Saturday, September 10, 2016

Cristina, Forte Belvedere, Wandering

Yesterday, September 9, 2016), we were up and breakfasted much earlier, but we waited to meet Cristina at La Scaletta at a little after 10:15 AM. She looks well, and is about 6 months pregnant. Her parents have moved home to Romania; her younger sister Ioana Andreea is living with her. She had just been to the doctor, who has ordered rest for her and no more work until after the baby is born and her maternity leave ends. (So, as the baby is due in December, no work for her, should she decide to return, until next May.) She has invited us to invite ourselves to her apartment for dinner, whenever we would like. We visited with her until about noon. It was wonderful to see her again; she is always a delight.

When we left, it was already a miserably hot day, 92 degrees. We decided to walk, very slowly, up to Forte Belvedere, to see how the view compares to other vantage points we've tried. (Again, unless otherwise noted, picture credits to Shawn Hale; some few may be mine.)

The close-up view of Forte Belvedere from Room 21 at La Scaletta
A view giving a slightly better sense of the distance from our room; that's the Kaffe Haus at right
The way, up Costa di San Giorgio, is narrow, though not bad by Florentine standards, and not as steep as the street up to CafĂ© Reggia degli Etruschi in Fiesole, but steep enough. We were quite hot, and Nancy quite light-headed when we arrived at the Forte. Of course, the 3 double and 1 single espresso consumed beforehand may have contributed….

The views from the Forte are magnificent, though perhaps not quite so spectacular as those from Giardino Boboli, Piazzelle Michelangelo, San Miniato al Monte, or Bellosguardo. One does not necessarily see the city’s stars from their absolute best sides at Belvedere, though after looking again at Shawn's pictures, I'm quibbling. Then, too, the viewing is done from peastone walks, while one is monitored by park guards; admission is free, but perhaps because of this, guards are everywhere, suspicious and a bit petty in enforcing rules. It must be a very boring job for the most part, and like those condemned to boring jobs everywhere, they take the piss out of all they encounter as a recompense. UPDATE: For a while, in 2014 at least, Forte Belvedere was closed to the public as some visitors had fallen to their deaths from the battlements. So, the strict enforcement becomes a bit more understandable, when seen in that light.

We briefly met with a nice young couple who seemed to be Italian (or perhaps Portuguese) when he asked me to take their picture with her pink phone, and then offered to take ours as well. Though we are not so attractive as they were, the backdrop is pretty nice…

All through the Forte, and indeed in Piazza della Signoria (seen) and Palazzo Vecchio (not yet seen) are Jan Fabre sculptures on temporary display. Many are peculiar; he has a fascination with beetles, gilt finishes,horns, and an odd perspective. One sculpture is accompanied by a soundtrack of a laughing man; it became annoying and then vaguely disturbing. Still, it’s fun to see what will be new each time we visit.

After making our way back down San Giorgio, which also offers the entrance to Giardino Bardini, which may be worth a visit, we stopped for a drink at the little snack shop that is the outdoor portion of La Galleria Il Vino dei Guelfi. I tried a Campari Soda; bitter, but very refreshing. Shawn’s Peroni was too sour for him, but cold. Overheard an American meeting four Chilean men who had been ogling Italian women, and indeed, creepily, taking photos of them.At least the Texan called them on the stalker behavior. (Which has since taken on a more sinister note, perhaps.)

After, both exhausted and overwhelmed with the heat, we retired to our room at La Scaletta for a long rest. Shawn napped, Nancy read, and we marveled in the glory that is air conditioning and wondered if we might be over the magic of Florence. (Nope, just really hot and tired. And thinking that October or November are probably lovely times to visit, too, though the terrace may not be open then.)

In the evening, we had drinks on the terrace--prosecco for Nancy and a Long Island (Iced Tea ?) for Shawn. After a bit, we made our way back to  La Galleria Il Vino dei Guelfi for dinner, where we sat in a corner next to a British couple. The food there is quite good. Delicious ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach with butter and sage sauce for me; pennette arrabiata for Shawn. And then we shared some branzino for secondo, our first fish in Italy, grilled whole, and filleted at the table by the owner, thoroughly good. I surprised myself by not wanting dessert. We both had some trouble falling asleep, and we hope desperately that the weather will grow cooler.

Saturday, September 10, we went first to Santo Spirito, to capture some of the cool, calm and beauty we have loved. The church does not disappoint; the market in the square is like a small farmers’ market and flea stalls,  fun to wander and look.
From Bellosguardo, in 2014
No evidence of our brass man today. We then walked down Via Maggio, looking in shop windows and growing warm, though at least not going up any hills, until we reached Porta Romana. We returned up Via dei Serragli, again examining shop windows and noting again where da Ginone may be found.

We stopped back in Piazza Santa Spirito for a cool drink, stopping at Caffe Ricchi. We were able to sit at a table outside to people watch and enjoy my bicchiere of vino de casa bianco and Shawn’s birra media (Nastro Azurro), though we did have to move from one end to the other, as we had inadvertently sat in an area reserved for the ristorante. We are considering a return for dinner.
Image from the Caffe Ricchi website
We then walked across Ponte Vecchio, admiring jewelry, and all the way to Piazza San Marco, half-heartedly looking for the pizza place at which Dino now works. No joy, but much heat. We opted to return to Pizza O’Vesuvio, which was wonderful again. On the way, we stopped to look at the map ,and we accosted by a living statue who was kissing everyone, and then asking for money, pleading twins. She was quite put out that Shawn only offered 5 Euro, and wanted to argue. He dropped into Japanese to tell her no, which threw us all, but was surprisingly effective.

Back across Ponte Vecchio and to La Scaletta for an air-conditioned rest break. After a bit, we dressed up and headed up top for a drink, intending to walk into Santo Spirito for dinner. But one Hugo and Negroni turned eventually into more, and then dinner, and then some complimentary wine and limoncello. The cocktails are excellent, the food good, the view marvelous, and the staff giving it there all. Shawn was briefly taken for French by a Frenchmen, after a convincing Monsieur. At the next table, a group of four Germans was very good-natured, and I developed an admiration for one of the group, a woman with Betty Page bangs and an absolutely unguarded and absurd laugh. It was pleasant to sit in cooler night air and do nothing but admire the view and people watch.

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