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Report 926: My Dream Trip To Italy and France

By BGE from Fox Creek, Alberta, Canada, Spring 2005

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Page 20 of 38: Du-o-mo, Du-o-mo

photo by BGE

Carte Agile! The lost is found!

Saturday, and one less day in Florence, one more day closer to Paris!

After a breakfast of my favorite of favorites, chilled blood orange juice, a mixed fruit bowl and a heaping helping of my special cranberry / almond / pecan / cinnamon hot rice cereal with fresh-ground flax seed, maple syrup and delicious Enervit Protein Soya Drink 40-30-30, I’m ready for anything!

Oh, yes, by the way, that soy drink is totally delicious. I found it in Essalunga, and it’s so good. It tastes like it has a lot of vanilla and cream in it. Wonder where I can get it in Canada? Likely nowhere…

I spend another 2 hours at the Internet Spot, checking for taxi prices from Orly to my apartment in Paris. Lorenzo has sent me a few e-mails and he’s been looking for me, as well. He’s found several companies, all in the 80 – 150E range. That’s a bit rich for me, so I think I’ll take my chances with a taxi at the airport. Surely, there will be a plethora of taxis waiting for weary travellers outside the terminal. I also have e-mailed Lauren, my rental agent for my Paris apartment. She has answered, and advises a taxi directly from Orly. So, taxi it is!

I meet M. & D. at Museo dell' Opera del Duomo, we buy our tickets and enter. Of course, I go to the book shop first. I love museums, but I love the museum gift shops even better (Remind me to tell you sometime about the day that my son took me to the Art Gallery of Ontario, specifically to see the Modigliani display, and we never made it past the gift store. After spending 3 hours there, it seemed a little anti-climactic to go and see the displays!)

This is really a fantastic museum! Why is it so empty? People should be lined up to see what is displayed inside this place! 6E and no line-up? The no-line-up is fabulous for us, but why is that? People are missing one of the best museums I’ve seen so far.

One of the last pieces that Michelangelo was working on just before his death is standing at the top of a long, steep stairway, another Pieta. Some say it features the sculptor’s self-portrait on the face of the figure of Nicodemus, as he lowers the crucified Christ from the cross to Mary’s arms.

I am completely speechless, walking around this sculpture, as I look at the chisel markings on the base of the marble. It is still so amazing to me that I’ve been given this opportunity to come this close to such genius. As in the Accademia’s collection of Michelangelo’s pieces, I feel total awe, standing inches away from this beautifully carved piece of marble.

The museum is full of interesting items from the competition for the design of the Du-o-mo… tools and equipment used for the construction of the dome, pulleys with original, centuries-old rope pieces still attached, original sketches and drawings from the competition, scale models in intricately-designed wooden replicas of what would eventually stand in the piazza outside of this museum.

There are models for the dome that were created by Brunelleschi for the competion, as well as intricately detailed drawings of several prospective architects of this great structure. I’m so amazed by their ability to dream up this kind of structure… we have so many more tools at our disposal today and yet, we cannot build something that lasts a hundred years. They were capable of creating something like this Du-o-mo, with no computers or fancy-dancy drafting tools, no construction equipment the size of a house... just their own ingenuity to create this structure that has lasted for several hundred years. It is stunning to me.

The Choir Lofts by Luca della Robbia and Donatello are mounted in one area of the museum. One room is dedicated to a display of the 58 illuminated choir books that were in use in the cathedral until 1930… an amazing place. I know that I need a few more hours to see it all, and absorb it.

I leave the museum and go back to the gift shop, quelle surprise! I meet a young girl standing with me at the book shelves and she tells me that she is 17 and on a motorcycle trip from France to Florence with her dad! She has a little English and I have even littler French, yet we have a very intelligent conversation. I am truly loving this experience!

The piazza outside is busy. This is Independence Day in Italy and the city is unbelievably crowded. We make our way past the throngs of people, then stop for gelato, of course! Tiramisu for me. I have no idea what anyone else has… I’m so in love with this stuff! There are actually large chunks of liqueur-soaked biscuits threaded throughout the gelato. Double-yum!

