More About Florence – Dolly Travels

Florence - Dolly Travels

Buona sera,

Now I can settle down. Mexico won their first World Cup game, defeating Germany, so we are more relaxed. The kids went to a bar to watch the game. I had to do some more walking through my favorite Italian city. I finally stopped and watched the last two minutes of the game, before coming back to the apartment.

Saturday morning, we decided to follow Rick Steves’ audiotour of the Renaissance Walk. We fought our way through the crowds around the Duomo, continued down via Calzaiuoli to Piazza Signoria, then across the Ponte Vecchio.

We stopped for a snack and cold drinks after the walk…the most expensive snack we have had. But I needed a break from the crowds.

On our walk back to the city, we stayed on the Oltrano side of the river, until we came to the next bridge, Ponte Grazie.

Later in the afternoon, the kids made a visit to Bargello galleria. There is so much to see in Florence. Danny and Heather had their list of places to see. They have more stamina than I do, so I simply walked all around my favorite city, watching the children at play, following some of the streets I know so well.

This morning, after breakfast, we walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo. It is quite a hike, but we made it. The view from up there is incredible; it made the walk worthwhile.

We walked down the hill, following the paths, and soon we were back in the city proper. We stopped for some lunch, then it was time to go home and take our afternoon nap. These one-hour naps are becoming quite the habit, but so necessary, especially after being out in the humid heat of the day.

Now we are all unwinding at home, making our plans for tomorrow, our last day in Florence.

Until next time,

Ciao for now,

From Orvieto to Florence – Dolly Travels

Orvietto - Dolly Travels

Buona sera, tutti,

I realize that I haven’t told you about Orvieto yet. When we left Rome, we went to the hill town of Orvieto, in Umbria. This ancient town sits like a mushroom above the Umbrian valley. It is a lovely old city, with its stone walls and ancient building. The city itself dates back to 900 B.C. This turned out to be not the best trip I have ever made to Orvieto: no one reason, but several things happened that no one had control over. First, the funicular that is supposed to take passengers from the train station up to the old town, was broken. We had to go on a bus. Then the shuttle bus from the little station was not running (so we were told), so we walked about a mile, pulling our luggage behind us. By the time we got to our hotel, we were tired and starving.

However, pizza was not far away. After a good late lunch, I had to take a nap, while Danny and Heather went exploring. Dinner that night consisted of gelato.

The following day our activity was thwarted, also, for we had planned to take a bus to the city of Bagnoreggio and walk to another ancient city, Civita. This could not happen, for the rains and thunderstorms came. I did not want to walk across that footbridge from Bagnoreggio to Civita in a thunderstorm. The walk is scary enough to me in good weather. Heather had her heart set on doing a hike through and around the mountain that Orvieto sits upon. Off they went; several hours later, after walking 3 miles and climbing or descending 43 sets of stairs, they emerged back into town, soaking wet.

I stayed in town, walked up and down a few of the streets, found a place for cappuccino and spent the morning writing. After that, I visited this beautiful cathedral. The Gothic facade is spectacular.

We ended our evening with dinner at Trattoria da Carlo, with a typical regional menu. Carlo not only was our chef, but our waiter as well, along with his Mama and one other waiter. The pasta was homemade with choices of different sauces; simple meat dishes but very tasty. After dinner, we took another quiet stroll, then off to bed for us, to be ready for our train ride into Florence on Thursday morning.

Once again, all three of us were hungry when we arrived in Florence, so first item on our agenda was lunch. We went across the street to one of my favorite places, the L’OK Cucina e Ristorante…eight years ago, when I first started hanging out there, it was the OK Bar. Now Christina owns the place, has enlarged it and turned it into a first class dining establishment.

I was going through cooking withdrawal, so after lunch, we went to the Conad market and bought food to cook for dinner. I think we all enjoyed our simple home-cooked meal, then relaxed while watching the World Cup game on television in our own living room.

Later, we took an evening stroll. The weather was a bit breezy, but sweater weather.

