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ira Oct 8th, 2003 05:58 AM

Ira's Italy Trip Report
Thanks to everyone whose informative postings made our trip so enjoyable, I was able to prepare a detailed, precise and exact schedule for each day of our journey. The plan went out the window the first day. We shall have to go back again.

My lady wife (LW), Roberta, and I flew to Florence from Atlanta on US Airways via Philadelphia on an Airbus 330. Trip was pleasant and uneventful. Arrived FCO at 9:00, about 20 min late. Cleared Customs and Immigration and followed the signs to the Leonardo Da Vinci shuttle to Rome. We had reservations for the 12:30 train to Florence, which worked out well because we arrived at the tracks in time to see the 11:30 leave.

It is a long walk from the LDV shuttle to where the trains depart. Allow about 15 min.

Spent a pleasant hour people watching over lunch at the Rome TE before boarding the train for Florence. The ES* train has a rather small luggage compartment at one end of the car and overhead racks for smaller luggage above the seats. There is also some space between seats. The EC/IC trains have a larger luggage compartment. It is not necessary to chain your luggage to the racks. The only time thieves have an opportunity to grab your luggage is at the stops, and you can easily see the luggage area.

Arrived Florence SMN station and walked up Via L Alamanni to the B&B Peterson. ( We were very pleased to find that this is a very good place to stay. We had a king-size bed in a 12 x 18 A/C room with ensuite bath. There is a lift. Windows are double-glazed to keep out street noise. Bathroom is brand new. Towels were large and fluffy. It is about an 8-10 min walk from the train station on a large well-lit street. There is a bus stop in front of the building, a cafe for breakfast on the corner, a phone booth and a bank around the other corner, and an InternetPoint down the street. Mr Ancillotti is an excellent host who keeps the rooms spotlessly clean. About 60E dbl.

Wandered about and took the no. 7 bus from the FSMN to Fiesole. Explored the town, had a bottle of wine and an appetizer at the Blue Bar while watching the sunset over the city and went to dinner. We did this more than once.

Breakfast each day at the corner café was a Café Latte and a cornetto or panini ? 2.10E pp. We did not have the same panino twice. Typical selections were tomato and brie, tuna and tomato, sopprasseto, prosciutto and fresh mozzrella on various breads. The owner spoke English, and was very helpful and friendly.

We stayed in Florence for 11 days, of which six were devoted to seeing the city and the sights. Visited the Duomo, the Baptistry and the Museo (Get there before 10:00, when the tours start arriving. Talk about mob scenes!); saw David at the Accademia, visited the Uffizi, crossed the Ponte Vecchio, went to the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens; saw the Palazzo Vecchio and the Cappelle Medici, wandered through the Pzza dei Signoria, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, the Mercato Centrale and the Borgello; also saw the Botanical Museum and the Gherardesca Gardens. Be prepared to go through metal detectors at many of the sites.

So much has been written about the beauties of Florentine art and architecture that I can?t add anything new except, perhaps, that the statue called ?David? is not the image of a Jewish male. I don?t know who it was Michelangelo had in mind.

Note on the Uffizi: If you have advance reservations, you are told to go to Entrance 4. There is no Entrance 4. Facing the building you will see Entrance 5. To your right will be a relatively small group of people. This is the line for people with reservations. Waiting time is 10 ? 20 min. Without reservations, waiting time is 90 ? 120 min.

The Gardino della Gherardesca was a serendipitous treat. We were standing in front of the Palazzo Capponi, trying to take a picture of the garden, when a gentleman came out of the garden, held the gate for us and motioned us in. We entered, he left; the gate clanged shut and made a noise like an electric lock. About 1/2 hr later, we realized that we didn?t know how to open the gate. Drawing upon my years of experience as a scientist and engineer, I proceeded to investigate the area and discovered a metal box with a number of switches. I pushed each switch in turn. Nothing happened. Meanwhile, my LW, without my scientific training, naively turned the knob on the gate and pulled it open. We left before anyone could discover who had turned off the lights in the courtyard.

Other interesting events: Florence
The administrators of the city of Florence are well aware that there is a petty crime problem and are taking steps to combat it. On the buses you will find little signs that say ?Beware of Pickpockets? in both Italian and English. We met a pickpocket on one of our bus rides. He had tried to open the purse of the motherly looking lady standing next to me and she whacked him across the arm with her travel umbrella. This led to five minutes of dramatic complaint about how she had broken his arm. The cries, complaints and recriminations from the victim, the thief and the other riders on the bus should have been set to music. Where is Puccini when you need him?

Dining Notes: Florence

Il Ritrovo, 4 via dei Pucci, opens at 7:30.
This is a MUST. We ate there twice and were hard pressed to spend 100E for two with wine for a meal that was well prepared and beautifully presented.

Owned by Marco, who does the cooking, and Rosetta, who is the server, this is a lovely place in a vaulted, white-washed basement.

