Monday, July 11, 2011

Just Another Typical Day in Florence

Another scarf vendor was willing to spend some time sharing her scarf tying skills with us, using Sharon as a model to demonstrate. Will we ever remember the styles we have been shown and how to achieve them?

We simply have to laugh because while we are completely charmed by Florence and everything Italian, there are moments when the simplest task becomes an ordeal. Sharon needed to mail the postcards she had purchased. I realize that this should not be a complicated process, but it can be challenging when one is unfamiliar with the postal system and the language. Entering the post office, we looked all round to attempt to get our bearings and determine what section or line we needed to be in for purchasing postage stamps. In addition to mailing letters and packages, apparently there is a great deal more financial activity occurring within the walls of the post offices in Italy.

A young American girl was watching us, saw that we were perplexed, took pity on us and explained that we needed a number. There were several boards displaying flashing numbers, but we needed to find out where to acquire one of those numbers. We found a yellow machine that offered three categories for obtaining a number, depending upon your intended purpose. Sharon chose one that appeared to be completely logical and walked up to the counter with her number. The clerk told her that she needed the "P" option, which has the symbol of an envelope. After obtaining her new number, she waited at the appropriate location where there were two clerks, both currently helping customers. Her number 44 appeared on the screen, but there was still no available clerk. Number 45 was called and a man marched right over to one of the busy clerks, whose customer was still standing there filling out papers. They called number 46 and I said, "Let's go on up quickly!" We approached the clerk who was now free and Sharon explained that she had number 44. The clerk shook her head negatively and said, "It's go!" She was trying to tell us that this number was already gone and it was too late.

I said, "It's gone??" She reluctantly agreed to wait on Sharon, whose two postcard stamps cost 3,20 Euro. Each postcard requires two stamps, which must be placed in precisely the appropriate locations. Who would ever imagine that purchasing postage and mailing two postcards would almost require an operating manual? We continued to laugh!! It's all you can do because every task carries a learning curve here.

Ready for our bus tour at 2:00 p.m., the tour meeting location was convenient to our hotel--just across the street, as almost everything we were doing just happened to be. We departed on the Chianti Tour with driver, Giovanni, and tour guide, Giovanna. On our way out of Florence, we passed by a British cemetery established because so many British writers and poets came to the city of Florence to gain writing inspiration. After arriving on their Florentine journeys, many remained until they passed away, so a special cemetery was created for them.

During the bus ride, we passed green, rolling hills where grapes and olives were growing in carefully plotted vineyards. We even spied a golf course, and the particular hole that was visible from our vantage point was seriously situated on the side of a steep hill. It probably wasn't a popular walking course!

We were whisked away to a Tuscan winery, Castello di Querceto, the meaning of which is related to oak, and has been owned by the Francois family since 1897. Alessandro Francois, a descendant of the original owner, Carlo Francois, took over the vineyard in 1978. Even in 2011, the grounds maintain magical historical charm.

Arriving at Castello di Querceto in the northeastern side of the Chianti Classico area, we were brought to a pristine dining room that was beautifully arranged with lovely table settings complete with bread, cheese and some sort of smushed bruschetta, water, and wine glasses. At our table were three young girls in their twenties from Delaware, though one now resides in Philadelphia. We thoroughly enjoyed the wine tasting and accompanying munchies and were treated with just enough of a sample to be able to determine our favorites. I knew I couldn't fit a toothpick in my luggage so I wouldn't be purchasing any Italian wine or olive oil.

As we exited the dining room, almost as though on cue, a brilliantly colored peacock presented a perfectly timed show for us, strutting around with a full display of his feathers in order to please the crowd.

During our return drive to Florence, we stopped in the small village of Greve, where we were given a short time to wander the streets, visit the shops, and absorb some sense of what life in a small Tuscan village represents. Apparently, we were soaking up more local color than the others on our tour, as the entire bus was filled and everyone was waiting for us when we arrived at the appointed site to re-board the bus.

Dinner this evening was at a small restaurant called La Divina Osteria on Via Guelfa, which we happened to walk past on our way to find the square where the Duomo is located (Piazza del Duomo), which we never actually found that night. We dined indoors and I enjoyed the spaghetti--deliciosa! There were two rooms in this restaurant, and the room adjacent to ours was filled with about twenty very boisterous school children. The noise didn't bother us, but some diners appeared to be shell-shocked as they walked out of their dining room.

I'm not sure why we keep encountering such odd restroom issues, but this one was really bizarre. There was only one restroom in this restaurant, and it had a sign saying "toilette." Okay, we get it, but one walks into this room and encounters three stalls with doors. There could be any combination of men and women in there are any given time. Forgive me, but I find that to be beyond strange. Sure enough, when I was washing my hands, a man started to walk right in, but thankfully had the courtesy to turn around and leave when he saw that there was a woman present.

Once again, it has been a long, but wonderful day with many more miles added to the soles of our shoes. Marianne had suggested that we bring a foot cream with us on this trip, and I brought something called Mentha Foot Tingling Foot Cream-Peppermint Oil with Aloe by C. O. Bigelow Apothecaries. My tired feet could almost be overheard saying, "Ahhhhhhhhh....." when I applied this fabulous cream. Someone had mentioned putting Vaseline on their feet, but that sounds a little too messy in my opinion.

We all crashed in our rooms to rest for tomorrow's new adventures. It is refreshing to have our respective quiet time to re-charge our physical and emotional batteries! We all agreed that visiting Tuscany's Castello di Querceto was a major highlight of our trip up to this point.

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