Today, we started by visiting the Galleria Accademia, where the kids got a first look at David. He stands on a pedestal that is about 6 feet tall, and the man himself is 17 feet tall. Massive and impressive, of course.

I love it that so many of the merchants remember me. It makes me feel like a really am a Fiorentina.

After our lunch, at home, of fresh bread, salami, cheese and fruit, we are all ready for our siesta. We will venture out again this evening, for the “passiagetta”, or our version of that walk, while we find more good places in Florence. The kids are enjoying Florence so much that we may not take more than one side trip. There is just too much to see and savor in this Renaissance city, my true second home.

Until next time,

Ciao for now,

By Dolly – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Orvieto Gay Travel Resources

Florence Gay Travel Resources

Florence Skyline from Torre de Arnolfo – Keep Calm and Wander

Florence Skyline from Torre de Arnolfo - Alain

Florence is the cradle of the Renaissance. The city, wherever you go, is full of incredible art from the middle ages. You’ll find works of Dante, Michelangelo, Giotto, Boticelli and other Italian masters in one city. Stunning frescoes? Check. Incredible sculptures? Check. Amazing architecture? Check. Great literature? Check. My dilemma was: Where do I start?

The narrow, cobblestone streets had me feeling that I was truly in ancient Italy. The city was once tagged as the “Athens of the Middle Ages.” Much of the things to do and see here are concentrated in the Historical Centre, a UNESCO-World Heritage Site. In the middle of it, you’ll find the stunning Florence Cathedral which the locals refer to as “Duomo.” From here, it’s an easy walk to the Academia where you’ll find Michelangelo’s original statue of “David.” You can also walk to Uffizi Gallery and marvel at its colossal statues outside the building. Nearby, Ponte Vecchio has been there for centuries and you might find something to splurge your money on.

Where to see the spectacular view of Florence skyline. The best view of Florence would be on the top of Torre de Arnolfo. It’s got the best view of the city’s skyline. Most of the postcards you see and buy were taken from here.

A Day in Florence. Yes, it is possible if your purpose is just to see the usual tourist attractions in the Historical Center. You can do these sights: Academia, Duomo and Baptistry, Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio. I have to warn you though that the queue at the Academia is brutal. So you better start there. Be the first in the queue in the morning. And oh, I find the gelato here in Florence better than the gelatos in any city I’ve been in Italy. Don’t be shy to get a large scoop!

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Florence Gay Travel Resources

The Stunning Facade of Florence’s Duomo – Keep Calm and Wander

Florence's Duomo - Keep Calm and Wander

The stunning facade of Florence’s Duomo is one of its kind. It’s a great example of the Renaissance style which was born in Florence, Italy. Duomo, as the locals call it, has a longer name: Catedral Santa Maria del Fiore. In English, it is translated as, “Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers.” For lazy tourists who have problems remembering places, it would be known as Florence Cathedral.

The Stunning Facade of Florence Duomo. The whole facade of the church isn’t your typical church you see all over Italy or Spain. Its polychrome marble panels are bordered with hues of pink and green. The exterior is plastered with so many sculptures and frescoes of various sizes. Incredible patterns and amazing craftsmanships are ubiquitous wherever you stand. They can be dizzying if you’re fixated on them.

Gothic or Renaissance? Well, I was told that in its early construction, the church was designed as Gothic. But as it progressed, its Renaissance style became evident, too. Both styles were blended and resulted in a classical masterpiece which Florence is so proud of.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Florence Gay Travel Resources

Our Last Day in Florence – Dolly Travels

Florence - Dolly Travels

Buon amiche,

Yes, I have to leave Florence again. This is always a sad day for me, for I love Florence, but, alas, I have to go away from my fairy tale world, and go back home again, and live my real life.

So, in parting, I thought I would leave here by giving you some pictures and commentary about my favorite city.

The other day, I just had to get out and walk all over the city. Frank is such an understanding, compassionate soul. He told me to go and enjoy myself.

