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Now where were we?

26 Oct

Ah yes, about to explore the delights of Ponte Vecchio. How could I forget?

Ponte Vecchio

After the delightful Piazza, how could we be prepared for the infusion of energy, light, humanity, and ouch! The glare of the sun staring us in the eyes! Ah well, such are the sacrifices we must endure and thank heavens for sun glasses! We needed those for the displays of the shops. I have never seen so much sparkly jewelry in one stretch of real estate before. It was gorgeous. I found a particularly fetching ruby and diamond set of earrings with matching pendant, however hubby and our bank accounts screamed out in protest like a well practiced duet so I gave up with good humor. The look on his face was worth the price of even mentioning it. He can be so easy sometimes.

Jewelry Display on the Ponte Vecchio

But to be fair, I can relate Euros to Monopoly money. The above pictures is just one of many store shops displaying fantastic pieces. If you think it’s a little out of focus, it’s probably for your own good. Oddly enough it was the only picture of jewelry I could get. Go figure!

We continue wandering across the Ponte Vecchio and here are some shots just for flavor. Before I get too far ahead of myself, this is at the beginning looking back at the Uffizi Museo.

Looking back at the Uffizi

And this shot is also looking from the Ponte Vecchio and I just thought it looked like a dreamy shot from years gone by.

Dreamy view from the beginning of the Ponte Vecchio

Now back on track..looking at these pictures again, after seeing them close up and personal, don’t you think that even though, or maybe because they are so old, they look so cheerful? They still give me that “dewy afterglow”! Is that too personal?

Shot from Ponte Vecchio

Ah, now to the nitty gritty! Serious shoppers!

Serious Shoppers!

And last but not least…..

The Locks of Ponte Vecchio

Legend has it that if you and your loved one attach a padlock to any surface of the famous bridge and then throw away the key into the Arno River below, your love will last forever. Millions of couples have come to the Ponte Vecchio for expressly this reason, to lock in their love and throw away the key for eternity.
Today, there is a hefty penalty to all who are caught locking or attaching anything to the Ponte Vecchio. These days, lovers simply come to the famous bridge and simply touch the remaining padlocks that have not been removed. Luck has kept them there, locked to the bridge, perhaps some luck will rub off on the hopeful couple as well, and keep their love alive for eternity.

You can find out more – like I did – by visiting http://www.firenzealbergo.it/EN/Experience-Florence/romantic-getaway/pages/leggende-amore-ponte-vecchio.aspx

We had been told about the locks and had planned on doing it, but with time constraints, etc. we never quite got around to it. Good thing! Very bad manners and a hefty fine. And I don’t think that would be Monopoly money!

More tomorrow – Pitti Palace time!

Ciao! DJ*

Piazza, Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace

23 Oct

Sunday we decided to play gladiators and see if we could get killed. By ourselves. Let’s do three times the activity in one day so far and see what happens. That would be me finally catching hubby creepy germs of the “Perils of Paul(ine)” fame. And I didn’t even buy anything except art work for our  cat. (You didn’t think she’d be omitted from this blog now did you?) Yes, we have a “Princepessa” in residence at home.

Anyway, I will be doing the three above “P’s in a series, between last minute dashing around and naps.

The Piazza Della Republic: we came through here going to and coming back from the Ponte Vecchio and Pitti Palace.

What a fun Piazza, it was hopping with farmers markets, street vendors, artists, tourists, locals all coming together to see what the day would bring. The following are some random shots:

I can’t resist the carousel off to the right in the previous picture. It gorgeous and I wonder how old it is.

Carousel at Piazza della Repubblica

Next we have the farmer’s market, on the right had side are outside cafes where you can sip cappuccino and biscotti’s.

Piazza Della Republico

This is just the tip of the iceberg for shopping the street vendors. Purses, scarves, I think I’ve mentioned them before. But did I say ‘FABULOUS!” Okay, maybe I did but I’m raring to go as this is our last day. And of course I have to say Arrivederci to Stefano! (Wink! wink!).

Tip of the Iceberg for shopping!

