Oh My God! The Duomo! I really had forgotten how breath takingly beautiful it is!
But the day...
Got up and checked out of Hotel Paradise. Said our goodbyes to Marcia and David and the staff there. Went for one last coffee in the Piazza Maggiore and to the train station. The train was totally packed and I was glad we had gotten our tickets in advance. The ride was only 40 minutes. We are here, in Florence, to meet my "pen-pal" Marco. Kris and I met him and his truly lovely wife, Giovanna, in La Zucca in Venice two years ago. We have been writing REAL letters (with paper and stamps) for the last two years--in Italian and English. We get off the train and there is Marco at the end of the binario with a huge sign in thick letters "JAN". He whisks us into his car and takes us to his mothers flat. It's in Scandicci , on the outskirts of Florence. The apartment is so different than a rental. Somebody lives here--although not really; it is vacant but Marco and Giovanna use it as an office as they live just across the street. This is in a "complex" of building--like condos built in the 1950,s. But it is totally comfortable and not too hot even though there is no AC.
We settle in for 5 or 10 minutes and we are on the new tram that takes us into the city, to Santa Maria Novella, in fact. We begin our tour with Marco, who was born here and knows the streets and their history like I know how to make scrambled eggs. It is amazing! Hard for me because he is speaking in Italian about 80% of the time. He starts out nice and slow and I am with it but then his enthusiasm gets the upper hand and I am lost. Marco is remarkable. He used to edit books--not guide books, but souvenier type books about the art and history of many major cities in Europe. The stuff is in his blood. We walk to the Strozzi Palace and through Piazza della Republica. There, on one corner is a big department store--Rinascente (sp?) and we go to the top for a drink of grapefruit juice mixed with bubbly water--Perfetto. The view is gorgeous.
Ken and Marco:
Refreshed, we continue on to the Piazza Signoria. There is a small crowd gathering and I jump up on a wall to see. People is costume??? Marco does some recon and runs back to tell us that the spetacolo (Parade) for the Calcio Storico is about to pass--right her--right where we are standing and have probably the "best seats in the house". After 10 minutes we hear the drums and the outrageous processional passes for our pleasure.
It is a feast for the senses.
The we walk to the Duomo. Marco is full of history--Michaelangelo, the Medici--on and on. The Piazza del doumo is so gorgeous I feel like someone just placed the backdrop there from a movie set for us. It can't be real! It is impossible for me to take it all in because I am constantly concentrating so hard on Marco's continuous stream of information.
Finally, we take the tram back to the apartment. We have about an hour and a half to get ready for dinner. I shower and the minute my head hits the pillow, I am dead to the world--so I got a great 15 minute nap. And off we go in the car with Giovanna. We head up to piazzale Michelangelo for the view. It is a hazy day and they are both disappointed but for us it is grand. The we go to the restaurant. Osteria La Terazza Principe--I think--on the side of the hill with a beautiful panorama of the countryside.
We sit outside; it looks like a movie set--pink geraniums, purple wisteria, the young beautiful black haired waitress and the very round boss man in his apron and his perfect mustache. With Marco and Giovanna's help (they are regulars) we all share 2 pastas--one is thin tagliatelle with "agrumi" basically--butter and orange. Perfectly light for a warm summer evening. And we have penne with pistacchios from Bront--according to Giovanna, they are the best in the world. It's a lushly creamy dish and I love it.
Marco got a filet--to me, a huge steak--barely cooked, with a wine and balsamico reduction. Giovanna, Ken and I shared Peposo in the style of Imprunetta. Chunks of veal, long cooked (about 5 hours) in a deep mahogany sauce. It looked like a Mexican mole but it tasted like Italy. We drank a fantastic mellow Chianti. (All the details are a blur because of my concentration on the conversation) We also had fried zucchini flowers--the batter a little heavier but still--love it, and wonderful sauteed spinach with just enough kick from the garlic and peperoncino.
Home--spent. Can't wait to see what's up next in Marco's town.