I set out from the apartment, down our street toward the Duomo. I did not go into the mob of tourists, but turned to the right, found my way to the Arno by going through side streets and little alleys.

I just had to walk down via Tornabuoni, which has some of the most expensive stores in the the city. I don’t even own clothes fine enough to go into those stores, but I wouldn’t go into them, anyway; with their black-suited doormen, and the elegant men and women who are shopping there, I would definitely be a fish out of water.

I continued on my way, and crossed the Ponte Santa Trinità into the Oltrano area, the more bohemian neighborhoods of Florence.

I stopped on the bridge to take a picture of the Arno River, flowing underneath. It was such a lovely morning, I lingered a few moments to enjoy the serenity of that view, then I turned eastward, and followed the river for awhile.

I truly enjoyed being on the less crowded side of the Arno. Eventually, I turned south, walking through the Oltrano neighborhoods to get to the staircase that led up to the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Finally, at the top of the square is the bronze statue of David. He was worth the climb.

As I got to the railing, I could see so much of the beautiful city of Florence, with the Duomo in the background, the Church of Santa Croce behind the white buildings , the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza Signoria, at the left. As I took in the view, church bells all over the city started chiming the noon hour. All those bells, resounding over the city and up the hill to me, sent a delightful shiver up my spine.

On my way down the east side of the Piazzale, I came to the grotto. It used to have turtles in it, but they are not there any longer.

Soon I came to the river again, and followed to eastward to one more bridge, the Ponte S. Nicollo and crossed back to the main part of Florence.

In the early afternoon, I arrived back at our apartment building, but the day was still so beautiful, I had to go into the piazza just beyond, the Piazza S. Annunziata, and take a picture of Duke Ferdinando on his horse.

I had enjoyed a delightful walk, seeing so many of the places that I love. I knew that soon I would return to the city of Florence, for it indeed has become my second home, and one that keeps calling me back.

Fortunately, Frank was waiting for me, and we ventured out for an afternoon aperitif, while I told him of my day.

I will say, “Arrivederci ” now, for I have to pack and get ready to leave. Tomorrow morning we go to Rome, and stay near the airport there, and fly home on Wednesday.

I hope you have enjoyed this walk through Florence with me. I also hope that, if you have not been to Florence, you will see it some day, for it is a magical place.

Ciao for now,

Florence, Again – Dolly Travels

Duomo - Florence - Dolly Travels

Frank and I have been busy, seeing some of the places we have enjoyed before, in Florence, and finding a couple of new and interesting places. Both of these new places will go into our “favorites” collection.

Sunday, we had some drizzling rain in the morning. However, right next door to us (almost), was the Museo Degli Innocenti. This museum was totally redone and finished last year, so we are now able to visit it for the first time. I was quite impressed. Local architect, Jacopo Carli and his group, did the re-design, and I want to say, “Molto buono lavoro, Jacopo.”

This place, called the “Ospedale degli Innocenti”, was started sometime around the year 1445, and the building is part of the S.S. Annunziata complex, with the church at the north end of the piazza, the convent, which is now a hotel, at the west side, and the Ospedale at the east side of the piazza. The Ospedale was begun as a foundling home, where children could be left for any reason, to be cared for by the nuns. The only requirement was that the child had to be small enough to fit into the opening on a turntable that carried the child into the Ospedale. The story of this operation is told through displays within the museum, and is very well done.

Later, the rain had stopped, so we fought the crowds and walked down the via Calzuoili toward the Piazza Signoria.

On Monday, we wandered and took in more of the ambience of the city, without visiting any museums.

Yesterday, we visited the Uffizi Galleria, which has the largest collection of Italian art in the world, and next to the Vatican Museum in Rome, the largest gathering of tour groups, I am sure. Once again, we saw what we wanted to see, and got out of there.

Then last night, we went to the Teatro delle Sale, for a concert. This was such a unique experience, that it deserves its own blog post.

