Week 2: 8-14 September
We nearly didn’t make it to Parkrun this week! There were a couple of Mobikes near the entrance to the apartment, so we thought we’d struck it lucky. That was, until we tried to scan the barcode to unlock them. No luck! We had 55 minutes to complete a trip that had taken about 70 minutes on our first morning. We had a choice to make….and quickly! Not wanting to miss the social that we’ve become used to on a Saturday morning, we set off – and with a bit of jogging to speed things up along the way, we made it. The run actually started a bit late as Lorenzo – the chief organiser and energetic duracell bunny – was cycling around the course as he normally does before the run, this time having to get rid of some delivery vehicles blocking the path. We both enjoyed our run and the long chat to Andrea and his partner, some of the regular runners.
Unfortunately, this meant a long walk back to the city centre and breakfast – and we’re going to blame exhaustion and hunger (11am breakfast) for getting lost on the way to Mercato Centrale, the central market, where we relaxed over a muffin and macchiato.
Following a shower, Walter had another few kms to do in a bid to get our internet sorted as in the meantime we’d realised that the reason we couldn’t rent the bikes was because we had no connection. The person that had signed us up, in addition to damaging Glenda’s phone when putting in the new SIM, had put the incorrect expiry date for our plan and we’d been cut off. Never mind, all’s well that end well and we’re now online again.
Pizza, pizza, pizza…
Last year when we were in Italy we probably had about 3 pizzas in as many months. As we were mostly staying out of the towns, we weren’t out at night as much, and that’s when the Italians crank up the wood fires. This week we managed to have 3 pizzas in 6 days!
Saturday was definitely our day of travel challenges! In addition to the bicycle episode, we had some fun with the unreliable Florentine bus system. Having organised to meet a family of Italian friends at a restaurant in Grassina (near the farm we stayed last year – http://www.agricolapoderino.it/), we had a half hour bus trip to get there. As is typical, dinner was booked for 20h30, so we only had to catch a bus a bit before 8pm to get us there. We chose a slightly earlier one to allow time for issues. The irony is that in the end, we landed up on the bus that would get us there just on time – or if truth be told, a little late. That was after standing at the bus stop for an hour, watching as the scheduled bus disappeared off the electronic tracking board. Andrea, our friend, was waiting for us as we approached Pizzeria Jimmy, and his wife and two young boys arrived shortly after. We had a really fun night and soon forgot about the drama with the bus – but were extremely grateful when Andrea gave us a lift home afterwards! Such a lovely family!
Gusta Pizza is a small pizza joint that has a handful of tables inside but does a roaring trade serving up pizza for people to sit on the steps of the nearby piazza (and dare I say church) to eat them. We had seen it during our first stay in Florence and intended to try them but didn’t get there. Last year, they were closed for the month of August, so we missed out again. Having just opened after this year’s August holiday, we decided it was time to make a trip out there and join the other tourists sitting on the steps. The hot pizzas were yummy and very messy. We can tick that one off the list.
On Sunday during our second visit to Mosaico Church, we met a couple from the US that have been missionaries in Milan for a few years. As they were spending the week in Florence, they were keen to catch up for dinner. During the email exchange that followed, we discovered that they were staying near our apartment, so we chose our local pizza place to meet up. As usual, Farina 00 didn’t disappoint with its pizzas. A good night discussing all sorts of interesting topics.
……..Speaking of church…..the last two weeks we’ve had our first experience of singing songs in Italian at our Sunday morning service. Fortunately, they have been ones we know so we’ve understood what we’re singing about.
La Belle Epoque…
Whilst out for a walk one day, on passing through the main piazza nearby, we came across a whole lot of colourful stalls mushrooming up. They grew slowly and eventually we recognised them as French. After some research, we identified them as the stalls of the Bella Epoque Market, what appears to be an annual event in Florence. Groups of people from France – seems to be largely Provence – travel here with their wares. Unfortunately we’ll miss most of it as we’ll be away in Austria most of the time it’s open. We did have a couple of visits though and were amazed at the levels of mould on some of the special cheeses – probably very tasty!
Tourist activities for the week…
One of the museums at Palazzo Pitti was housing a temporary exhibition called “The Elegance of Speed” and we noticed that this was the last week before closing. Fortunately, Pitti is one of the places included in our annual pass, so off we trotted to enjoy the photographic display. Photos from the Archivio Foto Locchi, highlighted the most beautiful street races in Tuscany and the Concorsi d’Eleganza in the Boboli Gardens. It captured the courage, the feminine charm, the deafening rumble, the pungent smell of gas, the screech of tires as they rounded the curves, the success of Italian fashion and Florence between 1934 and 1965. We also wandered around the Gallery of Modern Art in the Palazzo – in this case “modern” is a collection of paintings and sculptures ranging from the end of the 18th century until the first decades of the 20th century.
Another visit to the Uffizi reinforced how many more people have arrived in Florence this month! There has been a major influx of large tour groups. Given this was our fourth visit to the gallery, we didn’t mind too much that we couldn’t get near a number of the halls let alone paintings. But if we had stood in a queue for 2 hours and paid 20 Euro to get in, we may have been less impressed. As we did last time, we ended the visited with a glass of wine on the terrace overlooking the Duomo.
Back to the jazz festival…
The last night of the jazz festival, we chose to wonder to the trendy neighbourhood of Oltrarno, an area across the other side of the Arno River as the name suggests. The large stage and numerous food and drink stalls had attracted a large crowd. We enjoyed the music and tap dancing (the dancer looked a little like one of the Wiggles) surrounded by historic buildings and churches.
On our way home, we couldn’t help but stop and stare at the Florence Duck Shop – a shop that sells plastic ducks…..and only ducks! We got chatting to a couple from Sydney that were as aghast as us that someone can survive and pay the rent selling plastic ducks. We’ve since seen that there are a number of these stores throughout Europe. What next??!!