Dreams do come true: Florence & a backdoor into Tuscany

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As my mother just told me, I keep declaring each city more beautiful than the last…well, kinda true, though each city has its own feel and features that I love in a different way. Florence is easily the most beautiful city in the world though – the locals are absolutely, undyingly in love with their city and it takes about one minute – or maybe just gazing in awe from the train before even getting into the station to see why. It is completely romantic, which only helped to emphasize the fact of my, um, solo traveling…arghh…lol
The last couple days have been like something out of a storybook. I walked from the train station, trying hard not to trip over cobblestones and get run over my motorcycles, to my hostel, nose going up and down between directions on my phone and trying to find said street names directing me to a lovely hostel on a quiet tree-lined street. I arrived to a warm welcome by lovely staff and so began my adventure in Florence/Tuscany…
Being absolutely ravenous from my travels, having consumed (only) a Luna bar, compliments of my San Diego rations, I was dying to have an amazing Italian meal. I was not to be disappointed: my attentions were directed to a charming corner restaurant; the next couple hours brought so much delight I almost had to pinch myself to believe it was all happening. If you had asked me to pack my belongings and move there, I would have done so immediately, so in love am I with the Italian culture and mileau I found myself in.
While enjoying some of the best pasta I have ever eaten, I enjoyed some interaction with the people around me. Before too long, a gregarious lawyer sits down next to me and apparently he seemed to know every single person walking by or frequenting the place. It was “Ciaio” this and “bon giorno” and “how’s the dog?’ and a million other Italian conversations I couldn’t hope to follow. He is good friends with the restaurant owner and before I know it, I’m looking at videos of his son, laughing with him about work and, before I finish eating, he has hooked me up to go the next afternoon with this fellow’s father who has to go feed horses at their home in Tuscany about 25 km outside town and see some cheese and/or wine factory. Boy, was this American girl excited! I couldn’t hold my delight in! So this lawyer insists I grab coffee with him and his business partner, gives my directions where to go next in the city, introduces me to the coffeeshop owner – a big burly tatted up guy, who immediately assumes protector role should I need anything or get into any trouble, as my hostel is located just up the street. just one more of the many angels sent my way:)
I wandered around the streets and prowled around the famous Uffizi museum, wishing desperately I had remembered to actually download my Rick Steves walking tour onto my app – would have made it much more meaningful. When I come back next, I will definitely do a guided tour of the artwork. Florence is famous for its leather goods and jewelry and I kinda wish I had splurged and gotten myself something while there…beautiful craftmanship.
The hostel was having a HUGE party for some famous DJ that night, so I mooched in on the free food, had some wine and turned in after not too long…90% of the people there were Italians, which made for lovely company, but I couldn’t understand most of what was being said.
The next morning, I padded downstairs for a hot cuppa (I love European cappucinos!!) and breakfast and started out for the Accademia museum. Viewing Michelangelo’s David was really one of the highlights of the trip for me. It’s hard to explain how or why it was so moving. There are so many replicas all over the city and Italy and we’ve all seen pictures, but to actually see the work right in front of you and the absolute perfection and specimen of manhood that David is – it really was an awesome experience, in every sense of the word. (it did help that I remembered to download my walking tour so enjoyed hearing about Michelangelo and his work as I viewed David, the Pieta, and the other displays)
I enjoyed a fresh prosciutto pizza, streetside with a glass of wine (see pic below of my lunch receipt to get an idea of what flirts the Italian men are!! hilarious and quite the charmers) and headed to my appointment to go to the countryside. Now THIS was exactly what I had so hoped for my trip – to get a “Backdoor through Europe” as Rick Steves puts it: get to know the people, get off the beaten track and discover the hidden charms of Europe.
So, there I found myself between an Italian grandfather and his grandson, motoring our way through beautiful Tuscany to their charming home on a hill. I now know exACTly what I want my future home to look like:) It was so beautiful and quintessentially European…I followed Grandpa around like a little puppy – fed the chickens, pet the horses (which, btw, i found out are dancing show horses that have won a lot of awards), etc etc. We were not able to make the cheese factory so they arranged for me to come back out the next morning and Lucho’s friend, Rafael, took me to see a family’s winery and cheese making business where I got my own personal little tour of the place along with stunning views of the countryside. So blessed!
Anyway, I am now sitting in a little outdoor bar in Cinque Terre which is hard to describe but I will attempt to do so in my next blog…it is lovely and charming and full of interesting people too. I just got done chatting with a talkative D.C. couple and met another couple from Australia – love meeting people and especially feel connected to home when I run into fellow Americans:)

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