequent occurrences in Florence. We had to backtrack almost all the way to our hotel to find one, and then headed back south again to the Pitti Palace. Where, of course, there was a branch of Bano Toscana right across the street.

We went through the palace - not quite Versailles in scale, but pretty big anyway - and I had a nice time at the costume exhibit. There were clothes all the way from the Medici era, laid out in shreds like an the shards of an archaeolgical dig. There were women's clothes all the way up to the present. There were some lovely 1910s through 1940s dresses. No photos, signora. This time I didn't try.

Out the back door we went to the gardens. When they planned a garden, they didn't plan small. And all the paths were on a sheer vertical, and graveled. I'd been wearing the same pair of black, mid-heel boots for most of the trip, and they handled cobblestones pretty well, but by the time we got to the top, I felt like the Little Mermaid, walking on knives.

But as my reward, there was a cafe at the top, and I got to rest my feet, sip an espresso, and admire what Florence looked like in sunshine.

I wished we could have been there when the gardens were in bloom. Italian gardens are more architectural and trees/shrubs than flowering plants, but there were lots of roses that were mostly done for the season, and quite a few Latin tags that I identified as things that would have been flowering a few months earlier.

The walk back down wasn't any easier than the hike up, so I was glad when we hit the streets again and went in search of late lunch.

We found a little restaurant down a back alley. Not the most impressive-looking place we'd gone to, but yet again, impeccable food. I had a pumpkin ravioli with duck ragu.

My main food rule on vacation is the less likely I am able to find it on a menu here, the more likely I will eat it there. The exception being tripe and other organ meats, which I have given up trying to appreciate. If it hasn't tasted good yet, it's just not going to work on me.

We took the long way back to the hotel, did a little last minute shopping. I found a shirt that Mario had to have, and that was when we accumulated my shoes. Which felt okay on my very sore feet then, so that certainly means I can wear them at home - once I make them a suitable outfit.

After the pre-dinner nap (and foot massage), we were off again in search of dinner. I swear, most of our vacation seems to involve looking for food. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you.

Another highly recommended restaurant, Buca da Mario (how could we not?). I got the pappa al pomodoro (tomato soup with bread) and the baccala, which is dried cod reconstituted with a spicy tomato sauce. The only other times I've tried baccala it was really salty, so apparently this kitchen soaked theirs longer. No room for dessert, but afterward we walked back to the Piazza and had a final espresso sitting out at a cafe.

Sunday morning the alarm woke us early but I had a moment of panic when I looked at my watch and it said 8:30. Since our plane was meant to leave at 10:15. I didn't realize that Italy had gone onto daylight savings that night and the iPhone / alarm clock had switched over automatically but my watch hadn't.

Deep breath, there was still time for one final breakfast before we went to the airport.

And that, my friends, was Florence. Thanks for sharing the trip with me.


marysews said...

I'm so glad you went UP the garden, although I don't remember any cafe up there in 1982! I like that you seem to be having a blast!

Connie B said...

ahhhh. I almost felt like I was there myself! Thanks for the tour. My favouite line though? -

I asked how much it cost. (I can ask that in lots of languages, for what it's worth).

Priceless. You are indeed the perfect person to take fabric shopping!

Rose said...

What a wonderful fabric shopping story! Yes, the store owner does appreciate a fabric aficionado.

Thank you for sharing your pictures of Italy!

Rose in SV

AllisonC said...

Sounds and looks absolutely wonderful - I totally get your holiday food focus!

Dana said...

The pictures are amazing! Thanks for sharing.

Gretchen the Household Deity said...

Sounds like a fabulous trip!

Lisette M said...

Thank you so much for sharing your trip, I enjoyed the trip through your eyes.

Unknown said...

This book you will love:

Dark Water: Art, Disaster, and Redemption in Florence (Paperback)
~ Robert Clark (Author)

Vicki said...

I feel as if my trip has ended too and I don't want to go home! Thanks for sharing. BTW, can't wait to see that fabric :))