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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 12, 2010

Monday - A Great Morning, And Mostly a Nice Afternoon and Evening

And, I'm saying to myself "I think I can, I think I can..." because I want to get Monday's and today (Tuesday's) blog posted tonight so I'm not posting one after I leave Italy.  That would be kind of anti-climatic, right?

I had my little yogurt and banana breakfast in my room which was a very nice change, got myself cleaned up and fiddled on the computer for a while and by the time I left the hotel for my day's outing, it was late enough that I could stop at my little place for a pot of tea and a very tiny treat. :)

My plan was to go to Mercato Centrale and do my grocery shopping and then go to the Medici Chapel which I had not done last year (they were either closed, had long lines, or towards the end of my trip when they weren't closed and there wasn't much line, I went to go in, saw the "no pictures" sign and decided to heck with it because by then I was really tired of that.  So I thought I would try again this year, still knowing I couldn't take pictures, but not having spent the last two weeks being told that everywhere I went!

But, the first stop was Mercato Centrale and I just truly can't imagine what it's like to live here and have that as a place to buy food.  To be emphatic...IT. IS. UNBELIEVABLE!!! And, of course, all over Italy, on a smaller scale, this is how the people are able to shop - at these markets where everything is fresh and real, and the butchers cut meat, and the fishmongers clean and filet fish, and there is every kind of cheese imaginable and fresh bread and, and, and.  I love it!!!  I made my take-home purchases, wishing we were allowed to bring porcini mushrooms home cause this is their season and they're everywhere.  And then I took these pictures which are mostly from standing in one place and pointing my camera different directions - and the building is probably about the size of a city block - maybe only half a block square, but very big.

Lots of Limoncello - has anyone ever had that?  I never have...

Yes, what you're seeing are the heads, and the very bright yellow bits are the legs and feet!  The guys on the left had black legs and feet...

These are little birds - the left front are quail - that was the only name I could recognize.

And this is all the yucky stuff - tongues (the Italian word is lingua which is neat - that means language), tripe, brains, livers, hearts (cuori), and over here on the right is I'm pretty sure testicles because the sign reads "testicoli" - could it be anything else?!  And Maria had been trying to tell me about the special cut of beef that is used in traditional Bolognese sauce (ragu) and looked in her dictionary and told me diaphragm and I thought, well, it must be something else in English.  But there in this "other parts" cabinet was "diaphragma manzo" - not sure about the spelling now, but it would mean beef diaphragm and it looked pretty gnarly.  How would anyone ever know what to do with all these things?

Then I had to go back to the hotel cause I couldn't carry my sacks of stuff around with me all day and by the time I was done with that, it would be time to try out that little wine bar place I had seen yesterday.  By the time I left the hotel it was sprinkling hard enough to need an umbrella and not really raining which was nice.  And, of course, umbrella or no, I was compelled to take pictures here and there along the way...

People probably wonder why I take so many pictures of this and I can only compare it to Mt. Everest and say "because it is there".

There's a chain store that I saw in Perugia, Bologna and now Florence and this is their current window display and I can't figure out why - they sell clothes.  But I thought my miniaturist friends might get a kick out of it - it's a surprise to see it in amongst all the high-fashion window arrangements.

The huge arch in the Piazza della Republica

and a close-up of the inscription...

This window just really tickled me - I have yet to see any Italian man dressed like this!  Maybe it's what the well-dressed truffle hunter will be wearing as he hunts winter truffles this year.  And I love that the window has "Marlboro Classics" on it.
A familiar corner - the Orsammichele

Then I finally reached the little place and fortunately there weren't many people there today, I suppose because of the weather, because once you buy your sandwich and drink, you just have to stand around and eat it or find a stair to sit on or whatever.  Of course, if you worked in the area, I suppose you could take it back to work with you (not the wine, they actually serve it in glass glasses!)  So I got a porchetta (roast pork) sandwich on delicious, hot, crusty bread and a small glass of Chianti.  Found a little door step that was protected and sat on that to eat and oh, boy it was good!  I sure wish I had known about this place last year.  Because even trying to keep food costs low, but liking my glass of wine with lunch, both last year and this I really was never able to spend much less than 9E for lunch which is way more than lunch should cost.  But this delicious little lunch cost 4E.  And here's a picture of it - it truly is a "hole in the wall" - instead of a door or window or anything it's just open to the sidewalk with a counter all the way across - you go place your order, they make it in two minutes flat and you wander off to eat.  Fantastic!

While in the area, I did take a picture of the duomo since I just happened to be passing. :)

And that's all the pictures because after that I went to the Medici Chapel and I ended up wishing I had just stayed mad at them from last year.  They were open, there was no line so I went in and the price this year was 9E and then another 2E because they were having a special exhibit (which all the museums in Florence are always having special exhibits and so the price is always more than just the entry price.  So 11E to get in.  I asked her if there was anything in English that would help me know what I was looking at and gee, no there wasn't, but I could get an audio guide for 5E.  I thought about that, but then thought well, if there was a not too expensive booklet type thing I could get that and then not only know what I was looking at but have pictures to take home with me (since it still is and always will be no pictures).  So, not being too happy with the whole thing and thinking it better be pretty spectacular, in I went.  Went to the gift shop and there was a book which she said yes, would explain what was in the chapel.  It was eight Euro, but, again, I thought well, I'll have some pictures.  So we're now up to 17E to see this place.  But even if I had just bought the guide, it still would have been 13E.  (And, love Florence or not, I have to say both Perugia and Bologna totally, TOTALLY outshine Florence on this issue - very low entry fees (or none), and most places allowing photos - not all but a majority I'd say.)

