Italy travelogue, part XIX

Photos by Bruce Wilder


Storms last night, big booming thunder. BW reports the storm rolled  back a second time, but I slept through that one.
Fresh and coolish this morning, and pretty perfect for yoga  outdoors.
They’re working in the vineyard again, and the gardeners are here.  BW saw one braiding together a huge sting of onions, which Antonella brought in.  She made break this morning, and the aroma of it perfumed the  kitchen.
I gave her an old family recipe for bread pudding–and exchange for  the pesto. I hope she has fun with it.
We’re having seafood tonight–fresh catch this  morning.
We headed out very late morning to Pienza, a good size village  about 25 minutes away. Lovely, lovely drive through the hills, the vineyards,  the fields–we finally saw a deer, and white, white cows.
Parking is challenging, but we finally found a spot, and walk into  town. The pope at the time designed it so the main street curves at both ends  and looks longer. What it is, is charming. Full of little shops,archways and  narrow alleyways, old buildings, an old church and a pretty and smallish  Duomo.
We find sneakers for Jason–nice ones, and I spotted a scarf I had  to have for myself. Kat sees canny bottles where you put oil and vinegar in  together, but they stay separate. And in the same interesting little hardware  type store, I find wonderful wooden spoons. I’m a big fan of wooden spoons, and  these are lovely–and a wooden ladle! I love it. I end up with a big handful of  spoons.
Lots of dogs here, mostly tiny dogs who are hardly like dogs at  all. Interesting street sculptures, a nice bustle of people. I find a pretty  shirt–two layers that can be worn together or not–one size. The clerk says the  one size is no problem for me, but a problem for her. LOL. And a very cool dress  for Kat.
And it’s seriously breezy. Much, much cooler today, and I’m glad I  grabbed a little jacket. The light’s quieter with some clouds, and not so  intense, so the greens of the fields and trees are softer, too. I wish I’d seen  it all in the rain.
We walk out to an overlook–breathtaking views of the hills, the  trees. And onto lunch where I had a salad with chunks of apples and oranges.  There’s the cutest baby at the table beside ours. His mother’s trying to feed  him, but he keeps grinning, laughing, turning his head away to look at  us.
Of course we laugh with him. Mama’s very good natured about  it. 
More walking, and a trip into the Duomo. So pretty, with lots of  light and a hushed air.
It’s gelato next! I got a mix of vanilla and chocolate that brings  tears to the eyes. Just gorgeous–though Jason touted his peach gelato as  exceptional.
We obey a sign that says: Try the sheep’s cheese. It’s pretty  great. I don’t buy it–a little hard to take home, but I do buy a container–as  does Kat–of dried chili peppers. They have some olive oil here steeped with  them, and it’s great. I can do that at home.
Back to the car, and Kat takes a turn at the wheel. The GPS is  confused, or we are, as they’ve closed off part of a road. After some  round-abouting we follow the lead of another car that just went around the  pylons. And we realize they were there because they’d just painted the  crosswalk, so it’s all good.
Round the hills again, and perfect directions this time. A pretty,  easy drive.
And we’re home again where the wind’s kicking up big time. We dump  our stuff and mostly settle into the little living area on the main floor. 
We’ll probably eat in the big kitchen tonight–as we did for  breakfast. A bit too brisk and windy for the patio. I’m wonder what Asia–who’s  cooking tonight–will make out of the local fish.

Italy travelogue, part XVIII

Pilates, I discover, is more challenging to do on soft, cushy,  bumpy grass than yoga. But I got it done. As our Kat is under the weather today,  the gang just hangs out.
The lemon and garlic infusion tea Lucia made seemed to help–as did  a solid day of rest.
I got a nice chunk of writing done, despite the distraction of the  view. Also saw people working in the vineyard today–and the big, odd tractor  that goes over the rows. I’ve yet to see any of the deer or wild boars that  we’re told wander hereabouts–but I’m hoping I will.
Lucia makes us an amazing salad to leave for our lunch–as we have  leftovers–and picks it all straight out of the garden. That fresh, fresh  lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers. I try some of the red pepper olive oil on  mine–a good and delicious bite.
Read, wander, take a nap(!) Naps are so out of my routine I wake up  thinking it’s morning. Nice that it was only afternoon, and there’s more time to  plop down in the shade and read some more–and now with a glass of wine. 
Before I know it, it’s time for another amazing sunset. Tonight as  there are more clouds (rain’s coming) it’s even more spectacular. The  overlayment of clouds is burnished gold above the red ball of the sinking sun,  and the horizon is brilliantly layers in pink and red streaks. The light gets  softer, softer, the colors more intense and luminous. Then the sun sets but  leaves what looks lake a simmering fire over the peak of the distant hill. It  just holds there, and holds, keeping the big cloud over it all shimmering gold  on its underbelly.
On the other side of the sky, the moon’s nearly full. As it rises,  it hazes with the clouds that may bring a storm tonight.
Then it’s time for dinner. God, I’m so spoiled now, I want  Antoinella to come live with me, and cook every day. Potato and carrot soup with  sage, then a pasta, then meatballs and chicory right out of the garden. Followed  by some amazing sort of whipped cream with chunks of chocolate.
I can’t eat all of any of it, but that’s not the cook’s fault. It’s  all just wonderful. And the wine we had tonight is made from grapes we can see  just down from the front of the villa.
We secure everything that’s under the awning, in case we get that  storm. If I had the energy–and it wasn’t totally, country dark, I’d go out and  walk a few miles just to work off that meal.
Must do a serious work-out in the morning!
But tonight, it’s relaxing with the sound of busy cicadas, and  nothing else.

Italy travelogue, part XVII

Photos by Bruce Wilder
Photos by Bruce Wilder — Top row Pitti Palace, last four at the villa.
Glorious, perfect day of doing pretty much nothing.
I did my yoga outside–a little tricky with balancing poses on a  mat over bumpy grass, but worth it. I’m going to try pilates out there  today.
After yoga, breakfast on the patio, So, so nice. BW wanted poached  eggs, so Kat and I watch her make them–very much as my mother used to. Hard  boiling water–but she adds some vinegar and salt, stirring, stirring when the  water gets to that fast boil. Then crack the eggs right in the water, boil them  fast for a couple minutes. She scoops them out and onto a thick kitchen towel.  Serves them on toast for BW. They were beautiful.
Our shower here has the biggest rain head I’ve ever seen, and was  indeed like showering in the rain.
I took my book and walked back to the pool, sat and read–moved  into the shade, read some more. Spent a lot of time just looking up, then around  at the sun-washed hills and fields.
Walked back for lunch. Amazing gnocci with pesto and a leafy green  salad with grilled chicken. The lettuce was so green and fresh I expected it to  shatter like glass. Antoinetta gave me the recipe for the pesto. I must try this  at home as I grow so much basil.
More reading in the shade, with doves cooing somewhere in the  trees.
The four of us finally stirred ourselves enough to walk up to the  bocci area above the pool and play. Much fun, even though we’re fairly pitiful.  Still, some pretty good throws/rolls here and there–both accidentally and on  purpose. I’d already walked across the little dirt road for a closer look at the  vineyard, but we all crossed over on our return. Big clusters of grapes–still  need ripening, but both Kat and I sampled one. Deliciously tart.
We had Concord grapes growing over our little flat-roofed garage  when I was a kid. I remember so well sitting up there eating them in the summer.  And the grape jelly my mother would make from them if we left her  enough.
And a closer look at the two front gardens. Red, red tomatoes,  purple eggplant, green and red peppers. Something that may be kale but is bigger  than I’ve seen before. I spy some purple verbena that looks as if it’s growing  right out of the stone wall.
Back for dinner. I ask Lucia what the little tree is right outside  the kitchen with the fruit that doesn’t quite look like pears, not quite like  figs.
Pomegranate! I’ve never seen them on a tree before. They’re very  young, fussy and fasctinating.
Asia tells us that tonight we’ll be able to see the ISS near the  Big Dipper at about 10:25. We gather out on the chairs on the lawn–with a  laptop that shows its progress. It’s over the US, over the Atlantic, over  Greenland and so on. The sky’s so big, the world here so quiet, with the only  lights the few scattered over the vast shadowed landscape from houses or  villages.
And we spot it right away, track the little, fast-moving light up  and through the Dipper, overhead. Then it dims and vanishes like a candle  snuffed out.
That is our dinner and a show for the evening!
Today the others are going out to explore a nearby village. I’m  staying back to bask and to write. Maybe read some more, maybe take a walk.  Plenty of left-overs if I want to make lunch. And Antoinetta will be back to  make dinner.

