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March 7, 2002
Firenze... in the sun (Russell)

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In downtown Firenze, looking for a place to eat

After having rain off and on for the last couple of days, we awoke to mostly sunny skies on March 7th.  Today Dawn and David planned to drive into Firenze, which they hadn't seen yet.  Because their schedule included going to the Bargello -- which we were unable to visit when we were there two weeks ago -- we decided to join them, following in our own car.

We left the villa a little after 10:00 AM, and after an hour's drive, we parked once again at Firenze's underground parking lot at the train station, walked several blocks past the Duomo, and arrived at the Bargello by noon.  Along the way, Cameron and Joss were accosted by the same street mime who grabbed them two weeks ago.  He didn't remember them, but they certainly remembered him.  They begged us to return to the train station later via a different route -- the mime, though harmless, completely unnerved them.

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Approaching our old friend the Duomo

The Bargello has at various times served as Firenze's city hall, police station (literally, "bargello"), and prison.  Today it serves as Firenze's Museo Nazionale, housing the city's best collection of Florentine sculpture.  Highlights included works by Renaissance masters Donatello, Michelangelo, and Verrochio.  We saw no less than three different versions of "David" (Cameron and Joss learned to identify them from the "Goliath head" that was always lying on the ground somewhere), from effeminate... to impish... to a Michelangelo work that was vastly different from his more famous "David."  We saw Michelangelo's first major commissioned sculpture, as well as the "Mercury" by Giambologna that now serves as the poster boy for FTD Florists back home.  Cameron and Joss continue to learn about art history -- we can only hope that they still retain some of this information a year from now.

We exited the Bargello by 1:00 PM, finding ourselves a block away from the Palazzo Vecchio... and hungry.  Gail had packed various sandwiches that Russell was carrying in his backpack, but we decided to join Dawn and David in their quest for an inexpensive ristoranteRick Steves' guide book mentioned a wonderful hole-in-the-wall, the Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori, supposedly a block away.  We spent the next fifteen minutes looking for it among the maze of unmarked back streets (Rick Steves' hand-drawn maps are best described as "approximate").  Ultimately, everyone else parked themselves on a street corner while Russell went running around searching by himself.  He finally poked his head into an establishment, where he saw three different parties of Americans eating.  They all smiled, held up their tour books, and said, "Rick Steves?  This is the place!"

We ended up having a delicious multi-course lunch at the Osteria ("osteria" translates roughly as "eatery," a step below a trattoria or ristorante) -- upon seeing it, Dawn and David recalled that they had eaten here once before two years ago.  The place was tiny -- there were only five tables, all currently full -- but the staff moved people and tables around, and we were all able to sit together.  The owner was a grizzly old Italian man with a wooden leg and a charming personality.  Rather than order off of the menu, he would ask -- in very good English -- "What do you want?  Pasta?  Meat?  Vegetables?"  We would tell him what we wanted, and he would yell something in mumbled Italian back into the kitchen.  A few minutes later, we would have plates of food on our table.  While Cameron and Joss each had servings of penne pasta (which Joss didn't eat), the adults each had antipasto, pasta, carne (meat), and dolce (dessert).  Ultimately, we spent more than 100 on this "inexpensive" meal.

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The owner of the Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori entertains Keegan

After stopping at an Internet Point (where Russell updated the Web site and David checked his work e-mail), we parted ways.  Dawn and David went on to the Museo del Duomo, while the World Trippers ran a few errands.  We looked for a cheap duffel bag (unsuccessfully -- the street market is only a shadow of what Russell remembers 20 years ago) and some more cards for the Lord of the Rings game (also unsuccessfully).  Our only success was in finding more gelato (Cameron and Joss actually tried sorbetto -- Cameron said it gave him a headache).&nnbsp; We finally left at 5:00 PM, walking a different route back to the train station to avoid the mime.

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Chasing pigeons (again) at the Palazzo Vecchio

Departing from Firenze was an adventure in itself.  As if the Italian drivers and traffic were not bad enough, we were continuously looking for obscure and badly-placed signs to point us which way to go.  As far as we could tell, we were directed in an entire circle inside the city walls, then in an entire circle outside the city walls.   At one point we made a wrong turn when we misread "Signa" as "Siena."  We ended up taking half an hour to get from the train station to the city limits.  The rest of the drive went much more smoothly, and we were home before 6:00 PM.

Dawn, David, and Keegan returned at 7:30 PM.  We had leftovers for dinner, played with the baby, enjoyed our last fire in the fireplace, and turned in early.  Tomorrow -- our last full day here -- will be a "down" day for the World Trippers, as Cameron and Joss have their first "full" day of home schooling in weeks and the adults completely repack their bags again.  It will be impossible to park our car anywhere near our next villa in Venezia, and the thought of lugging five suitcases, eight boxes, and a duffel bag down the canals by hand does not appeal to us.


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