Thursday, October 11
After all we did in the last few days, it was good to stay home for a day and try to recuperate. There were enough provisions in the apartment for dinner, breakfasts, and snacks, with half a bottle of wine as well. It rained all day, so was a perfect time to simply hang out, do photos, and relax a bit with no agenda.
We settled onto the terrace as the rain let up toward evening and enjoyed the last of our wine while we made phone calls home. I talked to Mo and Deborah, and Deanna called her husband, Keith. WiFi calling works well on my Galaxy S9 phone. We haven’t turned the phones off of airplane mode even once on this trip, and yet still enjoy excellent quality “real” phone calls. Such a treat.
Friday, October 12
We enjoyed another good breakfast at home, with eggs with cream cheese and zucchini, our favorite potatoes sliced up and sautéed, and Nescafe, our daily home coffee fix. Worked diligently on photos for a time before embarking on a mid day walk. We decided to go back toward the part of town we visited on our first day here to buy some groceries for the our couple of days, to exchange a few US dollars since we are out of euros, and get back home in time to prepare for an evening on the town.
We enjoyed the quick walk to the main street on this side of the river, toward the east where we went the first day here. Found the meat market/grocery combo just in time before it closed for afternoon siesta, had a gelato at the nice little place nearby, bought something that looked like pizza but was tastier than most, with tomatoes and zucchini, our standby foods while in Italy.
What was most fun about this particular walk was how lost I was. Even with the GPS on the phone, I couldn’t get my bearings. Somehow everything seemed to be in the wrong place and didn’t match up with my memories of our first day walking around in this area. It was especially funny to both of us because I am the map maker with a great sense of direction and Deanna has no clue which way is north or south. Yet she knew exactly where we were and where to find the Carni! Made for some funny moments for the two of us.
Before coming to Italy, thanks again to Two to Travel friends Erin and Mui, I learned about The Three Tenors performing n the auditorium of Santo Stefano. In the heart of Florence, just steps from Ponte Vecchio, Santo Stefano al Ponte is a church built in 1100 that was deconsecrated and reopened to the public in 2015 as exhibition space. Deanna purchased tickets for us online several months ago. At the time we decided that this might be a nice way to end our Italian visit and chose to see the show toward the end of our time in Italy.
The day was a bit chilly, and we planned to walk the mile or so along the river rather than taking a taxi. After watching people walking around our neighborhood after dark for the last couple of weeks, we were no longer concerned about walking home when the show was over.
We were, however, a bit worried about the chill. We both wore jammie bottoms under our skirts, and long sleeves under our dressy tops. The night was absolutely perfect, with no rain to cause any problems, and a slight breeze to keep us comfortable in all those extra clothes. It was a lovely walk, and we arrived a bit early, in time for an apertivo before the show at a little bar in the church piazza.
Deanna had purchased VIP seats, so we had a perfect view and great acoustics from our forward location in the church. We did know, of course, that the Three Tenors were not the original “Three Tenors”, but the music was wonderful. Amazing music emerged from the the mouths of those three men, no microphones, all acoustic with the tall chamber of the church amplifying it perfectly. Just amazing.
Once again, the song “Time to Say Goodbye” brought tears to my eyes. I can't believe that stupid song made me cry again. There is no reason whatsoever for it to affect me so, except the beautiful melody itself. I have no connection at all to the song, no memories generated from it or anything, but the melody is just so incredibly beautiful it always makes me teary. The three men sang in Italian, lots of songs we didn't know, some opera, and some old favorite songs that were also famous in America made popular by Dean Martin. It was a delightful experience.
Our walk home was wonderful, breezy and cool but not chilly. We walked through the Ponte Vecchio with all the shops closed but still many people enjoying the river and the evening camaraderie. There was a busker playing “Proud Mary” and then Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, and he was really really good! I guess the song choice indicates the audience of tourists. The walk home felt perfectly safe, with lots of people strolling and eating at the restaurants. We had no reason to worry at all about walking at night in this part of town at 1030 PM.
Saturday October 13
We were excited to visit the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. The guidebooks all lauded the beautiful gardens as a wonderful respite from the city, and the Pitti Palace as a place filled with the over the top examples of the kind of luxury afforded by one of the wealthiest families in the world, the Medici.
We saved this excursion for Saturday, hoping the rain would lighten up enough that we could enjoy the gardens. The day dawned beautifully, and we once again walked the mile toward the Ponte Vecchio, then turning south toward Piazza Pitti.
The piazza was crowded and the lines were long. There are several things to see that are part of the complex, and once we looked at all the options, we decided that there was no need to see one more fancy palace with lots of rich stuff. Instead we opted for focusing on the gardens.
