Italia: On my Own in Florence

I didn’t fly to Italy with the intention of keeping a log of my adventures, but something funny happens when you’re used to being dialed in all the time. In the US, I have constant feedback. If there’s a long line at Panera, I can commisserate with the hungry folks in front of me. If I see something funny and can’t chuckle outloud, I can send a photo text to a friend. Or I can tell everyone, including my Mom, by updating my status on Facebook.

In Italy, not so much. First, I don’t speak Italian. So, unless I heard someone chatting in English, I wasn’t going to strike up a random “isn’t that cute?” conversation with the person next to me. More importantly, when I wasn’t logged into wifi (which was most of the time) my fancy schmancy iPhone became:

1. A mighty fine camera.
2. A fantastic note keeper.
3. A deck of cards for playing spider solitaire.

For the purposes of this post, let’s ignore #3, shall we?

Without further ado, here’s a slightly prettied up version of that unexpected logbook.

Tuesday, October 11

3:47pm Boston time:
In line to check into my flight to Rome it suddenly occurs to me: Why didn’t I learn some Italian before setting out on this trip? Eeeeeek!

Well, I'm pretty sure "Roma" means "Rome."  So far, so good.

Well, I'm pretty sure "Roma" means "Rome." So far, so good.

5:35pm Boston time:
During our taxi down the runway, the the Albanian grandma next to me suddenly gestures to indicate that she can’t find her seat belt.  She doesn’t speak English or Italian, so I call over the flight attendant and we get it sorted seconds before take off. As soon as the Captain turns off the seat belt sign, she starts poking me in the arm and wildly gesturing that I should unbuckle her.  I pretty much decide that she’s on her own from here.

I don't read Italian, but I'm quite sure that sign doesn't require me to fasten and unfasten an elderly woman's seat belt every time she wants to go to the bathroom.

I don't read Italian, but I'm quite sure that sign doesn't require me to fasten and unfasten an elderly woman's seat belt every time she wants to go to the bathroom.

Wednesday, October 12

8:13am Italy time, 2:13am Boston time:
2 1/2 hour layover at a completely fogged in Leonardo di Vinci airport in Rome. According to the poorly translated English entry in Alitalia’s in flight magazine, there’s an exhibit of DaVinci’s inventions somewhere in this maze of an airport. I look, but I can’t find it.  Instead, I find my gate and my first new Italian word.  Cioccolato = Chocolate.

I’m liking this country already.

Alitalia had already fed me breakfast, so I didn't actually buy anything from the chocolate cafe.  I did buy a very expensive Coca Cola Light from a nearby vendor.  More on that later...

Alitalia had already fed me breakfast, so I didn't actually buy anything from the chocolate cafe. I did buy a very expensive Coca Cola Light from a nearby vendor. More on that later...

10:35am Italy time
After a delay on the runway, my flight from Rome to Florence finally gets underway. I had planned to take photos of Rome from the air, but I slept through take off.

I repeat. I SLEPT through TAKE OFF. I did manage to wake up just in time to catch Florence as we were about to land. What’s the first thing I saw?

Apparently the Italians are also jazzed by cheap Swedish boxed goods.

Apparently the Italians are also jazzed by cheap Swedish boxed goods.

1:30pm Italy time, 7:30am Boston time

Thanks to some fantastic directions from Carmel (a Boston native) to Il Bargellino, I make it to my hotel via the 5 Euro bus instead of the 25 Euro taxi ride. I love my little hotel. My room is teeny tiny and reminds me of a monk’s cell, except for the picture of a naked lady above the bed, painted by Carmel’s Italian husband, Pino.

The bed was small, but super duper comfortable!

The bed was small, but super duper comfortable!

3:00pm Italy time, 9am Boston time

After a quick nap, Carmel calls a cab and I’m off to see Anna Bensted, a former colleague from WBUR. Anna and her husband, Leo, live at Harvard’s beautiful Renaissance study campus in the hills above Florence. Anna sends me directions, including helpful hints on how to pronounce the Italian words when I talk to the cab driver. (I = eee, Ponte = Pontay, Vincigliata = Vinch-yee-lattah!) Instead, I just hand him the piece of paper with the address.  20 minutes (and 25 Euros) later, I arrive at a truly magical place.

Ahh...can't you just see the stress of that plane ride slipping off my shoulders?

Ahh...can't you just see the stress of that plane ride slipping off my shoulders?

Anna tells me that Villa I Tatti was willed to Harvard University by Bernard Berenson and his wife, Mary. Bernard was a Harvard professor and art collector. (He helped Isabella Stewart Gardner find many of the items she brought to Boston and installed in the Gardner Museum.) Today, the Villa is a great place for Renaissance scholars to go to finish that book they’ve been meaning to write. As we sip some water in the sitting room (frizzante, of course!) a small tour comes in and marvels over three panels of a medieval alterpiece hanging in front of us. The work originally comprised of many more panels, some of which are now hanging in the Louvre!

Villa I Tatti also has its own vineyard, but I arrived at tea time. Perfect! Anna and I sit in the sun.  I eat the loveliest little collection of finger cookies and sip my iced tea while marveling at the Tuscan scenery.

Anna's a Brit, so despite the sunshine, she took her tea hot.

Anna's a Brit, so despite the sunshine, she took her tea hot.

7:12pm
Back in Florence and finally sitting down to a meal.  After a walk through town, I needed to make a pit stop in the ladies’ washroom before eating.  I’m proud that I chose the “Donna” room. I wasn’t exactly sure I got the right one until I checked my Rick Steve’s phrasebook back at my table. I think I’ll reward myself by ordering the 1/2 liter of “vino rossa” to go with my bacon and cheese pizza.

I ordered that wine, thinking it would fill two small glasses.  Four glasses later, I'm still pouring.  Turns out 1/2 liter = 3/4 bottle.  Good to know.

I ordered that wine, thinking it would fill two small glasses. Four glasses later, I'm still pouring. Turns out 1/2 liter = 3/4 bottle. Good to know.

7:42pm
Someone ordered fresh squeezed orange juice, so I just watched the girl behind the bar actually squeeze half a dozen oranges into a glass. Amazing!

Meanwhile, I’m loving the Rick Steve’s phrase book. I was looking for the correct phrase to use while asking for the check, but got distracted by a few choice phrases I will definitely not be using on this (or any) trip.

I think he might be joking, right?  These entries are just meant to make us smile?

I think he might be joking, right? These entries are just meant to make us smile?

Hmm…I meant to group these in larger chunks, but I didn’t expect the first day to take up so much room! Enough for now, I think. Yes?

More soon…

Advertisements
Tags:

2 Responses to “Italia: On my Own in Florence”

  1. More, more, more! Especially if there is chocolate…I mean cioccolato. Looks like a great first day and can’t wait for more 😀

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: