For the last two weeks, I have been gallivanting (my absolute favorite thing to do) around Italy and France, hopping from one old friend to the next, thanks to Gavina's wedding, which gave me the perfect excuse to plan a trip! I will break it down into at least three parts: 1) Bologna/Florence with Anna, 2) Gavina's wedding in Sardinia, and 3) France with Letizia. I have so much to share!
Anna I met via Couchsurfing of all places during my summer living in Siena. We're both American, worked in study abroad, and love food-more than enough to establish a solid friendship. The next year, we both transferred to Florence and became each others' dinner buddy, meeting at restaurants all over town.
She's been busy since I last saw her, creating my new little buddy Gabriele! Having followed her experience via email updates and photos, I was so happy to finally meet him and see her new life with him in it.
Plus, I learned that staying with a baby is the best way to get over jet-lag. You always get an afternoon nap!
Gabriele's first swing!
During the days, we would walk the half-empty streets of Bologna (it was the end of August, so the students weren't back yet, and many businesses were still in ferie), enjoying the porticos, the park Giardini Margherita, daily gelato, and several delicious meals.
Unfortunately, the Neptune fountain is undergoing restoration! It was completely encased in scaffolding, so I couldn't even see a piece of it.
There were some great new things though, like a food hall near Piazza Maggiore, and many formerly dangerous, crowded streets in the center that have been transformed into pedestrian-only areas.
Bolognese porticos on Anna's street
There are no words to tell you how good this is
Italian mixed messages
I managed to eat tortelloni, gramignia, and tagliatelli al ragu while I was there. We ate at several restaurants, including Rosteria Luciano and Trattoria Belle Arti, but my favorite may have been returning to La Traviata on Via Urbana for nostalgia's sake, around the corner from my old apartment. I tried and failed for the third time to eat at Trattoria Gianni-it's always closed or full! One day I will succeed, and I'm sure success will never have tasted better.
Really enjoyed catching up with Anna and learning all about her Italian family life, and it was interesting to discuss the differences in raising a baby between the two countries. She seems so content and it makes me happy to know things are going well for her!
Hard to say goodbye to the little one, because who knows how big he'll be the next time around!
One day while staying with Anna, I took the new high-speed underground train from the updated Bologna Centrale station to Florence. I covered so much ground that day that my leg muscles were literally spasming by the time I made my way back to the station.
My main goal for the day was shopping, but I got so much more out of it. I visited storekeeper friends that remembered me, ate at Trattoria Anita, an old favorite, went to the top of Orsanmichele for the first time for a beautiful view of the Duomo, and, the highlight of my day, finally visited the famous Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy.
The pharmacy took my breath away, with lofted ceilings, original frescos, and crystal chandeliers, counters selling beautiful soaps and perfumes, an apothecary, a tea room, and more. More than anything, I just couldn't believe I lived in Florence two years and never stepped foot in the place! This brand is world-famous, and is even sold in the tiny boutique in my neighborhood in San Francisco. One of the coolest parts was that they gave me a card to scan as I made my way from counter to counter ordering items. Once finished, I took my card to an all-white, drawer-filled room, from which they pulled my order, with all various items compiled in a bag, like magic. Loved it!
As usual, the cathedral took my breath away when I turned into the piazza
Massimo, everyone's favorite leather guy
Seriously, I think every study abroad student in Florence has heard about this guy. He must run the most successful business in town! He gave me a great deal on my new leather jacket, so I don't mind being just one of many.
I also have a new hat guy, who loves San Francisco and had me conference calling in the middle of the market with his Hawaiian wife.
Anna and I met up for lunch after she finished work at Trattoria Anita, an old favorite that serves a simple, price fixe lunch. The brothers that run it are looking a little paunchier, but other than that, it was just as I remembered.
After I decided I couldn't spend anymore money, I decided to cross the river and meander through town on my way home.
I lost this hat the next day
Loved this nostalgic part of the trip! Next up: Sardinia, and Gavina's Wedding!