We’ve been heading downhill all week!
Downhill (sadly) towards our departure from Italy and walking downhill(s) during our death marches in Genova and Florence.
As you may know, during graduate school I spent the Fall of 1981 at Clemson’s Charles E. Daniel Center in Genova.
Last Tuesday, I went back for only the 2nd time since then and Mike’s first visit to this historic seaport.
At one point, Genova and Venice ruled the Mediterranean and often fought each other. Remnants of Genova’s walls remain and it’s former palaces are now museums or commercial buildings. Above on the left is the Palazzo Bianco (white) and across the street Palazzo Rosso (red). Originally these were private houses of the wealthy.
They and their neighbors have incredible courtyards, gardens, and terraces as well as intricate decoration on both the interior and exterior.
Even the entry court for the carriages were decorated like crazy-below is an example of another former Palazzo that is now a bank!
After wandering to the main piazza (town square) – Piazza Ferrari (yes THAT Ferrari)
we grabbed a taxi and headed uphill to the Villa. We discussed walking since it was only a mile but as you will see later, it’s quite the mile!
Not much has changed, the view from the villa’s garden of this tower is the same as in that class portrait from 1981. There must be a thousand sketches of it amongst Clemson Architectural Alumni.
At the Villa we had a delicious lunch prepared by Angela, the cook who was there when I was! She is now retired but was back for a few days filling in for the current cook. It was so good to see her and have one of her wonderful hugs. I think she was almost as excited as me to see each other again. I spent a lot of time in her kitchen that fall. Other than her hair she doesn’t appear to have aged a bit! We reminisced in broken English/Italian (her English has been much improved after 30 years) and when it was time to go, she remembered that the last time we said goodbye we had both cried. We didn’t this time…though it was close!
After saying our goodbyes, we started our downhill death march. The second set of steps is at the top of this post, that was preceded by a long, long, Long curved stepped ramp and followed by over a mile of steep streets, stepped alleys, and stepped ramped sidewalks until we again reached the old historic port city.
After a beer and thigh (they was burnin!) break we wandered towards what used to be the docks (and the part of town no one went to) which has been developed into a pedestrian area with a market area, skating rink/event space, an Eataly, and a long pedestrian promenade. We walked along it and then back through the narrow streets to the train station (with a gelato stop along the way!). The European flower show was taking place in Genova so there were umbrellas over some of the streets-not sure how they are connected.
We made it back to the apartment a little after 10 pm WORN out. According to our iPhones we had walked about 6.5miles and almost 20,000 steps. For two fat boys it felt more like 20 million!
After a day of rest (I think my phone showed I walked 42 steps on Wednesday!), we got up really early on Thursday and headed to Florence. For long time followers you may recall that during Mike’s 50th birthday trip we had a great meal in Florence and since this is as close as we are going to be for the foreseeable future we wanted to go back and have another.
Since it was outside our allotted budget, and since it looks like Mike is going to spend his birthday in the Copenhagen airport (have to wait until June to hear how all that goes down) we decided this was Mike’s birthday celebration. I mean come on Queen Elizabeth gets two birthdays so why not Mike?
We arrived in Florence a little after 10 and took the City bus up to Piazzale Michelangelo where apparently every tourist within a thousand miles had also decided to visit. This terraced area across the river and up the hill gives a view to all of Florence including the iconic clay tiled dome of the Duomo (cathedral).
After fighting our way past the souvenir stand (oh come on, the Last Supper isn’t even in Florence) and the hoard of Asian tourist all watching each of the hoard have their picture taken individually and then with their spouse and then with their BFF and then with their BFF and their spouses and then with…..we started downhill back into the historic center. It was tough but not Genova tough thankfully!
We wandered through the historic streets until time for our reservation at Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori. This tiny (24 chairs) restaurant is always packed.
It is family run- Mom in the kitchen, Dad (that’s him in the picture above) in the center of the room pouring wine, making salads, and our favorite – hand carving prosciutto-(it tastes different than when carved on a machine) all while son Tomosino greets, explains the menu and takes orders.
Well either due to age or popularity, it appears Dad now supervises a younger guy at the carving station and Tomosino doesn’t have to work quite as hard as unlike five years ago they now make copies of the handwritten menu and the back side is in English. Sorta took some of the charm out of it but who can blame them!
After being seated at the exact same table and chairs as last time we immediately ordered the ham. Yummy!
We were joined at our table (only 24 seats remember) by a nice couple from Maine who spend three weeks a year in Italy. They were up from Rome for the day. We had a great time discussing our favorite travel spots.
For our Primi (first course), we ordered ravioli with butter & sage and a bowl of tomato and bread soup. Both were very tasty!
While we were tempted to order the Parpadelle with duck that we had before for our Secondi we went with new dishes. Veal with tuna sauce (a very traditional dish of cold slices of veal covered with a sauce made of tuna and mayonnaise) and the fried chicken with squash blossoms. This was Mike’s introduction to the veal dish and he really likes it. The other was tasty but we both think the pasta would have been a better choice.
For dessert Mike had Tiramisu with razberries and I had Panama cotta. Both were great! We didn’t know about different types of Tiramisu (remember Mike doesn’t like coffee) until Angela made it with strawberries and no coffee. Sorta like rum spiked strawberry shortcake!
Lunch was delicious and while we enjoyed it immensely it was not the knock it out of the park that we experienced the first time. But is anyone’s second time ever as memorable as your first? But when we are back in Florence we will definitely be going back!
After lunch we rolled ourselves across the river and wandered the Oltro Arno neighborhood which is a little less touristy than the historic center.
There are lots of leather, furniture and art shops as well as beautiful old streets with my favorite old Italian people!
There is of course at least one church worth seeing -in this case Santo Spirito. It was designed by Brunelleschi who designed that big ol dome on the Duomo. It is full on Renaissance architecture on the interior. He died just as the first columns were being installed and hadn’t designed the facade so it was left plain. His students oversaw the completion of the interior based on his completed drawings.
After making our way back to the other side of the river again, we went through the outside market near San Lorenzo and then into the central market. The main floor of the market closes after lunch but since the last time we were last here, they have created a food hall on the upper level where each of the stalls on the perimeter is a different local-ish vendor. And no Jane we didn’t go because we were hungry, but to buy a little something for our train ride back to Milano. They have prepared meals-chicken, pasta, steak, seafood as well as other specialty products. In the center are tables and a big bar with beers, wine and soft drinks.
I bought a cheese tray from a new stall-it was their first day. They specialize in Mozzarella-two farmers had gone together. One raised cows the other buffalo. While I was waiting the buffalo farmer struck up a conversation and invited us to his farm! Next trip I hope. He also gave us a taste of their frozen UNSWEETENED yougurt. Tasted like cold cheese-really good.
Mike bought some prosciutto style (it wasn’t from Parma) ham. We then killed a little time having a beer and then headed to the train station only to find out that our train was 65 minutes late. Ugh.
When it finally left we did high tail it back-top speed was 300 kmh (186 mph) and most of the trip we were at 260-280 kmh.
We walked back in the apartment at 11:30 so another long but fun day. We had walked over 7 miles/20,000 steps. Again we were beat!
I had intended to finish this post out with details of our last two days here in Italy I rambled way too much so I am going to stop here and will post again while killing time in the airport on Tuesday morning before our flight to Santorini.