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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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October 04, 2009

My First Saturday in Florence, Now That I Think About It

And, at least til around 11:00 a.m. or so, there is a difference between Saturday and weekdays - it was much saner seeming - especially no swarms of vespas.  Will be interesting to see if Sunday is even more so.

I certainly don't have anything real newsworthy to report today.  I slept in though and that was nice.  I hadn't been sleeping well the last couple nights so I took one of my Benadryl tablets and slept like a babe.  Then a shower and a mopping up of the bathroom floor which there is no keeping dry during a shower. 

I had tried last night to figure out if that botanical garden I had seen on Wednesday (when it was closed) would be open today.  I could only remember the sign saying “closed Wednesday” so I figured it must be open the other days, but I couldn't find anything to say specifically what the hours were except for one site that seemed to think they were open til 12:30 every day but Wednesday.  So I just decided to heck with it, I'd walk up there and hopefully even if they were only open tll 12:30 I'd get in; and if they were closed for the day, then I wouldn't get in.  So I went to my little breakfast bar, where the man behind the counter smiled at me for the first time, said buon giorno, said something else friendly sounding when I left, all of which was nice.  He's never been rude, just business-like.  This morning I had one of their flaky, sticky pastries with apples in it – that was my attempt at a healthier diet!

So off I went to the Orto Botanico to see what I would find.  It's all the way up past San Marco.  I do wonder how many miles I will have walked by the time I get home.  I think a lot.  This morning's trek (oops, just a minute)


ah, my morning fix...

must have been a slightly different route because I passed a church I don't remember seeing before, the Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore.  The reason I noticed it was because for one thing, it was extremely old looking and extremely plain.  I saw that the door was open and a few people coming and going so stopped to investigate.  The sign said that the church is documented back to  931, but is believed to have been founded perhaps back as far as the 5th century, so I was right about that – it's old!  Here's the outside of the church...


So I went in to see what such an old church would look like and was pretty flabbergasted.  It's a small building compared to most – it has the central nave which is quite plain, no grandiose altar or anything, but the side what(?) transepts(?), sides(?) are jam-packed with frescoes, paintings, arched and frescoed ceiings, you name it, it's there.  It's really quite wonderful – just sort of a riot of color and flash.  Of course, all that d├ęcor came later, the earliest date I remember seeing on the sign as far as what was in the church was the golden Madonna painting at the end of the left side of the church is 13th century.  My inside pictures don't do it justice, particulary the one of the ceiling – I must have had a glare from a light and didn't notice it.  But here they are...

 
altar area - see how plain

It's like two different buildings - you can see some of the ceiling here
 
the golden Madonna
 
a very large sculptd bas relief between those two beautiful pillars
 
and my not very good ceiling pic - but just look at how busy it is.  You know, looking at that now as I post this, I'm thinking maybe a miracle occurred - it looks like the frescoe image is sort of floating on top of the photograph.  Do you suppose that's a little group of angels that wasn't visible to the human eye?  It really is kind of strange looking...Chris - you're the photographer, what happened here?

Then on to the gardens – passing all the places I've grown familiar with, stores, churches, streets...it's a nice feeling.  I got to the gardens and the sign and lo and behold, not only were they open Saturday, they were open til 5:30!  So in I went – one of about 5 people there, I think.  The woman at the desk didn't speak English at all basically, but was very nice and I managed to ask her about something that was in the display case and also managed to convey that I'd buy it when I came out.  She gave me a little English book explaining the gardens which I later found out had a 2E price on the back, and when she was getting ready to charge me for the ticket she said something that I managed to  figure out had to do with a discount.  So I said yes, I was over 65 and she said “is free”.  I couldn't believe it.  Most of the places in Florence do discount their tickets for seniors and children and students, but only if they're from European Union countries.  So I was quite tickled to be given such a treat.

