The rest of our trip to Italy. As usual, pictures are on Jeff’s facebook. If you know us in real life, you can see them there.
After Rome, we took a brief stop in Lucca since we had a travel day and couldn’t check into our bed and breakfast in La Spezia until the evening. A few hours was enough for Lucca: it has a few minor artistic sights, including the beautiful Tomb of Ilaria (Hillary in English, by the way), which is considered to be a transition between Gothic “decoration” and Renaissance realism. Lucca’s city walls are perfectly preserved, and the town is small enough to circumnavigate by bike in twenty minutes.
Finally we arrived in La Spezia, our stopover for the Cinque Terre. It’s recommended to stay in one of the five towns themselves—if you can afford it—because if you’re there to relax, it’s a shame to ruin the atmosphere worrying about catching the last train to gritty La Spezia. But Jeff and I enjoy getting off the tourist path and meeting locals, so we found a trattoria in La Spezia recommended by the B&B lady and enjoyed communicating by gesture and a few words of Italian and English.
The hikes in Cinque Terre were stairs, stairs, and more stairs up and down the mountains between the towns. Pleasant surprises awaited around every corner: friendly, happy tourists, a man selling homemade limoncello, breathtaking views, and of course more stairs—which was pleasant now that we were on the downhill side. In between each hike, we relaxed in the charming towns.
And then we came to Florence (Firenze).
Florence is like no other city I have ever seen. According to a plaque dedicated to him, Hans Christian Anderson described the entire city as an “illustrated picture book.” Indoors, outdoors, piazzas—the whole city is full of art. We got the Firenze card, a spendy whole-city pass, so we wouldn’t be nickeled-and-dimed at every little museum. Some are worth it and some are not, but we knew we wouldn’t be able to necessarily tell in advance, even with Rick Steves’ guidebook.
An anecdote: We were in Florence’s only kosher restaurant, next to the Great Synagogue, and met an Israeli family. They were from a suburb of Netanya.
When I said we lived in Haifa, the twelve-year-old girl asked, “There are people in Haifa??”
“A quarter of a million,” I responded.
“90%,” I answered. She was astonished.
One of my favorite things about Florence was the leather market. I never got tired of walking through it because I loved looking at all the beautiful colors and enjoyed the smell of leather in the air. They sold everything: shoes, jackets, purses, wallets, belts, coin purses. If it can be made of leather, it’s sold in Florence.
I bought two pairs of leather shoes, and I am the world’s worst shoe shopper because I typically wait until I have an emergency until I go shoe shopping and then complain that I can’t find shoes that don’t pinch my toes. It certainly doesn’t help that shoes in Israel are expensive and of poor quality (I had two pairs of sandals fall apart on me within a couple months). Good, comfortable leather shoes run about 300-400 shekels. In Florence, butter-soft leather shoes were 40 euros, which works out to about 200 shekels. So I bought black flats and brown sandals and smiled at my happy feet!