The next day was our trip to Florence. Rolf and Joanne and Francesca decided not to some. Michael, Marianne and I made the mad dash reaching 206 kph on the highway and made it to Florence in an hour and a half. We wandered through the very, very crowded streets and shopped till we dropped. We stopped inside the fabulous green and white striped Duomo. That is one amazingly huge church.
We shopped and window-shopped. We found the large open air market that goes on for many blocks and I bought sunglasses for my Arabic teacher, new sneakers to replace the old ones from Rome I have worn out in the past two years. Michael bought ties and watch bands. I found a gorgeous white linen dress and two pairs of beautiful (cheap) leather sandals with low heels that are very good for work and evenings. We stopped for a veal cutlet and fresh spinach in a bar-café and watched the husband and wife owner argue and fight about who handled drinks and who handled food. Eventually she took a big glass of water and threw it all over his motorcycle.
Found another paper store and bought beautiful colored pencils. All of the paper is the handmade swirling patterned paper you can only get from Italy. Bought some lovely leather hair clips for the girlfriends back home. And enjoyed an hour at the internet café catching up with friends.
Retrieving the car we proceeded to re-enact the scene from Chevy Chase's Summer Vacation and went round the same four blocks at least 5 times always ending at the same Roman Pillar. Getting out of Florence was a lot harder than getting in. It was absolutely hilarious and we ended up by crossing into the city before we could manage to find a way back out.
We returned nearly as quickly as we arrived however by a completely different route. Since Michael refuses to use a map ever, we guessed at which road to exit and ended up driving through the most beautiful mountains coming in the other way (from the north) to the house.
We saw several gorgeous ruins of castles and churches and stopped to ask directions of some Italian farmers who had no idea what we were talking about. The only town they knew was the one we were in, however our town was only 10 kilometers away.
Upon our return the house was locked and the gang off on their own adventure. Finding our way in was a trick but it turned out the front door could be opened fairly easily without a key. We had French Martinis by the pool and took our afternoon swim. Dinner was another extravaganza highlighted by more sausages and a green bean salad with more garlic in it than you could imagine. And of course my famous tomato and mozzarella salad with balsamic vinegar (and garlic). This time I added some purple onions.
The next day we went to the local market at Umbertide in the morning and relaxed all afternoon. In Umbertide we had fun at the local clothing market and I bought a gorgeous summer print dress. We bought fresh spinach and basil. I took a nap after swimming. It was heavenly. Dinner was more lovely pastas and vegetables.
Michael, Marianne and Francesca left the next morning before dawn to return to New Jersey. Luckily he made the coffee before he left. I love the mornings alone in the gardens writing and reading, listening to the 7:00 church bells from the town and the birds and the bees in the lavender. I read three Amelia Peabody's while I was there, it was heaven. I have never seen so many fields of sunflowers before. Farms with their back hills covered with olive trees and grape vineyards. Woke up in the morning with the Tom Jones song, 'I Need You Baby' in my head.