Italy- Week 5.

26 Sep

Dear Friends,

The leaving. Oh, the leaving. It is wrought with mixed emotions. Gratitude, sadness, fear, relief, they all have lived together these last few days. We leave tomorrow for a quick overnight in the town of Orvieto, and then a night in Rome, before heading to the south of France for a few days. The last week has been a mix of “I want to go there one last time”, packing and organizing, and last minute shopping. Today was our last full day here, and I have been brought to tears more than once, filled with tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to have been here, sad for all of the things we didn’t do (turns out five weeks goes really fast), excited for what is ahead on our trip, and wondering how it will feel to go home.

Last weekend, Eliana and I went for coffee and a walk and let Sky sleep in a little. Highlight of our trip #1: Spending sweet time with my incredible daughter. She amazes me every single day. (Now I’m teary again, thinking about my girl.)Image

There’s a little neighborhood piazza about five minutes from our apartment, so it’s a great spot for coffee when we don’t want to walk too far. Eliana always gets a croissant (called a brioche, here), and I get cappuccino. Image

Later that day, we all went to a real sit-down lunch in Piazza della Passera and then did some window shopping. As we were leaving one store, a bicycle whizzed by, and it was the director of Eliana’s preschool! She shouted, “we’re going to the park, see you there!” Never one to miss out on an invitation like that, Sky took Eliana to the park, and I went home to make dinner and get ready for my date with myself to hear some Gregorian chanting at the San Miniato monastery. A text check-in about two hours later told me that they were at a birthday party and were busy eating cake! So, I ate my salad alone.


I headed up the hill to San Miniato. Highlight #2 of our trip: being alone in Firenze. I really love exploring by myself, stopping when I want to, eating something when I’m hungry, taking my time, following my own rhythm. Taking time for myself while here has been a gift and I am really thankful that our plans unfolded in such a way that I was able to be alone so often. Furthermore, Sky and Eliana each had their own time, too: Eliana at her school, and Sky with his studies.

So, anyway, off I went to San Miniato. The walk was steep, but I soldiered on.

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Not surprisingly, there were a lot of people at the top taking pictures of the sunset view, eating panini’s, and sharing wine. But shockingly, not many of them wandered inside the chapel for the free concert. I think they just didn’t know about it.



I took some audio of the concert; it was truly beautiful and transported me to a place inside myself that I have not felt in a long while. I am not sure how to explain it. It was a stillness and a peace that has eluded me for several months, a sense of presence where I was outside my head and only in the moment. I was super proud of myself for going, for even though I know the time alone is nearly always good, it is not always so easy to make it happen. As I walked back home, I was only aware of the quiet, as the sounds of the city were far away.

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Seeing the city lit up at night gives it such a different feeling.  Calmer, and even more majestic than daytime.

While here, I wanted to do at least SOMETHING super-local-feeling. Granted, the market shopping and just basic living necessities gave us that experience, but I spent a fair amount of time researching events, festivals, and the like on locals websites, and I wanted to make use of all that info! So, Sunday, we headed to South Florence, a part of town we had not been, and looked for the circus that I had read about. The day did not go as I expected, but as is common for us, it didn’t matter! It ended up being even BETTER. Highlight #3: Exploring new places and making each experience worthwhile. We love getting lost and finding what’s cool about where we are, and most of the time, we are successful. Every once in a while, we end up in a dud situation, but not often.

The “circus” wasn’t really a circus, or at least not while we were there.  After finding some lunch (great pizza) and eating in in the park, Eliana played for a long time, and Sky and I had a great conversation on a bench. Highlight #4: Serious quality time with my fabulous husband. He is even more amazing the more I get to know him.



The park also had a section with a bouncy slide, and ball pool (what is the official name of those things?), and Eliana managed to make new friends in about two minutes.


Her new friends were a brother/sister duo.  The boy, Lorenzo, was about eight, and the girl, Sophia, was about six. The boy spoke a tiny bit of English, and Ellie might have broken out a little Italian. They were so kind to Ellie and they played well together for a long time! 

The best thing about this little section of the park was that the guy manning it brought out huge pieces of butcher paper and paint, and Eliana Picasso got right to work with a few other kids. It was totally brilliant; let’s do this at home in our parks!




