Category Archives: Florence

Under the Tuscan Sun

On turning the calendar card I was confronted with this –

 

The wording on the card reads –

“The Italian enthusiasm for cycling come to the fore every spring during the Giro d’Italia, a three-week-long road race across some of the peninsula’s most challenging terrain. Thrills, hills, and spills aside, two-wheeled vehicles are an integral part of Italian culture and an uplifting fixture of daily life”

I was immediately transported back to my brief sojourn in Florence in 2013. Can it really be six years ago?

On October 23, 2013, I recorded Day 16 in Florence and noted that the World Road Cycling Championship had just been raced in and around Florence. Cycling memorabilia was on display and for sale everywhere one looked. I succumbed and purchased two little battery operated bicycles with pedalling cyclists whizzing around the footpaths. If you are interested, click here for that post.

Oh, how I enjoyed my short time alone in that wonderful city. I did go back the following year with the Architect, my late love, but somehow just wandering wherever fancy took me, and on my own was really very special. Those few weeks will remain n my memory until my memory fades. I am so glad that I took the chance, made the decision and had the adventure.

Note – I thought after the gloom and despondency of the last two blogs, it was time to lighten things up. I hope I have done so.

 

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Freedom

 

“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful
and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”
~ Mary Oliver

In October three years ago I was in Florence, knowing nobody and not speaking the language.  But what an adventure that was.

Have you ever thought of doing something like that?  To know nobody; to walk through the streets and not see a familiar face; to hear people speaking without understanding a single word they are saying and to not know where you are or where you are going; no familiar sights to guide you.  It’s total freedom.

For once, you can just be you.  There’s nobody who knows you and can comment on your behaviour.  We all like to think that we are independent and not moved by others’ comments on our actions, but here I was, totally alone like a ship that had been untied and left to float.

Oh, how i loved Florence and the feeling of just being me for the time I was there. Never before have I been in such circumstances and I suppose I never will be again.

When I returned to NZ many people commented on how brave I was to do that on my own.  But it didn’t seem like bravery to me.  At the time it was something I wanted to do and so I did it.  I wonder if I would have done that had I been younger or was it just the right time for me to stretch my wings and fly?

I’m very pleased that I had that adventure.  That I made the decision to go on my own and see that part of the world through different eyes.  I had not spent time in Florence before and like a child in a candy store, I delighted in all that I saw.  And I delighted in the people I met in the suburb where my apartment was.  Nobody spoke English and my Italian is almost non-existent but we managed to communicate and enjoy each others company.  And when I returned a couple  of years later with my late partner, those neighbours remembered me and were happy to see me.

So much has happened in the three years since that adventure.  Life has changed as it will and must.  Plans made that cannot be carried through; promises made that cannot be kept; other and different adventures to enjoy or just get through.  But that’s what this life of ours is all about.

So as Mary Oliver asks:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your
one wild and precious life?”
~ Mary Oliver

Writing 101 : A Room with a View (or Just a View)

 

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

So here goes.  The place to which I shall refer is the very small, rather strange apartment I occupied when I was in Florence last year.  I have told you how I sold the house, packed my belongings, said goodbye to family and friends and embarked on an adventure to the other side of the world.  To a city, I didn’t know, where I knew nobody and nor did I know the language.  Well as Mother used to say “God looks after fools.”

I arrived in Florence on a Sunday night when all the taxi drivers were taking the night off.  Well, that’s how it seemed to me for after finding the well-hidden taxi stand I had to wait in line for about 20 minutes for a cab to appear.

Having shown the taxi driver the address of the apartment we started on a long journey seemingly from one side of the city to the other.  I had been told that the fare should be around 20 Euros and it was 21 so I was happy.  So now I am outside the apartment building with not a soul in sight as the taxi driver takes his cab off into the night.  It was a very quiet area, no tourists, no bars or cafes and the door at which the cab driver had deposited me was not the right one.  So checking that I was in the right street, I quickly found the right apartment building.

I was met by Ornella the mother of the apartment owner.  Unfortunately, she spoke little or no English but with my little or no Italian we managed to make ourselves understood to each other.  She showed me around the apartment and then gave me a very quick tour of the neighbourhood and after introducing me to Guiliano my next door neighbour she took off carrying the basket containing her two chihuahuas,  I was left to my own devices in a strange country and I was all alone.

