Any day starts well with a visit to an artisan jeweler. This incredible man presiding over the shop started working there as an 11 year-old apprentice, and learned to be a stone setter under the father of the current owner. He told us stories about the wars in Italy and how much he loves the mountains. I could have listened to him talk all day, to be honest. And the jewelry! My eyes nearly popped out of my head – they were unique pieces of art. The whole shop would fit in my college dorm room, but it was beautifully appointed and had a view over the Arno. Tess chose that visit for her morning vocal exercises, and wouldn’t stop yelling. She was dutifully respectful in the cathedrals though, for which we are grateful.
We headed back to the hotel after that to meet up with our tour guide, who escorted us to San Giminiano and Sienna. Both cities took our breath away with their charm and spectacular architecture. Wandering down cobblestone streets in watery winter sunshine reminded me how much I love Italy, and how happy I am to be back.
We had lunch at a charming vineyard, where we sampled everything from white wine to age balsamic vinegar accompanied by food specific to the region. Dad loved the lasagna and Tess demanded ribbolita (a bread and bean soup). We ate next to casks and listened to the local wine breakdown – a great way to spend the afternoon!
We visited Monterrigioni after sunset, a minuscule medieval village of 50 people with a tiny, perfect church and olive trees on the main square. I could live there. Then we drove home at dusk, chatting with the driver and drowsing in the dark. I still can’t quite believe we’re in Tuscany, but I feel more relaxed than I have in months!
To end the day, we had a late dinner at a little spot around the corner with excellent food and even better waiters! One of them came by to hold Tess and say hi. She was entranced by his mustache and glasses, and her fascination and his kindness gave us a few minutes of quiet and a lot of laughs. I’m pretty sure the whole dining room was entertained! It turns out he lived in Ocanto Falls, WI for four years. Go figure.
We turned in for an early night at 11, ignoring Tess’ ferocious protestations. Dave and I were pooped, so I figured she had to be too. I think she’s adjusting to the big-girl crib they prepared for her. When I originally saw the embroidered linen sheets and pillow, my jaw dropped. After they put so much effort into it, I felt like a jerk not using it – despite the squishy mattress and loose blanket (death trap). As we were throwing caution to the wind, I even let her sleep with a stuffed animal from mom. Gasp! I feel like a daredevil rebel. She’s not supposed to do any of that for a few more weeks.
All in all, Florence is encouraging all of us to let loose and enjoy ourselves. It turns out that my parents and we are great travel companions. You never know, and we are having a rip-roaring good time (unless they’re lying to be nice, but that’s not a family habit.). Tomorrow we see one of the world’s greatest museums and do a little shopping for Tess, who can actually fit into some of the clothes here. It should be a blast.