Stopping in at Gambini’s, our café beside Edison’s bookshop in Piazza Republica, I order a cappuccino for me and beer and snacks for everyone else. The blond owner is crabby today! She is taking huge strips off everyone behind the counter. Not a pleasant thing to see, and the employees are totally and completely embarrassed. I’m sorely tempted to walk up to her at the check-out and tell her to stop being such an utter cow. This is NOT the place to pitch a fit, chicklet!

This has been consistently the nicest little café for us on a regular basis since we arrived. Next to Rivoire, Gambini’s has been 'our' other place to sit, have a beer, a glass of wine and people-watch. Tonight, it is just a very tense place to be, so we are up and gone away, very quickly. I wonder what makes the owner think that treating her staff in such a demeaning way will buy her any brownie points.

I head home to my apartment, and along the way, in the darkening night, I hear a little “Wooooo-hooooo!” from someone riding a bike in the street beside me. I walk faster, thinking about who it might be and what they might be planning to do to me…

”Woooooo-hoooooooo!!!” more insistently this time!

I walk faster and faster, moving over closer to the buildings I'm passing.


OK, that's it! Time for me to take some very aggressive action. Frantically scrolling through my memory bank for my RAD training, summoning all of my energy to wrest this perp to the ground, totally prepared to do battle, I turn to face the bike and the bike's creeps-me-out rider,’s ANGIE!!!

She is laughing and I am sooo relieved!

In all of Italy, there is no one who knows me, I think, so I had no expectation of anyone stopping to chat or secretly whisper a surreptitious "Woo-hoo!" to me!

She’s delivering a painting, and we walk together for a few blocks, talking and getting caught up on our day. We plan dinner for tomorrow. I’ll stop in at her gallery to find out where and when. Finally, Angie turns off on her street and I make my way home. This was a very lovely surprise… just one more little thing that tells me I’ve become comfortable here in this beautiful place.

I know a few people, I see a few familiar faces every so often.

I like how this feels.

At my front door, I stop. I realize I’m hungry and go to my little café around the corner. The owner greets me, another familiar face, and she tells me to take a table at the back. It is quiet there and there is no one sitting nearby, so I can decompress a little and roll the day over in my mind, reliving each little piece of new experience, savouring it all.

The owner is nearly out of her delicious home-made specials because it’s quite late, but she assures me that I’ll like what she prepares. A plate of bowtie pasta with spinach and fresh tomato, splashed with oil and loads of garlic, plus a heaping side dish of freshly grilled veggies and a tall, tall chilled glass of house white…perfection!

The best part?

The price!

6E for the meal, 2E for the wine!

I love this place!

Consistently great food, low prices and a warm welcome thrown in, for good measure…I can handle this! The bonus here? This darling woman now knows where I like to sit, what wine I like to drink and which foods are safe for me to eat.

Walking home in the chill twilight, I am at peace. This has been the best trip of my life. I have been afraid, I have been overwhelmed, I have been overjoyed. I have been frustrated to tears, entertained to bits, touched to the center of my soul. I have been many things but never bored, and I have loved it all.

As I hang my jacket up inside the apartment, I feel something like a weight in the second little hidden zippered pocket. Opening the small zipper, I am delighted to find...


MY 200E! I didn’t lose them!

I didn’t have my pocket picked!

I am NOT losing my mind.

I am not a total idiot... how sweet this is. A perfect ending to a perfect day!

Best Things Today:

~ walking with my son

~ seeing the Pieta at the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo ~ the drawings, equipment and competition pieces at the museum ~ Jim Zurer’s list of bus stops for getting to San Miniato, posted on 'Ciao, Amici!' on Slowtrav. Thank you, Jim!

~ Angie stopping to talk while we walked along via Cavour after dinner ~ the owner's kindness, the familiar smells and sounds and the food at Café Principe ~ finding my Carte Agile and my 200E! ~ my jeans are too big!


All this walking has a sweet reward, for sure. This is what's called walking your ass off!

Worst Things Today:

~ nothing… nothing at all.

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