Arrivederci Riomaggiore, Hello Firenze!

Arrivederci Riomaggiore, Hello Firenze!

Oh so sad to be leaving our first stop. What a great start to our Italian adventure.

The one and only . . . Lorenza!!
5 bottles of wine, a bottle of beer and a little, tiny limoncello down

Lorenza and her husband, Franco, insist on going with us to the train station and carrying our luggage (in spite of our protests). Once she has seen us safely to our platform, she bids us a very warm goodbye and we hop on our train to La Spezia.

The first of two legs goes just fine – a whole ten minutes ride. We got this! Then I notice that we have seat assignments on the second leg, from La Spezia to Pisa. All of our other train segments have been no assigned seating – every man for himself. Ok, so we are in car #7, seats whatever and whatever (we never found them). So as the cars are rolling in, they all have a big “2” on the side – which is second class. Hmm. “Just get on!”, says my long suffering husband. So as we “just get on” at the nearest door, we notice the car number in a little square that you can only see when the door is opened and folded outwards. Unfortunately, we are entering car #4, not #7. “Don’t care” says Don’s face.

So we find two empty seats and plunk ourselves down as general chaos seems to reign in the aisleway. The two people opposite us are kicked out by people who actually have seat assignments for those seats and there is quite the musical chairs thing going on all around us, but magically, no one arrives to claim our seats and we don’t have to move or find car #7, which is good because we don’t even know which way that would be from where we were.

Can you say “too much luggage?”

We had a great conversation with the young couple from Seattle, comparing notes from our stays in Cinque Terre. They were also heading to Florence. This particular train was ten minutes late, thereby cutting our transfer in Pisa from a very doable 18 minutes to an impossible 8. And, in spite of many people running with their luggage and the two cute Italian ladies in front of us just missing the door closing by a second – the door wouldn’t re-open and a bunch of us were left stranded on the platform as the train pulled out without us.

But there are quite a few trains from Pisa to Florence during the day, so the young couple and two brothers who had now joined them, figured out which one we should take that would get us there the fastest, and it was only about 20 minutes away. The one brother was going to Lake Como for his best friend’s wedding which was coincidentally being held at the same hotel was stayed at in Varenna. All these little connections are one of the best things about travelling.

The conversation eventually got around to our month long trip and retirement. One of the brothers (they are from New York) said he had no idea how he would ever retire – wouldn’t he be bored? And the young woman from the couple raised her eyebrows and said, “Do they look bored!?!”. He had to admit – it looked like we were having a pretty good time in our retirement.

Anyway – I am happy to report that we did make it to Florence and our nice hotel which, unlike the last one that we stayed at in Florence, I am very happy to recommend.

It even has a small, intimate rooftop bar with yet another amazing view

Since we have no agenda for our one day stay in Florence, I thought it would be fun to look for the hidden wine doors of the city – something I only just recently learned about. These little doors were created in the 1600’s during the Italian plague (some even earlier apparently) so that the rich people could sell their excess wine to the lower classes without actually having to have contact with them. Today, some clever entrepreneurs have even reopened their wine doors for everything from coffee, to ice cream, to wine. There are over 150 of these little gems within the old walls of Florence – how hard could it be to spot one (you may ask). We did find one, but only because I asked our waitress about them and she pointed the one out on the door to the kitchen.

Wine door

Unfortunately, on our walkabout today, we were unable to find any on our own. There is apparently a walking tour for the wine doors, so I guess we will just have to come back.

We got cornered near the Ponte Vecchio by a lonely young woman from Montana. She had been travelling with a friend, but the friend had to go home earlier than she did, so she is here on her own. Goes by “Sammy Joe”. Obviously missing safe social interaction, she chatted non-stop about a bunch of things, and eventually offered to take our photo by the bridge. Sure, why not? 24 frames later, and with Don actually walking out of the frame, we finally made our escape (after returning the photographic favour of course), by heading in the opposite direction. I was headed for the money shot of the bridge which for me includes the grass and the boats underneath.

Ponte Vecchio

So that’s pretty much all from today, tomorrow we head south to Greve in Chianti on the first day of a three day wine festival. We will be picking up our car and heading to the dreaded “toll roads” – hopefully we will remember how not to create a chaotic backlog of gesticulating Italian drivers behind us (like the first time).

We didn’t do the Uffizi, David at the Academia, the Piazza Michelangelo, or the Duomo today. What we did do – for us – was just as rewarding (and much less exhausting!). We just wandered around and enjoyed the beauty that is Florence.

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