Of Hallowe’en and Florentines

Oh, Florence, Florence. You continue to delight and amaze.

Hallowe’en, a Celtic holiday in origin, so popular in the US thanks to our twin obsessions of dissimulation and sugar. And, for us, a family holiday, as we celebrate the second birthday of our wonderlassie herself, the princess of Samhain, Miss Eleanor Jane Houston, who joined us on a sunny Hallowe’en day in Oklahoma, just after 4 pm, when the veil was, indeed, the thinnest between birth and new life for us.

Happy birthday Eleanor!
Birthday cake: strawberry/lemon semifreddo. She did ask for “flagola” (strawberry).

I present the October 31 Shoupston family centerpiece, a montage of our values on this multipurpose holiday:

Masha and the Bear dolls, zucca (not yet carved and paganized), 
candle (yet undefiled by insertion into pagan idol), fresh flowers (you know, for a birthday, 
but also in anticipation of All Saint’s/All Souls on November 1 and 2, 
and also, these gorgeous things were called “fiori di ping-pong” and I could not resist.)
Choo choo! Calling all compleanni d’ottobre!
At Eleanor’s school.

Italy has an uneasy relationship with Hallowe’en. It’s still a country that is very culturally Catholic, and the pagan images, no matter how stylized do not sit well. They rest uneasily alongside crucifixes.

 Spiderwebs and the crucifixion.
 Umm. So close.

An American friend with a daughter close to Eleanor’s age related also how Italians reject the idea of a humorous Hallowe’en costume. Even children must be dressed up as witches, goblins, ghosts, and skeletons.

American idea of funny costume.
(I would never)
Italian idea of standard kid costume.
(less gross but still macabre)

And why would you waste a perfectly good zucca on that carved monstrosity. And put that candle in a sanctuary in front of an icon, for the sweet love of all that is holy.

Trick-or-treating: such a complicated topic here. As a GenX American I can tell you that I had the rare, unsupervised Hallowe’en candy sprint through the neighborhood, but more often was closely supervised by my parents, who carefully checked our candy for suspect treatment, then rolled their eyes as they handed over our rightfully acquired ten pounds of refined, artificially-colored sugar.

I’ve heard tales of Americans trying to trick-or-treat in Italy. What madness, I think. I would not even attempt that in a random neighborhood with my own children in the U.S. 

There is one quartiere in Florence, our own former Le Cure, which is said to be open for trick-or-treating. In Italy, the whole trick-or-treat affair (which Victor charmingly pronounces “trickle treat!” which makes me giggle each time I think progressive leftist thoughts, and then think, we really ought to coin that.) Various expats will head up there this evening to go door to door.

Last week, Jason’s campus hosted the children from Victor’s scuola materna for a Hallowe’en party. The littlest ones (2 and 3) were plenty confused, but who wouldn’t be confused by 50 extremely friendly and gently noisy American college students? The kids in Victor’s age group (4 and 5) were more into it. They made cards and ran around downstairs in the student lounge, then trick-or-treated through the offices of the Gonzaga-in-Florence staff. Their instructions were very specific. One candy each door! Do not eat your candy until you go home from school! I donned a witch hat and did my bit for the team. “Dite dolcetto o scherzetto!” (“Tell her trick-or-treat!”) The children shyly held out their very modest (by American standards) paper treat sacks.

Here I am, wearing my requisite witch hat with a bowl of German candy 
in front of a depiction of medieval Siena. Sounds about right.

As for us, we will be here in the palazzo with our lovely landlords, the Screti family, who are hosting us for dinner along with their entire extended family ( this is what I love about Italy). They have so many children (5) and grandchildren (12) that they are making their own door to door trick-or-treat party. Victor abhors a costume, and Eleanor is still pretty clueless about it all, so no costumes for our kids this year.

Except this, for Victor. The baffo al palio. 

Riding the C1 to school, baffo at the ready.

Yes, he loves this. The instant costume! So funny! But, also, and importantly, not binding. Signorino, no costume? Yes, I have a costume, he says, and whips that stick up to his face. Suddenly he is Phileas Fogg, which is fitting, since his school divides up the children by sections and language of instruction (Italian, English, bilingual) along the lines of the protagonists of the classic Around the World in Eighty Days. His section is monikered Mr. Passepartout (the others are, of course, Mr. Fix and Mr. Fogg). We examined the portraits in front of the elevator and decided he was, in fact, Mr. Fogg.