So when you come to Italy, it is always nice to bring presents to show appreciation and honoring their country. Well, being from the Southwest of the USA, we decided to bring (in addition to the Sedona Sandstone and postcards, etc. a Javelina, native of our home state? Okay, just kidding. He was already there! He has water coming out of his mouth (as you can see by that ever so attractive spittle hanging down) and you put a coin in his mouth and let go, and if it falls in the grate, the coin is supposed to bring good luck and then you pet him on the head to seal the deal.  I may have the details of the story mixed up and I’m pretty sure he has a name – I’ll have to look it up. My coin went right in, poor hubby took three tries. It appeared to be that way with most men. I guess we women has less trouble throwing money down the drain! Lol! (Did I say that? Shame on me!) Anyway, boy can he command a crowd – and sometime an unruly one at that. I’m talking locals, too!

And of course we had to run into local street artists – there were two young men working on this piece. Very intently I might add!

Street Artist on the way to Piazza della Republica

Next I will try to get to Ponte Vecchio soon – an adventure all on it’s own!!!!

Ciao, DJ*

The Accademia Gallery

21 Oct

Today we sashayed into the Accademia Gallery. I just love the Uffuzi card – waiting in line is no way to spend your vacation. This is a much smaller showing of incredible art but no less spectacular. Of course the main course is David, so awe inspiring, imposing, and majestic. Once again no photos are allowed. Once again everyone was snapping away with their phones. Urged on by two friendly tourists who sound like they might be from the UK we braved the wrath of the staff and took a few pictures. We didn’t want to be greedy, but how can you resist a handsome man in all his glory and fame?

Notice the lighting on his face. This comes from a window. Truly a breathtaking work of art. Unfortunately the universe once again and stepped in and made it impossible for me to manipulate the few other pictures we clandestinely took.  There was another David outside in the garden and guess what? He had been “colorized”! Honest! Just like the “Wizard of Oz”. I wish I could post it, but it was one of the few that bit me in the butt. I’m hoping that when hubby wakes up he will have superior knowledge of how to correct this challenge.

In the meantime….today is Sunday. If you are family or friends please sit down before reading further. I got up at 6am! I watched the sun come up with it’s delicious fall coloring and the hush of the neighborhood. Hubby (being the brilliant man that he is) was able to capture the church bells. I think it’s only fitting that I upload them for you as they are gorgeous. This was taken from our terrace.

Church Bells – Duomo      (Right click for PC)

Hurrah! Hubby is up and rarin’ to go – but not without solving the impossible. See? I told you so! Let’s start with the colorized David:

You didn’t believe me did you? I swear I did not alter this in anyway – he’s in a different location. Oh, and once again my brilliant husband has pointed out that he took a picture of the plaque for this statue:

I’m not sure how well you can read it but the artist is Hans-Peter Feldmann.

After enjoying the Accademia we headed for the San Lorenzo Piazza and came across an amazing musician. Did you see the movie “August Rush”? It was about a small boy who played the guitar in an unusual way. Well there is more to the movie than that, and it’s very good – we recommend it! Anyway, this musician is named Mose Oliviero (and Zoe – his little dog). We hung out and listened to him for quite a while and ended up buying some CD’s. What a sweetheart, a very kind, gentle man with an abundance of talent. We got to talking with him and he has a channel on YouTube. “MrRemaggiore”. Of course we took his picture for you and also the CD sleeve.

Little Zoe is sitting next to him in his guitar case. She was adorable as well. Here’s his CD:

We continued strolling around the plaza, so many amazing shops with a plethora of goods. Lots of leather – shoes, jackets, handbags and wallets, all in every color and design you could wish for. Then we finished up with dinner at ZaZa, which was quite lovely and the service “fantastico”! The streets of Florence in the evening are so charming, gaily lit, people mingling, or rushing to some important appointment.

We are so blessed to be here and have so many varied experiences. And guess what? We’re off to have even more!

