Florence – The Walking City… explore Piazza Michelangelo by foot

3C529AF7-46FB-4CF9-A311-DF3A3983D9DBI’ve been to Florence many times, especially when my Florentine grandmother was alive.  When I would visit Florence, I was not a tourist. I was staying with my grandmother. I did do some touring, but mainly I lived the life of a Florentine. Go early to the market to buy your groceries, come home set the table for lunch, always put down a table cloth, grate the parmesan cheese, cut the bread, make the salad – this was routine. With my grandmother gone, I realized I needed to find a new way to fall in love with Florence.

Back in those days, there were hardly any tourists. Some, but you walked the streets comfortably. Now, you walk elbow to elbow with tourists and foreign students. It is so packed you cannot enjoy the city unless you wake up at the crack of dawn BEFORE the tourists have started their day.

The Central Market used to have lovely leather purses, cashmere sweaters, silk scarves, belts and more. Now, the vendors, year after year, sell the same products and it’s hard to know what is real leather and what is not. The designs are not special anymore. It’s sad to see this. Gold is so expensive that the Ponte Vecchio does not sell unique jewelry anymore either. BUT for the first timers to Florence, where the leather goods, etc. are all new to them, they think it is fantastic!

It’s amusing to hear conversations among tourists, there is a competition to know Florence better than the next person, to have been to Florence more times than another person, to be the best Florentine blogger, know the best restaurant  — you get the idea.

So, with my heart feeling a bit sad and nostalgic for the old days, I decided I needed to re-discover Florence in a different way.  I was curious to explore the hills above the Piazzale Michelangelo.

64F1C219-CF8E-4EFA-8BD4-F54CB65CD8F3I got lucky and as I was walking up a long road, I found “The Walking City” map. See the photo of the map. I want to see if they have other maps for walking the city like this. What a great adventure for people who have been to Florence many times, want to get away from the crowds and get some exercise. The views and the villas up there, as you can imagine, are fantastic.

If you make the walk all the way around, you’ll have this view of the Duomo from Piazzale Michelangelo!  Stop and treat yourself to a gelato, you deserve it!

Yes, you can see Florence with “fresh eyes!”

Florence – YES, I found a 99 cent store…

DC6A821E-F171-4F8F-93CE-85290D3A99F4The Family Dollar stores are all over America, but I didn’t expect to find one in Florence. I thought you might enjoy seeing this, so if you travel to Italy you can save money by buying water and other small items here! They really have quite a bit, it’s amazing how the store looks small on the outside, but upon entering it’s quite big.

If you save on water, etc….  you can enjoy a gelato!

 

 

Firenze – Bartolini kitchen store

2AB82753-8768-4542-AB5A-F9EC1B009E18Yesterday, I was walking in Florence and I got lost. I was trying to catch the bus. I knew where I was, but I thought I would be “smart” and take a “short cut” down a small street to get to the bus stop faster, but that led me in a different direction from the bus stop. In Italy, the streets can twist and turn, it feels like being in a maze.

The good news with getting lost is that we explore a new area. I sure got LUCKY on this street. I came upon a store called, “Bartolini.” I was drawn to the beautiful window display of kitchen items. It is fun to explore kitchen stores when traveling.  For example, look at the window display, it’s amusing to see the variety of espresso machines you could buy all lined up! BEAUTIFUL, isn’t it!

Personally, I use my little Bialetti espresso machine daily! Works perfectly, even after years of use. In fact, I was looking at the smallest Bialetti, which would be for one espresso. Trying to find the BEST deal, I have been checking every store to see what the cost of the smallest Bialetti is. I’ve noticed the price for the machine varies from 14 to 17 euros. I’m curious to see what the price is in the country. Hoping to get this down to 12 or 13 euros if possible!

Inside, the store reminded me of  Williams Sonoma in America. Same quality of kitchen items. Everything from pots, pans, Le Creuset, china, appliances, coffee machines, etc… Oh, but with lots of espresso cups and oil and vinegar containers!!

