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Report 454: Florence On My Own: Three Weeks of Studying Italian and Very Slow Travel

By Marian from New Jersey, Spring 2004

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Page 4 of 21: Manicures and Mehta

Saturday 8 May: Today I sleep until only(!) 10 am. So my internal clock is nearly reset. During the night there is a noisy thunderstorm and the weather is still, unfortunately, cold and rainy. Somehow, I have brought only one pair of full-length everyday pants, and it is much too cold for any of the five pair of capris I have with me. Ah well, I shall wash the long pants and dry them with a hairdryer if need be.

After breakfasting at home on yogurt & strawberries, bread & jam, and tea, I head out. (Why no coffee? Because I can’t figure out how to use the coffeepot. Yes, I know there are instructions in the ST Travel Notes, but when I read them I thought “any idiot can see how to do that.” Well, apparently not this particular idiot. So this afternoon I will sneak off the an internet café and copy out the instructions.) At a nice little bar, I have a latté before setting off on my wanderings.

Surprise of surprises, I end up at the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. There I buy some of the lovely foot cream and hand cream, and a special hand cream called Pasta di Mandorle. This makes me realize that my hands are a mess so I head off to buy some nail polish remover. And what do I find but a hair salon that also has a manicurist! Freshly manicured, my hands are ready for the hand cream.

I wander off to look for the Centro Koinè, where I will be studying and find it right near the Bargello. Then I cross back over the Ponte Vecchio. I walk up the main street and stop off at Giulio Giannini e Figlio on the Piazza Pitti, a well-known shop for Florentine stationery; there I buy the diary that I use to take these notes. Then I follow a long route home and pass two interesting looking trattorie — Diladdarno and, right around the bend of Via d’Ardiglione, Il Raddi. Maybe I will try them.

Tonight is the concert at Téatro Comunale, part of the Maggio Fiorentino festival. The Maggio Fiorentino Orchestra under Zubin Mehta is performing two Beethoven symphonies. This morning I asked Miriam’s husband about getting a taxi, but now that I look closely at the map, I see it is a very easy walk across the bridge and away from the center. Is there no end to the convenience of this neighborhood?

The concert is beautiful, especially the 7th Symphony. At intermission, I have a panino, as I did not have time for dinner. The food is inexpensive and delicious, in contrast to the New York State Theater, where I regularly see the NYC Ballet. There the coffee is expensive and undrinkable, the sandwiches overpriced and inedible.

During the evening, there are two nice touches. Apparently the tympanist is an old friend of Mehta’s and is retiring. So Mehta makes a moving speech (even I can understand that much) and presents him with flowers. Then, at the end of the concert, they mark the 90th birthday of Carlo Maria Giulini, a past director of the Orchestra. Someone reads a lovely letter from Giulini. I remember the time about 25 years ago when Frank and I heard Giulini conducting the Chicago Symphony, and how strong, dramatic and handsome he was!

After a pleasant short walk, I am safely home.

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