Italy travelogue, part XVI

We watched the sun set, gloriously, over the western hills. A ball  of red that spread streaks and smears of color as it dropped away. The light  goes very soft. Our three ladies are here to prepare dinner and see we’re well  taken care of. There’s bread and cheese and thin slices of cold-cut meat. I  could’ve made a meal of that alone. But there are wonderful scents wafting  through the big kitchen.
They’ve picked tomatoes fresh from the vine, served them in big  chunks with basil just as fresh.
We’re eating on the patio at the big wood table with the hills all  around.
Fresh pasta, cooked to perfection set off with a lovely Chianti.  Night lowers–the moon rose on one side of the sky as the sun set on the other  and all the hills go into silhouettes.
Now there’s strips of steak–sauted, I think, in oil and balsamic,  with thin slices of grilled eggplant, roasted peppers. It’s gorgeous, but I  can’t do justice to it after all the rest. We’ll have marvelous left-overs. To  finish it off, a fruit parfait, a kind of almost melted ice cream, but richer,  with chunks of fresh fruit.
I don’t think you can get more relaxed. If there’s tension left  after a few hours in Tuscany with beautiful food, wine, and scenery, you need  serious help!
A good night’s sleep in our pretty room, and I wake up to that  vivid sunshine over hills of green and gold. Different from my deep summer green  woods at home, or the drenched shining green of the Irish hills I love. This is  intense and stunningly baked. From my window here, I see olive and cypress  trees, and the vineyard just across the little dirt road. Then the rise of  hills, the shadows of mountains.
There’s a cluster of brown stone buildings topping a high  forested rise. Asia said it was an abandoned village, and someone bought it. He  built a hotel and cafe. It must have awesome views.
From this window, I can see about a half a dozen houses scattered,  and all look as if they might have grown there. From the other window, I see the  front garden, and one house on a distant hill.
It’s a very fine place to be after a bustling week in  Florence.
I may do my yoga outside in the sun.
PS. Here are some of BW’s photos from the Pitti Palace
Photos by Bruce WIlder
Photos by Bruce WIlder