The apartment was on the ground floor of a five storey building.  There was no elevator and I could hear people running up and down the stairs, speaking and laughing and I just knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life.  I couldn’t even have coffee because there was no electric jug to boil the water and the lighter for the gas stove had run out of gas.  So after a glass of water, some grapes and a tomato I went to bed.

London and Florence 062

After a good nights sleep, I investigated the apartment.  It was quite small and at the front of the building.  The bedroom window was on the footpath and secured with shutters.  Unfortunately, it didn’t obscure the noise from the busy street outside.  The city had decided that this was the day to start repairing/resurfacing the road outside my bedroom window.

Florence Day 3 2013 001

As well as the rather large bedroom (perhaps Christiane the owner has parties or dances there) there is a living room with kitchen and dining facilities, a bathroom with shower hand basin loo and bidet.  Then in the corner of the living room, there is a staircase leading up to a mezzanine floor where there is a bed.  But one would have to crawl on one’s knees to get to the bed – there certainly is no standing room unless one were a hobbit. The French doors opened onto a rather neglected courtyard.  This was a suntrap and could have been a lovely place to sit and write my posts each day but..nowhere to sit.

I never did manage to use the washing machine nor did I have much success with cooking and most times the shower ran only tepid water, but I enjoyed the 3 weeks I spent in this quaint apartment.  It was unlike any other that I had been in and added greatly to the experience of an elderly lady, living alone in a suburb in Florence where everybody spoke Italian and very few had a few words of English.  But what an adventure.

I went back to the apartment in June with my partner.

Guilianno and family 1

Guiliano and family

With the girls at the pasticerria

We caught up with Guiliano and his family and with the girls at the pastiscerria where I had breakfast each day during my sojourn in Florence.  My neighbour was overcome with joy at seeing me again and the girls in the pastiscerria remembered me too.  So that was a great afternoon.

And while this was a very pleasant place to stay, now that I have been back I shall keep it in my memory store and bring it out from time to time over the coming years.

Challenge – Writing 101

The first Challenge –

Writing 101: Unlock the Mind.

To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.

So here goes.

If you have followed me before, or if you have read some of my posts,  you will know that for the first two years of blogging I managed to write a blog every day.  Then things changed.  I decided that my life was going nowhere and it was time for a change.

So almost overnight it seemed, the house was put on the market and sold, the Beautiful Miss Bella (my companion Toy Poodle) was found a place to stay while I adventured abroad and then, wouldn’t you know it, Fate stepped in.  I met an acquaintance from some 30 years ago.  His wife had died, my husband had been dead for some 15 years and we started to meet occasionally for coffee, a drink or dinner.

The time came for me to head off to Florence where I had arranged to lease an apartment for 3 months with the plan to learn to speak Italian while there.  I had sourced a school where the learning was intensive – 6 hours each day, dinner most nights and outings at the weekend – all (or as I understood it most) conducted in Italian.

My sister in London was expecting me to come visit her first and it was decided that she would accompany me to Florence for a couple of weeks as I settled into a strange city where I knew no-one and  didn’t speak the language.

This is where Fate took a hand.  I hadn’t really expected the house to sell so quickly or for the new owners to want possession in a couple of weeks.  So that left me homeless and with a few weeks to fill in before my odyssey started, I arranged with a friend to stay with her.  But no, here comes Fate again.  My re-acquianted (is there such a word)  friend suggested that I should go and stay with him for the four weeks before I left for London.  This seemed a good idea and so the decision was made.

My family was used to my popping off overseas from time to time and only finding out when I would come home again on receipt of an email from a far away place.  My new friend was amazed that I was planning a trip to a place I really didn’t know (well I had been there for three days in the past) , on my own, not speaking the language and knowing nobody.  He had been married to the same woman for over 40 years and I don’t think they had done much on the spur of the moment preferring instead to plan ahead.

So I lived with my friend for the next four weeks and it was all very pleasant.  We took the Beautiful Miss Bella to her new home and apart from the first night when I was there she has settled in beautifully.  Well what else to expect when she is loved by her new owner.  This was to be a shared ownership of the dog but it has devolved into her being with her new owner for keeps.

The day dawned when I was to leave and fond farewells were exchanged, together with a promise that my new friend would join me in Florence if and when the house that he was building was sufficiently complete to allow him to leave.  Incidentally this never happened.