More later, Ciao! DJ*

The Perils of Paul(ine)

20 Oct

Let me tell you a little story…..what do you suppose happens when your husband tells you he’s going out for a little stroll in the evening by himself? Sounds innocent enough don’t you think? Until he comes home with a pair of Italian shoes! Does this man not know that the wife gets shoes first? I mean, really? Well, here comes the universe to explain. He gets sick! Really sick. And I did feel sorry for him. How awful to be on vacation and be miserable. But it did introduce us to a new experience.

Si! Si! The Farmacia! And it’s pretty amazing what you can get there!

Hubby wanted cough syrup and Vitamin C. We thought the pharmacist would think we were nut is we tried to explain about “Vicks VapoRub” but you can see for yourself, normale! Johnson & Johnson no less. Who would of thought? And here’s is a brilliant thing – on the side of the cough syrup we noticed raised bumps. Turns out there are directions in Braille!  What an absolutely great idea! After a few days of down time he felt better (it was a bronchial cold – how I haven’t gotten it is beyond me) so we hit the town in grand style. However, before I go into that I have to reveal the charismatic gentleman who enticed my hubby:

So of course how could Hubby resist such and excellent salesperson? I have to tell you that this picture does not do him justice – he is VERY handsome. He’s one of the nicest, helpful and knowledgeable merchants I’ve met. So far he’s number one on the list. When hubby went without me he (hubby) gave him a piece of Sedona sandstone with a write-up on it and a postcard of Sedona. When we returned he told us he put the post card in his travel diary and the stone in a special pouch. I think I’m in amore (platonic of course) but my sister in law has already put dibs on him and we’re supposed to bring him back in our suitcase. (The extra one I wanted to bring but nooooo, that was nixed. We’ll have to think of something else. Maybe we can lure him over with a promise of a tour of OUR leather factory. Lol!  Oh and if you’re ever in the neighborhood, here’s his shop:

So Stefano of “Sabatini’s” won our hearts. And I plan on giving him a small token as well. And yes! I made a gorgeous purchase of buttery Italian boots at a fabulous price. (Don’t tell Stefano that!) There’s another pair I have my eye on.  The address of his shop is: Borgo degli Albizi, 75r, 50122 Firenze, Italia. And just to make you jealous, we have his cell number and his email! Can’t give that out without his permission.

Okay, on to bigger and I do mean bigger things! The Uffizi Museo. We decided to get the family pass to become member and the upside is it get’s you into almost everything – the Accadamia Gallery, Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens just to mention a few (of the things I want to see)!

We head to the Uffizi Museo. Sounds harmless enough, right? Do you have any idea how many intriguing shops are along the way? It’s almost criminal. And it almost was….hubby was on a mission to get there and his patience was waning with me goggling at this that and everything. But happily we made it. Now the adventure is trying to buy the pass and get in. There is door #1, door #2, and door #3. I felt like Monty Hall. Hey, let’s make a deal! Let us find the right one first and we’ll behave. But no, we traversed every single one and still were confused. Oh, you crazy Americanos! We finally made it to the entrance and voila, were able to bypass the queques (Yay!). You have to go through security as there are strict rules, such as no food or water, you can take in a camera but are not allowed to take pictures (damage to the paintings) and backpacks of a certain size must be checked. We had to take off jackets, etc and when I went through the sensor my watch sounded the alarm. The guard had been watching us bobble, juggle, and generally look totally goofy. He finally rolled his eyes and waved us through. We rented the audio tour so we could share the information which was really nice.  Then we noticed the four flights of stairs yet to climb. Oy! Half way up you’ll be happy to know we noticed a sign down below that said “lift” which of course is the elevator we neglected to see before THE TREK. Good thing we are exercise fanatics and are not the least overweight or have desk jobs. Not. Pant, pant. But it was worth every step. And steps there were. Oh, but the art. Starting with the 13th century, the paintings were breathtaking. I wish we had pictures to show but of course that is forbidden. However I did see quite a number of people taking them anyway with their phones. Now I don’t know if that is allowed or not, but it seemed like cheating. Most of them were young people so I am going to think that they are serious art students and forgive them. So on and on we wandered through the various rooms, each century incredible in it’s own glory. I must say that after awhile some of them melted into each other and I was a little bleary eyed. There is so much to see and so much information, it was a little overwhelming. And the detail in each painting was so captivating you can’t just whiz by. Some of the pictures took 5 years plus to paint. Amazing. Half way through (this place is huge) we hit the wall, leg and feet cramps, thirst, hunger, took it’s toll so we decided to explore the second half another day. So now it’s picture time. :  )

Oh! The first two are what we thought at first were art work – but they were humans in costume! They were perfectly still, but if you put a coin in the ornate box at their feet they came to life and interacted with you and let you have your picture taken with them.