Italy travelogue, part XV

Getting all our luggage in the car proved a puzzle, but one  eventually solved. The two bellmen worked together, with us, and were so proud  once we got everything in for our trip into the Tuscan  countryside.
The car guy programmed the GPS with our coordinates, and we had  printed directions.
We got lost anyway.
But boy, what beauty. Once you navigate out of the city–easier  than navigating into the city, the world starts to open up. Pretty villages with  narrow winding streets, yes, but then the hills that roll and rise. Dusky green,  rows of tidy vineyards, olive groves–and further out the acres of sunflowers,  so gorgeous and cheerful.
We drive and drive–turns out the car guy didn’t click the deal  that allows toll roads, but we finally ignore the polite, female Brit voice of  the GPS and merge with the Autostrada. She’s obviously annoyed and shut off and  ignores us.
We make much better time, and try to follow the directions. It  seems we’ve making strides, and stop for lunch in the big–and still  charming–town of Satreano. I think that was it. Snag a couple of tables in a  little pizzeria.
Fabulous food! I got a simple green salad, but the balsamic was  amazing–and fries on the side that were wonderful. BW’s sausage pizza was  beautiful, and though I don’t generally like it, I had a skinny slice, and  MMMMMM!!.
We walk around a bit, then get back in the car–restart the GPS.  Follow her directions.
The hills are so beautiful–dusty greens, deep greens, intense  golds, rich browns. We turn on a steep gravel road as directed–and we’re  supposed to turn on a steep gravel road.
We pass a farm, lots of equipment outside, a very dilapidated  house, but she says keep going, so we do. Then in what’s essentially the middle  of a field she claims we’ve reached our destination.
God, I hope not!
Turns out, after some fiddling, the longitude and latitude were  entered incorrectly back in Florence. We’re close, but have no real idea what to  do.
Kat comes to the rescure. I still have no earthly idea how she took  the printed directions–we have two copies, with different coordinates–figured  it out, and wound us back–to the town where we stopped for lunch, and on  through. More roads, more glorious hills, but it’s been awhile now, and I’m  pretty nervous. Plus I’m completely out of my depth.
But she’s confident, tells us what to look for, where to turn. And  lo and behold, we find the road, the gate, and our lovely, lovely villa where  Asia the manager is waiting.
It’s unbelievably beautiful. The views everywhere of the hills, the  colors, the sky. And the gardens of the villa–tomatoes red on the  vine,  bushes of rosemary, roses, trees, vineyards.
It’s rustic, but also boasts WiFi, comfortable rooms, gorgeous  baths and bedrooms that open up on those breathtaking views.
She takes us through, the common rooms, the bedrooms to choose  from. We both pick the first floor–above the main. Ours has an enormous and  beautiful tub, and a separate shower, a pretty bed. I’m using the third bedroom  up here as a little office, and looking out now at the hills, the vineyards, the  olive trees.
The kitchen! We have a cook who’ll come in every day if we want to  make us food. It’s HUGE, and fun, and rustically gorgeous. I want to play in it.  And think I’ll go down and watch her cook and get tips.
Beautifully terraced with those views everywhere, and the light so  brilliant and gorgeous. It’s unreal.
There’s a pool–one of those infinity deals–you walk up the hill,  among the trees, and there it is–dark blue water–with a patio above–and an  ice machine and fridge so you can have drinks. Even a little kitchen if you want  to cook there.
We enjoyed an hour or so just winding down up there.
I could stay here a month. Working with the views outside the  window, taking some time to walk the gardens, snag a plum from a  tree.
It’s in the middle of nowhere–Asia’s term–and just exactly right.  So beautifully quiet.
There are villages to explore, restaurants and shopping not that  far away–but I don’t know if anything can get me to move away from right  here.
I could just sit and look for days.

Italy travelogue, part XIV

Started some packing last night. I’m pleased, and grateful, for how  much my new luggage holds. Bought it just before the trip as my old luggage was  really showing the wear.
Must finish this morning, and will try to fit in some yoga. But if  I can’t, I’ll do some this evening at our Tuscan villa.
We walked over to the piazza. Our favorite trattoria was packed, as  was our second favorite. So we settled in on the third one–more a restaurant.  The clarinet guy was back for a short session. He must just go from piazza to  piazza.
I ordered a soup you could eat with a fork–and indeed Jason  sampled it with one. Thick bread and tomato soup. Delicious. I think I could  make this one at home if and when the mood strikes. A little pasta split with  Kat, and some steak strips–most of which I brought back and we’ll have as snack  food at the villa.
All delicious.
BW got pasta with crab–and it comes with a tool to crack them. Our  Kat, and we aren’t surprised she’s an expert crab picker–did the honors for  him.
At the table behind us, a dog–I think a Lab/Retriever mix as he  looked like a smaller version of our Homer–lays beside the table and behaves  well throughout the meal.
Our last day proves to be a long, adventurous one, full of new  sights. We’ve had a wonderful time here, in what I consider the most beautiful  city in the world. Today we’ll say ciao, and see what we find in the  countryside.