My few weeks in London were great.  I revisited all the places of my childhood with my sister but there was a shadow over this – they (the medical fraternity) thought she had a heart attack and refused her permission to fly.  So with much trepidation and wondering what I was thinking about – a 75 year old woman taking off into the unknown on her own, I left for Florence.

Tie a Yellow Ribbon

The siren call of home has sounded and each day it is getting   louder.  It is now 10 weeks since I kissed my family and special friend goodbye at Wellington airport and set off on this adventure.  And what an adventure it has been.

Wellington August 2013 040

First I visited my sister in London and we did things that sisters would do if they saw each other on a regular basis.  We don’t but we make up for it when we do meet.  We visited family, and aged aunt with Alzheimer’s (although we discovered she is only a few years older than us), cousins, nieces and a special blogging buddy in Oxford.

Sisters

Originally our plans were to both go to Florence, hut these plans were dashed when my sister had to have a series of tests after suffering what was thought could be a heart attack.  She wasn’t allowed to fly so I went on my own.

I felt rather shaky on the day I left London.  I was going off alone to a country where I knew nobody and didn’t speak the language.  But what a great time I had there.  I found my way around very easily and quickly felt at home in this wonderful city.  Paris is described a the City of Light but for me now Florence will always have that soubriquet.

I discovered all the wonderful buildings and artwork that I had read about so many times in the past but I also discovered the back streets where lesser known wonders were housed.  I discovered the joys/benefits of living in an apartment in a suburb as opposed to living in a five-star hotel in the centre of town.  And there is a certain freedom in being somewhere where one is not known and one knows no-one.

I have waxed on and on about the wonders of this now my favourite city in earlier posts and so wont bore you here, but if you have missed them or if you are a new reader of this blog please click here to read of my adventures.

Il Duomo

Click the photo to read some of the posts on my visit to Florence

After almost three weeks the call of family and home was becoming stronger and so I left Florence and went back to London to decide on the next leg of this journey/adventure/experience.  The decision was made that I should return home and resume normal life albeit slightly differently because now my partner and I have decided we want to spend the rest of our lives together.  So another chapter in this long and colourful life is beginning.

Wellington city and harbour.

Wellington City and harbour. Via Wikipedia

Changes to the airline ticket have been made and I am now going home on Saturday 2 November – that’s only “four more sleeps” and I am getting excited about seeing family and friends again. Oh I shall miss my sister,the interaction, laughs,stories and jokes but it is time for normal service to be resumed.

China Southern Airlines

Because of the mix up on the way to London the airline has upgraded me to First Class travel home.  I another reason to be looking forward to Saturday.  I am looking forward to it.

So I will be off-line for a few days, but watch this space.

“Is it possible for home to be a person and
not a place?”
Stephanie Perkins,  American author

Day 19 – Farewell Florence

“We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go,
we take a little of each other everywhere.”
Tim McGraw, American singer, songwriter and actor 1967 –

Yesterday I was up quite early to finish packing and tidying up the apartment before I left.    I did allow enough time to go for a final macchiato and brioche at my favourite pasticerria.  As I was leaving I said goodbye and in halting Italian I said that I was going back to London.  This caused a flurry of ciaos, and what I took to be good wishes as I left promising to return.  What a lucky find that little place was and how friendly all the staff were – the owner spoke not a word of English and two of the staff knew enough to understand what I what I was asking for but I did feel a genuine rapport with these people.

Packed ready to leave

Packed and ready to leave

Then back to the apartment to await the taxi.  At 10.25 the neighbour knocked on the door to tell me the cab was due any time.  We took out my bags (note here what started as one bag morphed into two because of all the Italian leather goods I bought as gifts) and waited on the pavement for the cab.  We had a pleasant conversation and then he left having kissed me on both cheeks, shaken my hand and telling me that if the cab didn’t arrive to come and knock on his door so that he could sort it out.  I marvel at how two people who don’t speak each others language manage to communicate.

It reminded me of one time when we were in Hong Kong staying at a friend’s apartment the air conditioning didn’t work.  My friend’s Amah and my late husband managed to communicate and we were told that the maintenance man  would come that afternoon to fix the problem.  I would think that understanding Chinese is rather more difficult that understanding Italian.

Taxis waiting at The Duomo

All roads do lead to The Duomo.

