Christmas in Florence. 12/25/18

Merry Christmas to all especially to family who are celebrating at home. Thank you to Auntie Leigh, Gram, and Gramps who have made this trip possible for Ryan and Jon by giving Alex and Sam a special Christmas at home.

This morning in lieu of our usual Christmas breakfast we are enjoying the sweetness of pastries and a traditional panettone. We have a unique way of warming the pastries – a radiator with a built in warming oven. It works great!

Warming oven in radiator
Ryan and Jon on Christmas morning waiting for breakfast

We have mimosas and beer with our panettone and pastries. The panettone is so delicious, sweet and yeasty. Sarah promises to make one for next Christmas!

Our Christmas breakfast spread
Main attraction – panettone
Inside the panettone

While Sarah works on the lasagna and John and I loll about Ryan and Jon take a walk through the quiet streets of Florence and enjoy the architecture.

Ryan and Jon on their walk

In the early afternoon we all meet to go visit the beautiful Santa Maria Novella church full of early Renaissance frescoes. It is a favorite of mine.

Ryan and Jon in front of Santa Maria Novella

Founded in the first half of the thirteenth century Santa Maria Novella has so many marvelous works of art to see –

Beautiful Annunciation by unknown artist ~1370
Crucifix by Giotto 1288-89
From the Strozzi Chapel, Filippino Lippi 1489-1502, St. Phillip the Apostle at the Temple of Mars in Hierapolis
Altarpiece by Orcagna, 1354-57
Jesus leads redeemed souls to Paradise, Spanish Chapel

After our visit to Santa Maria Novella it is time for Christmas dinner. Sarah bakes the lasagna and we all enjoy it a lot!

Sarah photobombing a picture of Ryan and Jon before dinner
Lasagna out of the oven!
John serving
My slice
Sarah, our wonderful chef for Christmas Day!

This is a Christmas I shall always remember!

Christmas Eve. 12/24/18

Ryan and Jon have fallen into a pattern of going downstairs to the cafe each morning to have a pastry and cappuccino. Jon says it is the best cappuccino he has ever had. I am happy that they are having such a good time.

Jon and Ryan’s favorite breakfast

Sarah and I are looking for bagels and other items for Christmas breakfast and dinner at the Pam grocery store. Once she has all her lasagna ingredients we have to make an executive decision about breakfast. We decide to buy a panettone from the bakery downstairs. It turns out to be much more expensive than the ones in the grocery store but we are hoping for a much better quality one. While we are at the bakery we also pick out a bunch of pastries. This is definitely a far cry from bagels and lox.

A 1 kilo panettone should be big enough for the 5 of us

Jon and Ryan go to the Duomo and visit the Opera del Duomo which contains older works that are no longer adorning the church or items that were on the outside and have been brought in to keep them from getting damaged from the elements.

John heads out to find more goodies for our Christmas Eve celebration. He is a regular at the Salumeria where he buys so much chopped liver that we will have an unopened container to give to Mikki and France when we leave.

Salumeria

We gather at lunchtime and Jon says he wants to go back to la Bussola for more pizza. No one puts up any arguments,

La Bussola, our spot for pizza

Everyone orders pizza but I am afraid if I eat pizza I will be too full to enjoy tonight’s hors d’oeuvres. So I order linguini vongole, a favorite of mine.

Sarah makes the lasagna in the afternoon and I help (watch mostly) and take various taste tests. Later she and I go out for tea at a restaurant in the Piazza della Republican and take some pictures of the decorations and store displays.

Piazza della Republica
Window display at Gilli’s
Decorations in the nearby street

Later over wine and hors d’oeuvres we sing traditional Christmas carols and then everyone is off to bed.

 

Fiesole and Florence. 12/21/18

Today we pack ourselves up and head to Florence with a side trip to Fiesole. It is a chilly, misty day and we are hoping to dodge the bad weather when it is time to do some sightseeing. We are also on a schedule to return the rental car at Florence airport and arrive at our apartment to meet the greeter at 5 PM. So many moving parts! Fiesole is on a hill just outside Florence. If it were not for the rain and fog we should be able to see Florence from an overlook. We drive all over Fiesole looking for a parking space to no avail. Our crap rental car is straining to deal with the steep inclines. John is getting annoyed and frustrated. Finally some ways down the hill he finds a quasi-space and parks. Now we must walk up a lot of steps in the cold rain. I am very slow on the steps and by the time we reach our goal, St. Romulus Cathedral, I am also annoyed, frustrated and wet! Happy times! And when we go inside the church this is what we see.
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Dark St. Romulus with scaffolding blocking the altar area.
The church is almost entirely unlit and then the whole front area is blocked off. We cannot see what I suppose is a beautiful early altarpiece of Bicci di Lorenzo. This is about the best picture I could find on the internet.
Bicci di Lorenzo 15th century altarpiece in Fiesole Cathedral
There are a few other odds and ends.
A Madonna and Child painted in the Gothic manner which I cannot find anything about
St. Sebastian dubiously credited to Perugino
We leave the church in a fouler mood than when we went in. I suggest we take a look at a small church that I had read about. It is only across the square. It turns out to be locked up.
Looking back across the wet and misty square in Fiesole toward St. Romulus
We decide to give up and go find some lunch. The first place we look at has a bunch of treacherous, slippery stairs. We then head back to a cafe that John had seen on our walk around the square. We are taken aback when we are given the menus.
The menu at Bistrot Caffe al No. 5
Huh. So we turn the menu over and read it back to front. It seems that they have a lampredotto risotto. John is eager to give this a try. I figure, it couldn’t be worse than yesterday’s slime so I order it too! Oh, don’t know what lampredotto is? It is a tripe-like meat made from a cow’s fourth stomach. And it is delicious!! However before we have the lampredotto risotto we start with bruschette with cavulo nero (black cabbage.)
Bruschetta with cavulo nero
Lampredotto risotto for John and me while Sarah has beans with sausage
We have a wonderful discussion with the cook about how she seasons the lampredotto. It turns out that it has nutmeg and cinnamon in it. We will never have such a dish at home and I am glad that I tried it. After lunch with nothing left to do we head to Florence airport to return the rental car. The traffic is horrendous and it is difficult to figure out where we are supposed to go. We fuel the car up and manage to make the correct turn to get us to the rental return. We are so glad to be rid of the car. We call our greeter and hop in a taxi to take us into the old city part of Florence. We meet Miki and Franco whose apartments we are renting. After being chastised for being early and having every aspect of the apartments explained to us, we are on our own in Florence.
Our apartment has a large living room for space enough for us all to gather
And the kitchen is fairly large plus there is space around the table for five
Sarah likes her living room
The cupboard in her living room is a mini-kitchen!
Since this is the third time staying here we know where everything is and what stores are nearby. John hurries out to buy some chopped liver and bread for our dinner of hors d’oeuvres tonight.
Chips, chopped liver, wine, and the internet – we are all set!
Tomorrow Ryan and Jon arrive. I am nervous about their needing to catch trains and get to Florence. Everyone assures me that they will be fine. (And they did great!)