Thursday, December 11, 2008

from Italy: settling in

The clouds have settled into the region and we have settled into our warm room just two blocks up from the river Arno.

We have no agenda. Tell Ed how to do a city, be it Paris or Palermo, and you can watch his feet harden, his eyes bear down, and his interest wane. Tell him that we’ll set out and take things as they come and he’ll look up and sometimes even smile.

The rain comes in gusts and spasms and through no doings of our own, we manage, until the very end to avoid all of it.

In Florence, I have only two goals – that Ed should see the Duomo from up close and that we should set foot in a museum that may stir his soul. Oh, and throw in a view, too. What is Florence if not a city that is as beautiful from above as it is from its inlaid stone pavements.

In between, there are, of course the small delights. Some are Florence through and through. Some are seasonal. Some are idiosyncratic, given the two players who have such definite ideas about what brings pleasure.

So, most importantly, the Duomo. Up close.

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Nearby street scenes offer plenty of people, but not much people watching material. It’s not cold, but it feels wet and people are in a hurry. Except for this guy.

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The merry-go-round is admired, but no one is taking the time to put their child on a horse.

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Me, I'm steering Ed to a museum that is actually a new one for me as well -- the Museum of the History of Science. It's not surprising that I would have passed it by up to now. Perhaps my least favorite subject in school was physics. (Perhaps Ed’s most favorite subject in school was physics.) Still, there is currently a special exhibit devoted to Galileo’s telescope and I think both of us would find good things there.

Indeed. The exhibit is superb! (And we are the only visitors, so that we can lose ourselves in the beautiful story of how Galileo and those after brought us closer to the science of heaven.)

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Inspired, I forge ahead. We should see the Pitti Palace, where there is an exhibit on the Medici rule and the development of science. On the way, we stop for what becomes an Ed favorite: biscotti by the kilo.

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But, there is a penalty for pauses. We just miss the cut off time for buying entrance tickets (3:30 in the winter… who knew…) And the Boboli Gardens are also closed for the day. The view will have to come from elsewhere. That’s not hard. We walk along the Arno, then climb up the hill to the Piazza Michelangelo. From here, you can truly take in Florence -- the city that changed art and life and the link between the two.

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It’s starting to sprinkle. Nothing severe, really, but a reminder that luck wont let you coast. We walk back along the river at dusk and I watch cranes play at the waterfront, as lights pop up along the bank and in the calm waters of the Arno.

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Back at the Gelateria Neri, we refresh ourselves with wild strawberry and dark chocolate gelato.

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At the hotel, I struggle with Flickr. Flickr doesn’t like my connection here to the Net. Flickr, like a pouting child, is acting up. It’s near 9 before we set out to dinner.

I choose Acqua al Due even though I am mindful that this place draws a mixed crowd. Italians, sure, but also Americans. It has been discovered some years ago and it has kept its spot on the trendy lists for a while. Still, I really like it. If you’re here only for a few days, why not go to a place that’ll serve you five dishes of varied pastas and risottos for 9.50 Euros? And three salads for 7 Euros? And a wonderful porcini omelet that is puffed up like a soufflĂ©?

No, no meal photos. Not enough light to show off the foods. Outside, on the other hand, the lights are plentiful. And beautiful.

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