I am now in Lucca : ) Free wifi but no computer - so blog posts from iPod Touch...
The beginning of this post was written while on the train from Firenze to Lucca and the rest of this post was written while sitting in the lobby/breakfast room/general shared area of my B&B in Lucca waiting for my room to be ready. (Photos were added later)
Saturday, June 27th:
Earlier in the week, I saw this beautiful purple pashmina hanging on the door of one of the shops heading towards Piazza Santa Croce. I wasn't sure what shops would be open on Sunday so I went back early Saturday evening hoping that the shop would be open. It was already closed when I got there.
I wandered around the area and then went over one of the bridges and walked around the Oltrano side of Florence for a little while. The sun was beginning to set and it started to rain again. I took some photos of the Ponte Vecchio bridge and then headed back towards my B&B for dinner.
View looking the opposite way:
I decided to try dei Frescobaldi, which was located right next to my B&B. I would give this place 5 stars for the food, but this place loses a few points in my book because it is one of the places where it seems to seat all of the Italians on one room and all of the foreigners in another room. I even asked if I could sit in the other room and was told that I needed a reservation. To confirm my suspicion, I walked past the window of the room where I saw a couple of free tables and one of the tables was still free.
However, the food and service were both wonderful. I ordered a pumpkin ravioli with a butter, sage, and crunchy amaretto sauce. It was one of those "wow" type of reactions when I took the first bite. I would have ordered more food but I was still full from lunch. I only had just enough room for a gelato. I went back to Grom and discovered the perfect combination - caffe & pistacchio.
I was really tired Saturday night and fell asleep right after returning to my B&B. I was awakened suddenly at 2 am by the rude people staying in the room next door. They had the TV blaring so loudly that I could hear every word as if it was on in my room. They also were very loud and kept me awake until 3:30 am. I even tried drowning out the sound with my iPod but nothing worked.
Sunday, June 28th:
The skies were blue and the weather was perfect for my last day in Florence. After breakfast, I climbed my first tower of 2009 - the Giotto Bell Tower, which is located next to the Duomo. There are 414 or 494 steps to the top (I can't remember which now).
Although it is a tall tower, there are many stops along the way (various levels of the tower) where you can stop to catch your breath I was at the very top of the tower when the bells started to ring all over Florence. It was incredible!!
I took a little video that I hope comes out. While on the level below where the bells are located, the bells began to ring. I think I might have lost a few decibels of hearing, but stood right there videoing the bells ringing. I spent about an hour and a half hanging out on the different levels of this tower.
Views from the tower:
*I still need to edit the video of the bells ringing. Will do a new post when I get that done.
I was planning to visit the Baptistery next but heard some band music playing nearby. The band was the Rossa Italiana Corpa Militare band. I found out later that this band closed out the Calcio Storico event that took place a few days earlier.
After the band played, it started to march. Everyone followed the band. It was really a lot of fun. The band marched around the block from the Piazza della Repubblica towards the Duomo and then back to the Piazza della Repubblica. Somehow, I ended right up in the front and was able to video the band marching. When it returned to the Piazza della Repubblica, the band played more songs. I left after a while and headed back to my B&B.
I ordered a taxi for the following morning, asked to have an early breakfast, and paid my bill. As I was heading back outside, I heard the band playing again. They were now in Piazza della Signoria. I went to watch them play again. The last song they played was the Italian national anthem and I got the whole thing on video. It was a chicken skin moment! The new mayor was there and the person leading the band went to salute the mayor.
I posted a bunch of photos of the band along with a few videos here.
After the band marched off, I went back to the area where I saw the purple pashmina hanging on the door. I wanted to buy a pashmina to use as a blanket on the plane. I found two places and ended up buying one at each place.
I met Judy (Tourmama) and her clan for lunch. We ate at Yellow Bar. It was an easy place for a big group to eat. Pizza was just so so again. After lunch, half of Judy's family went back to their B&B and those that sat at the other table ended heading to the Duomo (where I was also going). This worked out perfectly because now I got to know the rest of the family. Judy & I both bought little watercolor paintings, Judy's daughter's fiance bought a very cool tacky refrigerator magnet, and then we all went inside the Duomo.
After our visit to the Duomo, we headed to Grom. We briefly talked about going to a different gelateria but the guy we bought the watercolor paintings from said Grom was the best.
I asked for a small cone with caffe on the bottom and pistacchio on the top but the woman taking my order insisted that the caffe needed to be on the top. She also told Judy's husband which flavor would go best with his chocolate. We ate our gelati together (and Judy ate her lemon granita) and then we said our goodbyes. I really enjoyed getting to know Judy and her family.
I went back to my B&B and packed. The people in the room next to me were back in their room with their TV blaring again. They left before I did for dinner. I wrote a note on a little sticky asking them to please turn down their TV and use quiet voices late at night so others could sleep and left it on their door. It worked! I didn't hear a peep from them again.
I had a wonderful dinner at La Maremma in the Santa Croce area. I ordered pici pasta with a rabbit sauce and olives. I enjoyed chatting with a couple from Oklahoma during dinner.
It was a long day, so I headed back to my B&B and called it a night.