Italy Travelogue, part III


Nora, her husband Bruce, son Jason and daughter-in-law Kat are in Italy for two weeks and she’s sharing the experience with us all.  Sit back and enjoy!
The first two days in Florence.  Photos by Bruce Wilder.
The first two days in Florence. Photos by Bruce Wilder.
Our first full day here involves miles of walking under incredible  blue skies in that bold Italian light. We sort of plan to take in The Duomo and  the Uffizi, and wander in that general direction. Down the narrow streets,  through it big piazzas. Piazza della Signoria is a favorite of mine–and I set a  scene in next year’s The Collection there, with its big fountain with Neptune,  all its statutes–and crowds.
It’s more crowded than I remember, just packed with tourists, full  of energy and buzz.
The line for the museum is far too long, and the Duomo doesn’t open for 90 minutes, so we have some time to kill. I start to kill it with a  strawberry gelato. Take strawberries, magic cream, douse them in faerie dust and  you might come close.
BW wants a belt, so we stop at a stall. While he’s looking, Kat and  I find fabulous belts. The dark sapphire suede she wants, and the London blue I want are both too big. So the leather guy simply cuts them to size right there.  Kat asks what he does with the scraps, and he gives them to her. She shows me  how she can make bracelets from the leather. Our Crafty Kat will do just  that.
We double back to a shoe store that caught our eye. I believe  everyone needs sandals. In the end Jason didn’t find any that called to him, BW  found shoes–and they had his size!–Kat found the most glorious cherry red  suede knee boots, and I bought two pretty pair of sandals. I’d had flat sandals  in mind, but fell in love with the little stacked heels on these–one is green,  and looks almost like vines, the other rose red–and with roses. Both butter  soft leather, and wonderfully comfortable. Honestly, the cost for two pair for  me, one pair for BW and the stunning boots for Kat came to less than what I’d  expect to pay in The States for the boots alone.
If you’re in Florence, try Leonardo’s for shoes!
And the obliging proprietor holds them for us so we don’t have to  haul them while we’re out and about.
The line for The Duomo is now insane. We have lunch at a trattoria instead. Another huge pilsner of beer for BW, and bellinis for me. 
Let me say here, that for me, The Duomo of Florence is the most  beautiful building in the world. There’s nothing that compares for me. The size,  the scope, the details, the color, those two magnificent domes. It’s beyond  magnificent.
We can have lunch in its stupendous shadow.
I see a group go by, and one of the young girls is wearing black  tights under her cut-off denim shorts. Black tights in Italy in August. Under shorts. She’s lucky I didn’t arrest her for high crimes against fashion. I  ordered another bellini instead.
We find more pretty scarves before we decide to hike over toward  The Academie. Maybe the lines won’t be so long there.
We end up going into San Marco museo. Never been in there, and it  was worth it. Interesting place, an old monestary loaded with art. The initial offerings are dark and depressing, but then there’s a room where they display  all these architectural remnants. Columns and lintels and cornices in such an interesting and artful arrangement.
Then a room where they have old manuscripts, and the best here is a  display of the crystals and rocks and ground colors used to make the paints. All  so vivid in their little dishes, with the tools set around with them. The  manuscripts are more beautiful when you think of the art that went into making  the paints.
We tour the monks’ cells. All have frescos, mostly crucifixion  visuals, and some of them amazingly horrific. Not in the art, but the depiction.  Blood literally gushing from Christ’s side, and in one, when you studied the  angles about to spill all over his mother.
In another room is a beautifully done painting, then you take a  closer look. It’s the Piazza della Signoria, crowds of people hanging around,  obviously in easy conversation. Beautiful buildings. And several people are  being burned to death on a platform, while others (heretics, one assumes) are  being led toward the pyre.
I don’t want it in my living room.
We go out to the big, pretty courtyard, sit awhile. Happy begonias  and grasses, a nicely preserved arcade. And Kat and Jason point out that over  the door are three symbols. The middle is a European style cross. Flanking it  are what look like slices of pepperoni pizza. I can think of no reason for this,  none, but it adds a mysterious charm.
We go back inside to exit and come to a big room filled with those  glorious paintings and icons, the saturated vivid colors and gold leaf so  brilliantly used in religious art. I don’t want these in my living room either,  but they’re gorgeous and bold and impossibly bright given their  age.
We walk back–I think we easily did our 10,000 steps today–through  the crowds, along the narrow streets, through the open piazzas. Near the Duomo I  have to stop as down a ways a woman in playing the violin, beautifully. And the  lovely, lovely sound of it echoes along that magnificent building, over the  voices and noise of the crowd.
Pick up our shoes, continue on. I find a stall with sports  jerseys–Italian football–which seem just right for my two oldest grandsons.  Will find something for the girls and the twins another day.
Tired feet slog back to the hotel–showers fixed!!–and have a sit  down and an adult beverage.
An excellent day in Italian sunshine, art, shopping, good food and  drink.
But I think I’m going to cave and add to my leather jacket  collection. I don’t NEED another leather jacket, but there are too many  beautiful ones not to indulge. I may not get through another day without giving  in.
I expect another casual, easy dinner later, and a relaxing  evening.