Italy travelogue, part XIII

We taxi over to the Pitti Palace as it’s quite a ways from our  hotel, and we know there’ll be a lot of walking involved there. Oh boy, was  there.
We opt for the garden tour, which includes the silver and porcelain  and costume museums. The ticket clerk says it takes about two hours. Sounds  perfect.
Let me say unless we’d power walked through the whole deal we  couldn’t have managed it in two hours. But it was worth it.
There’s no silver for quite a while in the silver museum, but what  there is, is amazing, unbelievable ivory carvings. I’ve never seen such work. We  didn’t do this half of the tour when we were here before–opting that time for  the Medici apartments. These works of art are impossibly delicate and intricate.  One has a kind of spiral staircase winding around, hardly big enough for fleas.  So tiny and beautiful. We marvel it could still be in one piece after all these  years.
Some are statues–again intricate and beautiful, but many are just  objects d’art, displayed in glass cases under a fantastic trompe d’oeil ceiling.  The ceiling is so beautiful and wonderfully done you can’t tell if there are  real banisters, or if the ceiling’s domed in part. It’s not–just the skill of  the artists. One of the ivory pieces is carved out with a tiny portrait painted  inside, another has a little chandelier suspended in it. It’s impossible to know  how the artists created these little masterpieces.
Then a room with cups and bowls and tables made of jasper and agate  and onyx, amethyst, lapis. Some cups are translucent they’re so thin. And the  gold work on them in stunning. The inlaid tables are marvelous, but there’s a  big chest, with the stonework fronting the drawers–and there’s little scenes  painted on the agate if you look close enough. Topping it is a gold clock. 
There’s almost too much to take in, every display is more beautiful  than the last. And the ceilings in each room are marvels of their  own.
If I do a heist book, we might have to steal something from  here.
There’s jewelry, cameos, and some so thin, again intricate. They  have a display with light under it so you see the stones glow. Rings, bracelets,  earrings–such brilliant craftsmanship.
It goes on and on–rooms with bowls and pitchers and objects d’art  made out of shells. Kat’s favorite is the gold snail with its delicate white  shell. Some long ago artist had a sense of humor.
We spend over two hours in this area alone before heading out to  the gardens.
Now we tackle the hills. Long and steep, the wide stone terraced  steps, to tall hedges, a little maze, statuary along a high wall, and up and up  to Neptune’s fountain, a garden area that’s just baking in the sun, and  views of the hills and cypress on one side, and the wonderful red-tile roofs and  domes of Florence on the other.
Stunning views wherever you look. I sit on a bench in the shade for  a bit just to look and look. A group of three woman come sit as well. They’re  not speaking Italian, not Spanish, not French. We finally consider Portuguese.  One is wearing a short leather skirt–she has absolutely gorgeous legs, but a  leather skirt in the hot August sun–I’d have fried.
We walk up and up and up, more stunning views, then around to a  kind of look-out. BW and Kat end up on the low road, Jason and I on the high.  Jason and I just stand and look and wait as Kat and BW go into the pretty  building. They report the Medici dwarf–one who was famously painted front and  back on a single canvas, is inside in marble. Riding a turtle.
We walk and walk, and the two roads finally meet up so Jason and I  can go down a set of rough steps. We circle around to Cyprus Alley, and the  pretty green park, the big, beautiful trees. People and stretched out on the  grass here, some having picnics in the shade.  Some of the trees are  gnarled and twisted like pieces of art themselves.
There’s a vending machine, and as I haven’t eaten anything–two  hours has already stretched into over three–I buy, for a Euro, Freaky  Fries. Pretty freaking freaky. They’re shaped like French fries but with a  square hole in each end, and taste a bit like really stale Pringles. But they  did the trick.
Oh, we also see a HUGE stone tub. Like if you were going to have a  big orgy and invite half the neighborhood. It’s empty, but I think it must’ve  been part of a fountain.
By the time we go down, down, down and down again to the rear  courtyard, we’ve taken about four hours here. Wouldn’t have missed  it.
There’s an enormous pot filled with intensely pink lantana. I’ve  never seen it in quite this color, and it’s just beautiful.
We’re going to skip the other areas, and walk following the exit  signs. We come to the Medici Grottos. Amazing, fantastic. The exterior of what  must have been a large cave is painted and tiled and all of the art is worked  around what looks like underwater stone. Gobs of it, used as part of the art.  The walls inside, partially smoothed and fresco’d use this same treatment for  portraying people, animals, trees. Sheep, goats, a goatherd. It’s eerie and  wonderful.
Two low stone walls front narrow tiled trenches I imagine were  filled with water. In the corners are deliberately unfinished sculptures. It  looks as if those the figures are forcing their way out of the stone. An  archway leads back to a lovely statue of–I think–Venus.
We walk back, navigating the busy streets in search of food and  wine. We stop at the place we had lunch our first day. I’m too beat to think, so  go for a pizza. Easy and always good. This is the wine Kat liked best of all  we’ve had, so she asks for the house red again (I do, too), and asks the server  what is it.
The best he can do is Chianti.
We eat, drink, recharge, rest tired feet. A couple sits at the  table next to me. Has their meal in absolute silence. I can FEEL the tension  between them. I don’t think their day’s gone very well.
Kat signals the proprietor, asks about the wine and if they have  bottles. Happily they do, so now she has a bottle, and knows exactly what it  is.
We head back, and as Jason and Kat have more shopping to do, break  off from them. I just want two more scarves for gifts, and that’s easy. We find  the exchange Kat and I couldn’t find a couple days ago–and when I change twice  as much as BW–the woman smiles and says: Your wife does more  shopping.
Yes, I do!
Along the narrow streets, winding through, and back to Piazza Santa  Croce. I find two pretty scarves, and my day is done.
Must pull it together shortly and pack for tomorrow, and the drive  into Tuscany. We’ll probably eat late, in the piazza, and tomorrow say ciao to  one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Italy travelogue, part XII