Anyway back to Florence. The cab duly arrived and the cheerful driver made some comment about ladies not travelling light and humped my suitcases into the back of his cab.

When we arrived at the airport he went off and got me a trolley.  I would never have found one if left to my own devices.

It was quite warm 24 degrees Celsius and the airport was awash with people.  I had to purchase an extra bag because my ticket only allowed for one.  So 70 Euros($NZ116/$US96) later I joined the long queue for bag drop off for Air France.  I am glad that I arrived at the airport early because this took a loooong time.

And my partner says my bag is too large

And my partner says my bag is too large

There are no air-bridges at least for these short hop flights and so we were taken out to the plane in a bus – standing room only.  We then had to climb a flight of stairs.  A really beautiful young French steward took my in flight bag and then asked if I was travelling alone.  When I answered in the affirmative he gave me a seat in the Business Class section.  He had the most beautiful smile and a wonderful accent.  I think I am in love.

So I had s very pleasant flight to London.

On arrival the customs hall was empty and so even though I had nothing to declare we went straight through.  Simple, easy arrival.

London taxis

Next job find a cab.  This was easy as there were many Black London cabs lined up.  I got into one with a garrulous Cockney driver.  Unfortunately, he didn’t know where my sister’s address was and his satnav was no help.  Eventually after driving around for a time, I saw an intersection I recognised and directed him from there.  His satnav was still telling him to turn left when we turned right.  My advice to him was to throw the thing out of the window.

After a reviving coffee accompanied by laughs and catching up what we had each been doing for the past few weeks, we had dinner – fish and chips as only the British can make them.  Great.

Then it was time to visit Marianne’s family who were all at the local hall enjoying a children’s Halloween party.  Noisy, rambunctious, over excited children and their mothers, but what fun these people were all having.  I have never been involved with a group of like-minded but very different people.  Some travellers (read gypsies) live locally and they apparently join in with all the activities.  The party was supposed to finish at 8pm but the mothers decided they wanted to dance and dance they did.  Then some of the fathers arrived and some of the boxers (the party was held in the Pedro Youth Club which supports local youth and promotes and encourages boxing).  Please click on the link – my two nieces are involved in the club, one does all the administration on a volunteer basis and the other is also a volunteer.  It is a worthy cause in a deprived area and James Cook who heads the club is a well-respected person in the area.  The party finished around 10.30pm after all the mothers helped to tidy and vacuum the place ready for another party today, Saturday.

So another busy day ended. My sister’s “recycled” but shy cat has decided that I am alright and is sitting watching me as I type.

“Women and cats will do as they please,
and men and dogs should relax and
get used to the idea.”
Robert A. Heinlein, American novelist and
science fiction writer.  1907 – 1988

 

Florence Day 18

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver,  American poet
1935 –

Pig

One must stroke the pig’s nose to ensure one will return to Florence

This morning I had no internet access, nor could I send or receive text messages.  I felt totally alone in a foreign environment and thought about how we have all come to rely on technology to make our days run smoothly.  The internet is pretty patchy here and seems to work well for several hours and then like today it will go off.  So patience is called for.  But I am so glad when I am traveling alone that I have access to this technology.

File missing

Now this stay in Florence is being cut short and this is the last day, as tomorrow I shall catch a plane to London and my family there.

Sisters

I have enjoyed finding my way around this most beautiful city, learning a few words of the language and mostly managing to make myself understood.  But I shall miss jumping on the buses to get around.  The public transport system is amazing; I have never waited more than 10 minutes for a bus.  Taxis are a little different.  One cannot just hail a cab here as one does at home.  They have to be picked up at the taxi stands which are few and far between or alternatively ordered by phone.

Bus

So today was a day for packing and tidying up and getting ready to leave.

Courtyard

Courtyard

 Entrance hall

My friendly and kindly next door neighbours have ordered a cab to take me to the aeroporto domani.  I resorted to writing out my request for them.  I knew I could never make myself understood if I tried to say the words.

An interesting interlude followed as Guiliano told me that I wouldn’t need to order the cab until tomorrow.  I want it at 10.30 am so he said to come tomorrow to his house (next door) at 9 am to make the booking.  Then some time later he rang the doorbell and told me he had booked the cab in his name for tomorrow.  So I think, he is going to knock on my door when it gets here.  I do so love these interactions where neither party speaks the others language.  Somehow we manage to communicate.