Three Degrees of Elena Ferrante

Readers, you know how much I love to read. I also love to read really good fiction. I take no pleasure from reading genre fiction, as trite and as blind as it so often is (although I do love good genre nonfiction, like auto/biography, and true crime). If I do not like a book, I will put it down. I am a slave to the Hook.

I love someone who wields words naturally to tell a story that is new yet familiar. I crave a skilled author’s insight, their perspective. I want to see their story through their eyes. I love learning about their life, where they lived, who they knew, what they said. Who fought with whom, and who made up? Who succeeded and who suffered in life? Who kept the secret to the end, and who freely confessed? It’s exhilarating like nothing else for me.

Elena Ferrante and I were a writer/reader match made in heaven. just waiting to happen.

I first read the New Yorker article about her in early 2013. We were living in Arezzo then. I bought Days of Abandonment and My Brilliant Friend from Amazon UK. The article led with DOA, and I tried to read it first. Gritty, filthy, painful, angry fiction. Wow. I was not prepared for this.

I put it away at about page 35 and did not open MBF. Maybe I was not cool enough for Elena Ferrante. This is what everyone was reading?

I’ve been a New Yorker subscriber since … 1994? A while. I felt like I’d been suckered in again by East Coast literary tastemaking and aesthetic arbitration.

I might have started MBF, but it starts out so dark and creepy.  Sigh. I put it down, true to form. When we returned to the US, I brought the books back with me.

I have a friend, Alise, in Norman, also an intrepid reader. “Pick it back up!” she urged me repeatedly. “You won’t regret it.”
“Yes, but I am just trying to finish this 1,200 page novel that barely qualifies out of the genre fiction category.” (Genre: romance and adventure. I was deep in my 2014-2015 Outlander phase.)

I put down book 5 of Outlander (The Fiery Cross) and picked up my copy of The Goldfinch. I love Donna Tartt, always have. Goldfinch was tough going, and depressing. I told everyone I was reading The Sadfinch. Another story that everyone loved. What was wrong with me, as a reader? I trudged through it, complaining to myself, and internally, to Donna Tartt’s editor. I really did not like Sadfinch until about three-quarters of the way through it, then it caught fire for me and it made sense. The preceding 600 pages made the last 200 worth it. I internally apologized to Donna Tartt’s editor. She was right. It was perfect as is. (Maybe a tiny bit of editing around that lengthy “drugs in Las Vegas” component, but ok.)

I picked up MBF again this past spring. Encouraged repeatedly by Alise, I needed little further after about page 50. Wow – what a whirl. This book is incredible! I said. I gobbled it up, carousing around Naples in the fifties with my narrator, feeling like I had hopped into a time machine of culture and zapped straight back to the postwar mezzogiorno. 

With swift, broad strokes, and absolutely no hesitation, Ferrante painted for me a tableau of lives interwoven and tangled so compelling, so clear, I did not even need the character notes at the front of the translation that had been helpfully placed there by the American publisher. Her narrative voice pauses for thoughtful insight, but when it is painting action, she is all Stephen Crane, with the Italian sleekness of a literary Brancusi.

The next three of her Neapolitan novels were all in the Norman Public Library. Brand-new copies on the “New Fiction” shelves. I checked out all of them. No one else was reading them. Unbelievable. I took them home in sheepish anticipation of how much I was going to enjoy this literary binge.

The books are substantial. They’re not light reading. I am a fast reader, and each one still took me at least a week. They’re long, and good, and they make sense both individually and as a whole. After MBF, I gobbled up The Story of a New Name (which Alise had helpfully prepped me for by saying, “It’s all horny teenagers, you’ll love it.”) Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. The Story of the Lost Child.

