I am entrenched at a recently opened Cosi, which provides an alternative to my living room for writing. With my work and personal activities, it is all too easy to retreat to the comfort of home away from the psychic energy of other humans.
I have been Home a week. My body is finally adjusting to Eastern Standard Time and the mundane all too familiar rituals of my corporate existence.
After spending a wonderful Christmas brunch with my family, my daughter deposited me at the International terminal where I began MY Christmas present to myself.
My friends had began this journey on Christmas Eve. They had one day of Tuscany under their belt before I left the states. There was no way I would miss hanging out with the tribe for Christmas. So I would take this leg solo.
A dear friend and coworker helped me with planning this portion of my trip. I had mastered enough Italian to be dangerous. But I figured, with a big old smile and pleading eyes people would help me along the way.
The flight was uneventful. But I made a decision at that instance, if first class was available on the return trip I would snag it. Even though the plane was big, I'm a tall girl and my luck in snagging an exit row seat had ran out.
I was surprised to find the signs in the terminal in Italian and English, very helpful for a weary traveller.
My other surprise was the lack of toilet seats. At first, I thought there was a problem with my first choice. The lady following behind me was as befuddled as I. Little could I anticipate this was the norm in this lovely country than the the exception. Hell it's not like when you are traveling you would spend your life in the bathroom. Dear God. The things you take for granted.
After a short trip on their regional rail line, on the advice of my associate, I purchased a first class seat on their hi-speed line.
I struggled to stay awake to absorb the Italian setting but the swaying of the train rocked me to sleep like a baby in a cradle.
Before I rocked out, I managed to take in the countryside. Remnants of lookout towers dotted the landscape. It was if I was stepping back in time. Very Cool.
It was the day after Christmas, as expected not much activity for these folks were in holiday mode too.
I was met shortly after arrival in Florence by my fellow explorers. One of our posse found a lovely apartment not far from the train in the heart of Florence.
With the clock ticking on this adventure, I sucked down a quick cup of coffee and we were off to take in Florence. We kept up this pace until we left.
It is truly a struggle to find the right words to describe this city. Although I was a history major and had one semester of Art History under my belt, I was not prepared to ingest the enormity of the art.
Michaelangelo, Donatello, Rafael, artists a more astute lover of art would be familiar works were everywhere.
Famous sculptures sprinkled the city with a frequency of a Starbucks. Wow, became a redundant refrain. There were buildings still standing dating back to 1200. We can't seem to build infrastructure that lasts more than ten years. Ok, so they had slave labor. I digress.
Mind you the rulers in this period raped pillaged and treated the citizens poorly, but the artists of the day were commissioned and celebrated.
We walked everywhere which was critical for two reasons, not to miss anything and to walk off
I discovered early on, Italians breakfast does not include eggs or oatmeal. A shot of espresso and pastry and that's it. To go or carryout is a practice adopted purely for invading tourists.
They stand up to an espresso bar, suck down their espresso and they are on their way.
You do not see people walking around with a cup in their hand. A very familiar scene here.
So we ate a light breakfast in the apartment daily and enjoyed very leisurely lunches and dinners.
We did not have a bad meal anywhere. The food was fresh, prepared with a ton of attention and we were never rushed.
Seafood, lamb and the cheese were my favorites. We closed several establishments but it was never a problem. I'm afraid it will take some time before a return to my favorite local Italian restaurants.
Taking a break from the intensity of the Florence art, we took two day trips, Pisa one day and Sienna and San Gimignano another.
My life partner (more than friend but smart enough not to see each other naked) took the wheel of our tiny vehicle. He was the perfect driver. He just drove.
Anyone else in our group would have spent far too much time thinking about the traffic patterns. Rome was in a completely different league. As he opined, "once you learn there are no rules, its easy."
The tower in Pisa certainly does lean. Did we venture to the the top? Ah no.
Sienna was lovely but I loved San Gimignano was my favorite. It was a still operational medieval community. Seeing modern panties hanging out to dry from the stone structures amused me for some reason. The tiny cars struggling to make it up the streets clearly created for horses seemed surreal.
The city of towers was built high in the hills and surrounded by walls were created to minimize invaders.
Artists, storekeepers, and of course tourists keep this walled city vibrant. The view from the city serves to inspire local artists to capture its beauty on blank canvas. It was cool to see the artists working on their pieces as we strolled in to look at their completed projects.
We wrapped up our trip in Rome. We were greeted at our hotel by friend of the family who is spending a year in Italy. It was great see her and her visiting pal.
I'm really not sure how we pulled it off but we saw the top ten ancient attractions in a very short window of time.
We rang in the New Year at the Spanish Steps after a far too much New Year's eve dinner.
The fireworks started about 20 minutes before midnight. Everyone did their own countdown because there was no official time keeper.
Then we ventured down the Spanish Steps and hung out with our new best friends at the Trevi Fountain.
Our flight on New Year's day was at 11:30 which did not require us to get up too early.
Thank God, there was a first class seat within my budget available which put an exclamation point on the trip. I've wanted to visit Italy since I was in the sixth grade. I was not disappointed.
My friend and Rick Steve were invaluable for our trip.
The one thing I know for sure, is that the trip was too short. But it was great to greeted by kid and my country.
Hopefully, the toilet seat issue will be resolved on my next visit.
It is nice to see other places, but it always nice to return home.