Florence Day 3 2013 007

I went out for macchiato and brioche as usual.  I told the folk in the pasticceria that I was leaving tomorrow – they seemed to understand as we smiled and wished each other arrivederci.  I did buy an apricot turnover and a brioche to take away with me.  They were to be part of lunch or dinner.Lunch

Lunch today was a scratch meal using up what was left in the apartment.  Quite satisfying but not as good as some of the lunches I have eaten since I arrived here.  Oh well …

“I had surprised myself this year by
jumping in to reshape my life before life
stepped in to reshape it for me.”  Alice Steinbach

 

 

 

 

 

Florence Day 17

“Life is like that I thought, as I turned the corner to my building.
Freedom has its danger as well as its joys.
And the sooner we learn to get up after a fall, the better off will be.”
Alice Steinbach

This is the notice I found stuck on the front door of the apartment building yesterday when I returned.  Have absolutely no idea what it says, but whatever it is happened on 22/23 October.

Notice on apartment building door

Notice on apartment building door

I decided on another day wandering around this city I have come to love.

Carabinere at statiom

Carabiniere at the station. There was a lot of them – what’s going on.  Notice the ever-present Golden Arches

Percy Byshe Shelly placque

The plaque showing Percy Byshe Shelley lived in the building

City market

Original city market opened 1874

Entry to City market

Here’s the entry showing the date

The market was a chef’s dream come true.  Everything imaginable as on sale for the chef.  Fresh meats, fish, vegetables and fruit,  as well as many dried items.

Inside the market

Inside the market

Flower stall inside the market

Flower stall inside the market

Great display of cheeses, salami etc

Great display of cheeses, salami etc

More goodies on display

More goodies on display

And more

And more

Pasta making on site

Pasta making on site

An endless variety of goodies

An endless variety of goodies

Fish

Almost sold out

Very large fish

Very large unknown fish

Display of fruit

Having feasted my eyes on all these goodies and great displays I wandered outside again.  The first thing I saw was this dog in a food shop.  We, well most of us like dogs in New Zealand but they are not allowed in shops of any kind, on public transport or in the centre of town.  Very different to Florence where dogs are everywhere.

Florence Day 17 030Owner’s dog in shop doorway

Opera in the piazzaOpera in  the piazza

Carousel in squareCarousel in same piazza

Busy cornerAnother busy corner with an interesting building

LunchLunch at Trattoria San Lorenzo
Tagliatelle AlfredoHouses on the River ArnoI ended up at the Ponte Vecchio again and took this photo
of the houses on the River Arno

GelattoGelato selection – Yes I succumbed and had a small one

Back where it all beganBack to where it started when I first arrived in Florence.
Church of Santa Maria Novella

Coming home I got on the wrong bus and ended up in a different part of town.  A leafy suburb but I had no idea of where I was.  If one (me) gets lost in a city there are always points of reference  – here the dome of the Duomo, the stazione, etc – but in the suburbs there is nothing.  Fortunately I met a woman and her adult son both of whom spoke a little English.  The bus I had taken was a 17 and they told me to get a 17 going in the opposite direction.  To pick the bus up in the centro via not at the side of the road.  So I duly boarded another bus but again I recognised nothing and so seeing a Taxi stand I jumped off the bus and got a cab.

This was a very exciting ride.  A garrulous, highly temperamental, yelling woman driver who I am sure called all other drivers on the road imbeciles and possibly worse.  But she deposited me at the door, even though once again I saw nothing I recognised.  Just another incident  to record on this adventure.

I am getting ready to leave Florence at present and am going back to London to meet with my sister  and plan the next stage of this adventure.

But I shall return to Florence and to make doubly sure I went and stroked the pig’s snout again.

Pig 1

And thanks to Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way  for the following Mark Twain quote
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry,
and narrow-mindedness.”

The internet is a trifle temperamental, rather like my taxi driver yesterday and it comes and goes as it pleases which is why this post is late.

Florence day 16

“As I set out each day, I felt like a young child again. One who hadn’t yet learned the rules of manmade time; the rules of clocks and calendars, of weekdays and weekends.
― Alice Steinbach, Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

A couple of years after my husband died I decided that rather than wait for the world to come to me, I would go to the world,  At that time I read Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach and it has remained one of my favourites ever since.

