Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Firenze and Let's Make Raviolis!

It is now 2010, January and I am in chilly Florida, temp about 37º Just decided to relive my trip to Lausanne, Paris and Italy so I looked up my blog here and had a delightful time remembering all these wonderful trips. I really do have to write soon after things happen as there are too many details that get forgotten in one's memory bank. I had totally forgotten about the Graphics Museum that I visited to see the Evian bottles and other packaging designs.
Right now I am trying to remember...what Italy was like and to add some of my observations of my week there in Florence.

Florence was the trip of a lifetime as well and I decided to go it alone, once more, to explore and discover. Christopher got me off on the right train to Milan where I would be changing trains to Florence. Everything is so well scheduled here. I am amazed and glad.
I arrived in Milan, disembarked from the train and looked for my train to Florence. Of course very few people are speaking English so I am once again trying to find my way by radar. Fortunately this kindly lady, mother with an 8 yr.old little boy, saw my puzzled look, helped me with my ticket and said in broken English, that she too was taking the same train. Great!

You also have to punch in the ticket, similar to punching a time clock in the states, before boarding. There are very few of these clocks and of course you don't know which track the train is departing from until 10 mins. before you actually are supposed to leave. I did mention that these schedules are cast in stone. YOu have to really hustle to get to your train!
Got on the train, tossed the bag in the overhead, settled in and watched the countryside go by. Arrived in Florence, alighted from the train and now, next challenge was finding the B&B. This was an experience like none other...
The cradle of art and painting - the Medicis, the Duomo, Michelangelo...

Asked a cab to take me there. He looked at me and said it's just down the street. I had heard that this was a walking town but didn't realize HOW walking it really was. So down the street I went, narrow cobbled street, with old buildings, signage and little stores along the way. Everything is little here. Of course coming from the states where the culture lives by the mantra "Bigger is better" made this an interesting insight to the culture I was about to spend the next week in. As I get to the end of the street, there is a big flea market kind of thing going on, with vendors of all kinds, selling anything and everything. It's like the Kaz-bah. The sellers were all swarthy looking guys, hard to tell if they were Italian or from the Middle East, very loud, very carnival like. Trying to find my B&B, I walked along the street (closed to traffic) until I found the building with the name and number.

The front door was huge - about 14 ft high and very heavy looking. I rang the bell and a lady answered, telling me to come to the third floor. I opened the door with great trepidation - in front of me was a stone stairway that looked like it had no ending. So up up up I went to the third floor. I was greeted by Faride - which sounds like Florida - and entered the B&B. It was suprisingly quiet in the entryway. HEr son was playing classical piano and she apologized - and I said no, don't apologize, I love it. He was practicing for a test he was going to take soon. Faride, a short, dark haired woman, about my age, showed me the room. It was all white, with yellow bedspread and a giant window overlooking the street that I had just come from.

I opened the window and reveled in the fact that here I was in Florence, the cradle of painting! Never would I have dreamed that one day I would be where Michelangelo, Brunelleschi and many other famous artists had lived and walked on these same streets. Sounds so romantic and idealistic, doesn't it? My space was about to be shattered by the noise from the street.

Every day at 5am, the vendors would pull out their carts and set up. You would hear men speaking loudly, pipes being dropped, carts being rolled - endless noise until 8am. Well, by then you were awake and might as well get up. Faride made great coffee and breakfast. She was a delight to talk to. The more we talked the more I learned about her and her culture, which wasn't Italian. She was Persian. Or, as she later admitted, Iranian. She had majored in journalism in England as her father sent her and her sisters there to be educated. JOurnalism for a woman in Iran is almost unheard of. So she came to Italy to do what she thought would be her career. Now she was going through a divorce and needed to make ends meet. She did the B&B while she was married and now would be doing it as her income. I loved talking to her. She told me so much about her culture and how she loved living in Italy.

I spent a day in Chianti country, being a "tourist" with 6 other people who signed up for this full day of Italian culture.
We went to the olive groves and to the oil pressings where we also sampled fresh oil with some great bread. Then we went to a local winery and samples their wine. We were feeling pretty good by noontime! Next was our "Ravioli Making" adventure at a private house in the middle of an olive grove. It was totally out of a movie. I want to write so much more about it and all of this takes time, so I add things every time I open up my blog. Here is the final photo of us all after making our ravs and consuming them. So simple yet sooooo good!
The lady of the house, Christiana, is the on my left, laughing. She didn't speak English but was just delightful! The "head" at the end of the table was Alex - he instructed us on how to make the dough, flatten it with the pasta machine and then cut the dough in circles and fill with a ricotta spinach filling, all from scratch. Christiana had been making the sauce when we arrived and if I closed my eyes, the fragrance was like being at my mother in law's. A truly wonderful experience!
I will write more later in another post - it's amazing how much I remember about this trip! And someday I hope when I am on my dying bed, that someone will take this blog, print it out and read it to me. I will again relive this wonderful wonderful trip!

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