Anyone who has grown up, who has moved somewhere, who felt like they did not fit in, in important ways, with the people with whom they grew up, and yet they share critical, sometimes shameful, qualities and values with them. As we were on the cusp of exiting Oklahoma, I thought, and wisely, that the books would help me process, in a compelling and parallel way, my feelings about where I’d grown up, and what it would mean to really leave it. And so it was the case. Ferrante’s Naples became my Oklahoma City. I had an ally in this. Ever since I learned how to read, I have always felt I have known authors personally: that they became my friends after we spent such intense time together. And so it was with Ferrante.

What I had not counted on also receiving in the exchange was a coherent explanation of new motherhood for a certain type of person, which struck a chord for me. The books traced a path around an Italy that I have come to know increasingly well over the past two decades, from Naples to Firenze to Milan to Genoa, with characters and dialogue whose verisimilitude I never doubted for a moment. Ferrante has helped me understand better the arcs of certain people and friendships in my life.

Seriously – does Ferrante even take a breath when she is writing? Her narrative is seamless, never stuttering once. Even when, for example, she jumps nine months forward through an entire pregnancy, explaining nothing, as a reader it made perfect sense to me.

I finished book four on a rainy April Sunday in Oklahoma, in a living room that was rapidly emptying of furniture and things. Reader, I wept at the end. The last twenty pages were like being at the funeral of a very stubborn old aunt named Hope. No spoilers here, but there is no redemption. Two thousand pages of glittering fast fiction buildup, and it ends with the proverbial whimper. In this, the despair is very much in keeping with the Italian shrug. Magari. Non si puo aiutare. This also helped me prepare for our move.

I did go back and read The Lost Doll, a novella which seems like it may have been the basis for the beginning of MBF. Lost dolls, and dolls and what it means to live life as a woman, and especially as a clever woman (Lena), in a chiaroscuric comparison of success and stymie (Lena and Lenu). How failure and endless high wall of culture will frustrate and twist and warp an intelligent woman (Lenu). How the protagonist lied to the family about taking the doll. How that doll vomited up rancid black ocean water when she attempted to give it dollie CPR. I’ll never forget.

I still haven’t read DOA. 

I bring up Ferrante often, to see if people have read her. I do this a lot when I really like an
author … “So…” I have made some good friends this way, via Ferrante, and also Gabaldon, and Kundera. Others.

I wish that the popular media would leave Ferrante alone. Much has been made this month of her “unmasking,” of her “true identity,” of what she “owes” readers. Some people become crazy when they overidentify with an author or an actor. They feel they are “owed” something in return for their obsession. I have never felt as though I were owed anything beyond what I have received as their art – is it not treasure enough? Leave her alone, people, we need her to keep writing. Her voice is so important.

Two final points here:

Italians barely know Ferrante. She is huge in the anglophone world, and when I ask Italians, educated Italians, Florentines, the occasional napolitana or romana, have you heard of Elena Ferrante? They screw up their brow and say, who? Every time.

Jason disclosed to me this weekend that we have an unexpected three degrees of separation from Ms. Ferrante. What! I shrieked. (No, I am not going to stalk her. Never would.) An Italian friend of ours, who is well-placed in government, about our age (don’t ask, this is how my husband rolls), had the author’s mother as a high school teacher in Rome in the eighties. The mother was apparently very much loved, and universally admired by her students.

This makes so much sense in light of Ferrante’s treatment of the relationship between teachers and their students, I said. “A whole life of framework and context when the student is attentive and the connection is there. … I still can’t believe you haven’t read Ferrante!”

“I don’t read anything after 1500,” he replied. That is what he always says.

So, with respect to three degrees, I counted it up, and it is:

>Jason and Monica
>government friend
>mamma di Ferrante


Finding the France in Florence. F/lo/R[A]NCE.

There’s quite a bit of it here. I’ve been mulling over this one for a few weeks now.

Jason maintains that Florence is in central Italy, but if you look at a political map of Italy, it’s pretty clearly in the north of the country.

I have a bit of a complicated relationship with France. As previously mentioned. My filter on France is thick, and tangled up with early adulthood, culture shock, and impecuniousness. And unrobust health.

That being said, there are aspects of French culture with which I am well, if not subtly, familiar, and they align with certain aspects of Florentine culture in ways that give me pause for thought.

