A bit of backstory…when Isabella was about 8 years old, she saw a photo of me on the Ponte Vecchio and asked ‘Zia, where is this?’. I replied ‘Firenze’ and she asked if we could go there together one day. I was thrilled at the opportunity to share my love of Firenze with her, so of course I said ‘Si! We can go when you graduate’. We were delayed a few years due to scheduling issues, but last year in between Isabella finishing her university classes and starting a summer job, we managed to squeeze in a 2 week trip!
We flew to Firenze, where we rented a studio apartment in the Oltrarno for a week. It was in a renovated stone tower a short walk from the Ponte Vecchio and down a narrow alley from Piazza della Passera.
We had prebooked only 1 museum-the Uffizi of course, for the Saturday so that Gaetano, our cugino in med school could join us. New Caravaggio rooms have opened since my last visit! I noticed many portraits of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici on display. We have her to thank for all of this! Isabella loved the Uffizi, not just for the artwork, also the building itself, so Gaetano suggested she visit Palazzo Pitti another day.
I am ‘vertically challenged’, which may be why I like to climb to the top of things, especially if there is a view involved. We climbed almost everything in Firenze, starting with a walk to Piazzale Michelangelo via Porta San Niccolò for views of the city, then continuing up to San Miniato al Monte. We climbed the dizzying narrow stairs to the top of Brunelleschi’s Duomo to see the views and the Torre Giotto. Another day we climbed the Torre Giotto and saw the Duomo! These climbs were vital to working off gelato! For more photos taken from above see Viste di Firenze.
We also enjoyed the view, modern art and caffè from la terrazza degli Uffizi. This is the title of one of my monotypes, so I had to throw that in there! The Aperol Spritz from the roof bar of La Rinascente in Piazza della Repubblica was the best I have had. With her new headband and puffy sleeves, Isabella looked like a Renaissance principessa enjoying a spritz!
We were on constant lookout for street art by Blub-even Gaetano when he was with us. The results of our Blub hunt are in the post L’arte sa Nuotare.
Isabella loves caffè. She started ordering caffè lungo because both times she ordered un americano, they repeated ‘American coffee’ and tried to serve her drip coffee! Mannaggia! What has the world come to! We had caffè at a different place every morning, including Caffè degli Artigiani in Piazza della Passera, Bar d’ Angolo in Porta Romana, one of my old favourites I Dolci di Patrizio Cosi, and one place way too close to Ponte Vecchio. They were all wonderful! Isabella kept track of the cost of a cornetto and 2 caffè lunghi…..as expected, she found the price decreased and the quality increased the farther out we went! Valuable life lessons!
We joined 5 others on a lovely daytrip from San Gimignano to Siena with Piero of Bike Florence and Tuscany. The weather was ominous, either sprinkling or threatening to rain all day. Monteriggioni was a stop for wine tasting and we cycled parts of the Via Francigena. In Siena we had a few hours to explore the city and have Panforte.
The weather was not very warm for May. I think this is the first time I have ever packed a small umbrella, but glad I did! We had to dress in layers, or ‘a la cipolla’ as they say in italiano. Some evenings in Firenze, it seemed like we were wearing ALL of the clothes in our valigia! Despite this, we walked everywhere.
Here is our map –YES- a map-of where we walked. Maps of the city centre are great for getting oriented. It is much easier than trying to look at a GPS on a tiny phone screen. We did not have time to take the bus to Fiesole or get to L’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David or attend Mass at Santa Croce. Isabella will definitely need to get back to Firenze. While shopping, she did receive many compliments every day on her Italiano, even bartering down the price of a cute leather jacket!Lucca was our next stop, 1.5 hours away by train. Lucca is one of my favourite places in Italia! We stayed at a small B&B near Torre Guinigi. The owners found out we lived in Vancouver and told us about their nipote in Vancouver who is Isabella’s age. I started to say that Vancouver was a big city…… when Isabella said ‘Uh….Zia….I actually do know him…. Che mondo piccolo! After that, every time they saw Isabella, with no subtlety at all, they went on about what a nice boy he was!
Lucca is known for its intact medieval walls. We rented biciclette to ride the path on top of the walls. The forecast was for good weather. We had done 4 laps of the tree lined 4 km route, when unexpectedly a torrential downpour started. It rained so hard we could barely see.
We tried to get off the path, but visibility was so bad we could not tell which gate and ‘onramp’ we had taken to get up to the wall. This was important because we had to return the bikes where we rented them. Isabella wore her new jacket, and rather than get it ruined in the rain, she had folded it up inside out in a plastic bag in the cestino -the basket- leaving her in short sleeves. Brrrr!
By the time we got to Piazza Anfiteatro to warm up and wait for the rain to stop, we looked like wet rats. The restaurants are outdoor, so they had large heaters, and even blankets. A friend was coming from Viareggio for aperitivo later, but she had to cancel due to the weather. Even in the rain, Lucca is spectacular. It is also a great place to shop! I never spend enough time in Lucca.
Our next stop was La Spezia via Pisa and on to Vernazza, our home base in the Cinque Terre. I wrote about our time there in 2 posts- Le Cinque Terre and Exploring le Cinque Terre. The second post is specifically about our adventures. The weather was beautiful, which is good, as there are no indoor activities there! Hiking all day with a 19 year old is hard work, so luckily there was wine tasting in the evening!The morning we left Vernazza was raining almost as much as on the walls of Lucca! Isabella had been to Roma several times, but not to Milano, so we booked to fly home from there. We met our cugina Federica, who we stayed with, and went to the Navigli area to have dinner with more cugini. Our visit was too short. We spent the next day walking and window shopping around the Cento Storico and had a few ‘streetside reunions’ and phone calls with more cugini and a friend. I have been to Milano many times but have yet to see L’Ultima Cenacola, Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Even 2 weeks in advance, I was not able to book admission. Another reason to return!We hope you have enjoyed this piccolo viaggio virtuale with us! Hopefully we can travel again soon. Ciao, Cristina & Isabella