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Around the World in 210 Days

Florence: Pizza, David, and Grazzie-giving Day

ITALY | Monday, 26 November 2007 | Views [1121] | Comments [8]

For your information, Rrrricardo (aka Tigger and Coco) I posted this (very long, detailed, weekful of stories) blog last night, and as it was saving the computer froze, and so I threw my hands up and painstakingly rewrote the entire entry. Painstakingly. And now I am reposting it, just so the likes of you can tell me it's not enough information, followed shortly by requests for more information-lacking blogs. Sigh.

In other news, while in Rome we do not have access to Skype, so emailing us is the best bet for anyone that want to ask us why we aren't posting more often.

We arrived in Florence last Monday, amid clouds and a rainy drizzle. It was cold here, but we welcomed the change in climate, atmosphere, and general surroundings, and we were excited to go out and explore Italy. But first, as usual, we had to find our week’s home. We took an hour long bus to the city from the airport in Pisa, and it was already dark by the time we arrived (not saying too much, actually, as it gets dark here between 5:15 and 5:30). The bus dropped us off at the city’s main train station, and we were, according to our new host Angela’s directions, supposed to catch a city bus to her place. The problem was her directions failed to mention the somewhat confusing bus map system, which does not use your basic "reading left to right" concept, and instead opts for a "tiny black arrows" method. After a few seconds of staring at the directions, and the map, we realized they were not going to magically point out which bus we should take where. A girl spoke up, offering to help us find the right bus. She was from Arizona, was studying in Florence, and apparently knew the bus system pretty well. She took us to a stop, pointed out that it went by the stop we needed, and we thanked her ever so kindly.

After riding on the bus for several minutes, I asked the bus driver if we were heading toward our stop. He told us to get off at the next stop and catch the bus going the opposite direction. We were less thankful for the Arizona girl, but we couldn’t possibly have a travel day without at least one trip in the wrong direction, so I guess it was meant to be. We finally made it to Angela’s, and she took us down to the grocery store, where we bought some pasta (of course) and she mocked us for picking up some pre-made sauce to go with it (although, she did ask us if we would be able to warm it up… yes, we know how to turn on an oven—which she apparently didn’t believe, as later she pointed out that we must turn the knob to the 0 to turn it off). We met the other girl renting in the flat, an American named Marina. She was very helpful, and after telling us which sights to hit, giving us a bus map, and insisting that we buy a magnetic bus card but not use it (because NO ONE ever checks if you have a ticket on the buses), we went to bed.

The next day, we explored the town on foot, as it is supposed to be done. We went to the main attraction, the Duomo, which has an impressive façade of dark green and white marble (Apparently a very Florentine style, and we saw it repeated throughout Tuscany). It really is beautiful, although the outside is much more lavishly decorated than the inside, although the ceiling of the dome is impressively high. We also wondered through a few street-side flea markets, and visited an ancient monastery/sacristy that had the holy bones of saints, including the wrist bone of Saint Sebastian, which is displayed in a gold forearm with an arrow through it (St. Sebastian, as you can see in one hallway of the Louvre with five or more paintings of him, was martyred via bow and arrow). After that, we visited the Palazzo Vecchio, where the statue of David once stood. The statue there now is a replica, but much more convenient than museum-going, and is still an impressive 17 feet tall. But the real reason we were at the Palazzo Vecchio, as Alex will attest, was so that I could see the building that I had once illustrated. As a graphic artist at UT, I worked on a project with the Italian language website where I had to illustrate the Palazzo Vecchio. I Illustrated that! That building in front of us!! I was very excited about it, and although Alex didn’t show it, I know she was thrilled to see the building I had drawn as well. And it was, indeed, almost as beautiful in person as it was in my illustration. After plenty of marveling, we walked down to the river and winded our way back home. That night, we went out with Marina and an American, Japanese, Korean, and Brazilian classmates of hers from her Italian school. We went to one of the greatest Italian inventions ever (Move over, DaVinci)… the Aperitivo. Basically, you go to a bar and buy an over-priced alcoholic drink (8 Euros) and then have free access to the buffet spread for the rest of the night. 8 euros for a beverage and unlimited food was quite a deal, Alex and I agreed as we filled our third plates…

On Wednesday, we meandered to the city center, and ate a nice Italian-er, Greek kebab falafel thing, along with two Italian pastries for lunch. Then we visited the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge so beautiful that, according to my dad, even Hitler refused to blow it up. The bridge really is amazing. It’s lined with little gold shops that make the cobbled bridge glow. But the really awesome part is the shops themselves. They hang like cliffs over the water on each side of the bridge, with a small web of stilts the only thing supporting them. Really cool. We went to one of the palaces, but passed on the 8 Euro visit to the gardens. Instead, we decided to sit down for a hot chocolate and an espresso. The hot chocolates in Italy are supposed to be famous for being equivalent to thick, melted chocolate. We were excited to put this legend to the test. We were only somewhat skeptical when the woman asked us to pick out a *packet* of chocolate *powder.* Okay, we’ll take this one. Are you going to sprinkle this on our melted chocolate bar, or..?

When she came out with our drinks, the hot chocolate was nice and tall, and looked delicious. We took sips and agreed it was too hot to pass judgment. A few minutes later we tried again, and waited for the rush of pure chocolate to hit us. It didn’t. It was like powdered hot chocolate. Go figure. We were disappointed a little, but it was good because it was cold out, and we decided we would give the hot chocolate another chance once we made it until Rome. Then, when the bill came, and we realized that powdered hot chocolate cost us 5.20… we decided we better see them melt the chocolate bar into the glass (and possibly stir it with a golden spoon?) before we tried the hot chocolate again. Well, at least we saved some money not going into the garden…

We ended the day by riding to the Piazzo di Michelangelo, a plaza on top of a hill across the river that provides a great panoramic view of Florence. Here also lies, or stands, another replica of David, this time in bronze. We admired the view and then went home to have some authentic Italian pizza and calzonis, which Angela made the call for from a local pizzeria for us… despite Valentina’s Italian lessons, we are not yet fluent. The calzoni, I must say, was fantastic.

Thursday was Thanksgiving Day for everyone back in the states. For we Americans in Florence, it was Grazzie-Giving Day, and we gave grazzie by heading to the nearby village of Siena (home of the color Burnt Siena, as seen in the deluxe Crayola pack). It is a medieval town full of nice architecture and centered around a D-shaped plaza, which is covered in dirt twice a year for a bareback horse race. We visited THEIR Duomo, which had the same Florentine green and white marble façade. Moreover, the interior was decorated likewise, making it one of our favorite church interiors yet. We also saw the cathedral of St. Dominique (or something), which housed some really cool modern stained glass, as well as the skull and finger of Saint Caterina. Now, we are new to the idea of bones as relics, but seeing the mummified finger of St. Caterina displayed in a gilded glass jar has to be novel to anyone… We didn’t see the skull, though, which may be because I read it was actually inside the main altar.

We left Siena early, but not before having three dollops of gelato on a big cone: Chocolate, Strawberry, and Pistachio. We arrived back in Florence early so that we could go out with Marina and her friends for Grazzie-giving. We went to a small trattoria (classified somewhere between a deli and a restaurant in Italy) and dined on wine, cheese, meats, bruschetta, roasted potatoes, roast beef, and lasagna. We enjoyed it quite a bit, but we would have enjoyed having turkey with our family as well. But alas, none of them flew to Italy to dine with us…

On Friday, we decided to visit one more medieval village before leaving Tuscany, Fiesole. Fiesole is on the city bus line from Florence, about thirty minutes up one of the many hills in the area. We arrived and picked up a map from the tourist office. We committed to two of the convenient walking trails of the village and set off on the first one. It brought us up to a small park that looked out on all of Florence and the surrounding areas. It was even more… panoramic… than the Piazza di Michelangelo. The trail took us down the hill some and around some Roman ruins, including an amphitheater and a defense wall. It was perfect weather for lots of walking too, overcast and cool. Very Fall-ish. We arrived back in the town square and started our second walking trail, which was described as an "Easy uphill and downhill walk." Both of us decided that if that trail is what they described as "easy," than we would need harnesses and carabiners to take on what they labeled as "moderate." The trail took us through a national forest and peaked at an old rock quarry that looked out on a valley of small villages mixed in with more hills and red, yellow, and orange-leaved trees. When we came to what was supposed to be the end of the national park, we met up with a fellow American hiker who could not figure how to get back to town. After much map rotating, we showed him the way we thought we all should go. We headed out before him, and he quickly met up with us as we were walking back the other way. Someone had been nice enough to paint the names of the towns and arrows on a small boulder. We eventually found our way back into town, said goodbye to "Sam," and sat down to satiate our over-hiked selves in a pizzeria.

We ordered lasagna and a pizza. The pizza we chose was "Napolitana," which was described in Italian, but we figured that it was tomato, cheese, capers, and some kind of mystery vegetable that we couldn’t translate. Much to our chagrin, when the pizza arrived, the mystery vegetable was actually anchovies, and the capers were small, slug-like see urchins. Blegh. We ate the lasagna first, and then decided to try and tackle the pizza. We picked every last sea creature off of the pizza, and were left with a mozzarella and fish juice pizza. Alex threw in the towel, but I was determined… not to waste a single euro. So I asked for some vinegar and the waiter brought it to me along with some salt and pepper. I salted and peppered the pizza until it looked like TV snow, and then drowned it in vinegar. After my augmentations, the pizza went from detestable to edible, and I actually enjoyed it. Only once or twice did I get a whiff of sea-life, but a little more vinegar made all of it taste delicious. After that, we were worn out and ready to go home, and we spent the rest of the night visiting with Angela and Marina.

We woke up and started packing, excited about our trip to Rome. Quickly, though, I realized that the churning in my stomach was not just excitement, but also the beginning of an upset stomach and fever. It hit me quickly and stayed with me throughout our train trip into Rome. Some may blame the vinegar, cheese, and fish juice pizza I ate the day before, but I don’t think that had anything to do with it at all. Really. And as we watched the beautiful Italian countryside pass us on the train, I turned to Alex and said, "Excuse me for a moment, I must go throw up." Despite vomiting on the train (the toilets of which, by the way, empty directly onto the train tracks, which means I actually vomited on the beautiful Italian countryside... you're welcome for that information), we were both pleased with our time in Florence and excited about doing as the Romans do.

Tags: Food & eating




Do you guys seriously expect me to read some rambling report that goes on and on and on like this? Next you'll make me watch slides of your vacation.
I mean we all have things to do.
I may just wait for the Cliff notes or the movie.

NAHhhh Justa keeddin'...Now thatsa howa ta post-ah informationey.
Can't believe you fell for the old Italian trick... "Easy uphill and downhill walk." They get people with that every time.

Cool throwin' up story!!!

So very much to comment on but I have been advised that I better tread lightly or a certain female (brunette, fiesty, name rhymes with cowlicks) will have me banned for overstating the obvious lack of posting all up in here.

Remember the good ol' days when your friends Annie and Spanky used to care enough about you to post?

Oh well, you know what they say:
"when in Rome...email your parents"

  Richard Nov 28, 2007 5:06 AM


Wow! My friends and I thought we were the only ones lame enough to get falafel and gyros while in Florence. I think we got ours in the Pza. di Santa Maria Novella, but I'm not sure. They were renovating the front of that church while we were there, so our only picture of it is a close up of a postcard that Jackson swears looks legit. Get excited about Rome! My uncle is studying there now and his college is just blocks from the Trevi, so let me know if you want his email. He knows all the cheap gelaterias in Rome.

