Monday, May 01, 2006

Tuscany, installment 1

Lunchbreak at the day job, so time for a little catch up.

Day 1:
We get to the airport very early and are soon told that our flight will be delayed an hour. Oh well. We get on the Boeing [!] 767 and it becomes quickly apparent that they've pulled an old [interior-wise] plane out of storage to fill in for what we were supposed to fly on an hour earlier. The seats in our row [and I imagine the rest of the non-biz-class section] were iron bars covered by a thin layer of fabric. Sore tushies for everyone!

But they gave us gelato for dessert, so all was forgiven 9 hrs later.

[I promise the only bitching I will do is about the flights. I don't get scared, but I do get cranky and antsy having to sit in one place for 9 hours, and so I don't do long flights well, even if the seats are cushy. Which they weren't.]

Day 2:
Next morning already, we land in Rome and are surprised to find that we're in Rome. A wee bit disoriented? We shuttled to the main terminal, got our bags, found our driver and were soon zipping along the highway at 160kph. No exaggeration. It was fun, really -- our driver clearly was practised at driving so fast, as were all the cars around him. Welcome to Italy!

We did, though, miss our scheduled train because of the hour delay out of Toronto. Evan had waited for us, and we found our way on to the next train to Florence and were off. They gave us sweeties and water. Hub said the dining car smelled better than any Italian restaurant he'd ever been in. I stayed put.

The countryside started showing itself outside our train's windows and again we couldn't help but notice that we were in Italy. How did that happen? Beautiful green rolling hills. Thin, pointy Italian Cypress trees lining long roads to terracotta villas. Villas. Villas!

And then we were in Florence, in a taxi, in our gorgeous hotel and in the shower. We changed clothes and headed right out again to figure out where we were. Where we were was right around the corner from the Duomo. Danged nice. We walked and looked and walked and ate tourist pizza [we never did find true Italian pizza]. Somehow hub found the energy to climb inside the dome of S. Maria del Fiore -- the pictures in the Flickr album of that part were all his. Amazing. Then we wandered back to the room. Zzzzzzzz.

Day 3:
We woke to find a freshly printed itinerary had been slipped under our door, so we could see what we were in for in the coming days. Today: walking tour with Gabrielle the trilingual tour guide. We saw a house that Michelangelo had lived in. We saw his sculptures. We stared at Medici relics and were told about history and art and art history and it was all brain numbingly fascinating.

Then to the Ponte Vecchio, home of a billion jewellery stores and twice as many tourists. Despite my usual inability to make a choice when confronted with such abundance, this time I managed to do it, and do it well. I came home with a white gold bracelet that looks like the links are made of two-ply yarn for 100 euros. Score, baby!

Next, off to Beatrice Galli's yarn shop, but first [because, after all, everything closes for lunch between 1 and 3ish], a real Italian meal with Evan. We sat back and let her order, because she clearly is the foody expert. We ate very well. Fresh green Tuscan olive oil, my first taste of Tuscan bread, a bite of lardo [exactly what it sounds like, but delicious, if you can get past the idea of eating tasty lard] and lots of yummy cured meats and piquant cheeses.

Then back to Beatrice [say Bay-ah-tree-chay, please], who was charming and adorable. Knew about Knitty, had seen the Clapotis, and was just fabulous in a very subtle way. She clearly was tickled to have Evan bring in a crazed group of knitters and loved showing us the goodies on her shelves. I asked for "pura seta" and lucked out with the last 5 skeins of a discontinued rich pink -- color 20324 [a Beatrice Galli exclusive -- the yarn is dyed and balled just for her shop]. 12 euros per 150yd skein. Dealio!

Also 4 skeins of pink and black wide furry edged ribbon silliness. It seemed to make sense at the time, cause all of us bought 4 skeins of the fuzz, but in different colorways. Peer pressure is an amazing thing, eh? I believe it will be an Italian shmata of some description when it's done. Lots and lots of great yarns to choose from at half what North Americans usually pay, including Filatura di Crosa, Laines du Nord and Filati King [aka Filtes King, which actually makes no sense to me...what the heck is a Filtes?]. Can you say overwhelmed? I could.

Everyone bought a big bagful of something they loved and then we were off again. Where to? More yarn, of course! Campolmi Filati next, home of ridiculously affordable yarn on cones or huge balls. Didn't grab the silk, but did find some gorgeous 2-ply cotton [that matched my new bracelet] in deep brown. And something for Jillian. Could have filled two suitcases, if I'd had the presence of mind. But as I say, yarn overload had set in early.

Dinner that night was nice, meeting the other members of the group that had just arrived. The highlight was the artisanal gelato, generously doused with spirits. Mine, rum. Vanilla gelato with crunchies, surrounding a pool of rum. And I [the cheapest drunk in the world] felt no effects. Except a happy warmth.

Then, bed.

[end installment 1]