Sunday, 7 Oct. - Bologna to Florence

We're used to these stations and this route now!

Not wanting to hang around I Portici any longer than necessary, we had breakfast (accompanied by a harpist), and checked out. We managed to get last-minute train tickets at the station, so we got to Il Palazzo well before check-in time, but fortunately our room was ready (this time the Limonaia room, with direct access onto the garden), so we could settle in and then go out and enjoy the afternoon.

Today's photos

We bought a 2-day ticket on the tourist sightseeing bus, and used it to take ourselves up to Piazzale Michelangelo, the most wonderful vantage point overlooking the city.


There are actually two routes, and we could pick up the Red route near our hotel (stop 21), and then interchange to the Blue route at various points.


Mon, 8 Oct - Fiesole

First, pronunciation. Fee-ay'-zo-le, with the stress on the second syllable, not the third. We had to be corrected!  Although it is some way out of central Florence, it is included on the Red route on our tourist bus ticket (see yesterday).

Fiesole has a long history, going back to Roman times, witness the amphitheatre in our photos.  In the medieval period it was a city state in its own right, often at war with neighbouring Florence, of which nowadays it is a rather affluent suburb.

The Wikipedia entry on Fiesole is worth a read, but I bet it doesn't mention Il Fornaio, the little bakery shop where we had lunch.  Nor the exquisite petrol station.

  • Cathedral of Saint Romulus of Fiesole

Today's photos

This imposing monument featuring two horsemen, erected in 1906, portrays the meeting between Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II on 26 Oct 1860.  It quite dominates the town square, the Piazza Mino.


Tues, 9 Oct - Santa Croce revisited

hherhrh

Today's photos


Wed, 10 Oct - Prato

This is an example of having our interest piqued by some little comment we read, which we followed up on, and which turned out to be a fascinating expedition.It's great to be able to get away from the tourist crush to see what the real Italy looks like.

Prato has two railway stations, Centrale (about 20 mins from Firenze SMN on the Regionale) and Porta Al Serraglio, about 3 mins further on. We decided to get off at the latter, as the map told us it was closer to the historical part of town.

Caffè Coppini is a modest little cafè on the edge of the Piazza del Duomo, but it makes good coffee, and we could sit at an outside table enjoying the ambiance and the lovely weather, while gazing across the square past the Fontana del Pescatorello ("little fisherman") to the Cattedrale di Santo Stefano. Here's the sound of its bell - play like a video, but the images are stills.

There were several major culinary discoveries during our holiday. Not all Italian white wine is rubbish, and Prosecco is a lovely light refreshing bubbly; the use of blue cheese in béchamel sauce (Lungarno Bistrot); and Negroni*.

At Via Ricasoli 13 in Prato there is a wine and gourmet food shop called aTipico stocking predominantly local product, so we were somewhat surprised, but highly delighted, to find prominently displayed just inside the door some of the products from Tenuta di Sticciano, the property down near Certaldo where Anne had done her art course last week.

Anne had brought back with her a bottle of their Reserve Chianti, but we had also learned about the wonderful combination of cantucci (little almond biscuits) dunked in Vin Santo, a traditional Tuscan dessert wine. So we bought the Tenuta's vin santo here in aTipico.


Cantucci are also known as 'biscotti di Prato', biscotti literally meaning twice-cooked (plural of bis-cotto). They were supposedly "invented" by Antonio Mattei, whose name is still over a shop just a few doors along on the other side of the street at Via Ricasoli 20.  

According to Wikipedia, " Following rediscovery of the original recipe by Prato pastry chef Antonio Mattei in the nineteenth century, his variation is what is now accepted as the traditional recipe for biscotti. Mattei brought his cakes to the Exposition Universelle of Paris of 1867, winning a special mention." 

 We bought one of the small blue tins from the top shelf, and now have it at home where we can replenish it with locally-acquired cantucci, although vin santo is less easy to buy in Australia.

Today's photos


*NEGRONI is easy to make, and even easier to drink. Equal thirds of Campari, red Vermouth (eg Cinzano Rosso or Martini Rosso) and gin. Jessica in the NH Hotel Padua adds a few drops of bitters. Ice and a slice of orange. Stir. For a low-alcohol everyday version, replace the gin with fizzy water. It keeps most of the flavour without the kick. It sounds akin to the Americano described in this paragraph from Wikipedia: "While the drink's origins are unknown, the most widely reported account is that it was first mixed in Florence, Italy, in 1919, at Caffè Casoni (formerly Caffè Giacosa), located on Via de' Tornabuoni and now called Caffè Roberto Cavalli.

Count Camillo Negroni concocted it by asking the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to strengthen his favorite cocktail, the Americano, by adding gin rather than the normal soda water. The bartender also added an orange garnish rather than the typical lemon garnish of the Americano to signify that it was a different drink."


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