Date: Saturday, September 12, 1998
Location: Florence to Vernazza

Breakfast?  Same as yesterday.

Ticket to see David at the Accademia museumWe hike to Accademia to see the most famous statue in the world, Michelangelo's David.  There's very little to say about this, except a couple of trivial details:

  • Does he look slightly worried to you?From most photos, it isn't obvious just what David is doing with his hands.  From the rear view, though, you can see that his left hand is holding one end of the sling, which drapes down and across his back to his right hand, which holds the cup of the sling (and possibly a rock -- it's hard to tell).
  • According to the description at the base of the statue (by Accademia scholars, no doubt), this is a portrayal of David after he has killed Goliath.  This is clearly the case in all the other "David" sculptures in Florence, since they all portray Goliath's head at or under David's feet.  Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw claim that it is a portrayal of the moment David resolves that he "can take this guy."  Because of the missing Goliath, and the impression (at close range) of a hint of worry in David's face, I'm inclined to agree with the ETBD interpretation.
  • David became Florence's symbol, supposedly to represent the ability of "right" and ingenuity (Florence) to overcome brawn (the rest of the city-states).
By the time we leave the Accademia, it has started raining.  We hop on over to the Bargello (dropping off Leslie at the Duomo museum, and taking Donelyn with us).  The Bargello has several nice pieces, including Donatello's David, which is certainly an odd version (an art book claims that it may actually be portraying Mercury -- but then, what the hell is a giant's severed head doing at Mercury's feet?).

Brig, enjoying a cafe lunch....and so is RussWe enjoy lunch at a cafe in the northeast corner of the main square.  The weather provides a constantly changing background.  First sunny, then windy, then sprinkling, then sunny...  We tough it out, while munching on:

  • Hors d'oeuvres of Firenze:
    • toast with warm chopped (chicken?) liver
    • parma (?) ham, sliced paper thin
    • salami (with big chunks of fat) sliced very thin



      ...this all seems rather German, doesn't it?

  • spaghetti al' pesto.  Good, but there's more oil than basil/etc.
  • vegetable soup with bread -- pretty good
By the way, the bread in Florence (and in Bagnoreggio, for that matter) seems to have little or no salt.  This works out well when eating salty foods, like ham and salami, but by itself, the bread needs salt!

We then stop at Vivoli's gelateria, one last time.  New flavors for us:

  • fresh fig -- excellent!  (But, pistachio is still my fave.)
  • chocolate/orange (I can't really taste the orange, but Brig says she does.)
Then we walk back to the Ponte Vecchio, to shop a little.  There are lots of jewelry shops on the bridge itself, but somehow Brig only gives them a cursory look.  We continue past the Ponte Vecchio, and cross the river on the next bridge, turning right on the first street after the river.  Very interesting.  On this rather short stretch (perhaps 500 meters), there are at least 3 produce shops (we buy 4 grapefruit and 2 apples), at least one butcher shop, and at least 3 eateries.  A couple of the restaurants look very tempting, but alas, they must wait until we return to Florence someday.  The bus awaits us...

We board the bus (another precision upload on one of the bridges), and are off to La Cinque Terre.  Along the way, we enter a very long tunnel (as Gene is using the bus' phone to advise another tour guide on the status of Florence), and when we pop out, we're on the Mediterranean coast!

It's an exciting ride down the hill, on the hairpin switchbacks into Levanto.  Johny earns his pay on this drive.  He honks at every turn (the bus seems to have a couple of different horn tones), but still manages to scare several drivers coming up the hill.  I'm glad he's good at what he does.

Life goes on, above the train tunnel in Vernazza...The town, seen from the train station.Vernazza is 2 train stops from Levanto.  Did I mention that the train is very much like a subway in the 5 Terre?  It mostly runs through tunnels in the cliffside, and pops out for each town.  You usually end up getting off in the tunnel (there's a sidewalk) and walking to the exit, which is outdoors.  In Vernazza, vineyards and fig trees grow right down to the mouths of the tunnels.

A view of the seaside cliffs from our room.The town, seen from the train station.Our room in the pensione associated with Trattoria Gianni Franzi is #21, with a spectacular seaside view balcony, but no wash basin or toilet -- we share one in the hall.  According to the price schedule on the door, a double room with external toilet costs L90,000 ($54) per night.  Getting from the train station to the room means walking around 300 meters to the harbor area, then around 100 steps (past several cute kitties) to the pensione entrance, then up two flights of a narrow spiral staircase (with a rope hung down the center, as a banister).

Dinner is at an outdoor restaurant fronting against the harbor (probably Gianni's).  We start with a choice between

  • spaghetti pomodoro
  • spaghetti in mussel sauce (Russ' choice -- and it was a very good one, too!)
  • spaghetti with pesto (Brigid's choice.  Good too, but lots of olive oil, like in Florence.)
A salad of lettuce and tomato was presented with an extremely salty dressing.  The tomatoes are delish.  We could do without the salt, though.

Speaking of salt, the bread is salted here.  Actually, it's just right, and very good.  Secondo piatti:

  • roast veal (we tasted Linda's:  very good)
  • mixed seafood, fried (My choice.  Very good, indeed.).  It had calamari, baby squid, shrimp in the shell, and baby octopus -- all in an exceptionally light batter, and deep-fried to perfection.  With a little lemon juice, it was great.  I had to convince Rick not to shell the shrimp -- he finally believed me, and agreed it was good.  Connie K. wouldn't follow suit, though.
  • stuffed mussels (Brigid's choice).  Also good, but not our cuppa.
For dessert, a sweet cake, soaked in schiacchetra, a local, sweet, fortified wine.

I finally decide that this would be a good time to ask Gene about the opera he mentioned in Europe 101.  The answer is that he actually did get to put together a production (2 weeks, 6 performances) last June.  I was very glad to hear he had managed to successfully achieve this extremely difficult goal.  He says that when he completes his tour season this year (he had a Spain and Portugal tour immediately following this one), he is planning to rethink his goals.  I wish him all the best.

On the way home from dinner, we notice a fellow selling silver and brass jewelry.  Brig buys a graceful silver pendant with a simple string necklace.

We fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the cliffs.  Ahhhhh.....