He was so sweet and gentle. It took us awhile before we saw him move – we didn’t realize he was alive!

This lady was quite charming, and I dropped coins in her pot. She came to life and handed me an ornate headpiece to put on and hubby took our picture. I was very happy, but you won’t see that shot here! Can you imagine holding that pose for any length of time? Not I!

Next come sculptures. They are everywhere and then some. In walls, on buildings, stand alone, etc. Here are some of our favorites.

This is “David” outside the Uffizi. We will visit the original in the Accademia Gallery

This picture really doesn’t do justice to the statue. The gladiator\warrior looks very innocent in the face and my first impression was that if he could speak, he’d say “You talkin’ to me?” I truly mean no disrespect, it just tickled me. The detail and artistry in these pieces is almost unbelievable.

Here’s a happy shot. I can’t remember at the moment the title so you’ll have to look it up. One thing I did notice on most of the statues is that the feet are quite large. I will stop there. :  )

So I hope this will hold you for a bit. We have to get out and about again, so many things to do, sights to see, and people to charm and\or bewilder!

Ciao for now!

Wanderings and more food

18 Oct

Sometimes it’s hard to get started writing. I don’t know where to begin, my thoughts are racing and jumbled with no cohesive order to make this interesting. So I dive right in praying that I can edit before hitting publish and even know that if I accidentally publish, I can still edit. Yes, I’m procrastinating.

So I promised a picture of dinner after the Market. Well, that was eaten. We were ravenous but I do have one picture of the ingredients. Cross your fingers that it uploads properly.

Dinner after Mercato Centrale

We have apples and red grapes (with seeds – that will teach me to assume!). In the back are spinach and ricotta filled raviolis which took us forever to find, oh but there is no escape now! Pistachios, Parmesan, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, basil, and beets.We cooked the pasta, drizzled olive oil over it and sprinkled the Parmesan on it…..divine! A wonderful garden salad with all the trimmings tossed gently with olive oil and balsamic and voila! A delicious meal.

The lettuce had been picked that morning in Tuscany. The sweet little man who sold us this and the tomatoes and basil was quite a character. He was explaining to me that there had been rain the night before and the lettuce was therefore quite muddy so it had to be rinsed quite well. I agreed but without further ado he went to the stall across the aisle and washed it himself for me, smiling, gesturing and talking while bagging up everything for us. I had been drawn to his stall when I saw him and another man with a bull horn singing, joking, and laughing away. It was such a lively, happy stall I couldn’t resist. I am very glad I didn’t. I believe the produce was so wonderful because of all the love and joy.

We wandered around some more, making small purchases, and bought slices of pizza with tomato, mozzarella, basil and olive oil to fortify ourselves. You’d think we’d be tired of eating the same thing so regularly but I think I could live off of it. We also found a stall where they did balsamic tastings – we didn’t have time but were invited back – you can be sure we will.

Wandering back home we took some pictures around the Duomo area:

The next shot is a close up of the picture above the door in the previous picture:

Close up

Of course the pictures don’t do the buildings or architecture justice. It’s amazing how intricate the work is and how long the buildings have withstood time. It’s really quite humbling in the grand scheme of things.

On a lighter note here a picture of an apartment I just thought was adorable.

Neiborhood Apt.

I like the doors and the cheerful flowers on the balcony.

That’s it for now. It’s almost 4am here as I write this. We go to bed around 10pm or 11pm and I only sleep for about 3 – 4 hours. So up I get, eat a snack and when I start to feel drowsy, back to bed I go. Same with hubby but he can sleep at the drop of a hat. Freinds and family back home are probably shocked as I am normally a night owl, then sleep in late (when not working) and am so NOT a morning person. Maybe I was a baker in Italia in a previous life!

