Day 1 Italy (Day 14 vacation)
We arrived in Florence around 6 pm to warm, slightly overcast and mildly humid weather. We left our feature loaded, totally powerful, silver with leather interior, Audi A6 S Class in Dublin and were assigned a very cute, totally gutless, dark grey, 5-speed Fiat 500. Dean cannot sit in the driver's seat because his head hits the roof and there's no way to make the seat go lower. Picture this ... the scene from the move Mr. Incredible, when he's in his car. One cool thing is the tight turning radius. It's almost like you could just put your feet through the floor, hold the steering wheel, pick the car up as you stand and simply turn around. Just like that ... a 180. I did get quite comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road after 13 days, yet have to admit it's good to be back on the right side of things. These folks in Italy are super aggressive and drive like they're all in a video game.
Driving up to Cortona we felt excitement, familiarity and a sense of coming home. We met Sarah and her fiancé at our apartment. Ambra wasn't able to meet us and still found a way to make us feel so welcome. She prepared a little welcome note and plate of assorted meats, cheeses and small slices of bread. We're in a different apartment this time around and it's equally as charming. The crazy climb to the front door has not changed. Below is a short video of our space.
Day 2 Italy (Day 15 vacation)
We slept in, which was a treat. We wandered through Cortona in search of a quick morning bite. Much smaller fare for breakfast here than we were getting in Ireland. A pastry and cafe or tea, although you can get a mini pizza at 7 am. After a quick trek down the hill to Camucia to do laundry we took a walk through Cortona and the first stop was Del Brenna. A favorite boutique jewelry shop with one-of-a-kind, handmade jewelry. I asked them to resize a necklace for me and ended up buying something new. Megan and Sebastian remembered us after I triggered their memories and reminded them they helped me find a doctor the last time we were here (I managed to get bronchitis on our previous vacation here in Italy).
Looking towards Piazza de Republica from Via Nazionalle. Take a right at the palace (building straight ahead with clock on top), head up the hill 200 yards and you've arrived at our home for the week.
Via Nazionalle at night, the only level street in the whole city.
View of valley from Piazza Garibaldi.
We texted with our friends and set up a time to meet and visit in our apartment. Sara and Ambra came over and we chatted for 2 hours. Ambra is learning English (she spoke no English when we were here 2 years ago and understood just a few words). It was great to be able to have a real conversation and learn more about each other. The visit ended with us receiving an invitation to dinner on Wed night. We headed to a favorite restaurant for dinner, Trattoria la Grotta. It was tutta bene (all good)! Photos of Ambra & family to come soon.
Day 3 Italy (Day 16 vacation)
We were out of the house before the birds this morning and on the 7:00 am train to Firenze (Florence). We had a very important date with The David at Musei Accademia. When we arrived, it was raining with distant lightning and thunder. David was every bit as spectacular as I remember. The other exhibits in the museum had changed and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed.
We headed to San Lorenzo church and went through the open market and bought a few small things. On our way to the Duomo I found a must have pair of shoes. The rain let up by the time we finished lunch. We spend about 40 minutes inside the Duomo and then headed to Ponte Vecchio and looked at all the glittery jewelry for sale. It was not even tempting...Del Brenna, it is not.
San Lorenzo Market - in the rain.
Duomo in back (with dome), baptistry in front and campanile (bell tower) on right side.
Inside the Duomo. There is no cost to go in and you can stay as long as you like. I didn't have it in me to climb to the top this time. It was so humid and sticky I would have been done for before I reached the first viewing level.
The alter and part of the dome.
Views of the Arno River from Ponte Vecchio (ponte - bridge; vecchio = old...Old Bridge). This bridge used to hold a slaughter house primarily due to the convenience of dropping the discarded parts in the river below. Eeeuuuww...right? The butchers lived in the rooms above the bridge. No excuses for missing work. It was moved due to the stench. Now it's full of gold, silver, glittery stones and big price tags.
Back in Cortona the sun was shining. The Canadian couple we met yesterday recommended Ristorante la Bucaccia (pronounced: boo-kachia). This place has had good recommendations and several months back a writer from Newsweek Magazine ate there, never identified himself, then went home and raved about it in the magazine. This Italian man's business has been non stop ever since, in his words "no book-a, no eat-a" We watched him turn away several couples or encourage them to come back at 10 pm. We happened to get lucky and got the next to last table outside with no book-a... and oh did we a-eat-a. Dinner started with an appetizer they serve to everyone, a small scoop of homemade ricotta cheese (made by the owner) with new olive oil drizzled on top (made when the olives are still green) and a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper. Deee-lish! We each had a small bowl of the vegetable soup. This is hard to describe, it was so full of veggies there was no broth. It was like eating fresh vegetable stew. Yum! The main course I had chestnut ravioli filled with potato, cooked in olive oil, and served with several types of sautéed mushrooms on top. I love, love, love the funghi and they put them on everything here. Dean had this pasta with a creamy sauce and peppercorns sprinkled on top. This sauce was to die for. Wowza it was good!! We both wanted to lick the plate. Desert and service were a bit of a disappointment, yet we'd eat here again in a heart beat.
Tomorrow we're off to taste the vino in Montepulciano or Montilcino, then back to Cortona for a special homemade Italiano dinner with Ambra and family.
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