Friday, November 2, 2012

The Land of Twigs and Berries; Florence, Italy

After some debate we decided to take a day trip to Florence.  We’d done enough research to know we didn’t want to drive into the city.  Instead we drove to Greve, parked in a free lot, and took a bus to Florence.  

It took about 20 minutes, give or take, to drive to Greve and about an hour to get to Florence; it’s only 22 kilometers from Greve to Florence but the bus had several stops and the roads were curvy. 

Our bus tickets cost 3,30 euros or approximately $4.25 per person each way.  And, no, I didn't make an error using a comma instead of a decimal point; for some reason many European countries use commas rather than points.  Believe you me it can be confusing.  

But back to the trip.  We purchased our bus tickets at the tabacconist in Greve. Fortunately for us the tabacconist was right next to the local bar (aka cafe).  Thus we got bus tickets, cappuccinos and pastries all in one fell swoop.  The bus tickets were open ended (assuming we made the last bus back to Greve).  

As I said the bus trip took about an hour.  Once in Florence the kids had to go the bathroom.  This was the perfect excuse for Mama and Papa to indulge in another cappuccino.  We went into the first bar we passed which looked a little suspect -- there was graffiti on the wall and the exterior was nothing to write home about.  I wasn’t sure we were in for a good experience.  Boy was I wrong.  

Inside was the most enthusiastic barista I’d ever met.  He was playing it up to the hilt and flirting with all the women.  And let me tell you, they were buying it hook line and sinker.  And then the art, coffee art.  Each and every beverage had wonderful designs - a face for the mister, a heart for me, and sunshine for the kids.  

The barista was so much fun to watch we ended up ordering two additional cappuccinos. 

It was one of those moments when you realize it doesn’t matter what you do for a living so long as you do it well.  This barista, this man, left joy in his wake.  What more could one ask for?  

Of course the children were not interested in my pontifications on coffee and life.  It was time to see Florence.

We used this Trip Advisor walking tour as a guide and headed for the Duomo.  What this tour doesn’t tell you is to plan on walking a LOT.  And not only walking but hiking to boot. 

Our first stop was the Duomo.  How to describe the Duomo?  I can’t even begin.  It’s huge and majestic and ornate.   It takes up a whole city block.  Photographs (at least my photographs) don’t do it justice (I should probably learn to take panoramic shots).  

The inside was shockingly plain compared to the exterior (though still beautiful to see).  There was a line to climb to the top (and a charge of 8 euros a piece).  We opted to forego this part of the adventure (and thank goodness too because we had quite a bit of hiking ahead).  

From the Duomo we walked to Palazzo Vecchio.  Now I must pause.  If you are traveling with children and you have not had “the talk” with them, if you are not up for discussing the finer details of intimate human anatomy then don’t go to Palazzo Vecchio.  Just don’t.  

Fortunately our children have been educated in such matters and were therefore not too shocked to be face-to-face with a replica of Michelangelo’s David (the real one is tucked safely in a museum).  

My son blurted out, “Hey!  Look at his twigs and berries!”  And, indeed, the twigs and berries were in full view; not a fig leaf in sight.  

The square, the Piazza Della Signora, also holds Neptune’s fountain (more twigs and berries), as well as many other statues.  We spent some time wandering around and marveled at the age of things (this piazza had been in existence for over 500 years!)

Okay.  Now we were tired.  We should’ve stopped for lunch.  But we didn’t want to get stuck in a tourist trap and therefore clamored on.  The thrill of male anatomy was a thing of the past and the kids were hot, tired and hungry.  Add to that a misstep in our walk and mile long detour a pied. Needless to say people were not pleased.  

Finally.  Finally we stopped to eat on Via San Niccolo once we regained our bearings.  I sat down at the table and my heart sank.  My purse was open (something I’d been very careful about).  I panicked and pawed through it.  My wallet isn’t here, my wallet isn’t here, shit, *^&$# my wallet isn't here ... oh, wait, here it is! 

My wallet was safely tucked in the dark recesses of my bag.  Turns out I’d left my purse open when Little handed me her scarf.  Bad Mama!

Now the Boy, at this point and time, was tired of Italian food and jonesing for a hamburger.  The restaurant had a hamburger on the menu, complete with fries. How is a teenager to resist?   The waitress gave a little snigger and wrote down his selection.  

Our food was delicious (and I can’t even remember what we got).  But the Boy?  He was treated to a meat patty on a bed of lettuce.  No bread. No bun.  And the burger? It was more or less raw.  Lesson learned: hamburgers and Italy are mutually exclusive (that is unless you go to McDonald’s and we certainly were not going there).    

I must say, however, the fries were delectable.  

Mama and Papa shared a bottle of wine over lunch.  This soothed our increasingly frazzled nerves but also made our upcoming hike all the more daunting.  

After lunch we were headed up to Piazzale Michelangelo, our chance to view the city.  We bribed the children with promises of gelato once the hike was complete.  And indeed  bribery worked.  And the view was worth our while.  

We then chugged a little further up the hill to the San Miniato Church.  I could have stayed forever meandering through the graveyard.  But we’d promised gelato ... 

So back down down down -- down the hill we went.  We marched past the Ponte Vecchio with little fanfare making a beeline for the gelato shop on the corner of Ponte Santa Trinita.  

And with that we concluded our tour of Florence.  We made our way back to the bus station (getting a bit lost on the way) and caught our ride home.  

Once in Greve we stopped for snacks the CoOp (the local grocery store); Middle, for the longest time, thought it was called the “coop” and couldn’t figure out why all the grocery stores were named after chicken huts.  

Then back to Radda to rest and sleep.  

Next on deck?  Fast cars and smog-filled skies -- Modena, Italy.  


Sarah {The Student Knitter} said...

wow... thank you so much for sharing! It all looks amazing! We just don't get coffee like that here, do we?

Shalet said...

Indeed we do not. Though, thanks to a serendipitous find at the Goodwill, I'm doing my best to make my own. If I can't be in Italy I'll bring Italy to me!