We are returning to the Teatro tonight, for another concert. So, tomorrow, look for the post on that Teatro. This was another place I had seen every time we came to Florence, and never found out how great it was.

So, Arrivederci, for now we are on our way to the Accademia Galleria, to see David. We only have 6 days left to see things. Time is flying by.

Ciao for now,

By Dolly – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Tuscany Gay Travel Resources

Domestic in Florence – Dolly Travels

Florence market - Dolly Travels

Buona Sera, amici,

Yes. I am home. Florence really is my second home. Today, being Saturday, we started the day by going to the San Ambrogio Mercato, to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese and meat.

Massimo had found my trusty shopping cart, which made the trip to the market so much easier. I thank the group that stayed here with me in 2010, for this cart. Those ladies, very much concerned with my staying here by myself for six months, bought this cart for me, and filled it with bottles of wine. That is a gift I shall remember for the rest of my life. I am happy that the cart surfaced again. However, someone needs to fill it up with bottles of wine again. Seriously, grazie mille, I miei amiche.

At the market. You will notice that porcini mushrooms are in season now. Still expensive, but they lend such an elegant touch to so many dishes.

Later in the afternoon, we took a walk through the neighborhood, going to the grocery store, then finishing with a beer for Frank and a glass of wine for me, at our standby,
The OK Bar. This bar is just kitty-corner from our hotel, and has been my place to go, for a neighborhood “Cheers” type of bar, with cheap wine, some snacks, coffee and pastries in the mornings

Well! Imagine my surprise to find that this place is no longer the OK Bar, but has expanded and upgraded itself. It is now “L’Osteria dell OK”. They have bought the little shop that was next to the bar, then expanded to the back, and increased in size over 100%. Some of the same staff are working, and two of the guys remembered me from previous years.

They have their own wine label. I am so impressed.

I was even more impressed when we wanted to order a light lunch, to know they are making all the food in-house, and have a gluten-free menu.
I had a gluten-free pizza that was very good. So, now I have more reasons to go to the OK Bar…mi scusa, L’Osteria dell OK.

At any rate, the day being another gorgeous 78 degrees (F.). we walked around a bit, then came back to the apartment, where we relaxed by doing a load of laundry (washer in house), and I prepared a little home-cooked meal from the treasures we found at the mercato this morning.

After dinner, we just kicked back and watched an Italian game show, with word association. That could be helpful for enhancing my Italian language skills. At one point, I asked Frank to turn up the volume so I could hear what they were saying, but that was pretty silly of me. It was fun watching the program, anyway. Some more perks of getting older: I am easily entertained.

I am happy being back to my second home. I am so very comfortable here, that I don’t need to run around and do everything.

Today, while we enjoyed our afternoon break at the Ok Osteria, we sat outside, and visited with a young lady, who was from Moscow, Russia. She was on her first visit to Italy, but she had traveled extensively to other countries. We had a delightful hour with her, then she was off to see as much as she could see in the rest of the afternoon.

These are the experiences that make foreign travel so interesting to me. I so enjoy meeting people like her.

Likewise, I am also so glad that we made friends with Natalia and Walter in Rome, the owners of Dolce_Roma rentals. They have three apartments that they own, and are so attentive to the needs of the renters. I gave the web address in an earlier post, but I will be ever so happy to tell you more about the rentals, if you ask.

And of course, fortune was with us in 2011, when we met Massimo and Magda Carli, owners of this apartment in Florence, as well as the first rental we ever made, Mutino farm house in the Tuscan hills, between Lucca and Viareggio. Since that time, they have been more than good friends: they have come to my rescue more than once in the past 16 years.

You will hear more from me from Florence. I hope that Frank and I get a good walk tomorrow. I must go to Mass in some church: not sure where, but I do enjoy going to church on Sunday when I am here.

So, tonight, I will say, Buona notte, and I will see you soon.

Ciao for now,

Teatro dell Sale – Dolly Travels

Teatro dell Sale meal

Buongiorno, tutti,

I know. I promised to post about this food and theater experience on Thursday, but time seems to get away from me. So now, I will tell you as much as I can about the Teatro dell Sale.