Ellie worked on some sections of this painting. She stayed longer than any other kid and was dead set that she needed to “finish it”.

After the bouncy/painting extravaganza, we headed toward the “circus”, but stopped to fill our water bottles.


This was photoworthy because you can see that there were two choices- water with “gas” (bubbly water) or water “plus” (not sure what the plus is, but it was still water). Very fun to have both available in the middle of a park!

It turned out that the afternoon program was a free kids event that they called the circus olympics. Kids in the audience were invited to participate along with adults and kids who must have been part of a summer camp or something. IMG_5026

Eliana and I got right in on the action.

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Then Sky got jealous, and he tried to step in, too.  That’s him on the far right, wearing the blue t-shirt.


So, mission accomplished. Even though we didn’t actually see a circus, we definitely took part in a real local event! It was wonderful to explore a different area of town (very 1970’s instead of 1270’s), and get to spread our wings just a little more.

The trip home took us past the San Niccolo tower and down Via di San Niccolo, a pretty street that leads to our apartment.

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We were definitely starting to get sentimental at this point! Random photos abound.

Dinner: homemade minestrone soup and crusty bread. Delicious.


As I said earlier, the week has been a weird mix of last stops, visits back to some favorite places, packing and organizing. I was on a mission to find a piece of jewelry as a special memento of my trip. Sky wanted to spend hours in a cafe studying and writing. Eliana went to school but stayed home one day because she had a nasty cough. We all tried to take care of ourselves and each other while enjoying the last days here.


I had a solo coffee/brioche date one morning while I went looking to find a piece of jewelry.


And I found something beautiful in this small shop! I even met the artist!


Eliana and I went for a long walk that afternoon. She has been so enthralled with the art here, we wanted her to choose a small piece to bring home.  She and I went looking at the street artists near the Uffizi and she chose a beautiful watercolor of the Duomo. Then she wanted her picture taken with the package! Highlight #5: Watching Eliana becoming increasingly interested in art- both seeing it and doing it. I don’t know what else to say about this except that it is truly incredible to see my child develop her passions.


A favorite view.

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This massive bike race has taken over the city this week. All bus schedules are screwy, and there are many places you can’t even cross on foot. Every time a biker comes down the street, sirens go off, and they are escorted by a police motorcycle, then the rider goes by, followed by their sponsorship car. In the car must be some coaches or something because they are always yelling at the rider.

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An alternate route home from Eliana’s school took us past this beautiful green space next to the Arno, and allowed us to see some views we hadn’t seen before.

One day, Sky and Eliana and I went to lunch together near Santa Spirito. I had heard about this place, Trattoria Casalinga, known for it’s reasonable prices and large portions.



We ordered the antipasto platter, which came with three different kinds of crostini.  One had chicken liver on it, and Sky was really macho about finishing it. We also had a platter of gourmet mushrooms, which was a surprise (we thought we were getting pasta with mushrooms), and a yummy pasta dish with meat sauce.


Afterward, there was gelato, of course.  This place was a real find- Gelateria La Carraia.


Here are a few random shots from the last few days:

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Waiting at our bus stop to take Eliana to school.

After Sky and Eliana wowed the crowd at the school party last week, we got a few requests for Sky to bring in his guitar and do some music in her class. We went together this week, and it was a big hit! Highlight #6: Eliana’s school. We are so very grateful to the people there for making her, and us, feel so welcome and comfortable.

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And then there was today, the last day. My ankle has been a little sore for some unknown reason, so I needed to take it easy, which really bummed me out. Sky took Eliana to school alone; it’s quite a long walk from the bus to her school, and we felt it was more important to rest my foot since we still have a lot of walking ahead of us! So, I made the most of it by taking the bus directly to where I wanted to go, which was Piazza Santa Croce. I had visions of sitting, writing in my journal, and soaking up the vibe.

First, coffee. It might have been the best cappuccino yet. Sky has a theory that the little hole in the wall places are the best, and today’s spot was definitely that! The croissant was really yummy, too, and I have mastered the art of dipping it in the cappuccino for the ultimate decadence. Highlight #7: The coffee. I will really miss it.