So to today.  I started out not knowing what I wanted to do.  Would I go into the city and wander around, would I see if I could get into the Bargello that had been closed on each of my earlier visits or would I find that particular restaurant where I had risotto the other day for lunch and have not forgotten it.  The restaurant won out.

I had the card with the address on it so it should have been an easy place to find.  But not all streets are named here in Florence and not only that, but they change name half way along for no apparent reason.  So I wandered around for a while before I found the restaurant.

World Cycle Championship logo

Because the World Road Cycling Championships have just been held in and around Florence the place is awash with tourist things depicting the race; hats, sweat shirts, tee shirts, bags etc.  The street vendors are selling little battery operated bicycles with pedalling cyclists whizzing around the footpaths.  I asked on vendor “Quanto?” to which he replied “Venti” (20 Euros).  I began to walk away and he said “Quindici” (15)  I shook my head and asked what was the best price for two and ended up purchasing two for 15 Euros.  He smiled as he took the money so I guess he made a profit on the deal.

Another view of the Duomo

Another view of the Duomo

I noticed that each day the crowds seem to diminish.  No long, long queues to get into the dome or the campanile today.  The restaurants aren’t nearly as busy as they were last week.

Doors to Baptistry

In an earlier post I described this as a screen in fact these are the doors to the Baptistry.  There are three sets of these doors., two sets of which were designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti after winning the competition to decide which artist would do the design.  Brunelleschi, the designer of the dome, was among those who made submissions and lost out. The doors illustrate Old Testament scenes and the door frames contain busts of 24 of the leading Renaissance artists, including one of Ghiberti himself.

All roads lead to The Duomo

The octagonal building on the right of the picture is the Baptistry.  The doors now used to enter the church are shown below.

Entrance to Baptistry

Entrance to the Baptistry is restricted to those going into Mass

Scooters are everywhere lined up in long, long rows when not being ridden.  And it’s of interest to note that unlike in New Zealand, neither scooter riders or cyclists seem to wear helmets.  Helmets are compulsory in New Zealand.

A chosen form of transport

A chosen form of transport

Another form of transport

Another form of transport

Eventually, I found the restaurant in Via Dei Neri and ordered the risotto again.

Lunch

Risotto asperegi e gamberi – asparagus and shrimp

Sometimes it is a mistake to return to a restaurant and order the same food but this time it was equally as good as the first.

Another statue

Another statue

More door decoration

More door decoration

Fewer people today

Fewer people today

Considerate parking

Considerate parking

Rows of vendors selling leather goods

Rows of vendors selling leather goods

nother view of the Duomo

All roads lead to The Duomo

So another day in this city came to an end.  I must say that all this walking is strengthening my thigh and leg muscles.  The first couple of days here I was very aware how much I was walking.  But now I just take it in stride.

“What adds up to a life is nothing more than the accumulation of small daily moments.”
Alice Steinbach

Florence Days 14 and 15

“it is a serious thing just to be alive
on this fresh morning in this broken world.”
Mary Oliver American poet 1935 –

Day 14

Today was the day for Sienna (note the Italians spell this place Siena).  The train duly arrived and left on time.  Quite a change from the last abortive effort of going to Sienna.

On the train I met a delightful American couple from Stockton, California.  Talking with them made what could have been an uninteresting train ride through uninteresting countryside, interesting.  They were both retired, he a statistician and she a school teacher.  It’s great to talk and share with people  you meet while on vacation.  They had been the victims of a pick pocket on the railway station at Rome and so he had lost his wallet and his phone..We joked that now she had him in her power; she had the money and the access to the rest of the world.  At the end of the journey we went our separate ways having exchanged names addresses and phone numbers in case we ever found ourselves near to each others homes in the future.  Stranger things have happened in  my life.View from the stationThe train from Firenze arrives at the station in Siena on a level well down the hillside and to get to the exit we had to climb about ten sets of escalators and travelators.  I thought we would never get there.

Then my guide book had told me which buses I could get into the centre of the town but not which direction.  So I approached a woman getting out of her car.  “Scusi Senora.  Parla Inglesa?” to which she replied “Yes I do”.  So she pointed me to the nearest bus stop and told me which bus to get on.

At the bus stop I met a couple from Sydney, Australia ho were at the end of an 8 week holiday.  The bus duly arrived and we got on it and were taken to the centre.  After a few more scusis to different people I found my way to the square.

