04 April, 2014

Vacation, all I ever wanted...


I've just returned from a much-needed little vay-cay... a week in Italy, with a home-base in Florence.
It was wonderful - of course; how could it not be?
Travel is something that I've long considered to be an integral part of what makes me who I am. When I was in my twenties, I had occasion to travel kind of a lot, and I think those experiences, at that time in my life, colored the way I see the world, and, to that extent, myself.
Since making chez-sucre-chez my full-time job, travel hasn't been quite as easy....
But about a month ago, in the midst of my usual end-of-winter blues, I decided that I very much needed a get-away. So, in a rather spur-of-the-moment mood, I booked it. I did it quick, before I could talk myself out of it.
And I'm glad I did.
Originally, I was going to go alone. And then, the day after booking, I invited my mama - and I'm glad I did that, too. It made it a different kind of trip than I'd originally planned, but I am so glad to have had the opportunity to share that with her and to show her a city that I love in a country that I love.

We stayed in a fantastic little hotel which I highly recommend to anyone visiting Florence; Loggiato di Serviti, in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, just north of the Duomo. All of the staff at the hotel were friendly and accommodating, our room was wonderfully charming, and the location couldn't be beat. Unfortunately, one of the buildings in our square (piazza) was under construction, so the view wasn't quite as picture perfect as it normally would be, but everything else was all I/we could ask for.

I'd seen most of the major sights; the Uffizi, David at the Accademia, the Duomo and its famous baptistry doors by Ghiberti, Pitti Palace and the Ponte Vecchio. If I'd done this trip alone, I probably wouldn't have gone to them all again, but this being Mom's first time, she wanted to see those things and I wanted her to -- so we saw it ALL. We must have walked every street in the city. That's one of the things I like about Florence, and why I chose that city for this trip. It's a small city - you can walk from one end to the other easily in just an hour or so (stopping for an espresso or gelato along the way, of course), but there is *so* much to see. The history of those buildings and those streets just blows me away. Painted frescoes everywhere - architectural ornamentation and sculpture that's been there for well over 500 years; it's breathtaking.

In most of the museums you aren't supposed to take photos anymore. I'm pretty sure I took lots of photos in them the last time I was there (actual film photos! Remember those?!) but there were signs everywhere saying "no foto" this time (no photo, period - not just no flash photos).... Not like that stopped everyone. I saw lots of cell cameras out and more than a few digital photos being snapped. I'm such a goody-goody though that I couldn't bring myself to take a photo if I'd seen a sign asking me not to. I was over-the-moon inspired and in love with all of the paintings featuring beautiful golden halos. I especially love the pre and early Renaissance ones. When I was in college, I took every art history class I could. If my school had had an art history minor, I would have easily had the credits to do so, but, alas, it didnt - so I just did what I consider an unofficial minor in art history. Anyways, my Renaissance Art classes were some of my favourites and the first time I went to Italy and saw of that art in person, I was floored. The Sienese painters and their use of gold and ornamentation --- seeing their works made me weak in the knees! This time was no different. Although I love the Botticellis and the Titians and the Carravagios and the Filippo Lippis - it's the works by those lesser-known guys that I really love. All that gold! And those bright blues and deep reds. The halos, the decorative detail of textiles. Oh, it makes me swoon. So, we saw lots of that stuff, and this is the only photo I got:

Ha! It's a terrible photo because I wasn't supposed to be taking one but I wanted to capture those halos SO BADLY that I tried taking a sneaky cell-phone photo, but I felt so guilty doing it that this is the best I could do. And then I ran away. Boo.

With all of the treasures inside the museums, there is just as much on the streets and in the many many churches and palaces. Besides the paintings of halos, I was going crazy for all of the beautiful frescoes and decorative ceilings. The amount of detail and the age of these works of art (though many have been restored at some point through the years) in this city is just overwhelming.

These are all ceilings:

And then there's the Duomo, of course. It is to Florence what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, though not quite as high. No matter how many times I've seen it, my heart always does a little pitter-pat whenever I see it peeking through buildings of a side-street, or from a hill-top vista point.

Both of these were taken from up in the bell-tower:

We took a couple of day-trips; one to Fiesole, and one to Settignano. Both were lovely - much (much) smaller than Florence, and quiet, with little winding streets and amazing views of the city below.

We got to Fiesole late in the day and, after climbing up a craaaazy steep walk, looked out over Florence and watched the sunset with a handful of locals and tourists. It was pretty hazy, but still - that view is not too shabby.

It's hard to see through the haze, but that's the Duomo in the far distance just a little right of center in the left-hand pic - and, in true Italian style, a couple making out in the bottom left. :)

We had a beautiful day in Settignano - enjoying a picnic lunch at a quiet park, surrounded by olive trees, and walking the walled tiny back-streets.

The food, obviously, was amazing. That cheese in the photo above? Oh my goodness - the mozarella (di bufala) was so good I almost cried. Also making me almost cry is that we barely put a dent in it - and, that we got it the day before our last, couldn't take it with us. I wish you were there to share it with us! Most of the rest of the food got eaten up quick before we thought to take a photo. We walked so much that by the time we stopped for food, we were pretty crazy hungry! Gnocchi, fresh pasta with cacio e pepe,
ravioli with truffle sauce, stracciatella cheese and artichoke crostini, percorino toscano, wine, wine and wine, cafe lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, gelatos, more gelatos and then some organic gelatos, cantucci, pizza, cornetto.... we ate it all, and it was good.

And now it's time to get back to work! I brought a new piece with me, but even with the 8 hour plane rides, I only put in about 60 stitches. Ha! It was a vacation, indeed, but now I'm back and it's time to make stuff happen. xo to you all!

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