home page

about us
       about us

see The Beast
       see the beast

our photo album
       our photo album

explore tucson
       explore tucson

other links

email us
       email us

sign our guest book
       sign our guest book

home page



david and carol

Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 1
Europe 1999
London, Paris, Venice, Florence


David and Carol




Day 7


Early this morning we have a rude awakening. Seems a diesel truck has parked just below our room, with its exhaust pipe about level with, and pointing directly towards, our window. This truck's mission apparently was to pump sewage out of a building across the narrow alley, and as it's motors and pumps ran, it seemed intent on spewing massive amounts of diesel fumes into our room. Even with the window shut, we were being fumigated. I had to open our door to try to let some "fresh" air in, but this did little good. This went on for about 15 minutes. It was extremely early in the morning, and I could hear other hotel guests voicing their complaints. Fortunately, but none too soon, the truck disappeared (I believe Giuseppe chased them away,) and after a few minutes I opened the window to get some air moving. I was concerned for Carol, since the air quality in Firenze had been causing her lungs some distress, mine also. Eleni was very concerned about us later that morning, and although the truck had nothing to do with the Hotel Romagna, she was very apologetic.
It seems as though there are no emission control laws in Italy. Everyone zooms around like greased lightning on their little motor scooters, each adding their fumes to the heavy layer of exhaust that often stays hovering in the narrow alleyways where air flow is not great enough to dissipate it. All in all, Firenze was quite warm and somewhat "gritty." These fine centuries-old buildings have layers of crusty grime on them, and the air quality was somewhat below par, but we wouldn't have missed any of it for the world.
After the truck left, we slept some more, then got up, showered, and breakfasted in the cozy upstairs dining area of the hotel - rolls, cereal, juice, coffee, and an excellent Nutella-like chocolate spread.
Then we made a bee-line for the San Lorenzo marketplace where the leather-vendors are located. Firenze is noted worldwide for its fine leather. We were looking for a backpack for me, and a jacket for Carol. We "window-shopped" for hours. Met a very memorable street character hawking leather goods - Oscar Wright - from Austin, Texas. Boy did he look Italian. Among other things, Oscar is a Tango instructor, web designer, and all-around good-guy travel advisor. We visited with this colorful character for a while and then browsed the many stalls carrying wide assortments of leather goods.
A young vendor politely caught our attention at Roberto's leather shop. Olsi was very nice and low-pressure, and he showed me a beautiful hand crafted bag. I decided I wanted to look a bit more and think about it. Olsi spelled his name for us upside down on his calculator, which made us all laugh. We told him we would most likely be back.
We then wandered inside the vast double-story cast-iron and glass Mercato Centrale, which was fragrant with stalls of cheeses, wines, oils, seafoods, fruits, flowers, meats, herbs, spices and wonderful, cheerful, friendly people. Carol was in heaven. We could have stayed there for hours. After feasting on all the sights and scents, we drifted back out amongst the many leather vendors. In and out of shops, searching for a jacket. When they put the pressure on, we vamoosed. We finally found ourselves in a nice leather shop where the vibe was casual. Deana, the owner, patiently helped Carol try on coats in many different styles, and finally one fit her as if it was made especially for her. She looked stunning in this soft, black, tapered leather coat. Then, almost as an afterthought, Deana threw a man's long black leather coat on me, and we were all in shock at how nice it looked. Like buttah. After some negotiation we struck a deal which we all felt was acceptable for the two jackets, took pictures of Deana, said our goodbyes and took our good-buys excitedly back to the hotel. On the way it struck us that, given the hot Tucson summer just coming on, it would be about six months until we could actually wear these wonderful Florentine leather coats. Oh well… Perhaps London would be chilly enough… At the hotel we tried our coats on for Eleni, who inspected and approved and was pleased.

Carol at the Mercato Centrale
It was lunchtime, so Eleni recommended a couple of restaurants near the church of Santa Maria Novella, not far from the hotel. As we arrived, they were closing up, as many shops and restaurants do at mid-day, so we walked a little farther and found an open outdoor café where we had great pizza and Italian beer, plus another tasty Cubano. Then we strolled across the Arno, window-shopping until we came to the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, where we watched the gold sellers ply their wares.
Following the alleyways and piazzas back to our hotel, we napped until evening. We woke, showered and visited with Eleni, who encouraged us to try a "non-tourist" restaurant across the Arno. We walked there just as the golden setting sun was turning the Arno into liquid fire, and as we walked across the Ponte alta Carraia, we watched people playing with their dogs down by the water, perhaps much like people did 400 years ago. We also noticed something very strange and unusual swimming just under the water. We never did find out what that was.

The River Arno
We found the restaurant, All' Antica Ristoro Di' Cambi, on Via San Onofrio, 1, and sat outside in the cool evening air.
We ordered the specialty, Bisteca Fiorentino, with the robust house chianti. Also had the thinly sliced prosciutto and funghi (mushroom) appetizer. Very enjoyable dinner (around $30 U.S.) made special by our table neighbors, Benny and Susanne, from Sweden. We had a great time swapping stories and comparing American and Swedish customs and traditions until we were all tired and it was time to say goodbye. We took photos of Benny and Susanne and wished our new friends farewell, and then once again walked across the Ponte Vecchio and into the now-familiar Piazza della Signoria gathering place where we had wine and beer and cigars and watched people milling about the square. The moon was full tonight, and cast its eerie light on the bell tower.

Dinner with Susanne and Benny from Sweden
We strolled past the many street vendors, past the magicians and puppeteers and fire-eaters, past the magnificent Duomo and the doors of Ghiberti, back to the Hotel Romagna where we slept with visions of Michelangelo in our heads…

Previous Day

Next Day

Day 1 London/Paris | Day 2 Paris | Day 3 Paris

Days 4 and 5 Paris/Venice | Day 6 Venice/Florence

Day 7 Florence | Day 8 Florence | Day 9 Florence

Day 10 London | Day 11 London | Day 12 London

Day 13 Home | Reflections

 copyright 1998 / david and carol lehrman / all rights reserved

 email david@davidandcarol.com