There's not a whole lot to say about a botanical garden except that there are lots of trees and plants in it.  Actually, this one was fairly small, and at this time of year, not much in bloom, but it sure was peaceful and nice, especially coming from the very crowded Piazza di San Marco.  And this one was started by, you guessed it, Cosimo de Medici in 1545.  I tell you, if it wasn't for the Medicis, I really wonder what Florence would be like today.  I have pictures of course, which aren't too exciting except for the fact that they don't involve statues, paintings, frescoes, Madonnas, or crucifixes.   Their guidebook had several spots marked on the map where there was a “monumental tree” and I really worked at making sure I would be able to tell which picture was of the tree planted in 1720, but I now can't.  Maybe when I see them bigger, I'll be able to.  Anyway, here is the garden (whose proper name, I guess, is Giardino dei Semplici).

would you look at that sky!
 

 
I thought at first this was a lemon tree but the fruit is perfectly globular - no pointy ends.  But its got a pebbled surface like a citrus fruit...
 
and these were much smaller orange fruits

trying out my macro setting...
 
This has to be one of the monumental trees!  It has really peel-y bark.
 
The view from those balconies must be nice
 
there's a little waterfall coming down just under that soft green clump
 
Wow, I'm pleased with this picture - what do you think, Chris?

  
these are like our hens and chicks plants - I wonder if Italians call them the same thing in Italian?
 
and I wondered on this plant, if the thing on top of the base is the means of propagation because it looks like the base only not opened up...
 
and, I wondered if these are root knobs sticking up all around the tree or ??? As Adam Sandler sings in "Mixed Nuts", ..."so many things to wonder, and I love grape jelly!"


What a great climbing tree!  The branches just sort of naturally "stepped" all the way up the tree.
 
a little touch of the orient
 
he can run, but he can't hide (although he sure tried!)

When I was done there I went back over to the Mercato Centrale (the big market I visited on Wednesday) and bought some cheese, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  The price on the cheese was per kilo and seemed quite reasonable so I said 1 kilo and I now have a huge chunk of cheese!  I had been pondering the fact that I was going to have trouble getting everything packed up when the time comes, so I asked the guy I bought the vinegar and oil from if there were any street vendors selling really cheap suitcases and he said they were over by the train station.

a tiny bit of Mercato Centrale where I had another porchetta sandwich

So my next stop was the train station and I did get a cheap suitcase and then put my purchases from the gardens and market in it which made my walk back home much easier.  My purchases were heavy!  Now I just have to worry about the weight allowance, but I think split up between two bags, I should be fine.

From my bridge on the way back - another beautiful day...

After all that walking, I decided I needed a little gelato when I got back on my side of the river, so that was my next stop.  Then back to my hotel, found a bunch of nice e-mails waiting, worked on getting Friday's post finished, walked up to a grocery store that I now know carries batteries (cause I DID burn some batteries yesterday – they went dead today), then walked back to the hotel, got my netbook and went down to Santo  Spirito where I worked on today's pictures, then went to my 5E glass of wine and dinner's free place, ate and watched the world go by, and now here I am.

Tomorrow I think I'll break down and go to the Pitti Palace or I could try the Uffizi without a reservation (although everything and everyone says get a reservation).  And Monday will be pretty much packing and beginning to fret over Tuesday. :)

8 comments:

vrmichie said...

Don't fret over Tuesday cause you're having too nice a time to bother with that, but do fret a bit over your packing. I'm pretty sure that your vinegar and oil canNOT go in carry-on (no liquids even if sealed) and that your cheese, if it's open, will have to go carry-on so that you can say it's your lunch.

I somehow missed yesterday's post so lots to catch up with today. How many bridges are there? It always surprises me when you say you're going over yet another new one.

Lucky Heather and Johnny + hi, Chris, I've been enjoying your comments. Hope you had decent weather -- it was vile rain here yesterday, all day.

Terry might know what your yellow, macro setting flower is -- she has a similar one on her science center blog.

It's Sunday morning so I guess for you it's dinner time -- hope you had another good day and look forward to reading/seeing it.

January said...

You know, Mama, I'm sure you're excited and happy to be close to coming home, but it seems like it'll be impossible for you not to miss this when you leave! Especially now that you've got shop-keeps who recognize you and such. I really like your pictures from the garden - and that tree with all the knobs - those are, on cypress trees anyway, called "knees", and they're projections from the roots. Supposedly they help stabilize the trees in unstable soils (since they usually grow in swamps, that would be helpful). I like your lily pad blossom photo - nicely done!

