Kudos to Trenitalia

14 July 2013

Manarola to Firenze by train today, with 100% OTP:

1030-1056, train 24487, Manarola to La Spezia
1120-1221, train 1533, La Spezia to Pisa
1232-1332, train 3116, Pisa to Firenze Santa Maria Novella

With an 11-minute connection at Pisa we thought we were doomed to another sit-round — especially after Paolo in Florence informed us by email that we were very brave travelling by Italian regional train — but Italia’s railways came up trumps today. Commendable effort.

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We met Paolo by binario 6 at Firenze Santa Maria Novella Stazione, and he guided us on foot the one and a bit kilometres back to our accommodation, Casa Santa Caterina. Paolo was an accountant until the financial collapse of 2008: now he owns one and manages five holiday houses — the other four being owned by various members of his family. Paolo has something of a sense of humour, and enjoyed relaying to us the story of some recent visitors. Four elderly (late 80s) ladies arrived in Florence, and the only thing they wanted to know was where to see the statue of David — they were all keen to see the naked man!

Casa Santa Caterina is a delightfully appointed space in a 700-year-old ex-convent where Saint Catherine once lived (photos tomorrow). Unfortunately, no washing machine (it was advertised as having one), but everything else is fabulous — cool and dehumidified, and plenty of room. And it appears there is a lavenderia just around the corner. The water pressure is reminiscent of what I grew up with on the farm (gravity-fed); but the guest information folder says that, “The low water pressure is not a malfunctioning of the hydraulic system, but is a normal feature of the ancient city of Florence.” We are also advised: “Do not turn on more than two hot plates of the electric cooker at the same time when cooking otherwise it could cause an electrical overload with consequent disruption of energy and a total blackout.” Luckily we’re eating one-pot meals and salads!

Before he left, Paolo gave us some food recommendations:

1. Wine. There is only red. Try Morellino di Scansano — from the Tuscany area, and don’t pay more than 8 euro per bottle. (We managed to find a selection at the supermarket, and paid only 6.31 euro.)

2. Salami: finocchiona. (Again, found at the supermarket. Will try in sandwiches.)

3. Cheese: pecorino. (We’re quite happy with the fresh mozzarella.)

4. Bread: pane Toscano, a saltless bread designed to be eaten together with the salty finocchiona and pecorino. (Yet to find some of this.)

The Conad supermercato is very, very close, just round the corner — as is the Uffizi Gallery and the River Arno. We did a bit of a recce after unpacking and food shopping.

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Dave found his namesake in the Palazzo Vecchio.

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We are in serious-shopping (and tourist) central. Gucci is between us and the train station, as is a host of other exquisite shoe, leather and clothes shops. And jewellery. The Ponte Vecchio (bridge over the Arno) is lined on both sides with jewellery shops sporting acres of gold in their front windows. There are people everywhere — just like Rome (but the streets are much wider and cleaner, and the cobblestones are bigger.)

We found the Galileo Museum after stopping in at a little souvenir shop where we got a couple of items, and the nice man gave me a Pinocchio pencil and small Pinocchio toy. 🙂 The Musei Galileo is on tomorrow’s to-do list.

And since there was still plenty of day left, we decided to walk up to San Miniato al Monte to take in the view. On the way there Dave noticed these signs:

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Seems even Florence’s graffiti (if that’s the right term) artists have a sense of style and humour.

From the top of the hill the vista of Florence spread out below us. We discovered that this city, too, was once walled (although the view of the wall was pretty much into the sun, unfortunately.)

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And there was another David, bronze this time:

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Curiously, the lamp-posts have feet…

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…and there was a pretty fountain/garden in front of a plaque that said it was a memorial to the architect of Florence.

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Looking forward to tomorrow.

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