18 thoughts on “Italy Travelogue, part III”

  1. Sounds absolutely wonderful! You can never have too many shoes.

  2. Love your stories. I feel like I’m in Florence with. Keep ’em coming. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Nora chose the busiest and crowdest month to travel Europe – August can be insane and since so many people wuldn’t be able to pack shoes (some fixation Nora has with shoes ;)) and leather jackets in their backpack (travelling in Europe is more affordable if you do it with just hand baggage :D) they aty in lines the time needed to see inside museums and churchs – all touristic points, in fact.
    She gets herself entertained wonderfully – and has in Kat a perfect-partner-in-crime ;)) – in the substitutes she chooses.
    Thank you for the pics, BW. And the logue, Nora. And amazing laura for sharing as it happens (better than CNN in any major event ;)).

  4. Nora, I just love reading your travelogues. I was in Italy in June for 10 days and just loved it. I am remembering all that we did through you again. I will always remember Italy. Just fantastic and the gelato, every day we had a different flavor.

  5. While in Florence, check out Casini Firenze for gorgeous leather wear! Jennifer Tattanelli’s store is so lovely! My daughter, Dana (from Winnipeg) and I were in Italy for 3 weeks and this was our favourite store overall. It’s by the Piazza Pitti. The staff were all wonderful and welcoming. It “made” our time in Firenze. We walked in because of the purple jacket in the window, walked out (by our third visit) with a chocolate brown jacket, two pairs of shoes, (ask Jennifer about the Cadillac of high heels), two dresses, a wallet, and a handbag based on the design of Jennifer’s grampa’s doctor bag. Tell them that Christine from Newfoundland sent you. I hope they remember Dana and I… We were just there in June of this year.

    Rive Gauche for butter-soft shoes… Stefano tailored a pair of boots for my slender-calf daughter and had them shipped direct to her home. The sandals I bought were worn from the day I bought them until I got home, no break-in needed! (My dog took care of that… Darnit)

    If you think the Duomo in Firenze is something, wait until you get to the one in Milano!!!

  6. Love to read about your adventures, seems like I’m right there with you all,
    Would love to shop for all the leathers, dreaming here, lol!
    Can’t wait for tomorrow!

  7. I’m going there in October but wish I was there with Nora right now. She’s a shopper like me and I know we’d have a ball!
    If possible, I’d love to get some more names of stores she found

  8. I’m so glad the travelogues that were one of my favorite things in the last decade are still happening on the blog. I’ve never been to Florence, but now I feel almost as if I had.

  9. I was sitting at the edge of my seat, waiting to read about Il Duomo… I shall patiently wait a little longer 🙂
    I can somewhat picture the religious art. Some of the art at El Prado in Madrid has that gory/stunning/tragic/beautiful feel to them.
    And I can’t get over the black tight under the shorts… Not okay, people. Not. Okay.

  10. Hi Laura,
    Thanks for sharing post 3 of Nora’s Travelogues in Italy. Enjoyed visualizing the sites Nora describes so well. I think Nora has Roarke’s desire to buy leather coats of course Eve usually manages to damage most of the coats he buys – I’m glad he figured out a way to make it blast proof – super body armor. Look forward to the next installment of the Italy Travelogues – thanks again for sharing. Makes getting e-mail fun.

    Peace – Melissa Blanchard

  11. With all this shopping, I see the need for some additional luggage for all the loot purchased as souvenirs! I’m sure Nora can find a nice leather bag she just can’t resist! This vicarious traveler thoroughly enjoys the travelogue so keep the entries coming.

  12. When we were in Ireland in May, saw lots of girls/women in the black tights and denim cutoff outfit – very odd!!!!

  13. I will have to visit San Marco museo. It sounds amazing and I can’t believe I haven’t been there yet. Something to do next time…

  14. On my 1996 trip, I remember visiting San Marco and looking at the amazing frescoes in the monks’ cells. I was also a bit put off by the bloodiness of the depictions of Christ’s cruxifixion. These frescoes were treasures for sure.

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