Monday, May 4, 2009
A Magic Summer Night with Frank and Dean
Since it looks like we're all going to spend this week damp and rained upon day after day, I'd like to take you away on a fine adventure. Way far away, to Florence, Italy, one stop on our 60th birthday celebration around the Mediterranean (#1 on my bucket list). If we ever go back, we could easily spend a week or two just in Firenze. In my sights while there were finding what's considered the best gelato stand in Italy and Galileo's house, both south of the river; but we couldn't fit them in. We did find a trattoria I had seen recommended in an internet post, after getting quite lost one evening, the Trattoria del Gato e La Volpa (pictured second above), the name referencing Pinnochio, whose author lived nearby in Collodi. It was filled with students, owing to its policy of a 10% discount for them, and most were English-speakers. Small, almost claustrophobic, the 16th-century building had walls thick as a castle's. We continued our tradition of trying as much Italian wine every night as was possible; the food was great and the bill small. Abbondanza!
I was looking forward to two scheduled trips: the first to Fattoria del Poggio, an old family-run (those terms are redundant in Italy: everything is!) self-sufficient farm, where a midday feast was laid on under white tents while the breeze wafted in scents of bay laurel, basil, and trebbiano grapes. They produced several types each of bread, meats, wine and grappa on site, and seemingly wanted our bunch of revelers to use it all up. We tried our best.
The evening excursion was to I Tre Pini, a farmette/outdoor restaurant south of the city (pictured first above) in a community called Impruenta. Both of these places mainly host tour groups, but we weren't in that touristy bubble at all; we had bonded while getting bombed at the Fattoria, loved our guide Micaela, and were having a ball every day! Somehow the bus got down the narrow medieval street and loaded us up in front of the hotel, we crossed the Arno River and stopped at Michaelangelo Park to admire the city, and the perfect Renaissance estate nearby, at sunset. Threading through the villages, waving to a passing Maserati, we admired this happy land and pulled up to I Tre Pini and its extensive gardens, tented pavilions, and were greeted by the gray-haired owner. He explained that the food, the olive oil, the wine were all produced here -- sit anywhere, the music is about to start. A guitarist and a singer circulated about, as did about 100 bottles of wine -- Venus may have been born on the shores of Cyprus, but I believe the lady lived here now. About half our group were Italian-Americans from New York/New Jersey, and they must have felt especially embraced by this tree-hugged, vine-covered, music-filled paradise. We were out of time, living in the liquid moment.
Not willing to let go of that, when we boarded the bus much later into the night someone suggested using the P.A. system for a sing along. A fiftyish gentleman who looked the part offered some Sinatra and Dean Martin songs while the crowd roared approval, and we were off. All the way back through the now sleeping villages, "My Way," "That's Amore," "O Sole Mio," "New York New York," and "Ave Maria" were turned out with uninhibited enthusiasm.
Oh, what a night.