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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

HOT PISA IN 3 MINUTES (or it's free)

       As Francesca and I gear up for this summer's adventure, it occurred to me that I have not finished writing about the last one.  The Grove Guy covered his Caracas adventures,  the joys of Brittany, and the beggars of Venice but there was more.

      Last July a Venetian water bus took us to train heading for Florence.  When we got there the temperature topped 100 but it wasn't so bad.  Our old apartment had thick, cool walls and a breeze was wafting up the Arno.  

Art was everywhere,
 Convent filled with frescoes by Fra Angelico

They must have made this guy a saint for putting up with this


and a market sold peppers that "were better than Viagra".


We walked by the apartment on Via Gucciardini where Francesca spent a summer.  It's two blocks up from the Ponte Vecchio, next to the Pitti Palace.

I appreciate a place that uses small turtles to hold up it's window bars.

Every night five thousand people were crowding into Plaza St. Croce for a reading of a 12th century comedy (Roberto Benigni reading Dante's Divine Comedy, both artists from Tuscany).  Things like that rarely happen in Miami.

 We never thought about trying the pizza.
Two days later in Pisa, we did have a hankering for something good to eat, the real thing.   We found it down a narrow, dimly-lit alley.  A hand-lettered cardboard sign read, "Andre the Fisherman".   Three small tables on the street led to a mini-kitchen.  
   A short, round woman was busy working the stove.  Simonette smiled, invited us inside, and asked, "Questo, questo, are you hungry?".  
  We felt like we were in a Fellini movie.

  She introduced us to her handsome, 50-year-old nephew, Andre.   The well tanned man in the skinny shirt would be our waiter.   He told us he paddles far out into the Mediterranean in his kayak to catch the fish they serve.  He used his I-phone to show us the previous day's prizes, two 20 lb. tuna.

  Simonette pointed out photos on the wall, she was once young and beautiful.  I told her in my very best (very bad) Italian that she still retained her good looks.  That got me a warm, Italian hug.

  I don't recall this ever happening in Miami restaurants though I wish it did.

  We finally sat down for a great little meal.  

 Afterwards wandered north to see the tower that leans.  


The next day we visited Lucca, a walled, medieval city just north of Pisa.

Needing a bathroom, a tourist map told us there was one in a plaza where the only sign said,


 We went up three flights of stairs only to find a library.  The attendant took pity on us and led us to her small bathroom. 

  Afterwards we asked about her surroundings. She explained that it was a thousand years of records, the archives of the ancient principality of Lucca.


   I could not believe we were looking at a huge collection of hand-letter parchment from the Dark Ages.  There were rooms and rooms of it.  In one she took out  a folded map from the 13th century.  As we opened it I thought about the person who had drawn the multi-colored hills surrounding Lucca fifty generations ago, and, would we remember how to fold it back again?
   We could not.  After several tries we got lucky.  It's safe on the shelf for another 900 years.

 While we were touring Tuscany my two sons were in Germany (they heard they had great beer and  electronic music).  Every day or two they sent us a text to say they were  managing to have a great time without us.    

     Fortunately, they ran low on money and asked, "Can we still share that apartment in Paris?".   We said, "Oui!" and headed for Pisa International.  

We had to  leave the bikes behind.


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