The Square

Il Campi 1

Il Campo, the square, spreads out in front of the Gothic Town Hall with a fountain at its tip. As it was Sunday the crowds were everywhere, talking in a variety of languages, laughing, eating and having fun.  A group of young people were playing a game the rules of which seemed to be known only to them, shrieking and laughing and really enjoying themselves.  All around Il Campo are restaurants with outside seating, souvenir shops and also specialty shops.

Diners around the square

Panforte shop

One of the delicacies particular to Siena is Panforte* and I discovered a little shop selling this sweet among other Tuscan delights.  I asked for a piccolo piece and the kind lady sliced me off a sliver and refused payment;  I walked out with my foil wrapped sweet which I ate as I wandered the streets of this quaint town.  Of course, I went back and bought this larger piece.

Panforte

I decided that I didn’t want to visit any museums and so just strolled around people watching and enjoying myself.

Pizza for lunch

Pizza for lunch and

Lunch finished!

Lunch finished!

Another late lunch found me having a huge pizza at one of the outdoor cafes ringing the square –Quatro Stagioni (Four Seaons) Pomodoro formaggio, jambon cuit, champignons, artichaut e olives (or cheese, ham, tomatoes mushrooms, artichokes and olives).  I am really no great lover of pizza but when in Rome etc.  It was enormous and I managed to eat only half.  My grandsons would have been sorely tried with a pizza this size.

Harvest Festival

I saw a display of locally grown vegetables and fruits – I think it was a group of local growers.  This display attracted a lot of interest.

Museo Civico

Museo Civico

Apparently this building is considered one of the most beautiful in Tuscany.

Then it was time to head back to the station but on the way I passed the Post Office.

Post Offce Siena

This time at the bus stop I encountered a man with his wife and her friend and husband.   The man was German and they all live in Canada but he and his wife have a house in the hills locally.  As they spend a considerable amount of time here he was able to tell me which bus to get to the station , having first shown me how to purchase the bus ticket from the machine. He then kept us entertained with his laughter and story telling not only until the bus came but also all te way to the station.

I arrived back with plenty of time to catch the train back to Florence.  And what a surprise when my American friends came into the carriage.  So we spent the return journey learning more about each others lives.

And at last, the train pulled into the station in Florence, we said our goodbyes again and went off they to their hotel in Florence and me to the apartment.  Another long (10 hours) day and so once I arrived home I had a shower, a banana and a cup of tea and after a short Skype call to New Zealand I called it a day and took myself off to bed..

Notes:
*Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, and resembles fruitcake It may date back to 13th century in Siena.

2. According to my guide book and my friend in New Zealand Siena is famous for its horse race.  This takes place twice a year and lasts just 90 seconds,  This race around the square has been held since the 13th century.  Originally it took the form of a bareback race the length of the city but from the 17th century it has been run around the square.

Day 15

Rain on leaves

I awoke this morning to the sound of heavy rain and thunder and lightning, so it made the decision of what to do today very simple.  I would stay inside.  This is one of the benefits of being in an apartment rather than a hotel.  One can lounge around all day if one wants.

The downside of the bad weather was that the internet, never the most reliable here in Florence, was down for a part of the day.  So the Skype call was not very successful and writing my blog had to be put off in favour of reading.  Oh dear – how sad is that.

Lunch today was made of things already in the apartment, served and eaten on the coffee table as I was reading.

French brie, cracker, banana and apple,

French Brie, cracker, banana and apple

The rain did let up in the middle of the afternoon and I thought I should take myself out for a breath of fresh air and a wander around the neighbourhood.

Local Pet Supermarket

I just had to go to take some photos -I’ve never seen such a large pet shop

Pets accessories

This is about one-third of the wall with toys for pets

Florence Day 15 008

A large cage with bright colourful birds

Sexy shop

Wasn’t game to go and see what they sold in this shop

Dinner - salad, eggs, and smoked salmon

Dinner – salad, eggs, and smoked salmon

And I just love the Brie made in France.  It is so much better than the Brie made in NZ.  I have been eating it all day, with crackers for breakfast, with fruit for lunch and with coffee after dinner.

Brie Made in France

And as Marcel Proust said:
“My destination is no longer a place,
rather a new way of seeing.”

I am most definitely discovering a new way of seeing – beautiful objects, buildings and art, and lovely interesting people.