Have you ever found a new place to eat, or a new store, or something that is totally new to you, but in familiar surroundings? This is exactly what happened to us this past week. For years, I have been coming to Florence: sometimes with Frank, or sometimes with a group of travelers, sometimes by myself. On any trip, since I am such a “foodie”, a trip to San Ambrogio mercato is a must. I usually go to that mercato several times during each visit to Florence.

After we finished shopping at the market, and started toward our apartment, Frank and I stopped at Cibreo caffe, which is just steps away from the market, to have a cappuccino. I will tell you now that there are three different Cibreo establishments right on the same block: a ristorante, the caffe, a trattoria. Yes, I had seen these before, but other than having cappuccino at the caffe, I had never eaten in the other places. Right across the street from the caffe is the Teatro dell Sale. I have seen that, also, over the years, and never checked it out. Little did I know last Saturday that not only is the teatro a Cibreo establishment, the main kitchen for all the restaurants is behind the Teatro lobby.

We saw a flyer on our table at the caffe, advertising concerts for a Flamenco guitarist on Wednesday evening, and a jazz group on Thursday. We took the flyer home, and I called for reservations for Wednesday evening.

“Come to the Theater by 7:00 p.m.”, I was told. “You must register and become a member, and sign the papers. The doors open at 7:30.” I was told that the price for Wednesday would be 37 Euro per person. We would pay when we arrived.
The price sounded cheap enough to us, as concerts back home usually cost more than that. So I told the young man on the phone to reserve two places for us. I still had many questions in my mind. The time for the concert was right at dinner time: hmm. Do we eat before or after the concert? How long does the concert last? All these questions I never asked. I never even considered that there was food to be served at the concert.

On Wednesday, we went to the theater. We had not had dinner. Earlier in the afternoon, we had a snack that we felt would hold us over until after the concert. Once we got to the box office, we checked in, filled out the forms to become members of the theater group for one year. That was 7 Euro. The concert tickets were 30 Euro. Since we were early, the hostess invited us to pour ourselves a glass of wine and relax until 7:30. She led us to a comfortable couch, right next to the wine box. Yes, it was a wooden box, with red box wine inside, but the wine was quite tasty. We could help ourselves to wine all evening, as well as get carafes of either still or sparkling water, and make our own espresso.

At 7:30, we entered the dining hall, which was a large room next to the kitchen. That kitchen had large windows, where we could watch the action. When we found places to sit, we then headed to the big table, where bowls and platters of salads, cooked vegetables were, and helped ourselves to this appetizer course.

Next, came more dishes, but now, each time a new dish was ready to go out to the table, the chef stuck his head out the window of the kitchen, and loudly announced what the dish would be.

Being newcomers to this meal, we nearly got trampled, as en masse, the crowd surged toward the table. The only analogy I could come up with was to liken this to what happens in an aquarium when you drop food pellets in: the fish all swim to get the food, without caring who gets pushed aside. Same here: there was supposed to be a line, but there wasn’t. One just had to try to reach in a get a plate of whatever was being offered. Fortunately, two ladies were dishing up the food, so servings were appropriate.

We had mussels, then clams in a spicy broth, meatballs, several types of pasta for the course right after the appetizers. And of course, bread, hot from the oven, which was consumed greedily by anyone lucky enough to snag a few pieces.

Finally, the chickens came off the rotisserie, and they were served with roasted potatoes.

Then came dessert. They served a banana ice cream the first night, and had small chocolate brownies the second night.

At 9:00 p.m., they announced the dinner was finished. We all got out of our chairs and the staff arranged them in theater fashion in front of the stage.

The concert lasted about an hour. The first night was a solo flamenco guitarist from Spain, who was awesome. There were 3 women flamenco dancers, and they were very good, also.

Finally, somewhere between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m., we left the theater and walked home. It was a balmy evening, and a lovely walk home.

