Friday, October 18, 2013

Italy for Beginners: Part Uno

If I told you that I packed for nearly three weeks in Italy in carry on luggage would you believe me?  Well I wouldn't believe me either but I did it.  Due to a slight obsession with the travel advice of PBS Europe-obsessed traveler,

Rick Steves  
I became convinced that I wasn't woman enough to wrestle my entire wardrobe from train to train.  It was good advice.  Mark and I had been anticipating this trip for a long time with our friends

Keith and Carol, who make their home south of London.  Keith is a great planner and after we decided on our itinerary, he made all of the arrangements for hotels, train tickets and where to start and end our adventure.

We flew overnight to London, met the Brooks and then flew on to Pisa where we took a bus to Florence.  Trundling our suitcases over the cobbled streets we found our
home away from home for the next 5 days,The Hotel Lombardia,
 managed by a friendly and accommodating brother/sister team that didn't freak out when crazy things happened like a certain someone spilling Diet Coke all over the bed.

Florence, "Firenze" to Italians, is a very walkable city, unless a bike race comes to town which closes off streets for blocks.  Luckily, this didn't happen until our last day.
We bought a "Firenze Card" which is so much prettier than my Costco Card I haven't been able to part with it.  It was expensive, but entitled us to admission to most of the museums we wanted to see, including the Uffizi Gallery.  The Uffizi is a massive U-shaped building around a courtyard bristling with statuary.  Actually, if you never entered one building in Florence, there is enough art in the niches of cathedrals, loggias and every nook and cranny to deeply satisfy an art lover. 

The collection in the Uffizi is mind boggling.  There are halls and rooms full of statues and busts, acres of paintings  just slightly older than Adam and Eve, and so much beauty your eyes eventually glaze over about the time your legs give out.
I called this the "Stayin' alive" room and dedicated it to John Travolta

This perfectly proportioned room was not just ornate, but beautiful, the ceiling decorated with hundreds of abalone shells, the mosaic tiled floor a masterpiece.
With so much perfection, of course I was drawn to the unusual portrait of this guy, whose front and backsides were hung back to back in the middle of a gallery.  Never has a hummingbird been used so effectively as a fluttering modesty protector.

In the evening we ate the first of the many l-e-i-s-u-r-e-l-y dinners that we would learn to enjoy.  We were outside, and this was the view behind my chair.  Dinner is rarely begun before 8pm and we often finished at 11pm, a time when I am usually sound asleep.  But there was just something about Italy.

Here is the first of what would be many, many many gelatos that I would voraciously consume during my stay in Italy.  My favorite?  Nocciola, which I can ask for like an Italian due to constant practice.  It is a magical concoction of hazelnuts made by magicians.  I'm crying tears of frustration remembering.  I ate Nocciola every day and am still not weaned.

As we walked back to our hotel that first night we passed the Basilica of San Lorenzo, where a music school was giving a recital.

There were small string ensembles, piano solos and woodwind numbers that filled the beautiful space.  We walked back to our hotel through narrow streets in the cool air under a full moon.


Melynda Brown said...

WOW! Looks like you had a great time. And I had been worried about you with no blogging and all.......

RoeH said...

Well that beats the heck out of lunch in Tempe. You lucky person. I'm going to have to see the world after I die and we can twinkle ourselves wherever we want to go. At least I hope so. Neat photos!

Lois said...

Amazing!!! Cannot wait to read the 2nd installment! I want that abalone ceiling in my room & gelato in my belly - yum!

just call me jo said...

Since I left the blog world I had no idea you were so cosmopolitan. Dare I even speak to you, madam? (Whatever language that is?) You are so brave to pack carry on. Love your pictures. I'm like Roe. I will have to twinkle there in my afterlife. I hope Europe is on my places to visit when I die. (I might be more in the sewer systems than the upper level, but I plan on seeing it.)

Holly said...

I'm not sure i believe you were actually there. Anyone can steal pictures off the internet you know. I'm thinking that after deciding to come back to the blogging world you knew you had to try to outdo Jo's technicolor wall and my dream of being a lounge singer so you made this whole thing up. I love you anyway

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Though Hummingbird Man is certainly an attention grabber, it is the John Travolta tribute that brought tears to my eyes. *dab-dab* Please tell me you found something for David Hasselhoff in part deux of Larainy's Excellent Adventure. I'm so envious I could scream. But I'm happy for you. :)

Sue said...

Okay, I admit to being the teeniest bit envious.


PS. Looks wonderful!

karen said...

I've always wanted to go to Italy. Those Italians - they just don't make one single thing that's ugly. From cars to shoes to purses, to clothes to paintings, sculpture, and architecture, each thing seems even more beautiful than the last. I used to work for Frette, an Italian linen company. For years I had such beautiful sheets - nothing compares to them! I still have a few pieces that I mix in with lesser linens from time to time. Ciao bella!