Our day in Florence, Italy, didn’t start off as well as we had planned. We were scheduled to take a morning tour called Nude and Food with Sam from Florence for Foodies at 9:00 am sharp. They warned us that our 9:00 time was very strict, and if we were late we wouldn’t get to see the Statue of David.
Florence was a little over an hour from our villa, so we planned our travel time accordingly. We made it there in the allotted time, and parked our rental car in the Piazalle Michaelangelo , an easy, free parking lot with beautiful views of Florence. Sam had told us to park there, then take a taxi to the city center. The city center is a restricted driving zone (ZTL), and they are very liberal with the tickets if you inadvertently cross into the ZTL.
Too bad it was pouring rain. There was not a taxi in sight.
I called the number on the sign at the taxi stand, while my family huddled under our miniature travel umbrellas. The man who answered shouted at me “No taxis now – all busy! It’s raining! Call back later!”
Call back later?! Like when? Would the afternoon be more convenient for him?
The only other option was the city bus – at least we could get into the ZTL on the bus. We’d just have to figure it out from there. Of course, the bus stopped at every. fucking. corner. on the way in. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we just weren’t going to get to see the David. And we were okay with that. We still had the “food” part of the tour to look forward to.
When we finally rushed up 15 minutes late, out of breath, expecting to just meet the group as they exited, we were surprised to see Sam standing there waiting for us, holding her Florence for Foodies sign. She had waited! Hooray! It was a good omen for the rest of the day. (also we were the only people in the group, so that probably helped)
Once we saw the David, and took the requisite stealth pictures (because cameras are prohibited), we were on our way to a fantastic morning of food and drink. Sam knew all of the best places.
We started off with some cappuccino and pastries. I have never acquired a taste for coffee, but Hey, It’s Italy! I was willing to give it a shot.
Nope. Still don’t like it.
After that we went to an indoor market where they had produce and meats and cheeses and baked goods, and mushrooms in bulk, and sun dried tomatoes in bulk, and, and…
At the market we did some tastings of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I gotta tell you, the “good” fresh olive oil tastes surprisingly like grass clippings. I wasn’t a fan.
Yes indeed, that photo in the middle is of a green olive. It was really green and I badly wanted to take an “artsy” picture of it. I think my photography skills still need a lot of work.
Next we went to a wine shop to taste Prosecco and Grappa, and have a few sandwiches. I am completely hooked on Prosecco.
Grappa? Not so much. They sprayed a small taste of the Grappa in our mouths. That’s all I needed to know I never want any of that again.
It’s a good thing gelato was next.
After the gelato, we took a two hour break and wandered Florence on our own before meeting Nat for our afternoon tour, Venus and Wine.
Our first stop was to the Uffizi Gallery. Nat went to purchase our tickets, and warned us to be on the lookout for gypsy beggars. We’ve seen them all over Europe in the past, and we know how aggressive and tricky they can be. They are quite persistent and forward, and you don’t want to give them anything, because they apparently have some sort of super communication power, and before you know it, every gypsy in the Tuscany region will descend upon you.
It wasn’t long before a stooped, wrinkled woman dressed in stereotypical Old Gypsy Lady garb (you know- scarves, shawls, long skirts…like an old fortune teller in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland) came up to beg for money. We did what we had been told. We said, “no, grazie” and then made no eye contact. She shuffled around us in a stompy circle, shook her crooked pointer finger at us, and muttered something at us that could only be translated as a curse. I’m pretty sure she even spit on the ground.
We all huddled together and tried to appear nonchalant, but we all let out a sigh of relief when Nat soon returned and herded us off to the Uffizi.
Nat turned out to be an excellent guide, very well informed about the works in the Gallery. She did a great job of making it interesting not only for us, but for the small, squishy one as well. We spent about two hours in the museum, after which we were definitely ready for some wine tasting!
Nat guided us all to a wonderful (and highly rated!) restaurant called dei Frescobaldi, in the heart of Old Florence.
We were seated in a private room, with our own private wine bar and sommelier. Along with some fantastic wines we were also served a variety of meats, cheeses and breads.
One of the best parts of the day was the sommelier, Primo. Primo took a liking to the small, squishy one. He taught him how to open a bottle of wine, and how to decant it. He even let him “make” his own wine, and interesting mixture of several red wines and some coca cola.
Sadly, the day soon came to an end. We said goodbye to our new friends at dei Frescobaldi and headed back (by taxi, this time) to our car in the Piazalle Michaelangelo.
The view of Florence from the parking lot at night was spectacular, so we threw our things in the car and walked to the railing to take a few last photos.
This *heavy sigh* is what we were doing when thieves broke the window of our car, not 100 yards away, and stole my daughter’s purse and a backpack in less than 5 minutes. And we missed the whole thing. It was the gypsy’s curse!
My daughter’s purse had her brand new iPhone 5, her brother’s brand new iPod 5 (his big gift from Santa), her new Michael Kors sunglasses that she bought at a charity night the week we left, and her wallet, with her driver’s license and debit card. That was bad enough, but the backpack contained the medical supplies of my teen son, a Type 1 diabetic. It not only had insulin, but extra blood sugar testers and test strips, sites for his pump, and worst of all, his back up insulin pump – a $6,000 device!
We called the police, who said all we could do was file a report. They gave us directions to the police station, which, of course, was smack in the middle of the restricted driving zone. So in we drove. Once the report was filed, they helpfully *cough* came out with some newspaper and tape to cover the window, and we began the 90 minute drive back to our villa, in the rain.
Like I have said, our vacations are NEVER dull!