I went out for about an hour solo. The early evening light was so  beautiful, and the piazza less crowded. Many dogs out. I watched a woman kick an  empty plastic water bottle for her leashed German Shepherd. He’d leap after it,  fetch enthusiastically to his own delight, and the delight of several  children.
Wandered into a jewelry store. It’s almost a crime not to buy gold  in Florence, and I do love jewelry. Lots of pretty, pretty things. I’m very  attracted to a wide, white gold bracelet. A tight mesh band, and a lovely,  glittery central clip. But it’s far too big for my skinny wrist.
Fun to wander around looking, though–and the clerk who helped me  (a Brit who’s lived here for years) shows me more pretty things. No, no,  no–like the jacket it has to jump out and say: Nora, I’m yours!
And a gorgeous ring does. A wide white gold band, Florentine-made.  A delicate filigree with thin bands of yellow gold framing it and a small  central sapphire. I love it–and it fits!! So it’s obviously mine. 
Delighted, I wander out, and find a pretty, breezy dress at a  stall. One size, I’m told–which I hope accounts for the American ass. But at  the price if it doesn’t fit me, it’ll fit someone I know and  love.
When I get back, Kat is arranging all the bags and belts purchased  for a little photo shoot. LOL. I knew she’d figure out how to best display them,  using her artist’s eye. Between her and BW we have a great  picture.
Photos by Bruce Wilder
Photos by Bruce Wilder
It’s off to dinner, and we go back to our first and favorite  trattoria. Pasta, salad, wine, all so good as night slowly slides in, and the  light changes. Santa Croce is so stunning against the bold blue of the day sky,  but even more beautiful against the deep purple of night.
All through the meal, we’re serenaded by a musician who sings,  plays the guitar–occasionally the harmonica. He mostly covers American or Brit  ballads–the Stone’s Angie, Lauper’s Time After Time, Simon and Garfunkle, The  Beatles, Pink Floyd, etc. He’s got a Dan Fogleburg vibe to him. A lovely tenor.  He gets applause from people in and around the square, and plays throughout our  very leisurely meal, about three hours.
We bought his CD–and I think he sold many. I hope it was as good  an evening for him as it was for us.
This morning I think I’ll do a ballet-inspired workout DVD for its  cardio, core and leg work. Not sure what we’ll do today, our last here in  Florence, but it has to include packing (all those bags!!) for our departure to  the Tuscan countryside tomorrow. Also think I need a couple more scarves as  back-up gifts–and Kat realized out of ALL the bags, she bought not one for  herself. That must be remedied.

