Hi from Florence once again. Our first full day in one city without going anywhere and we didn't mind it one bit. I didn't sleep that well last night, partially due to some cats or raccoons or something squabbling outside our window, partially due to me feeling guilty about eating more pasta/pizza/vino than I'm used to, so I got up and went jogging for the first time in several weeks. It was great: I just hit the road and started going uphill. It was chilly but the kind of chill I needed, and I remembered what the outskirts of Florence is like in the mornings: hazy, and a combination of old world and new, places that look like secret gardens except that they let people out the gates to go to work in the morning. It was just what I needed.
After hotel breakfast (the couple sitting next to us was from the Chicago burbs) we moseyed out, first near the sunny golden grounds of the Art Academy near us, then near the Pitti Palace (if we have free time I wouldn't mind going back to the Boboli Gardens), then along the Ponte Vecchio and then the Palazza Signoria which Steve recognized from Room with a View. We enjoyed a ciocollata calda con panna at Rivoire and some great people watching, and then bought a cool cubist-Impressionist painting of the bridge before heading to the Uffizi. It's odd: you feel like a jerk not appreciating a place like that but at the same time, it's not totally a pleasant experience. Yes, there's Michelangelo and Raphael and Leonardo and Botticelli in your face but so are a million stinky bodies and it's humid and you're tired. But I'm not complaining. We did it. Even more enjoyable was the prosciutto/mozzarella panini we ate afterwards as our sweet reward.
We headed over to Santa Croce after to check it out (we decided not to pay to go in) and then hiked up to San Miniato Al Monte, which is quite a walk, although not intolerable (it's been warm, early fall-like, but not intolerable). We stopped for Cokes and split a Lion bar at Piazzale Michelangelo where we learned that "These stupid kids have been taking up a table for an hour and all they bought was a water" was translatable in any language (we were not the stupid kids in question.) Steve, a Phoenician, was curious to know how the Native American band playing music at the Piazzale got there.
San Miniato was more beautiful than I remember. This is kind of silly but the main reason we checked it out was because Steve's company borrowed its logo from a pattern on the church's floor but it was worth checking out for more reasons than that. It was so beautiful and cool and dark inside, very Medieval, peaceful and great for taking photos (no flash!!!!!!!!). Just as interesting was the cemetery behind the church: for a couple hundred years people seem to pay a pretty penny to be buried there, and the tombs include photos and still seem to be kept up, even those of babies who died over a half-century ago. The tomb that was most interesting was one that was a statue of a young bride and groom, close to life-sized, who seemed who have died during WWII. We wondered how long they had known each other, who had paid for the tomb, and so on.
After San Miniato we stopped for a drink at a café nearby that overlooked all the of the city for a drink, and then trekked back down, stopping to buy a precious little painting of two cypress trees. We walked back to Santa Croce, where I had made a reservation for dinner at Baldovino, a place I had enjoyed when I was at Georgetown. We had a Tuscan salami place, then Steve had Tuscan "bangers and mash," I had ribollita (a delicious cabbage/bread type stew) and some pasta with mushrooms. I probably could have done without the last: I hadn't figured on the ribollita being so filling. Fortunately the walk back to our hotel was good for the digestion. I logged over 12 miles today including the jog.
Steve asked me if I would ever want to live here, and the answer is no (I would miss Chicago too much), but the city/country does feel a lot less 'foreign' to me than it did last time I was here. Maybe it's being older/more confident but I think a large part of it just has to do with the 21st century: internet/skype/cell phones have brought the continents closer together but I swear somehow everyone seems less 'foreign' somehow than they used to: it felt like the Italians seemed a half-step behind in terms of culture last time I was here, but not so much anymore. "Why are Italians so cool?" Steve asked today. Because they've got it all here, I think. Except my family and my dog.