Ciao for now! DJ*
P.S. I was able to correct the picture in the last post. Hurrah!

Mercato Centrale-Firenze circa 1874

16 Oct

Mercato Centrale-Firenze circa 1874

So we ventured a little farther today in search of some local incredible produce, pasta, fruits, and whatever else we could put our noses next to.
Don’t worry, we were very polite and mindful and didn’t touch unless we asked and were assured all was well. What delightful people. Here we go with a veritable plethora of pictures;

These little fellas were in more than one stall and the smell was incredible, and seemed oh so edible. Every imaginable type, some packaged, some loose, and even some vacuumed packed for take home. Mmmmm! We love us some mushrooms! And these you can bring home! Hurrah

Meat to Admire

Now for you carnivores, (Update: Thank you Janice – it was something else, but you got me  thinking!!) we do have some tasty meaty treats for you. I believe these are cured hams of different types as far as preparation goes. Some have rubs, others are plain. What you can’t see is that they are tied up by their hoofs! I think it’s so you know what type of animal it is. They too smelled good – very aromatic due to the spices. But wait! There’s more! 

And the meat goes on, and on, then more!

Here’s one of the “good lookers” I’ve had a few requests for. And there’s a handsome man behind the counter as well. (hee! hee!) This stall was incredible with lots of meats, cheeses, you name it. Seemed like a one stop shop for a picnic. For about a hundred people! Much too difficult to decide at this place and the lines were long. Yes, lots of people I had to shuffle back for artistic license. Of course they all understood perfectly, as this was the beginning of the “Renaissance” era, they created it…need I say more?

A bit of everything already packed to go home

Here we have a bit of everything packed to go. The cellophane was a bit shiny so it’s hard to see all the different bits and pieces, but trust me, it was pretty impressive.

Lemoncella, but of course.

So as you can see you need something to wash all this good food down with and I wouldn’t be true to “Under the Tuscon Sun” without the beloved “Lemoncella”! It’s very good, like lemonade on steroids so we steered clear…so far.

Okay? Will this hold you over for a bit? I really have to pay some attention to my sweetie who has been slaving over all the goodies we bought today (more pictures soon) and I must fill my tummy! Dang, now that Lemoncella sounds good!

More later -thanks for stopping by and keep those comments coming! We love them. And oh, by the way, there WILL be a test! : ) DJ*

We’re Here!

15 Oct

I can’t believe it! Finally. Although I do miss those lovely days of anticipation, the present far outweighs the past!
The trip started Friday night with final packing and a lovely 2+ hour ride to the hotel arriving at midnight, a four hour cat nap and then off to the airport. Board the short 3 hour flight, everything lovely, nice crew but not very communicative. What’s that you say? We’ll be arriving a little over an hour late? No problem – I’m sure our INTERNATIONAL connection will be more than happy to wait for your sorry arse.  But we made it with time to spare so all is good.

Now we board Swiss for the Lonnnggggg flight…..dum, dum, dum….I LOVE THIS AIRLINE! Fabulous crew, friendly, no request too trivial, great snacks, great food, more snacks. We had a quite lovely glass of red wine with dinner. I had vegetable lasagne, hubby had the chicken and rice with veggies, and it was Good. Are you sitting down? It was all free. Now, in my past experience “good” alone was a miracle. But in this day and age free is just a revelation. Oh? You didn’t hear that? FREE! And of course the individual TV screens with movies, music, TV shows, etc. And they even passed out ear plugs. Did they know that poor little 3 year old girl was going to be a nightmare throughout the trip? Well, she was. 8+ hours was not her idea of Disneyland and she let it be known every. single. second. And poor Dad. I hope they are doing better now.

