Wednesday: last night in Florence

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Steve and I had a low-key night tonight which was what we needed. I was feeling kind of run-down earlier today, annoyed that no Italian restaurants really serve dinner before 7:30 PM (I could eat at 4:30 if it was allowed for young people.)

I got up and did my resistance band exercises (not because I really care about my health but because I want to justify having brought the band.) After that we had a leisurely morning, heading off just down the block to the Boboli Gardens, which were lovely. I like pretending in situations like that that I live at the palace and those are MY gardens. We saw many wild cats which was Steve's favorite part.

At the palace there was "Costume" exhibit which I thought would be about clothing from the Renaissance but it was more about comparing turn-of-the-century clothing to contemporary clothes which was OK I guess but not exactly what I wanted. There was a 2 room exhibit though on the clothes they dug up when they exhumed some of the Medicis, which was fascinating and creepy, so I was happy about that.

We didn't have an agenda for lunch so I picked a place at random in the back of the Florence travel guide my mom loaned me. I should have known better than to trust it because in its world, it's still on lire, but the restaurant we picked out near Santa Croce doesn't exist anymore. So we wandered around and picked a place that looked cute. It was a lucky break, because our lunch at il Pizzaiuolo was one of our best meals in Florence. Our waitress was perky and friendly. Our pizzas were made in the brick fireplace: mine was eggplant, mozzarella and basil and Steve's was roast tomato and cheese. I also got us an arugula, tomato and Parmesan salad which was delicious. Nice huge slices of Parm. So a happy accident.

After that we headed over to Piazza San Marco so we could grab the #7 bus up to Fiesole to head back to Ville Le Balze, where I studied with Georgetown. I was nervous for some reason! The bus stop seems to have been moved slightly from when I was last here but we managed to get on with no issues. We rode up the windy hills to the top of Fiesole and I walked Steve around a bit, showing him the little town and the places in it where we'd have beers or get sandwiches and where the Etruscan ruins were.

I found the Villa with absolutely no problem. The kids were by and large on a field trip so we kinda had the place to ourselves. I wasn't allowed to go back up to my old room, but otherwise we wandered around the grounds as we wanted. The main difference that I can tell is that the head lady has an adorable dachsund running around named Ernesto. I wish we had had a dog when I was there. By the way have I mentioned Steve's and my idea for a hotel where your room comes with a dog that sleeps in your bed with you, if you want it?

I kept wanting to say I can't believe I spent a year of my life here without appreciating how gorgeous it was, but I did--I was also busy keeping up with my studies and being 21 and learning a new language. I didn't take any pictures because I have a whole album of pics back home but Steve took several, which will be forthcoming.

We hiked back up the hill (which is impossible to explain in steepness unless you see it for yourself, and I'm proud to say that I think I'm more in shape than I was 12 years ago) and then slogged on up to Villa San Michele, a VERY fancy hotel nearby where my friend Fielding and I enjoyed one of the most memorable drinks of our lives shortly before we left the Villa to go back home.

Last time Fielding and I sat on the patio, with a view of the city, but this time Steve and I sat in the garden, which looks like something out of an Alice in Wonderland fantasy: green green grace, white white cushioned chairs and tables and lots of bright red flowers, and a view over Florence. We had a drink each, which came with olives, almonds, tiny pickles, chips and sundried tomatoes in oil. Lovely. Worth the hike and the price.

We started to walk back down the hill but then had second thoughts after we heard that there was a free shuttle into the city. I have been all about walking this trip but I just got inexplicably exhausted and didn't think we'd win any prizes for choosing to walk down the windy hill full of blind turns at dusk instead of taking the free ride. We waited ten minutes, watching the sunset and smelling the fragrant air, and then got a ride down to Piazza della Repubblica. We gave the driver a really nice tip.

I was too tired to kill an hour or two drinking until dinner and too tired to find a place to eat, so we walked towards the hotel, dithering over what to do. I knew I wanted gelato so we went to one place: I tried to order mango and hazelnut but the lady heard "mint' and hazelnut, which was almost a disaster until Steve, my hero, stepped up and ate the mistaken order. Mango and hazelnut were delish: the best hazelnut I've had so far, maybe, nice and salty (It was just some place near our hotel at the Porta Romana.) We also had a stereotypical Italian moment there where I asked the lady if she spoke English and she said "a little" and when I asked her if she knew any restaurants in the area, she started ticking off many, going on about her favorite fusion places. When Italians say they speak "a little" English, they usually mean they speak it better than you do.

We went back to our room for a bit because I wanted to put up my pictures before I started crashing, which was a nice break. After that we got dinner in the hotel, which I wasn't sure about, especially when everyone in the room was murmuring because it was so quiet in there you could hear all the conversations around you (a couple next to us kept periodically fighting and that was awkward.) But our food was actually pretty good (I got pasta e fagioli, which is good for someone feeling tired. I like the Tuscan love of white beans) and our waiter very nice. I was really proud of myself for remembering how to say "Can we take this to our room?" (re: our bottle of wine.) There was a bit of excitement after dinner since one of the kittens from outside apparently ran into the hotel and staff was trying to get it out. I don't know how that got resolved.

Now we are watching some movie with Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler that we don't exactly know the name of. Still no X-Men. Worst trip ever!