  L'altro Rrrricardo Nov 28, 2007 5:19 AM


oh my heart is singing, oh andrew you have made my day. first i told you if you travel with shannon the entire trip would be uphill and that it would be really uphill not a slight incline but it really is up a mountain that you can't see. second i told you the pizza was bad in italy did i not? oh yes i did, so i get to say "told you so, told you so" oh that felt so good. okay now down to it, i will google to see if there is such a thing as a world gps that works if your walking, riding a bus and etc. it just makes me nervous that you two get lost so often, i really am afraid that you will not be able to get home. as for the bus card please keep it legal as the parents do not want to have to fly to italy to bail you two out of jail. it is a shame that you can't get to skype as you had the saying "when in rome......" and i completed it for you and i really did want you to know the rest of the saying but i guess it will wait. andrew i am sure shannon was just so overcome to see the building that you had done she just did not know how to show it. i do hope she got a picture of your face tho. i can not belive the flavors of ice cream i mean really come on lets get the adventure gene out and explore new flavors you can get those three here anytime. on the chocolate i think i would find a place that sells it and find the person that speaks english and ask if it is from a candy bar or not, it's kind of like the lady who told me that the icecream was to die for and really it wasn't. you do know that too much salt will make you blow up like a balloon and it will also make you throw up as the body can only absorb so much and then has to get rid of the rest or die. i do not believe you did it across italy though that is really bad. i am excited that you are on your way to rome, andrew i hope you enjoy it as much with shannon as i did. just do not let her talk you into the indian food as it is really hot and the dessert will knock you on your rear, if you want a good buzz the price is not bad. but don't plan on walking a straight line. love to you both and drink a bottle of tea for me. mom

  mardi Nov 28, 2007 12:42 PM


Wowsers! Soon you'll have a book to publish! I'm reading a book about publishing. (Have you ever noticed that writers love to write about writing? They think that's soooo fascinating. "Have you ever noticed lawyers always write about law?" my imaginary readers inquire. OK, true, but courts demand this, and even get angry about the creative fiction I choose to instead employ, so that's not really a fair criticism.) Anyway, the idea to the book is, "What if a self-help book actually worked?" Like it made everyone skinny and happy and healthy? I haven't gotten very far, but the foreword said it's about a Nice Apocolypse, so I guess the results, contrary to happy expectations, will be disastrous. Oh, iron knee!

I'm super-impressed by your travels and your writing, honestly. The part with the hot chocolate was heart-breaking, though. Seriously, I was so sad. I can't believe that, instead of melted chocolate, they gave you that tawdry harlot, one Swiss Miss. Next they'll try to sell you on a Nestle Quicky.

In a slightly related note to the bones of dead saints, in the play I saw with my mom, "The History Boys," I learned that, at one point in the 15th century there were no less than 14 of Jesus' foreskins held in safekeeping in various parts of the world. I know I'm just a blaspheming Jew here, so take no account of my ponderings, but... how much was left after fourteen circumcisions?! I am rethinking my religion, as I am duly impressed! Note: You should probably look into how many wrists Saint Sebastian has, and, if it pans out as I suspect, ask yourself if you don't instead believe in that Hindu god.

I've decided that Richard, Mardi, and I (oh, and "other Richard," whoever you are, please feel free to join in) should keep you all updated on OUR lives. So here goes:

I began my adventure this morning by waking up in the same bed I've woken up in for approximately 8 months. Shock! Delight! Foreboding! Schaudenfreude! All other emotions! I then showered and subwayed under similar conditions.

Upon arriving at work, I gleefully discovered that I could close the door, drink hot chocolate (Swiss Miss variety -- that chick gets around), and read my book instead of working. Only when I started calling up partners and bragging about my discovery was it put to a stop. Confused by the rejection of my innovative working style, I moved on to checking out celebrity gossip and kitteh lol pics. I laughed and laughed at the furry little heathens, and also at the cats.