Italy travelogue, part XI

It’s officially the year of the bags.
Before we left, and as I was prepping for my yoga session, the  woman across the way and I opened our windows at the same time. An exchange of  smiles and buongiornos. And the parakeet sings and chatters happily while I do  my up dogs and down dogs and half moons.
We toddled out late morning, on a hunt for champagne. I just can’t  handle the sweetness of prosecco or spumanti. Scored that, so I’m laying some by  for our second week when we head into Tuscany.
My secondary hunt for a leather jacket is over! It was one of those  I must see it, love it deals. And I did. A rich ruby red–rather than the  Michael Jackson red I’ve seen a lot of here. And no boob zippers. Hip length,  nicely fitted–and the one on the display fit me perfectly. Double pockets with  zippers at the hip, nice detailing. And now mine from David 2 on the way to the  Piazza della Republicano.
Browse through a big tented bookstore, and found Homeport in  Italian. BW wants to take some pictures so Kat and I wander over to the  stalls.
Big scores for her! Bags and more bags–so her Christmas list is  also heavy in this area. Really lovely bags of soft, soft leather than will  crush and roll easily for packing. I grabbed a new, crushable sunhat–it’s good  to have one here, and talked BW into one for himself.
Wandering on, and more bags! LOL. Jason, who’s been conflicted re  the man bag–not quite big enough to hold his laptop, not quite the thing–finds  this amazing briefcase/man bag/backpack. Can be used three ways, and will hold  his laptop, etc. Mama buys it for him as there have been no sandals that call  his name. And he buys a gorgeous wheeled overnight bag in merlot leather. Kat  finds more bag gifts! And these fit easily inside the wheeled overnight, along  with the briefcase/backpack.
We find it interesting that over by the big cafes, the two guys out  hawking for business–though both side-by-side places are pretty packed–are  arguing as they protect their territory. And in the stalls, the guy next to  where we bought the carry-on continued to hype his version (Jason didn’t like  the texture) even after he bought his. Competition is fairly fierce in this  area.
We pick one of the cafes, have a nice lunch. Jason finally finds a  calzone–and it’s HUGE. It’s a busy, bustling place, very nice food, more  upscale misters.
There’s a carousel near the big Roman arch here, that moves at a  sedate pace and seems to amuse the kids. It’s a bit quieter today, maybe due to  the holiday, but it still seems to me there can be no one left in Asia. I know  it’s a really big place, but two out of every three tour groups we see are  Asian. It has to be the big time to come to Europe from Japan and/or  China.
BW goes off the take pictures and the rest of us haul our trophies  home. We go a new way, winding along the streets–many shops closed for The  Assumption, which is also a bank holiday. I wonder how the shopkeepers decide to  open or close. Even though the choices are more limited, we did very well. 
No gelato today–yet, but it’s so nice and quiet here in the room  we might just laze awhile. Someone was playing the piano in reception, very  well. A nice little bonus.
We may stir ourselves to do The Pitti Palace tomorrow, our last day  in Florence. Or not. We’ll check our moods in the morning.

Italy travelogue, part X

We continue to have the most glorious weather. A balmy evening,  perfect for outdoor dining. After some debate, we return to the little trattoria  where we ate last night. Pots of sage on the table for us  tonight.
A long, leisurely meal, sitting elbow to elbow with a young couple.  Not American, not Brit, but the common language with the waiter seems to be  English. They’re both tall and blond and pretty, so I wonder Scandinavian maybe.  I should’ve just asked them. They get some gorgeous cheese plate to share,  served on a stand like pizza.
A guy comes by, sets up and plays the clarinet for awhile. He has  some backpack deal that adds other instruments to his. I expect he goes from trattoria to trattoria picking up coins as he goes.
We’re too full for dessert, but the waiter brings out a  bottle–obviously from the frost out of the freezer. Tiny glasses. It’s STRONG  and interesting, and Jason points out it tastes a bit like Nyquil. And it does!  LOL. We find out it’s made from herbs, so maybe that counts for the medicinal  taste. But we manage to drink it–it’s pretty good Nyquil. And it may account  for the excellent night’s sleep.
Going to take it easy today–that’s the plan that’s not a plan.  Plus I believe lots of places will be closed today to honor the BVM’s  Assumption.
I think I’ll do the full 75 minute Yoga flow with Zirka Landwitt–a  favorite and an excellent stretch for body, mind and soul after the 12,000 steps  (five miles!) of walking yesterday.

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