You do remember that the French royal house prominently features Medici blood. In case you forgot, there are fleur-de-lis everywhere as the symbol of the city to remind you. On trash cans. Buses. Everything.

Well-dressed Florentine women will not give a second thought before scolding perfect strangers for what are, at best, dubious social infractions. Crossing the street against the light on a bike when there is no car or bus around for blocks. Taking up too much space on the sidewalk. Giving lots of Florentine side eye. These women are typically middle aged, of a Certain Type of Family, and would you please just follow all their social rules exactly so that we can keep this Florentine ship running nice and tight. I have noticed that their numbers increase considerably on the other side of the Viale, so maybe I will just stick to this side of Piazza Beccaria.

A certain level of pride and assured elitism that does not deign to discuss or explain itself.

The love of food, a good meal, a solid wine, and afternoon lunch.

Good god, how can I forget the smoking. The hand-rolled cigarettes.

The preciously padded and attired toddlers. (Mine, meanwhile, continue to look more gypsy than Florentine, but it’s getting better as Vic accepts new jeans and long-sleeve t-shirts and new shoes into his wardrobe. Eleanor is nowhere near approaching the mini-model status of her Italian peers, and I am perfectly bene with that.)

The political shrug. The Bronx cheer, reformatted for Italians, when it comes to political questions.

Bus or train strike, anyone? Major public infrastructure outage, advertised or real?

The dogs. Everywhere. In the market. In bookstores. In restaurants and bars. I mean, I am all about dogs. I love dogs. But on a rainy evening in a crowded, dark, fancy bar? Please, Fritalians. Keep that dog at home.

And, finally. And the worst. The dog poop. I am not kidding. It is everywhere. They barely curb their dogs. (I spent three years faithfully curbing Donovan in Seattle, so I know whereof I speak.) There are turds. Everywhere.

Today after kid dropoff I was walking home, and somehow, a dog turd leapt from the sidewalk into the back of my right shoe. Under the sock. But not at all on the shoe. I was walking down the street with the poo-infused sock dragging further and further below my heel into my shoe. I stopped to inspect and was appalled. Out comes the pocket Kleenex. Try to roll the pant leg up just a bit. Why is the poop not on my actual shoe? I am really confused. I walk home trying to not think about it, passing infinite additional examples of sidewalk poo in varying states of integrity due to the heavy rains this week. Poop soup puddles are everywhere. I immediately change, and put the poop jeans and socks in the wash.

I had a lot of sidewalk poop angst in Strasbourg too. It was much harder to get my clothes washed, though, so there’s that.

Small Florentine mercies. What she injures with the one hand, she remedies with the other…

Florence: The Luxury Pharmacy; Space and Memory

I’ve got so much material here in Florence on a daily basis that I am spoiled for subject matter.

On Monday, I posted a list of topics on Facebook, and a few people voted, so I’ll take two of the seven here. They share a nice narrative link – a plus!

I am still stitching together my mental map of Florence with my varied memories of it, from 1996, 2005, 2013, and today. I wonder if this well will ever be exhausted. Probably not.

Our good friend Amy returned to her Vermont haunt on Monday, after a great week and a half visit with us. Her auntie skills are impossible to overvalue. I was shocked and happy at how well Victor minded her (he’s in a bit of a Pierre phase at the moment, a la Sendak – “I don’t care!”)

The guest bathroom in our apartment has the only shower, in frequent use by our family as various combinations of small children and adults steam it up in there, banya-style. Eleanor is more solid on her feet, which means if they’re both in the shower, I can close the interior door and have, you know, a few quiet seconds to think.

Last week I spied Amy’s luxury toiletries on our counter (Nuxe brand – French) and sampled some of her huile prodigieuse. Wow. It was prodigious! Dry oil, delightful scent, made my skin feel great. I was familiar with the brand from my Glossybox dalliance in the US, ca. 2015-2016, but the product they’d sent me to try wasn’t really useful for me. (Contour cream? My whole face has contours. What is a face but a collection of contours? Where do I apply this cream?)

My face is a leaf. Dry in fall, crispy in winter, supple in spring, and supple-ish with dry edges in late summer. Pretty sure I struggle with an Ayurvedic vata imbalance, a topic for a different time.

