We had a plan to meet Marco at 10:30 to take the tram into the city. He keeps asking us what we would like to do and we say whatever he thinks. Somehow we play the game of idea ping pong this way and come to an agreement. We head for Pitti Palace. First we stop into the Station to get the tickets for our return to Venice. Marco stands with me at the ticket window but he lets me do all the talking in Italian—finally he intercedes to make sure we are assigned seats beside each other. All set.
We walk and talk. We stop in at a beautiful bar with a Polish name for a quick coffee. It’s the best we’ve had since we left Venice. Ken has learned from Marco to order caffe lungo and he likes it.
Over the Ponte Vecchio pausing for a quick lesson in architecture, we find the Palace. We decide not to buy the expensive tickets and focus on the Boboli Gardens. We enter into the humongous courtyard and proceed taking in the amazing views.
Marco has brought an old guide book with him including a family tree of the Medici so we can see where Cosimo and Lorenzo all fit in. The gardens are huge. The first area is really an amphitheater centered on an Egyptian obelisk and a granite bath tub big enough for your pet elephant. We continue to climb. The flowers are mostly spent and it is a shame. I can see that maybe even a week ago there were hundreds of peonies in bloom. There is a small exhibit of porcelaine at the top and we breeze through it before we start down to the smaller Bardini Gardens. There is a bar at the top where we have another incredible view of the city along with water, little panini and salad.
Interestingly enough we are right at the Forte di Marmi which we saw and asked about in the view from another hill last night. It doesn’t seem like in 5 minutes walk, we can be back on the streets, thick with tourists in Florence. All through the gardens there is beautiful contemporary wood sculpture by George Calizzi (I don’t quite have the name right). Finally we make our way back down to the streets, walking along the old walls.
Our destination is Santa Croce, which we could see clearly from the bar but it is closed. There are men working on the “campo” for the Calcio Storico show this evening. We walk back through town and Marco shows us, up on a wall, the remains of an ancient hinge from the original city gates. We make our way to the Santa Trinita church which he says he loves but it is closed, too. Ken and I are OK—a bit of travel fatigue is starting to set in. So, we walk back to Santa Maria Novella. As we are passing the multi colored marble front I ask Marco is he can really see it anymore—the beauty and the inspiration and he says “no” he really doesn’t like Florence anymore and rarely comes into the centro without guests. Sad.
We come home for a much needed rest. There is a short rain and the weather is changed. As we get ready to meet Marco and Giovanna for dinner, I realize I’m going to be cold. Of course, the first thing Marco asks me is do I have a “golfo” a sweater. No. I didn’t bring one so he calls Giovanna and as she walks out of their apartment she has an extra sweater for me.
We drive up into the hills of Scandicci to a beautiful restaurant but it’s too cold to sit outside. Trattoria Mosciano is actually, like Scandicci, to the southwest of the city of Florence, in the little borgo of Mosciano. The interior is also beautiful and homey with walls the color of fresh butter. They start us out with a small panzanella (bread salad). I ate a fantastic dish of gnocchi with a parmigiano cream sauce and truffles. Really an amazingly rich dish. Ken had fettucine with a spicy tomato sauce and saffron—Giovanna had something similar but with sausage. Everything is really tasting great. The saffron threads are abundant on top of the pasta dishes—each thread is about 3 inches long. I’ve never seen saffron like this and they say it is from Abruzzo. Marco had a steak and Ken and Giovanna had little lamb chops “alla brace” (grilled). We also had spinach and delicious Tuscan white beans. The desserts weren’t as good as the rest but Ken got his biscotti and vin santo. We stayed there talking until almost midnight.
These people have really become our friends. They are simply wonderful! And, SO Italian. They’re both very into movies so that is something easy to talk about—and food, of course.
One last photo--of the apartment where we are staying--bottom floor corner: