Saturday, February 6, 2010

She Said Yes

No better way to start the day than with a gigantic morning sugar rush.  We hired a taxi to drop us off at Santa Croce Piazza, and luckily, happened to stumble upon a chocolate market in full swing.  I felt like I was at costco, except everything was made of chocolate.  Free samples, yum.  Kristin ordered a cookie with little chocolate candies on top, but what appeared to be a cookie was actually solid white chocolate.  Very rich.  

 An assortment of truffles 

 I 'll have that one and that one and that one...

 Check out the chocolate camera at the right and some machmalo, what what 

 Colorful candies

 This was a serious chocolate market, seriously like 4 rows

No shortage of offerings, we did not see anything twice 

 yum yum yum yum yum yum

 Are those Tapirs?

 crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch

 More More More!

 Fondente Mandorla!  We had some of this, some coffee truffles, and about 10 samples of other varieties

 Ribbet, this market made us forget about the cold 

 Gelati Al Limone

 Looks like a cookie, but SOLID white chocolate 

After nearly contracting diabetes during our morning chocolate free for all, we turned the corner for the more serious and entered the Basilica de Santa Croce, which is a gigantic church and tomb. It houses the bodies of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.  Very famous dudes.  It is also a tomb for other wealthy and famous Florentines.  The walls are very old and sort of whisper the past in very cold hushed tones.  A definite sense of spirituality exists within the basilica, and every now and then you pass through eerie cold spots.  You can just sense that it is an extremely important place and sort of bigger than the here and now.  

 Outside the Basilica 

 A noble lion guarding the premises of Santa Croce

 The Courtyard of the Basilica Santa Croce
 Oh us?  We just chilling.

 I do not know the stories behind these, but they are interesting

 An entrance

 Underground tombs

A corner of the church

 An empty courtyard 

 A door to the holy

 The tomb of Galileo at left

 A tomb

 The tomb of Michelangelo 

 Facing the front the altar in Santa Croce

 The tomb of Machiavelli

 To call these walls ornate would be an insult

 Satined Glass Windows

 These churches have interesting side temples that are so interesting 

 A chapel off to the side

 This room was really cold

 The exterior of Santa Croce Basilica

A very cool stationary shop that makes every thing by hand 

We took a leisurely walk towards the Arno river while mulling over our options.  Thankfully the rain had ceased, but for how long?  We had been subjected to our fair share of downpours and extreme weather conditions, and quite frankly, were tired of this nonsense.  We tried to plan a day that would involve as little exposure as possible, but before we knew it, we were walking the trails of Boboli Gardens, far from cover.  Lucky for us, the rains did not come.  We enjoyed taking in these gardens, which is essentially the backyard of the Medici.  These gardens span a gigantic area of fountains, trees, and mazes directly behind Pitti Palace,  the home of the Medici.  It does not take along to realize the excessive wealth of the Medici, as this place is beyond elaborate in every way.  Just check out the pictures.
 Feeding the animals 

 Waiting to enter Boboli

 A statue in the courtyard

 The courtyard of Pitti Palace - home of the Medici 

 Inside that dark area...

 Is this cool little room with baby statues (cherubs) swimming, why not?

 The rear of Pitti Palace

 A boo

 The beginning of Boboli Gardens

 A hazy day in Florence 


 A house on the hill

 Some flora

 A statue

 Great Picture

 A small slice of the Tuscan countryside 

 Very cool statue, there was this little old man tending to the gardens here humming to himself

 A rare pic of both of us

 More countryside 

 Never tire of this view, we stood here for like 30 minutes

 Another of the fountain

 Some flowers

 A shattered head

 A very line lane lined with cypress trees

 A delicate curve

 The back of a wing of Pitti Palace

 Kristin being consumed by shrubs

 A fountain

 An obelisk and a tub?

 This cat took a swipe at Kristin just moments after this picture 

 The Medici Grotto 
 Great Walls

A real chubster

 The facade of Pitti Palace

 The most delicious chocolate ever 

 A street corner

 Dinner 1 in a smallish shop

 A carousel at night

One more thing, we got engaged tonight.  


Posing with the new goods

Right under this archway on a cold winter night in Florence

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away

We slept way too late today.  Funny things go on after you undergo a big time change, like, for example, sleeping until noon for no good reason.  After cursing our hefty drapes for a few minutes and lamenting overshooting breakfast by a good hour and a half, we set out.  Rain.  Buckets, cups, even and carafes of it. Rain is tolerable in real life, but on vacation it is a serious bag of fail.  We ducked into a little Caffe for some sandwiches and cappuccino.  We mapped out our day.  Kristin has been demanding that we see the tower of Pisa, so we buttoned our coats, slid our hands into our new leather gloves and set off on foot to the Santa Maria Novella Stazione.

We had a pleasant train ride to Pisa, cutting through the rainy Tuscan countryside.  We passed groves and farms and quaint houses on little hills.  When we arrived at the Pisa station, Kristin had to wait in a long line to use the restroom.  The women's restroom had two stalls, and when one door opened up with Kristin being next in line, she neglected to enter.  Why?  Well, because the lady in front of her yoged all over the bathroom stall.  Kristin hesitated to enter, and the barfer yelled at Kristin in Italian for a few minutes before finally hitting the street to go by smack or whatever crazy people do.  It was definitely a rocky way to start our brief relationship with the town of Pisa.

We loosely meandered our way through the streets of Pisa, getting lost numerous times. We finally saw a decent size group of Asians, and figured that following them would probably lead us to the tower that leans.  It worked.

It is funny this tower.  Pisa Tower is considered the most popular tower in the world, and yet from a technical standpoint, it is nothing more than a stunning failure.  It was built on too small a foundation upon a shifting ground and that is why it leans.  Later construction was built to accomodate and welcome the lean, passed the point of no return it seems.  The tower is not the real interest for me, but rather, the way that we as people have responded to it.  If something is obviously a failure but in such a way that makes it different or perhaps eccentrically appealing, then I suppose people grow to love it.  Watching people respond to this tower really blew me away.  It was raining, the tower is really in the middle of nowhere, and yet, people are absolutely elated to see it and be there.  It was busier than anywhere we went in Florence yesterday, and every single person was taking that one picture where they act like they are somehow contributing to the lean or holding it up, acting like happy kids.  The people all leave and the lonely little tower just sits there, leaning, the most popular architectural failure in the world.

We dropped into a little Pisan restaurant, and were greeted with plates of fresh farmhouse artisanal cheeses, warm loaves, and smiling service.  To live is to eat cheese, and so I was not disappointed at all when the server accidentally mistook our order of one for two orders of cheese plates.  We ate like the gods.  Drizzling honey on crumbling goat cheese and smashing it all between a wedge of bread was my favorite move of the afternoon.  Kristin preferred a firmer manchego type cheese with jam and just a dollop of honey.  After the cheese, we shared a very green Pisan salad.

One thing we noticed today, is everywhere we went, we ran into Sudanese looking people selling umbrellas that speak perfect english.

We took a train back to Florence in the dark, and decided to take the long walk home rather than forking out the dough to take a cab.  We dropped into a supermarket to buy some bread and wine for a cheap dinner.  We had 3 peanut butter sandwiches and some m&ms, oh, with chianti, which is like water here.  Italy, and Europe in general, really puts a drain on your funds.  Twice so far, we have had to sit down and write out all of the things that we purchased just to confirm that we were not randomly losing money.  It adds up in very irrational ways.

At the supermarket, our discomfort hit a fever pitch.  Some quick backstory, we bought really nice handmade leather gloves yesterday.  Kristin likes her gloves so much, that sometimes I look over at her, and she is just staring down at them in some sort of glove crazed trance.  She loves those gloves, and I admit to a special fondness for my gloves as well, though I have yet to go so far as to make dinner reservations for said gloves and I.  Anyways, we are exiting the supermarket, and she realizes that her gloves are nowhere to be found.  She loses it, complete breakdown.  She makes me walk through the store twice, oddly, on HER third trip inside, she finds the gloves draped over a baguette.  Celebration ensues, the end.