Confused as to what project to tackle next, I moved on to this website. I found out that my world-traveling pal, AndreWalex, was up to no good -- eating feesh on peeza, getting lost, throwing up on foreign lands. I said to myself, "The A-Rabs in Turkey will be glad when I get these two American Idiots under control and learn them to respect other cultures and wear those bee-keeping outfits. Salemalechem."

Well, I'm going to goof off now and read about asbestos bankruptcy estimations. I'll probably get in trouble for it, but when there's fun to be had, I has it. And that's how I rollz.

  Annie Nov 29, 2007 2:46 AM


Ahhhhh the guilty pleasure that is the reading of Annie postings when I should be working.
Her stuff is like blog posting on steroids.
Lucky for me I read it long after calming down from the finale of Dancing with the Stars.
Too much excitement in my life is bad for the heart. Ya have to pace yourself.

Every morning I crawl into a corner and go into the fetal position in fear that my fingers will inadvertently go to the keyboard and type something that is NOT PC and ruin my relationship with my liberal..oops I mean my daughter in law Alex.

Thankfully Annie has checked in and I now know the boundaries are pretty broad.
Since she brought up foreskins it is a perfect opportunity for me to mention the Mohel who wouldn't do a bris because he refused to work for tips but I wouldn't want to offend so...I don't go there girlfriend.
Anyway, I love it when I see a good old fashion postin'. It gets the party started.
I know that Mardi will check in to comment on an Annie-ism.
Can Spanky be far behind?
Then Lefty?
Pennsylvanians even!
Who needs those Roman romancers anyway. Let them go jump a bus headed in the wrong direction...we shall entertain ourselves.

Here is what I want to know...If Andrew and Alex get on a cell phone right now, do they have to pay Rome-ing

Pax out

  Richard King Nov 29, 2007 3:15 AM


Okay just one more thing.

Did anyone notice the irony of the fact that the old saying is...ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME
yet these two got headed the wrong way en route?

  Rrrricardo Nov 29, 2007 3:38 AM


Hahaha! Rrrricardo, you crack me up. I adored the Rome-themed jokes. And who doesn't love a good Mohel joke? Did you hear about the Mohel's wallet? When you pet it, it becomes a suitcase. Ha! Get it? Whaddya think it's made of? Ha! Ooh, so ribald.

Anyway, Rrrricardo, I think you and I should start our own blog. We could totally blow this pop stand and control our own e-world. Oh wait... that's what this will be when AndreWalex moves on to the Himalayas. Well, until our coup (coupe? coo? koo?) takes place, we will plot and twirl our evil mustaches. (I haven't committed to those depillaries yet.)

  Annie Nov 29, 2007 7:23 AM


you know you guys are right we really do have more fun without those two typing in, we could keep this site going for years and no one would be the wiser. so ok the foreskin thing not so much, remember i have a son and i have to tell you not so nice at the time of the event, lot of crying, yelling, almost passing out, then the doctor sent parker out of the room so he could finish undressing dylan, really sad. oh well you know that those two say they have no internet so i guess we won't hear from them often as they plan to be lazy and not write just so we will complain and then shannon tells me that richard and i all we do is complain on the postings, so lets have a count all those who think we do say yes and those who know it is nothing but parents worried about the children of the heart out in the big cold world all alone vote no. richard did you start to call shannon a liberal? just wait until they start making money and then they will head in the other direction, oh my i forgot to make money you have to have a job first so maybe it will take a while longer. annie it was so nice to hear from you as i do tend to worry, but as usual you are right in there with the wit and witty so happy to hear from your part of the world and what do those partners know, only what the paralegals tell them which does not count for much anyway, you just keep plugging away with what you do and stand tall to collect those paychecks, i was happy to hear you are still waking up in the same bed tho, would hate to think of you sleep walking in the winter time. also annie i want to send a care package to them through you and your suitcase, so will you email your address and when you meet up with them then you can have a late christmas. well it's time to take my meds and such so type you later love mom

  mardi Nov 29, 2007 10:37 AM

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