Christopher said...

Lovely lotus image you got there...and yes, another lovely day! You've really covered a lot of territory, and "lived" the Florentine city experience.
I think you'll be fine with your luggage... Even if a bag went over weight, the fee is something like $50--not disastrous, if it came to that.
I can't believe your trip is winding down... I want to see more! Have a great time in the remainder, and don't bother thinking about packing until the night before you leave ;) You're still on vacation mode all the way!
PS---Did you get to the Piazza del Signoria? I always thought that seemed a neat, big plaza, with that cool huge tower...

Mary Lynne said...

Hi to my faithful family members! To VA - that's why I bought the extra suitcase, cause my understanding is I can have two checked bags, so I will divide my stuff up between them, particular the liquids and cheese. They would think I was some eater if I said my cheese was for lunch! It's embarrassingly large. That's why I'm going to share it with my kiddies when I get home (and anybody else that happens by...)

And, January - I knew I could count on you to tell me about those knobbies sticking up out of the ground. I really loved the look of that - it looked like something out of Tolkein or munchkin land.

Shoot, Chris - there's hardly anymore to see! Not true of course, but boy, I've covered some territory. I went through that piazza early in my visit - the Uffizi Gallery is right off to the side of it. It's where one of the copies of the David statue is (and replaces where the real one stood). I was there again today, actually, cause my planned day went a little awry. So I will have pictures (which is unusual I know). tee hee

Love to you all (and Heather and Johnny too...)

Anonymous said...

Mary Lynne,
The day after you arrived and injured your ankle, I had a total knee replacement and have been kind of out of it since. I am just now catching up on your blog and am really enjoying it.
You can pack cheese in your suitcase. The Agricultural beagles might sniff it out at customs but they will let you keep it. Cheese ia allowable... not so sausage etc even if it is cured. When the immigration Nazi asks what you brought back tell him.Be sure to cushion the olive oil and vinegar well and if possible isolate them from clothing that you can't bear to lose.
If you are up early tomorrow,, pick a church any church and go to Mass. The Mass in Italy is quite lovely and is also a social event.

Your blog brings back wonderful memories and I am now going to wobble around the house and look at our framed photos many of which are from Florence/Tuscany. I know that Greve is in there somewhere!

Enjoy the rest of your trip.
Tucsonbabe

Mary Lynne said...

Tucsonbabe (I know Va has told me your name and I can't seem to remember, plus which I kind of like Tucson babe). Thanks for such a nice note. Sorry to hear about you being "grounded" but certainly hope your replacement will be as successful as those of everyone I know who have had them. Those and hip replacements really seem to make a huge difference.

I'm glad the blog has brought back pleasant memories for you. One of the main reasons I decided to journal was so I could relive my trip periodically too. I wrote out each day's experience way back when I went to Rome (41 years ago) and read it very occasionally. But I pulled it out and read it before I started this trip and that was kind of fun.

I'm going to get to work on today's pictures now - took so many I may not get them finished before I leave here! No, I should be able to do it cause I'm really slowing down on the "seeing things" part of the trip.

Thanks again for hanging in there with me...

Terry said...

Virginia knew I'd know the answer! The yellow flower is Pachystachys lutea, better known as a Lollipop Plant. Pacific Science Center has them in their Tropical Butterfly House and the butterflies love it.

The thought of a kilo of cheese makes my mouth water - that's 2.2 lbs! Take Tusconbabe's advice and don't try to bring back meat products. Have you ever seen the Sophia Loren movie, "Lady Liberty"? She tries to bring a whole mortadella into NYC for her fiance and won't give it up to customs. That's what I thought of with your 2 lbs of cheese!

Safe travels, Mary Lynne!

Anonymous said...

Mary Lynne, I have so enjoyed reading about your adventure. I am glad you have had such a wonderful time. Have a safe trip home and I look forward to seeing you back on Pettipointers.

Lisa

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