The special exhibit was on the ground floor and was all connected to when Maria de Medicis (of the Florentine Medicis) married King Henry IV of France, whom I just finished reading about and who seems to be pretty highly regarded in history.  The exhibit was attractive and actually had English explanations along with the Italian which was nice and so was easily worth the 2E.  But...moving on to the chapel, I was really put out (although strangely, not surprised) to find that the actual chapel is undergoing some kind of restoration which involves lots of scaffolding up high and down low, is the rest of the exhibit about King Henry IV with I forget how many but lots of very large paintings of his various exploits, I guess.  I don't really know because I was so ticked off at the whole thing, I didn't look at the paintings - they weren't even in color! :)  They had been painted especially for the wedding (or maybe for King Henry's funeral?) and were monochromatic.  So, basically pretty much everything in the chapel was behind something - either scaffolding or huge pictures standing all around the floor.  The dome was beautiful...sorry I can't show you a picture.  And that was that - 17E for basically nothing.  If I had thought anyone there could speak enough English to understand me, I really think I would have been hard pressed not to tell them that I think it would be at least courteous to say that the chapel at present is undergoing renovations and is not "at it's best".  So it's probably just as well that they didn't speak real good English and I couldn't speak any Italian! :)  So, to use a favorite phrase - WRITE IT DOWN!!  That's it for me and the Medici Chapel!

It had been such a chilly, damp and drizzly day that I decided to go to a little trattoria on my street whose menu mentioned they had ribollita.  So that's what I had for dinner, along with a nice mixed salad and that made a real comforting meal.

And I don't think I have anything else to report - I did a little shopping and looking in shops here and there throughout the day, but nothing earth-shattering.


Stephanie said...

I know it's not nearly as impressive, but have you been to the Capitol Market in Charleston? They have a similar (if smaller) set up there. On West Virginia scale, it's pretty nice.

Christopher said...

What a bummer about the Medici chapel... I think I've heard of that (I feel like it may have unfinished sculptures by Michaelangelo? Some chapel there does...)
Glad you found a tasty, cheap place to eat... I bet there are more of those around, but hard to spot/find easily... ie, probably well-enough known to the locals?

January said...

That first photo you've got of the duomo in this entry is A-MA-ZING! It looks GREAT!
Can't wait to see you soon :)

jamie said...

You are in the home stretch now! It sure seems like you did a lot more this trip than last year. You seem to have been all over the place and so many exciting adventures. I can't wait to really see the photos and have you describe the trip.

Miss you!


jamie said...

PS - the market looks amazing! So many bright colors and things to poke around looking at. Makes me wish I actually could cook!

From the Editor's Desk... said...

Hi Stephanie - you're right - I've been there several times now and DO like it. They have a really nice cheese shop inside too. Just isn't like walking to it the way I do here! :) There's a real good bread store just down the block from the Capitol Market - have you been to that? I think it's just called the Bread Company or some such name - and aside from a couple of batches of cookies, that's all they have is bread.

See you soon!

From the Editor's Desk... said...

You'll have a long wait probably, Jamie. I don't think I'm going to make prints of all these photos like I did last year - nowhere to put them and plus which, here they are and we've all seen them. :) And as far as describing the trip, that's what I've been doing!! But if it's like last year, I know all my friends will get really sick of hearing me say, "yeah, in (wherever) they did this or I saw that" every time I remember something. I know I did a LOT of that for a month or two after last year's trip.

vrmichie said...

I guess the good thing about the lousy chapel visit is that it will put you in an even better homeward-bound mood and give you good reasons to keep trying new places on your next trip which I daresay you'll begin planning as soon as you get rested. Perhaps always with the stop in Florence for a few more Duomo pics. I've been catching up with your previous postings and they do make me laugh out loud at times -- various parts of your cheese/ham/balsamic tour; your problems with yellow (nice pics anyway); good grief more naked men; etc, etc. Wishing you a safe & trouble-free journey home.

Peggy said...

Oops. From yr new American friend in Florence and fellow lover of all things miniature. The chapels claim to fame are the tombs commissioned to Michelangelo. Otherwise it's typical Medici mania. The tombs are definitely worth a looksy for any lover of sculpture. And the chapel is in continuous restoration due to lack of funds. I've lived here 22 years and have never seen it without scaffolding. Pity really.
LOVE your blog!
Peggy in Florence

Mary Lynne said...

Hi Peggy! Thanks so much for posting a comment. It's such a treat to know someone is reading about my trip 1-1/2 years after I made it. I came back and read this post when I got your comment and that was nice too - brings back memories...

I still find it hard to believe I'll be in Europe and not see my Duomo but try as I might, I can't find a cheap enough way to do it.

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