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Report 679: A Student in Florence

By colleenk from MA, Spring 2004

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Page 7 of 16: Life is Indeed Beautiful in Arezzo

photo by Colleen K

Antique Market in Arezzo

Sunday, May 2, 2004

Although I am not an antiques buff, I found the idea of experiencing one of the largest antique markets in Italy intriguing. Of course, I find almost any new experience in Italy intriguing. But that it was a city I had not visited before, was an easy train ride from Florence and had looked lovely in the movie "Life is Beautiful" merited its placement on my "must do if feasible list."

So my classmates and friends Camilla and Anna and myself met at the train station to embark on this Sunday outing I had talked them into. I would have gone by myself if they declined but was happy for their company and their navigating skills. Buying a ticket using the self-service machines in the station was very easy. Instructions are clear, available in many languages, and credit cards are readily accepted. The only problem is that if your destination is not the station at the end of the line you have to figure out where that is so that you know which track/train to get on. I asked at the information desk which train stopped in Arezzo and was told it was the train to Napoli. The ticket only prints out your requested destination (Arezzo) but not that it is the Napoli train. Iím not sure I would have figured this out on my own except for matching up the time with the information/track # board.

We took a fast intercity train and shared a car with a nun. A quick 30 minutes later we arrived. It was a pleasant ride with some pretty scenery. We took an 8:42am train, so we arrived just as many of the vendors were setting up their wares. This was great because later in the day, the crowds arrived which was not as pleasant as the early morning quiet. Although this huge market brought in lots of visitors, I felt this was a truly Italian town not overrun by tourists. Not a lot of English was spoken and it felt like a true slice of Italian life unlike the bigger tourist cities of Florence or Siena. The town was beautifully kept, very clean with lovely houses and buildings in the Tuscan yellow and burnt orange hues that I so love. We wandered around the lovely streets, took in the incredible array of goods for sale, mostly home furnishings, especially furniture but also lots of estate jewelry, linens and typical flea market items.

We went to the park and the highest hill of the town, a spot that afforded us a picturesque view of the town and a spectacular vista of the countryside. Is there anything like the majesty and beauty of the cypress trees in Tuscany? It takes my breath away every trip to Italy. We also enjoyed the Piero della Francesca frescoes in the Basilica San Francesco and the lovely Piazza Grande. We watched a group of middle-aged Italian men play a game I had never seen before with a sort of paddle and a ball.

But the highlight of the day was lunch in the deli/wine shop Le Bongustaie, Via Cesalpino 6. A small shop filled with an array of deli meats, cheeses and many wonderful bottles of wine that looked like it should be in an Italian movie set. On a counter there was a grande piece of Roast Pork wafting the most tantalizing aroma. For 5E, you could make a nice lunch out of this wonderful sandwich of fresh bread and roasted pork with a wild herb stuffing that was unlike anything I had tasted before but was utterly delicious. When I asked in my best Italian (for there was no English spoken here), if it was possible to buy this herb to take home with me they said it was not. The price also included a nice glass of Rosso. We beat the crowds and were able to take in the scene (I really did feel like I was on an Italian movie set). The 2 women behind the counter wore gloves but were smoking as they cut the pork and waited on customers. I kept waiting for ashes to fall in the pork but it never did. I ended up buying a nice bottle of Il Pogo Rosso di Montalcino there for a reasonable 15E.

The town was now starting to get really crowded, so we walked a bit more before departing for Florence. We didnít buy anything other than postcards but took lots of wonderful pictures. My friends were so thankful I had suggested this outing - it was a really lovely, laid back day. This is a town I would like to go back to experience without the antique market overwhelming it.

Back at the train station, we were right across from the magnificent Santa Maria Novella Church so what better time to take in itsí treasures? This churchís beauty blew me away. I am a fresco freak (or at least I have been since viewing the Branacci chapel on my first trip to Florence), so I was enthralled by the Capella Tornabuoni frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio and the Strozzi Chapel frescoes by Filippino. This was one of my favorite church experiences this trip to Italy and may have even edged out San Minato if it werenít for the chanting monks there. The humanity reflected in the faces, the elegance of the folds in a gown, the vibrancy yet subtlety of the colors is just so beautiful. The chapel had me mesmerized - it was hard to leave.

Anna went back to her apartment and I met Camilla for dinner at Trattoria Mossacce, which I had liked for its ambience of communal tables and friendly waiters and she wanted to give it a try. She had a Ribollita, and Ossobucco, I had a Bistecca Fiorentina, and we split some Spinaci díaglio and vino del casa. It was a fine meal and a good time. Tomorrow we would be back to school!

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