HELLO FLORENCE AGAIN We returned to Florence after being away for three months and found our apartment even better than we remembered it. Some of the furniture had been beautifully reupholstered and there was new carpeting in the living room. The air conditioning was working well on our arrival, good news because the heat in Florence has been intense. Betsy took a bunch of photos of the apartment so we could remember it. Here is the view from our window, looking across the Arno at the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio on the left. We see this on awakening every morning, usually to the sound of all the bells going off in all the steeples in Florence.

The shots below show our bedroom from the reception hall and the living room. I won’t bore the reader with the rest.

Our first night here was peaceful. We had a nice dinner at our apartment and then a short walk for gelatto. We woke the next morning to witness the unfolding of events in Beslan, Ossetia. Most of the day we were intermittently clustered around the TV waiting to see what happened. We made a trip to the Mercato Centrale to pick up a few things. We were surprised at how small the crowds seem. Compared to previous visits to Florence, it is really quite empty, particularly if one wanders away from the key tourist sites. The Mercato offered lots of interesting smells and sites.

Amy and Ben arrived late in the day and we went with them over to Borgo Antico at Piazza Santo Spirito, a popular place to eat for students, tourists and locals. We were disappointed. They have crowded more tables into a very limited space, the service was the worst we have experienced in Italy and the food was only fair, all at a ridiculous price. We’ve taken it off our list of places to eat in Florence.

The next day Amy and Ben went off on guided tours of the Uffizi and to see the David at the Academie. We met up at the end of the day in the courtyard of the Uffizi and watched the local artists produce and sell their work. Some were quite talented and some of it is amateurish. The heat remained oppressive, well over 90 degrees in the late afternoon with no sea breeze to cool the air. We were missing the cape. We walked to dinner at La Spada, a very local eatery. It was interesting and the food was substantial but very ordinary. The staff, however, was very friendly and welcoming and we had a good time.

Friday was a horrifying day as we watched the gruesome resolution of the Beslan crisis. Then, to make matters worse, we had to watch CNN do their best to fan the world’s anxiety by trying to create controversy to create news. I really can’t stand their biased and sensational reporting, but aside from the BBC, it’s all we’ve got. By the afternoon we were ready to go out, so we took Ben and Amy to visit the Mercato and then headed over to Santa Croce to tour the church and grounds. Ben wanted to see Galilleo’s tomb and Machiavelli’s monument. We had Café Fredos outside on the Piazza.

Ben took us out for a very nice dinner up the street, where Carlo, who has waited on us twice now and I think actually is getting to know us, waited on us again. The next morning, Saturday, Amy and Ben went off by train to Positano and I went to services at the old synagogue. It’s an enormous structure with high domed ceilings and mosaic over its entire inner wall. Though the early crowd was small, as the morning progressed, the congregation filled in so that by the end of services there were more than a hundred people there. Though some were clearly tourists like myself, most of the people were native Florentians. I didn’t feel uncomfortable, but neither did I feel welcomed. It was an interesting experience and I will return next Shabbat to try to make some connections before the High Holidays.

In order to lighten our very heavy hearts at the events unfolding on the TV, we decided to rent bicycles and ride around Florence. We discovered, to our surprise, that Florence is a great city for this. For one thing, the center is flat. Also, on the eastern side of the city there is a huge park, La Cascine, that goes on for miles. It encompasses bike paths, shaded sitting areas, a remarkably clean public pool, enormous fields for play and concerts, fountains and a large Hippodrome (horse track). Try looking down this path along the Arno to get a sense of the length. You can’t even see the end.

The next day, Sunday, we took our bikes again to the park and wandered over to the Hippodrome where they were out exercising the horses.

We rode out as far as we could on the park until we crossed over a bicycle bridge suspended under the main bridge crossing the Arno east of the city.

We stopped on our way over for a few pictures.

We then crossed over the Arno to find a real supermarket!!! Betsy bought all she needed to make a dinner of her famous delicious Chicken Cacciatore. It was unbelievable- the best meal in Italy! We than went Orsanmichelle for a concert of chamber music that was highlighted by an Oboe soloist who was outstanding.

Monday we walked up to Piazzela Michaelangelo and down the back of the hill to explore the neighborhood. The view from the Piazzela is always amazing, but we found that we could see more from the area even higher up near the Church of San Minieto al Monte.

We spent more time wandering through the neighborhood, discovering new restaurants and stores. We had lunch at a small enoteca (wine bar/restaurant), Enoteca Fuori where we were waited on by a lovely young woman named Julia. The food was good and the setting was lovely. We purchased a bottle of inexpensive but delicious white wine, then walked back towards our apartment. Florence is so exciting. Every corner brings some new historic fact or structure. Tonight Ben and Amy return and Betsy has prepared dinner for them. Tomorrow I hope to go with Ben to the Museum for the History of Science which is having a special show on Galileo.