After Amy noticed me siphoning off her prodigious oil for the third time (sorry Amy), she kindly offered to help me find a location that carried it here in Florence. A quick search revealed a dozen retailers. She scoped them out for me, and found one close by that had the oil on sale! A huge bottle of it for 25E! Like, half the price or less of what Any had paid for it in the US.

We went together back to la Farmacia la Condotta, on via Condotta. It was very, very nice. And the assistant in there was equally nice. Also, her skin looked fantastic, with little makeup. We guessed her age to be mid-thirties. The assistant was pleased to be able to practice her excellent English with us (a major retail plus in the hot molten tourist core of Florence). She disappeared behind her counter to rummage around for samples while Amy suggestively sold me a small collection of products. (I am a total soft sell.)

Note outside wall sconce for your open and flaming torch,
and rings to which your driver might hitch up your horses.

I walked out of there with the huge bottle of Nuxe prodigious oil, the Nuxe face wash, and a large bottle of Italian toner – the ubiquitous rose water that I love and which I used daily in Arezzo. Plus a tons of samples of tony French product. With the relentless cloud cover that has been shaken out over Florence in October, plus my generous supply of luxury face care products, I am confident I will be leaning rosa italiana in no time.

Amy and I had planned to go for an aperitivo before we returned to Azeglio. (The private reception in the Uffizi Gallery that we attended took place right before this pharmacy vignette – Jason had gone home to check in with the babysitter and the kids after a long day.) But where would we go? I didn’t really want to walk back to Ciompi or Sant’Ambrogio – our close haunts. I’m floating around there often enough. Let’s try something in centro. But where? I am rarely nosing around centro at aperitivo hour.

We agreed that the pharmacy assistant seemed like the kind of local who would know where to go for an aperitivo, so we went back in to ask her. She was delighted. “Go to Colle Bereto!” she exclaimed. “Their cocktails are great. They’ll take good care of you.” She scribbled it down on a piece of scratch paper.

We went back out on the street, and like two hapless tourists, wondered how to find the Palazzo Strozzi from Repubblica. Reader, we did Google map it. And scrutinized said Google map between the Palazzo Davanzati and the main post office. Not totally our fault, I assure you – who can see anything in centro with those enormous buildings all crammed in together? It’s like trying to find your way in Manhattan.
Palazzo Davanzati

We turned the corner to Palazzo Strozzi after repeatedly peering at Amy’s phone. There it is, in all its hulking glory, with Ai Weiwei’s thirty red lifeboats hanging off the windows in an indictment of Mare Nostrum and Lampedusa and the rest of the immigrant crisis in Europe.

And there, across from Palazzo Strozzi, is Colle Bereto. My wheels start turning.

Wait – did we just pass the Cinema Odeon?

Everything got kind of wavy, and I felt dizzy as the clock rolled back more than eleven years.

Hot July evening, summer 2005. Jason and I had made a plan to see a movie in English, and ventured into centro on the motorino to see – wait for it – “War of the Worlds” starring Tom Cruise in English! Thank god we saw that movie. In English. Oh, life before kids, and the bored expat Italian days. That movie was awful. The theater was baroque and the movie was neverending. If that slithering thing would have just taken out Tom in the basement. The cinema air conditioning was awesome, though, as I recall.

Such a bad movie. 
Lots of shots of Tom Cruise, face dusted with talc, 
staring at himself in a bathroom mirror 
as he comes to grips 
with the fact that he is, in fact, starring in this awful film.

But then I reoriented myself and looked at our destination, Colle Bereto, from the Odeon. Wait! I know this place! We made so much fun of this place, in a wistful, we-have-no-money kind of way (2005 was the last summer that I had all kinds of time and no money).

The beautiful people of Florence, in their fancy summer dresses and sleek locks and tan shoulders, stuffed the outside terrace of Colle Bereto. We heard them laugh, and talk, and greet one another. None of them were going to this ridiculous movie – it was aperitivo hour! Yes, we made fun of them. Yes, we wished then that we could have afforded a spritz that expensive. Yes, I was going to order that spritz right now.

