Second day exploring Florence.
The first stop was Mercato Centrale, a quick walk from the hotel. This is the main public market of Florence, but only about half the stalls were occupied, this being the middle of Italian holidays. About half the shops we saw were closed up with a little sign saying Chiusi per Ferie, or Closed for Vacation. Still, there was enough that the kids got a good taste of an Italian public market. Downstairs was mainly seafood, bread, meat, poultry and wine shops. The kids weren’t too impressed with the way chickens were displayed, complete with head and feet still intact. Tripe was another presentation that didn’t seem to whet their appetite. Upstairs was produce, including some interesting 3 foot long cucumber like vegetables labeled as “Widow’s friends”. We thought it best to just keep moving along, before the kids started asking too many questions.
We emerged from the market just in time for a thundershower, which would prove to hang around for most of the rest of the day and into the evening. We had covered a lot of ground yesterday, so today was picking up the few places we missed (Santa Maria de Novello church, much less attractive than the postcards made it out to be and Santa Croce, which was dominated by a temporary stadium set up for a Roberto Bengini concert) but we found that we had really seen the most interest parts yesterday, so headed back to the tried and true route and tried little alley ways and paths leading off. Every one was interesting.
We grabbed a quick lunch at a great restaurant, Trattoria Benvenuti, which was recommended by Fodors, and the food was great. Jill and I went for the fixed priced 3 course menu, 12 euros, which included a pasta (I went with risotto), a main course (veal scaloppini for me, roast chicken for Jill) and salads. I had a small carafe of house wine, the kids had a dish of pasta each, and the total bill came to fifty euros, tip already included. We had been warned about how expensive everything is, but I have to say a little legwork prior to leaving and some flexibility and you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg. Some things, including beer and wine, are actually very reasonable. A large Moretti beer (almost twice the size of our North American bottles) was just 3 euros at the pizza places. You could pick up a decent bottle of Chianti (local wine) for 4 euros. At 1.4 Canadian dollars to the euro, that’s not bad!
After lunch, we wandered a little bit more and as the clouds started to gather, we decided it was time for a nap back at the hotel, a routine we were falling into. We were greeted by Gassime and our other hostess (I never did learn her name) and it felt like coming home to family. The kids curled up in bed just as it really started to rain, but we couldn’t resist opening the window and shutters to catch the sights, sounds and scents of a Tuscan rain storm. As the kids turned on the TV to watch one of our three choices of English programming (BBC News, CNN European or EuroSports, we alternated between hearing how airplane travel was grinding to a halt because of the arrest of the Al Queda terrorists in the UK, which was getting a little depressing, or watching the European track and field championships) I went to use the computer terminal with internet access in the lobby. While there, Gassime must have been taking a break because the chambermaid was on her own. A couple from South Africa were checking in and she was trying to tell them that they couldn’t check in until noon, but they could put their bags behind the desk until then. Unfortunately, their Italian was worse than her English. After hearing the same thing repeated 4 different times, I was confident enough that I had caught the gist and tried translating. I must have been close enough, because everyone went away happy. Maybe those do-it-youself learn Italian CD’s weren’t such a bad investment. I felt very worldly.
It didn’t look like the rain was going to let up, and this was our last night in Florence, so we chose to brave it, donned raincoats and headed out. The streets were still quite busy, and as we wandered by the Duomo a never ending line of boy scouts started marching into the center of the city. I’m not sure why they were there or where they were going, but there was certainly a lot of them. We must have seen thousands of them!
We soon decided to call it a night and headed back to the Hotel Europa. Tomorrow was going to be a fairly early morning, as we caught the train to Sorrento.