Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 5: Florence & Pistoia...

We arrived in Florence late Monday night. We had yet one more big complication, and that was no briefcase upon checking in. Our passports were in them. It was pure panic for about 15 minutes until we found them at our previous hotel in Bologna. The people at that Bolonga hotel were saints to deal with us (they were the ones who ultimately helped us the most with the tow truck situation). They spoke perfect english and were good enough to stop everything to find our briefcase. Luckily the managers of the Firenze Suites know Karen and were ok to wait for our passports until the next morning (we did give them copies of them that night).

**This picture is one that I took last time I was in Florence. I used a tripod and I was there on the bridge for hours trying to get the best shots. The pictures were much better from my last trip, but the company was more fun on this one!

Once we finally got the stressful situation under control, we went with the kids to see the room. We had just picked up my sister Karen at her hotel, The Sheraton and the kids were a little disappointed we weren't staying there. I promised them this was better and they were a little worried when we pulled up.

The outside is nothing to write home about. It is tucked away right in the heart of Florence, just a couple of blocks from the Duomo. When the kids opened the doors, they were so excited! They got their own room and Rick and I finally had some piece and quiet in our own room. This hotel is one I had stayed at before and I felt very comfortable with the kids staying by themselves, while we were just down the hall.

They only have about a dozen rooms and they are all decorated like you wouldn't believe! They are huge and beautiful, with a little entrance to a courtyard ouside. If you are ever in Florence, you have to call me to get the information, this hotel is really the best!

After checking out the rooms, we went for a walk around the city. We saw the Ponte Vechio bridge, the Duomo, the Baptistry (with the brass doors), the Medici palace (with a replica of David in front of it) and everything we could see at night. We also stopped and got gelato and waffles. It was a really fun walk.

Tuesday (day 5) was supposed to be Cinque Terre with the Acersons, but since Rick's anniversary present (a lock for the Cinque Terre) was in his briefcase, amongst many other valuables, he decided to drive back to Bologna to retrieve it. The kids and I went and grabbed Marianne and Stephanie and we hung out in Florence all day long. We shopped at the markets and had a blast! Well, everyone but Harrison and Nathan had a blast.

Andrew went crazy over the selection of ties. If you see him sporting a new tie every Sunday, now you know why!

The kids saw this lady making aprons that were personalized at the market. They were dying to get one for Baba (Grandma James). So, we did. We took a picture of her sewing Baba's name on it.

Janessa & Andrew got to buy a lot of presents for their friends. It was raining pretty hard that day, so we did our shopping, a little stop at the Duomo for some sightseeing, stopped for pizza and then headed back to our hotel to relax.

The kids played some card games for hours, while Nathan had a long hot bath in my room and laid down for a nap. I enjoyed some BBC tv and some great computer time (which was rare for the trip). Sometimes, even if you are in the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world, relaxing is a perfect way to spend the day!

When Rick arrived back from a VERY long drive up north (should have take about 2 1/2 hours, but took him 5 becuase the roads were closed from all the snow), we went to the Accadamy where the David is displayed. That was a highlight from my trip before, but since it was 10 euros to see it again (about $15), I decided to wait outside while the family saw it. The kids really loved it. While I was waiting I saw this book store across the street and thought it was charming. Again, not a great picture because it was with the point and shoot, but you get the idea. There are no pictures allowed in the Accadamy, which makes me sad. No pictures of David.

This is the little street in front of our hotel and the second car up is where Rick parked. When we came out to leave, we saw this truck passing and almost hit the car. It is a pretty interesting place to drive, to say the least!

After seeing the David, we got ready and headed to Pistoia for dinner. The teenagers wanted to ride the train and Rick and I drove with the boys. We had been starving ourselves for hours and hours because we knew how much food would be there!

We were invited by the DeRobertis family. Nino, Betty and Annalisa are the most amazing hosts I have ever met. I had the privilage of visiting their home for dinner last time I went to Italy and I was so hoping that my family would have the chance to meet them. They really are fabulous people!

The missionaries always eat dinner at their house and when I visited before they gave some advise: NEVER let your plate be completely empty and NEVER sit next to Nino. He will give you TONS of food and just keep piling it on. Well, Andrew had heard about this and wanted to sit by Nino. When we explained to Nino the situation, he laughed and really piled it on. Andrew did very well, and ate everything he was served!

Betty really is the best cook in the world! We had so many yummy courses with anti-pasto, breads, pastas, meat & potatoes, dulce, etc. They were all amazing.

Karen brought the dulce (sweets). This cake is called a panettone and is a traditional Italian Christmas cake. You see them everywhere and they are always wrapped so pretty.

She also brought these darling candies that the kids loved.

Nino loves to feed the gelato to President (and I don't think President minds eating it).

The Italians also have fruit with their dessert. Harrison still had room in his stomach for a couple of oranges and pears!

Nino makes paper and is an amazing artist. He made this entire nativity scene (called a presepi) with his hands (all except for the figures). Nathan was so intrigued by it, he really loved it!

We have hours and hours of video that Nathan took of the presepi.

Karen brought a Christmas gift for Betty, a beautiful pasta bowl.

Annalisa has the cutest boyfriend that we got to meet (and interigate). Now I am sad to admit that I have forgotten his name, but he was really a great guy!

We stayed quite late and I think Marianne took a little nap. We had a great time and loved the hospitality of the DeRobertis family in Pistoia.


Jill, Kenny and Aiden said...

That first photo is beautiful Ellen! and I love the other water one, the picture of the bridge. What a fun time!! That's way too lucky that you lost your passports--then found them again!!

proposition13forny said...

Nino was a good friend to me while I was a missionary there. My wife and daughter are flying in to Rome today and will be visiting some of those areas. -Eric Selin Italy Padova Mission 1975