On the way home, we got my bike from where it was chained just outside of the farmacia. “Let’s go tell our new friend that we liked the bar!” I crowed. Amy looked at me like I was crazy. I tend to make friends that way. It’s not for everyone … So we just went home.

And tonight I am going back to Colle Bereto again! For apertivi with the Sprachcaffe staff, who have welcomed me as one of their own, and have been so incredibly cordial and collegial with me. Just wait til they hear who I work for, and what our software does …

And with this post, I just covered topics #4-7:
4. Arrivederci Amy (this was Amy’s last night in Florence)
5. The best apericena ever (Colle Bereto did not disappoint!)
6. Florence: Space and Memory (“How did I wind up in this bar of all places?”) (Colle Bereto)
7. Luxury items from Farmacia la Condotta (Nuxe)

Florence: Le Cordon Bleu

Walking home today from kid dropoff, on Via Giusti, I saw a gaggle of chefs congregating. Is it a chef’s strike? Are they prepping? They sure seem to be smoking a lot. It’s not even 10 am. I look at the enoteca across the. Surely they’re not all employees there?…

Laughing, a shout of “Io ti lo giuro!”

Some toques. Many coats, some with embroidered names. Who are these people?

I looked at the sign: it’s the Florence Cordon Bleu. Around the corner from our house.

I laughed the whole way home.

This town! this crazy town!

Blush, Modigliani and Tuscany

Rained out this morning, and Auntie Amy flew out on Swissair through the clouds.

Kids tough to wake up in their warm bed with rain pelting the skylights. I hustled to get ready before they awoke, and the chocolate cake/ACE juice breakfast beguine began.

Bathroom dark; the mirror in there is decayed even in bright light. In twilight and shadows it is positively impressionistic, which can be kind light indeed for a 43yo mama. Gotta represent. Gotta keep the bella figura even with sleep deprivation, a full-time job, a husband with an even fuller-time job, and two very small children in varying states of health.

But my blush brush went awry and my blush didn’t match on my cheeks. I looked like a Modigliani. I didn’t realize this until after dropoff.

My blush job was slightly more crooked than this one.

So I looked up Modigliani. Handsome fellow, no? Cut down at 36 by consumption. Also: Tuscan. Did I know this before? Why did I not? Livorno boy. Buried in Paris, you know where, where everyone is buried.

Also: Spinoza’s descendent.

Florence: My Weekday Mornings

Walk with me, home from the kid dropoff at I Scolopi, down Via Venezia and Via Di Giusti.
 Convento. Le Suore di San Filippo Neri

A vacation house next door for nuns. Because even nuns get vacations in Firenze. 
God bless.

 A lovely edifice.
 What is this place? I don’t know, but am feeling mighty nosy about now.
This is the most cleaned up I have been since we arrived this time in Firenze 
so I thought I’d celebrate with a selfie. We’re going to a private reception this evening 
in the Botticelli Room of the Galleria Uffizi!

A Writer’s Request

Cari amici, if you are reading my blog, would you consider following me?

And also, please, please, please comment away. I adore comments, and as much as I love to set a well-written literary table, what I love even more is when engaging guests arrive to enjoy the dinner’s many courses with me.

And if there is anything you would like me to get nosy about in Firenze for the purpose of blog content and your reading amusement, mention it. I’ll probably be into it.

I’ve updated my template and layout to make it easier to read and more interesting for my reading friends and family. (That means you, if you’re reading this.)


Florence: The Short List

What do you like to do when you find yourself in a new place?

Do you like to see beautiful things? Meet locals? Meet fellow travellers? Go to museums? Eat food you’ve never tried before, or try local versions of food you know that expand your foodwareness? Have a buon bicchiere di vino?

Let’s talk about what is good, and pleasing, and tasty.

Amy, one of my oldest friends, has been in town for the past week and a half. She is a savvy and intrepid traveller. Together, between working hours and family time and kid care, we have examined and reexamined the short list of local and fantastic things to enjoy in Florence, with or without your host (Monica) – save the one activity that absolutely MUST be undertaken with me in company.

I’m going to link these so everyone can bookmark. Hey, maybe if I review a few of these in TripAdvisor, they’ll send me another baseball cap. That I will never wear in Italy. Unless it is bedazzeled. But enough about bling.

