Scratching the Travel Itch … Journaling

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SB Mike (Post Island SBs) writes: “While we travel figuratively due to Covid, a ways down the spectrum I suggest also any of Rick Steves’ offerings from the rise of Fascism/WWI to his very well done shorter travelogues on PBS and his books, especially “Travel as a Political Act”. Steves has a truly expert and humane world view and the positive place of travel in it. And now the chairman of the board of NORML he is a long time advocate of the legalization of marijuana – to stop criminalization/victimization, and raise revenue through responsible use.”


Others prefer their own pen. SB Michael (Caspar SBs) keeps an extensive journal of his own travels. Here’s a sample from one memorable September 3, 2011 in Florence.

Saturday in Firenze

We would all be happy to sleep until noon, but our day in Florence is precious, and so we’re up before 8 for breakfast. Sienna and Damiana are hungry, and serve themselves big breakfasts, but I hustle them along because our Uffizzi tickets are for 9. The Alessandra is about three blocks from the museum, so we get there a little early, but get our tickets and walk right in. I keep hustling my flock to room 10, the Botticellis. I sit down on a bench opposite Venus on the half shell and watch them drink it in.

They hang in with the paintings until well after noon. Damiana, the art historian, is enthralled; I see the flashbulbs of recognition going off. Sienna, always the detail-oriented photographer, is drinking in the sheer magnificence. Rochelle, too, enjoys the concentration of riches in this fine little museum, even though the flight has been harder on her than the rest of us. I spend quit a lot of my time watching my daughters soak up the beauty.

I nevertheless have time to appreciate the riches. One of the anonymous saints catches my eye – painted by someone before the time ego caused artists to claim their work, and even before realism and perspective entered the artistic consciousness, and yet the lines and forms are as strong as many post-modern artists. In this museum, you can stick your nose within a foot or so of paintings by the greats, Titian, Michelangelo, Durer, Boticelli, see their brush-strokes, and easily imagine them standing where you are, holding a brush, considering how to achieve the desired effect, limn the image in their minds.

Sitting on a bench in the long sculpture gallery of the Uffizi just outside Room 10, our eyes wandered to the ceiling. Apparently the Medici just loved to have artists working around them; didn’t matter what they painted… These bad boys prove that the 15th Century Italians’ obsessions weren’t that different

Ristorante Alfredo across the Arno catches our eye; we know it’s touristic and likely to be pricey, but it seems a reasonable expenditure, and so we cross the Ponte Vecchio through the herds of tourists gawking at the over-priced yet inferior jewelry, and find the ristorante. We are seated in a corner above the river, and immediately start ordering bottiglie d’ acqua. We put away four, along with a beautiful braceaola, a superb caprese, and several other delights – not a bum dish. At the end of the meal we are happily full, but pleased to return to our room for a shower and a brief lie-down, because it’s still hot out – just about 95 degrees.

At 3pm we head out past the Duomo to the Accademia for our date with David. We have time for granitas. Still overwhelmed with the morning’s images, David is not as striking as my first time ten years ago, but he is still powerful. What an eye! had his shaper. The big right hand is perfect under the circumstances, and David’s gaze has just the right blend of truculence and indomitability. I stand as close as I can to his focus, where one presumes Goliath to be standing, and can feel the energy. Too bad, I think, that David is so confined in the museum’s small space – much like Michelangelo’s “Prisoners” in the entry, only half liberated from their marble blocks.

It’s still hot at sunset. The girls go for a wander and find the farmer’s market while Rochelle and I go back for showers and a change. We have been given a restaurant recommendation by our Caspar friend Tony, and when we ask our kindly hotelier, he says, “Yes, yes, very nice, but maybe a little expensive. But very nice.” When pressed, he admits there’s another place, “very local, the chef is a fat man, it’s where the Florentines eat, not tourists. You will like it more.” We ask him to make reservations, and when we arrive Anna looks at us suspiciously – the last thing she needs is walk-ins – until I say, “Monti sent us.” “Oh, friends of Monti, of course, come this way.” She proceeds to regale us with a feast that surpasses lunch – two excellent meals in a day, and one of them perfect from start to finish. Meanwhile, other guests of the Alessandra – more friends of Monti – arrive. But Monti is right: most of the other guests are obviously regulars, and it is easy to understand why.

Back to our room, we collapse into bed with the happy knowledge that we do not have to get up early.

The Ladies

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