Dinner opens with a complimentary proseco and closes with ice cold limoncello. In between are pasta, risotto, prawns, shrimp, veal, lamb, beef, vegetables, fruits and sweets that are fresh, perfectly ripe, carefully prepared and beatifully presented.

Cantinetta Antinori, 3 Via degli Antinori
Great ambience, perfect service, excellent wines, VG+ food. About 125E with wine. Pasta in a sauce of zucchini blossoms, pine nuts and cream was particularly interesting.

Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, 43 Borgo San Jacapo
Very pleasant atmosphere. Good, but not outstanding, food. Interesting local wines.

Osteria Dell Agnolo, Borgo San Lorenzo 24r
Stopped in for a pizza and a bottle of wine. Looks like a nice place for lunch or dinner. 25 kinds of pasta. Pizza made in house in a wood-fired oven.

Gusto Winebar and Pizza, 2 Via del Proconsolo
Pleasant wines, generous salads, low prices.

Ciro & Sons, Pzza di San Giovanni
Nice place for a pizza and bottle of wine. Good service and ambience. Pricey

Salaam Bombay, Via F. Rosselli 45r
Where the locals go if they want something exotic. A good, inexpensive Indian restaurant. Excellent nan.

Notes for Fashionistas
Almost all of the young women were wearing hip-hugging jeans or denims with blouses that reveal the navel (as well as C-section scars and spare tires). Shoes with looonnnng pointy toes. Filmy tops with dark-colored bras. Off-the-shoulder tops with colored bras with clear plastic straps. Many women in black. Many women in white. Many women in black and white. Many women not in black or white. Young men have adopted a loutish look: blue jeans, sneakers and tee shirts ? a black jacket for formal attire. Weather was hot. Very few men wearing jackets, even in upscale restaurants.

To be continued

ira Oct 8th, 2003 06:10 AM

Forgot to mention

Took the no13 bus from in front of the B&B for a full circuit and then again to the Pzza Michaelangelo. Nice way to spend an hour or so seeing the town.

skymcc Oct 8th, 2003 06:18 AM

I love it so far, Ira! Welcome back...we've missed your advice. I'm leaving for Florence/Rome/CT in 6 days, so I'm on pins and needles to hear the "rest of the story".

And I LOVE the fashion report!

goldwynn Oct 8th, 2003 06:24 AM

Ira: Not that I am an expert on this subject but when I visited The David in 1967 I was lucky enough to be in a crowd of two for a viewing. This gentleman was of the Jewish faith and we began chatting. He informed me (although I never did ask him about this) that at the time Michelangelo created David this WAS the extent of the circumcision performed on Jewish boys at this time. Since then, MORE has been taken.

dln Oct 8th, 2003 06:34 AM

Ira, so you too noticed the black bras under light-colored tops? When we saw it the first time, we thought, poor thing obviously didn't check the mirror before she left the house...the second and subsequent times, we knew it must be an Italian fashion trend. Not so lovely.

goldwynn Oct 8th, 2003 06:49 AM

Ira: Further to David`s condition........found this on an educational site. "The wonderful statue of David by Michelangelo appears intact but is in fact correctly represented because the future King David has been circumcised by the accepted procedure of the Biblical era. Only the tip of his foreskin has been removed, fulfilling the Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17)".

Kay_M Oct 8th, 2003 07:07 AM

Enjoying your report so far, Ira! Glad to hear you had such a nice time. I'm going to save it for future reference...and I'm afraid I'll look like some sort of pervert craning my neck to get a better look at David's penis. Thanks goldwynn! I knew that was the most interesting part! For purely academic reasons, of course :D

cigalechanta Oct 8th, 2003 07:56 AM

Let's hear more, thanks.

jody Oct 8th, 2003 08:07 AM

I can tell already this one is going to be a keeper in my Italy files.

Thanks get busy and tell us the rest! Are you going to show your photos??

ira Oct 8th, 2003 08:13 AM

Took the 10:44 train from FSMN and arrived Orvieto at 12:11. Took the spectacular funiculare ride up the hill, changed to the bus and landed in time for lunch at I Sette Consoli. I would not say that one should go to Orvieto just to eat here, but if you happen to be somewhere within 100 miles it would be a shame to miss it. We ate in a pavilion-style tent in the garden. Service was perfect, but not snooty. Food was exceptionally good and the wines were excellent. Portions were just right.

That day's lunch special consisted of: Zucchini and calamari fritters; Tortelloni filled with duck mousse over greens with a walnut sauce; Lamb loin in a rosemary-flavored bread crumb crust with sautéed porcini mushrooms and baby potatoes; Cheese plate (4 kinds); parfait with peach sauce. Breads and butter. 40E pp. plus wine. We had an Orvieto Classico and a Brunello de Montalcino.

The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the sights of Orvieto and views of the surrounding countryside before we returned to Florence.