Vienna & St. Patrick’s Day

C0299072-2A7E-43AD-8C19-91F87F19D97DThis past weekend my daughter and I met in Vienna. St. Patrick’s Day was on Saturday and look what we found on our walk – AN IRISH PUB! My daughter had just flown in from Dublin. She said it was touch and go getting to the Dublin airport with all the street closures preparing for the St. Patrick’s parade, but she made it!

Vienna was beautiful, a bit cold though. It snowed on Saturday, but we still were out and about. Here is a view from our hotel room.

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We were in a great location, right next to the market place (green buildings in photo). I need to read about the history of Vienna, because there is a strong Asian influence there. Many Asian restaurants and grocery stories. We bought two Asian pots, mine was blue. I think they were meant for sugar, we weren’t sure.

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We were only there three days, so it wasn’t enough time to go to museums. We decided to take the Big Bus Tour, which was an excellent idea. We drove around Vienna listening to the tour guide and had a chance to see ALL of the main attractions. I would have liked to go to a Strauss concert, but that will have to be for the next visit.

We had wonderful Viennese meals, my daughter took pictures. I told her it was going to look like all we did was eat! The food was delicious.

I was in love with the architecture. Take a look at this beautiful street.

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We have to go again when the weather is warmer. Getting to Vienna from the airport was super easy. They have the CAT train, which took 16 minutes to the downtown area. I didn’t realize you could take a day trip to Budapest.

Vienna – We will be back!

Dedication to an “Official Baker to the Zoo”

E2828475-842A-4F55-A342-262E663B6271I saw this wonderful dedication that I wanted to share with you. It’s from a small zoo in Indiana. Normally, a dedication on a bench is very simple with just a person’s name. However, this was more interesting. It caught my attention, because it was in appreciation of a man who “baked goods” for the zoo.

This made me wonder if he had children and if it was a family event to bake and deliver goods to the zoo on the weekend. Now, the zoo looks very small. There were hardly any animals there, but in the old days if he was an “official baker,” going to this zoo must have been a family outing.

A little bit of history.

I hope this makes you smile, like it did for me!

Back in Ireland… Keep your rosary handy when crossing the street.

FullSizeRender 2I’m back in Dublin and I am THANKFUL for these messages painted on the cross walks. I almost got hit by a car. I forgot they drive on the LEFT side (wrong side) of the road! Or like a funny Pub goer said, “Depending on how many beers someone has they might drive on any side of the road.”

As you can see, they must have had this issue in the past with foreigners crossing when they shouldn’t, because they CLEARLY write, “Look LEFT” or “Look RIGHT.” This is full proof. Thank goodness!

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My daughter has been living in Ireland for 4 years, so she’s an expert at walking fast and just crossing at a moments notice. I find it amusing when she reaches the other side of the street and looks back at me with the expression of, “Mama, WHAT are you doing over there?”

THEN, like a true Italian, I give her a frustrated look while I move my hands pointing to this huge commuter train that could have smooshed me and that I was “trying” to STAY ALIVE! We both chuckle at that!

On a lighter note, here is a map of the main part of Dublin. I think you can probably enlarge it. Then you will see that I was exploring the Trinity College area.

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IMG_4415I was looking into taking the “Hop On, Hop Off” tour bus. As I was doing this, I heard Italians speaking. There was a big group of them. Made me think of my Mom. They told me they were from Milan.

Which reminds me. When I was at the airport there was a Spanish speaking woman in front of me. It didn’t look like she had flown before, because she asked me “in Spanish,” if I could help her. I spoke to her in Italian (some words are similar) and moved my hands to show her that she needed to take her shoes off, throw water bottle away, put her purse in her main bag, etc. She was sweet and hugged me. It is a bit stressful, even if we are a seasoned traveler, because we are trying to get through the x-ray machine at the same time our carry on comes out.

It feels good to help someone! That good feeling stays with us for a couple of days!

The week is not over… SHARE YOUR STORY of helping someone!