And then we land, we change planes for the short hop to Florence. Very short, again great crew, nice beverage service, again free, which boggles my mind, and we are in Italia.
But first I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how gorgeous that short flight from Zurich to Florence was. Very pretty soft morning light. The landscape was lush and green, trees, trees, and more trees. And then there were Alps (or very large mountains covered with snow that I have decided are (my) Alps). So very majestic. We are native Californians and yes, we have the High Sierras, Tahoe, Mammoth, and other snowy places, but momma mia! The (my) Swiss Alps are simply breathtaking! I am so loving everything Swiss. This may be our next trip. Oh! And then there were the crazy clouds! We had normal clouds, very cute. And low clouds where the mountains would stick up through them, the color of the clouds – I’ve seen pink clouds before, but have you ever seen blue? (Here is an opening for some brave soul to make a comment!) It’s probably a light, reflective, water thing but I’ve never seen anything like it before and it dazzled me. I think to myself “How blessed am I to have the opportunity to experience and see such marvels?” Very blessed.

Okay, so we land. We have two options:  a) go here if you have stuff to declare, b) go there if you don’t.  We don’t, so we go there. And, find ourselves out on the street. What happened to customs? We’ve been through Switzerland, and now Italy, and no one a) has cared about our luggage and carefully labeled liquids in see through containers – okay, twice my carry on was searched due to a nefarious electronic device which was quickly pooh-poohed as “Oh, Keendle, pah!”  So it’s not the new “Fire” – jeez! I want my passport stamped with Italia! We had to be persuasive with the Swiss (did I mention they are very good looking?) to get the stamp. I don’t think anyone else got the stamp. But it’s happened to me before in a previous lifetime when I was vacationing and I did go through customs and almost missed out on the stamp. They said oh no, not necessary. And I quickly explained why it was oh so very necessary and they changed their minds just as quickly! So to be robbed in our country of current choice of the beloved stamp and now we can’t even figure out how to get back in the airport (this should make a good story upon departure!) I am temporarily crushed. I am determined to have it stamped twice (on different pages even!) when we leave.

Now we have to notify Apartments Florence that we have arrived and to meet us to let us in, tell us the in and outs and a few local tips and we’re off. My brilliant hubby has secured Italy cell phones and we dial away. Doesn’t work. Try again. This time we get a message in Italian and a disconnect. Obviously we miss dialed and got a recorded message telling us we don’t need the area code or something. (No we didn’t use the country code!) So we decide to head over and call from outside the apartment. We get a Taxi and the driver doesn’t speak English. He looks a little afraid of us so he  calls over another driver, we explain where we are going and that we’re having problems reaching our party. He whips out his cell phone dials the phone, reaches our party,  talks a while,tells us we’re all set,  assures the other driver we are safe, and away we go. How nice it that? (He was good looking too!) We arrive and in five minutes- if that- our greeter (another good looker!)  arrives and shows us our apartment and is on his way. The apartment is better than I imagined. While being completely renovated, updated, whatever, it’s not all sleek and glossy like a big city US apartment – it’s Italian, with loads of charm, and cosiness. I feel completely at ease and at home. We look out the kitchen window and see the top portion of the Duomo. The bells ring often, I haven’t figured that quite out. Oh, but they are heavenly! “Ding. Dang, Dong!” (From Under the Tuscon Sun movie).

We unpack, then take a short trek out and about. We find a local grocery store and stock up on local meats, cheeses, vino, bread, oil and balsamic, and greens. Food of the gods. We ogle all the shops, find 2 gelato shops, (yay!) and wander a bit, then home to dine, snooze, sip wine, then decide to take a nap. My nap ends up “down for the count”. Poor hubby tries to wake me but a train could have come through the apartment and I’m still out. He gives up and joins me. We wake at 2am and have another feast. We laugh and talk and I decide to update the blog, but after the first paragraph I’m sleepy as is he so we decide to to bed. We’ll get up early and explore. And then it’s noon. And pouring rain. We decide this is perfect and get organized, putter around. He goes back to the store to stock up and I sit down to write a  quick update. Yep, this is quick all right! I’m sure I won’t put you to sleep with long blogs like this after today. Too much too see and do. I make no rash promises however.

Not a bad start to the dream of a lifetime. I am surely blessed and in heaven. Plus I get to do all this with my best friend\husband whom I adore. Love to the family, our friends, and all of you out there following me\us.

Arrivederci!

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