Took the 9:13 from FSMN and reached Bologna at 10:10. Headed down Via delle Independenza, but made a detour at Via Augusto Righi to Gelateria Moline, Via delle Moline 13. By far, the best gelato we had in Italy.

Returning to Via delle Independenza, we visited the Neptune fountain, Basilica di San Petronio, the Basilica di San Domenico and the churches of Santo Stefano, all of which were worth the visit.

Lunch was on the terrace of Da Cesarina, across the piazza from San Stefano. This was a lucky find. The cooking was almost as good as at Il Ritrovo. The intense flavor of the cantaloupe with prosciuto still lingers in memory. We shared a mixed antipasto - Cantaloup with prosciuto, bruscheta with another kind of prosciuto, mortadella. My LW had the seafood salad: calamari, shrimp, prawns, octopus, and cured salmon over tomatoes and onions with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and I had the tagliatelli Bolognese. The ragu had that almost burnt flavor that comes from long, long browning of the meat. Dessert was a generous cup of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and ribes. This last is a little, grape-like thingy that we had not seen before and which turned out to be a kind of currant. The family also owns the Cesarii vineyards from which they produce a very good Trebbiano di Romagna and a Sangiovese. About 50E with wine.

Visited San Stefano after lunch, went to see the towers, wandered about until we were ready to collapse. The folks at Nuovi Notai, where we had dinner, let us sit on the terrace and drink water until it was time to open. This allowed us to rest up for first class. Impeccable, yet pleasant, service. Good food, nice wines. LW had Pecorino and Pear salad, Potato flan with fried leeks, Tagliatelli with Porcini mushrooms. (I would have done the pears as dessert.) I had the potato flan, Tagllieri in duck ragu, roast lamb, and finished with a Vin Santo with pistachio biscotti.

Wine was a white Pignoletto (which turned out to be by Umbero Cesari) in deference to my LW, and a glass of Rosso de Montalcino to go with the lamb.

Returned to the train station through a lively town that was still going strong and waited a bit for the 10:48 train to Florence. Arrived at midnight. And so to bed.

Off on the 10:10 rapido and back on the scenic route in the late afternoon. It was very hot that day, so I don?t think that we gave Siena the attention it deserved. Saw the Campo and the Duomo, of course, and wandered about, but spent a lot of time sitting under umbrellas and either sipping wine or eating gelato.

There is an ?antiques fair? on the third Sunday of the month in Lucca. So that is where we went. We should have skipped the flea market, which is what it was. Pricey, not very good stuff. Wandered through the lovely, well maintained town and enjoyed the day before returning to Florence.

To be continued

AllyPally Oct 8th, 2003 08:14 AM

Wow, Ira, wow. When it comes to planning my next trip to Italy, I am definitely going to punch in your name. Thank you for taking the time to pass on your tips.

kismetchimera Oct 8th, 2003 08:46 AM

Welcome back Ira!! We missed your Tart Comments!!:) Love your report!!!

ira Oct 8th, 2003 08:55 AM

Hi Goldwynn,

Thanks for your posting. You are almost right. According to
Michaelangelo has David circumcised according to the practice at David's time. I'm glad I wrote "perhaps".

ira Oct 8th, 2003 08:59 AM

Thanks all for your kind words.

I put my SLR out to pasture and bought a digital camera. I took 1089 photos, of which I kept 709. I shall start sorting photos soon.

Any suggestions on how to put them on the web?

sfowler Oct 8th, 2003 10:04 AM

Great report Ira -- it's saved for our postponed too nay times Italy trip:)

Depends what you mean "on the web". A lot of people use webshots -- I use You can load your photos up there -- order prints -- make calenders and invite people to see them of course:)

elaine Oct 8th, 2003 10:22 AM

Hi ira
How did you learn about the B&B Peterson in Florence?
It's not mentioned in the usual places that I look for more info.

Lewis Oct 8th, 2003 10:45 AM

Hi Ira

Great report so far.

Regarding putting your photos on the web, go to
Upload your pictures there and just copy the link into one of your next responses. It's easy and they give you 15 free pictures for uploading to their site!

Bailey Oct 8th, 2003 12:45 PM

Oh, Ira,
This is so much fun!!!
Thanks for clearing up the "David" left us shaking our heads!!
Can't wait to see your photos!!

lulu1929 Oct 8th, 2003 04:08 PM

I want to thank you so much for recomending Renato for a driver. Angelo picked us up at the airport then we had Renato for the next few days. I told him where I got his name and he was vey pleased. great web site.

Clifton Oct 8th, 2003 06:36 PM

Very informative report Ira. I'm enjoying it! Looking forward to the pictures when you get them posted. is good for getting prints made. Have a few on our walls. But not the easiest site for sharing them out for the world to see. Everyone has to create an account there to access them (although I have mine ready!)

Try, or for creating an online photo album. too, but only if you're one to pursue the artistic and technical aspects of photography. They review each others pics there, which I wouldn't subject myself to (they can be rough), but there are some phenomenal travel photographs on the site.

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