Here is an example of the flowery words that led us to this decision.
“More than a garden, more than just a “green lung” in Florence, the Boboli gardens are one of the greatest open-air museums in Florence that embraces another site of culture in Florence, the Pitti Palace. The park hosts centuries-old oak trees, sculptures, fountains and offers peaceful shelter from the warm Florentine sun in summer, the beautiful colors of the changing foliage in the fall and smells of blooming flowers in the spring. The Boboli gardens are a spectacular example of "green architecture" decorated with sculptures and the prototype which inspired many European Royal gardens, in particular, Versailles.”
Sadly, the reality left a lot to be desired. The first hint of what was to follow were the Medici Fountains at the entrance to the gardens. The sculptures were filthy, covered in dust, and bleeding black mold . Cherubs floated in the dirty water inside the dingy grotto. Ok then.
Walking through the gates and up the stairs beyond the entrance led us to more sculptures lining the paths, again covered with black mold and looking very old and unkept. It was terribly disappointing.
We withheld judgment for a time, following the maps and trails, searching for fountains and sculptures and views. There were a few charming spots, but most of the gardens consist of huge very old shrubs that are meticulously manicured. Too bad whomever is in charge of the place didn’t attempt to clean it up a bit rather than just cut back all those shrubs.
There was no color, with fall leaves already gone and not a flower in sight. The lawns are not watered, and were brown and scrubby. I have seen many winter gardens that are incredibly charming and colorful, that are designed well and a delight to visit no matter how drab the weather. This was not one of those places. It was very claustrophobic, and we wandered the paths looking for something to lift our spirits to no avail.
At the upper end of the gardens we found a viewpoint, and the other attraction included in our ticket, the Porcelain Museum. The view from the rose garden was the nicest part of the Boboli, and yet even there, there were no flowers and everything looked tired and not very well cared for.
We were a bit sad that our last adventure in the great city of Florence should be such a disappointment. Maybe we were just tired, or maybe overloaded, who knows. We did know that after days and days of so much input, our tiredness seemed to accumulate a little bit more each day. After leaving the gardens, we ambled a bit through Pitti Piazza, checking out the booths selling tourist wares, and then ambled back past the Ponte Vecchio toward home. Once again, the busy, noisy, and full restaurants we passed didn’t tempt us much and we enjoyed cooking a great supper of fresh cut pork, fresh tomatoes, and a great bottle of inexpensive wine.
Written on Sunday, October 14 our last day in Firenze:
(I didn’t edit this original text from my journal so you could get a sense for how we were feeling)
It is our last day in Firenze, tomorrow morning we will leave “A Birdseye View” and take a taxi to Santa Novella for the train to Naples. Neither of us is looking forward to tomorrow, and yet both of us are basically DONE. At one time or another this afternoon, one or the other of us said, "I want to be hooooommmmmme". Deanna was looking at photos of her beautiful property in Northern Washington, a photo Keith sent today of gorgeous sunshine and the beautiful view over the river. Unlike me, she is not retired, and when she returns she will only get a short 3 days at the property in Lincoln, and then will have to get back out on the road in the big truck, crossing the country hauling jet engines all over the place so people like us can travel all over the place.
We are tired. We keep making excuses to each other on this, our last day, for not getting out of our jammies and at least going downstairs to view the lovely Sunday sunshine and watch people walking along the river. We stayed inside, worked on packing up our stuff, and ate simple breakfast. We thought about going out to dinner, and instead cooked up the last of our pasta, garnishing it with the last of Sara's tomato sauce, the last of our olives, and made another side of sliced tomatoes in olive oil and balsamic. Traditional Italian fare that has served us well.
We thought about walking up to Michelangelo Square for one last look at the city or going for an evening walk along the river for one last view, but decided again that we have done enough, we don't need that one last view at all, we need instead to lie here in the almost comfortable sofa bed, look at photos and Facebook, play stupid Candy Crush and wait impatiently for it to get late enough to go to sleep.
Late in the afternoon a thunderstorm rolled over the city and we were glad we weren't out walking somewhere. Neither of us slept well again last night, and the last few days have recorded at most 3 or 4 hours sleep on our watches. Ugh. Tonight will be the rare sleeping pill for both of us. When can we take it? When can we go to sleep??? We do have a good reason, since the next two days will be long and grueling.
On a happy note, however, the middle photo in this collage is the ceramic piece I returned to purchase on the way home from Boboli Gardens. Shipped direct from Italy home, it arrived safe and sound. The photo on the left is where Deanna found her keepsake ceramics in Siena, and the one on the right is where I found a sweet small watercolor in Siena as well.