So, the next night, as I told you, we returned to hear the jazz group. The dinner crowd was not as large as the first night, and we were able to get our food without being trampled.

The menu changed slightly, as the owner of these restaurants is dedicated to serving only what is in season, what he can get fresh that day, from local sources, or at least from known sources, similar to our “Farm to Fork” program in Sacramento.

The food was delicious, the musical programs were very good. I am so happy that we found this unexpected delight, right near our Florence home.

I hope, those of you who are going to come to Florence, will give this theater a try. They are open every day except Sunday and Monday. Darn! I was hoping we would get another meal there, but, sad to say, we will leave Florence on Tuesday. But next year. My Theater Membership is good until July.

I hope you have enjoyed our food experience. I just wish you had been here to enjoy it in person with us.

Arrivederci. I will be back with more posts soon.

Ciao for now,

The Dashing Men of Florence – Keep Calm and Wander

Men of Florence

This is my first post in Florence – and it’s all about boys. Or men – the fashionable men of Florence. I was walking on my way to SM Novella Train Station this afternoon when I noticed these men in the middle of the street, a photographer was busy directing them to pose this and that, here and there.

So, lets just hope that one day their massive poster will appear in the pages of fashion magazine and on the LED screens at New York Times Square.

These dashing Italian men can literally stop traffic snd create chaos in the middle of an ordinary afternoon.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Florence Gay Travel Resources

Bad Weather Everywhere – Dolly Travels

Venice storm - DollyDid you think I have forgotten how to write? I have not forgotten; however, I have been distracted. Venice, with all its antique charms, also had some weather problems that made sightseeing a bit difficult. Venice is indeed charming, especially when the sun is shining on those red tile roofs and illuminating the white buildings, making them shine. But wait. Do you see that black cloud coming in from the west? That cloud means trouble. We carried umbrellas with us at all times. One never know when the rains might come, and when they do come , they can be spectacular. My tour group of last year can attest to that. Last year, we were in Murano when the black cloud appeared over the lagoon. We got onto the vaporetto for the trip back across the lagoon as quickly as we could. While on the boat, the rain came down in buckets. At times, we could hardly see the lagoon. That was pretty scary. This year, Frank and I did not encounter such a magnificent display of rainfall, but we did get wet and then cold. It was surprising how fast the temperature would plummet. We could be warm, enjoying our gelato and within a half hour we would be wet, chilled, looking for a restaurant that had hot soup. We did get to see most of the places on our agenda. We were scheduled to leave Venice on Saturday and go to the Dolomites. Unfortunately, for us, rain and thunderstorms, more cold weather was predicted for that area, so we cancelled those plans. For me, that was the most disappointing part of our entire trip. I love going to the Dolomites, especially the Alpe di Suissi area, which was our destination. I did not, however, want to spend all our time in the hotel. I could not bear to be in the Dolomites and not be able to walk on these trails. That would be torture to me. With all the weather problems in northern Italy, we decided to go back to Rome. It is warm and sunny here, and Rome is Frank’s favorite city. I wanted to go back to Florence, but it was raining there, also. Italy’s weather problems are mild compared to what we see is happening in other places in Europe. Paris has been flooded by the River Seine overflowing its banks; there is reported flooding in Bavaria, a rock concert was cancelled after 47 people were injured by lightning. Outside of Europe, I saw on the news that some places in Australia were suffering from major flooding. So here we are, in Rome again. Frank and I took a long walk up the Via Veneto this morning. When we got back to the hotel, Frank said he had had enough walking for the day, so I went to some of my favorite places by myself: the Spanish Steps (closed for repairs), Piazza Barberini, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon area (Pantheon was closed), Trevi Fountain. I threw another coin into the fountain to ensure that I will return. I can only hope and pray that this global warming and the subsequent disasters will not continue. We were fortunate that we only had to endure some rain and some cold. I am thankful for that. More adventures await us. We just have to be patient and flexible. Until next time, Arriverderci, Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels