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Report 881: A Slow Trip to Italy for a Mother and Daughter

By stella from Brooklyn, New York, Fall 2005

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Page 6 of 16: Slooow and Mellow

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More of our terrace view

The next day needed to be a mellow one; Mom was feeling the effects of international travel. I spent some of the morning getting my internet act together and finding a place to use my laptop. Luckily, the Internet Train was located right around the corner from Palazzo Antellesi; they gave me the password and I could connect wirelessly to their network. This particular Internet Train was on Via de’Benci, and as I looked up to the ceiling, I saw wood beams that date back to 1420, or so the clerk told me. It just boggled my mind - and it beat the Kinko's on Houston Street, hands down.

We had limited ourselves that day to simply visiting the Baptistry and Duomo as well as the Basilica di San Lorenzo, which I had missed on my last trip. Our first stop was at La Rinascente; I had to purchase some socks, which I had forgotten to pack in my panic back in New York. After that pressing matter was settled, we waded our way through a very crowded Piazza della Repubblica. (Where did all of those vendors come from?), and finally arrived at the Piazza del Duomo.

I wanted Mom to first see the doors of the Baptistry, examining the difference between the south-facing Pisano doors with the Ghiberti doors facing the north. Alas, there was a massive tour group on the north side, with each person having their picture taken in front of the doors. It was quite a wait before we had a chance to actually stand in front of them, but they were amazing when we could finally take the time to notice the incredible detail and use of perspective. Inside, there was not much more to do other than gape at the brilliant gold mosaic, which I find I can stare at for hours. Mom has arthritis in her neck and it was hard for her to actually get a good long look at the Bapistry dome, but she was amazed nonetheless.

From there we went inside the Duomo itself, which was thankfully not as crowded as the Piazza. We had a leisurely look around; one of my mother’s favorite things to do is to pause at a chapel or statue, make an offering and light a candle, telling me, “This one is for Grandma,” or, “Let’s say a prayer for your father.” I remember that when I came to Florence last, I lit a candle in every church for her, not really knowing that she would be in Italy with me to do the same. It was one of those moments that made me truly happy to be here with her.

From there, we fought our way through more vendors on the way towards the Basilica di San Lorenzo, the family parish of the Medici. The church was hushed and had only a few other visitors; we softly made our way around, admiring the many treasures contained there, including Bronzino's Martyrdom of St. Lawrence. I was happy that my mother likes to visit churches as much as I do, though I admit her visits are far more spiritual than mine.

Before long, we realized that we were both hungry; it was time to head back “home” to Santa Croce. There were so many charming aspects of staying in that particular neighborhood; I always became excited when I knew we were heading back. The Piazza is one of the largest in Florence, a vast and lively public space. In the morning, it serves as its own dog run. Owners bring their pooches, take off the leashes and the happy pups yap at each other and run around in that particular doggy abandon. It is sweet to watch.

Another thing I can never tire of is the sound of the Basilica's bells every hour. They do not disturb your sleep, but when you hear them, softly in the background, it brings a feeling of happy contentment.

Before heading back to Santa Croce, I realized that I must have some gelato! Gelato in Florence is really wonderful if you know where to go. The other day, I visited Gelato Carabe, next to the Accademia, and today it was to be Perche No, not far from Orsanmichele. The flavor was Fior di Latte con Miele e Sesamo, Honey and Sesame. It was deeeelish. I hoped to hit Vivoli's at some point before leaving.

It is quite easy to get bad gelato anywhere in Italy - all it takes is some industrial equipment, powdered gelato base, water, and a neon sign to open a gelato shop. It is important to always know where the gelato artigianale, or artisnal gelato, can be found. Gelato Artigianale means that the gelato is made with real ingredients, by passionate folks who know how to handle them.

Dinner tonight was at a charming little restaurant a few blocks away, Ristorante La Maremma. Unfortunately, Mom was not yet used to the late dinner hour in Italy; she is normally in her jammies by 8:00 pm back home. I felt badly making her wait it out; and we headed out the door as early as possible, 7:30 pm. La Maremma is warmly decorated in shades of red, the waiters were once again charming and the food was delicious. Mom started with the most wonderful ribollita, or Tuscan bread and vegetable soup. My first course was very tasty too, a chestnut pasta fazzoletti, which was like a large, ill-formed square of pasta, stuffed with pumpkin and sausage, folded over, then topped with a bit of bechamel and parmigiano, and broiled, a gratinato. After that, Mom had “fried” chicken, which was in a light batter, accompanied by battered and fried artichokes, carrots, zucchini and eggplant; I had wonderful breaded, fried lamb chops. We shared perfectly sautéed spinach; all was washed down with a delicious house Chianti.

After a stroll around the Piazza, we headed back up to our apartment in the tiny elevator. Scratching my mosquito bites, I wisely stared at the stars through the double-glazed glass windows before falling asleep.

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