My Santa Croce journaling dream was realized, and then I headed over to Palazzo Vecchio. I hadn’t been there at all, and thought it might be fun to take a little exploratory journey.  It was a beautiful building, and I would have liked to see the museum, but given my ankle I thought it best to move on.

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When I headed outside to the Piazza della Signoria, I was met with huge, HUGE crowds. I’m not sure if they were all there to see me, or what. I doubt it, because no one paid any attention to me, but I couldn’t imagine what everyone was doing.

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I captured a classic tourist temptation: man eating a pizza slice with his horse and carriage. (I sort of wish we’d done this, actually.)


My ankle was feeling good, and I really wanted to suck the marrow out of this last day, so I headed farther north toward the Piazza della Repubblica. The Straw Market is right there, so I did some browsing.

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This gelato place is called Venchi, and for some reason it is super popular. I found it overpriced, not that good, and the sales people were rude. But that’s just my opinion!

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My walk home took me over the Ponte Trinita, where I got some last looks at the Ponte Vecchio. Highlight #8: The beautiful views around every turn. Whether it’s a bridge, a piazza, a winding side-street, a fresco on a building…this city oozes with history and charm.

Later in the afternoon, we headed out to meet a jeweler who I worked with to design a custom ring. I love it! And, here he is! His name is Arlo.


There was a good lesson learned in the making of the ring. It was not an easy process for a variety of reasons that were not in my control. I let it go, and found another piece at that small shop I told you about earlier. But Arlo came through for me, and in the end, I got two beautiful pieces that I will have forever. The lesson is that when something seemingly negative happens, it could be helpful to remember that something even better might be around the corner. Something like “when one door closes…”. Having an attitude of openness definitely helps! Highlight #9: Good life lessons learned on the road.  There are so many, and they keep showing themselves in little ways. I have more reflecting to do on all that I am learning.

For our final dinner here, Sky made a delicious pork chop with eggplant, olive and tomato saute, fresh pasta with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, and a cucumber yogurt salad. Highlight #10: The food. Sky cooked nearly every night, and there was not one bad meal. We loved panini’s for lunch and pizza slices randomly (though I am, admittedly, a little panini’ed out now). The ingredients were so fresh, and we are inspired to cook new things when we get home. At dinner tonight, we all shared things that we loved about being in Florence, and it became clear quickly that there are simply too many incredible memories and experiences to say them all. It was fun listing some highlights from the trip in this post… but the list is terribly incomplete.

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Sky made a point of making the Italian flag on our pasta. He’s so clever.


So, that’s it. Our time in Firenze is over. Tomorrow we will take a taxi, a bus, and another taxi to the Tuscan countryside for one night, and then off to Rome overnight, and then to Provence, France. No, we are not seeing a darn thing in Rome. We just couldn’t do it all, and some hard choices had to be made!

I only have one link for you this week, and I promise it is worth watching.

This video about new research to be happier is making the rounds, so you may have seen it. (From upworthy)

I watched this video this morning, as I was getting ready to head out for my last day in Florence. I cried happy tears and thought about people I appreciate. I liked the action suggestion at the very end.  Plus, just the video itself made me smile, because the “host” looks about fifteen and he makes fun of himself.

I thank you all, again, for your comments, support, and well wishes.  With almost two weeks to go, we are excited to get back into “travel” mode and explore more of our beautiful world.



Ponte Grazie Firenze on a Gelato run

A parting shot. Sky took this of the Ponte Vecchio one night while on a gelato run.



6 Responses to “Italy- Week 5.”

  1. Steve Isaacs September 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    Dana dear,

    This brought tears to my eyes.

    You are really a VERY gifted writer (Julie Barer says so too).

    It is hard to believe you’re leaving. You just got there!!!


    • Dana September 27, 2013 at 12:03 am #

      Thanks so much, Dad, your encouragement means a lot to me!

  2. Leslie Isaacs September 26, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Reading the blog and seeing the pictures put me in Firenze with you. What incredible memories you have all created of a unique and special time in your lives. Very tough to leave but, as you said, more adventures await; your openness to them is thrilling. Can’t wait to see you all.


    • Dana September 27, 2013 at 12:03 am #


  3. Margaret Haynes Meritt September 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Beautiful post and fabulous daughter!

    • Dana September 27, 2013 at 12:02 am #

      Thank you! Thanks for reading!

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