Dinner at Trattoria Cesarino. I’ve been here twice in the past week, once with Amy and once with Jason, and once so long ago with Tommy and Courtney (probably in 2005) that I can’t even remember. It’s a block from us on Niccolini. The place is warm, bustling, and welcoming; the food, honest, localvore, and very reasonably priced. Two can eat like royalty for 50-60E. The owners and staff make you feel like a regular even when you’re not. Just call ahead for a reservation, even same day. Italians know about this place, and WHAT! It is #50 of 2000+ restaurants on Trip Advisor? Makes sense. The secret is out. Cesarino delivers.

Lunch or dinner at Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina. I’ve been here multiple times now, and Edo and his staff excel at the welcome and the luxury of premium Italian food and wine. The menu is accessible, but you know what? This is a clean, well-lighted place where, like Hemingway, you  might prefer to place yourself in the hands of the owner. He won’t steer you wrong. Just let him pick the wine and plates. He’s so pleased at the wine list and menu he’s assembled, and with reason. Sit inside and bask in jazz and Montalcino, sit outside in the shadow of the Pitti’s hulking rusticated stone wall and sip your Brunellescho.

Pitti view from outside table.

 Wow. Just.

 Our primi, before we inhaled them.

 A plate of local specialities to start.

I’ll be taking you to Flying Tiger just for amusement’s sake, and probably because I need something from there on any given day.

Massage at Silathai in Oltrarno. Amy and I both agreed it was the best massage either of us had ever had in our lives, and we have probably had 500 massages between the two of us. Ok maybe 400. A lot, anyway. I love a good massage and believe in its restorative properties. Silathai is a Thai jewel in the Oltrarno crown. If you come to Florence, you’ll probably have just gotten off a plane, or been walking around for days. You’ll need a massage. Get it here. YOU MUST TAKE ME WITH YOU.

Post massaggio

Snacks. You’ll need fresh snacks. If you’re with me, we’re probably going to La Loggia dei Albizi. Also consider Robiglio on Via dei Servi (conveniently located close to FT) or Caffe Cavour.

Gelato at Medici on Beccaria for sure. Prepare for this one. You’ll be changed forever.

 Frozen confections worthy of a Medici wedding.
We’ll be getting small cups of heaven though.
If you’ve been away from the US for some time, or if you are not a Yank, we are headed to Mama’s Bakery in the Oltrarno. Bagels, cupcakes, and muffin tops await, lined up in neat glass cases. Whipped cream cheese, everyone, and shmears with chives and herbs. Probably some brownies in there too. Friendly for lingering as well, with none of the HOV coffee lane feeling that my favorite Italian caffes can emanate. Happy yelpers agree…
I’ll keep adding and mentioning my favorite places in Florence as they become clear to me. No talk here of large museums, long lines, or crowds. Just the experiences you need to fill in those gaps if you are interested in seeing a human side of Florence, because the crowds around the tourist hubs most definitely fail to deliver on that point!

Need to take a bus? Your local ATAF tourist representative, 
Victor, will be happy to discuss routes and numbers with you, 
or accompany you as needed to your final destination. 
Return collection by appointment only.

Florence: Teatro della Pergola

So, just quickly, yesterday we tagged along with Jason’s class group on a guided tour of il Teatro della Pergola:

The oldest Italian Baroque theater in continuous existence!
The horseshoe with boxes, that influences theater design TO THIS VERY DAY.
Perfect acoustics.
Around the corner from us. If anyone comes to visit who fancies some live theater … let’s get a sitter, we’re going.

the dismantled monarchic crown 
 Technician graffiti from ca. 1900

 The well of death? Or the fullers’ original water source? The red light gives pause… FOR DEATH

 Poster repro from 18th c. Come and see the horse circus!


 Backstage ropes. The theater is still manual backstage.

Boxes and gallery. 

Baroque ceiling detail. 
 Stage. Curtains up!
 Ceiling detail.

 Faux Florentine marble on the pillars. Rabbit paste. Poor rabbits.

 Entry detail. 19th c.
 Entry detail.

The Pergola that gives the name, in front. Glass and wrought iron, very Victorian! 
Or new republican.