Monday, September 5, 2022
Today is bittersweet. I am closer to starting my walk, for which I am very excited, but it’s the day of check out at this lovely boutique hotel that Bill previously stayed in and booked for me and which I have become very fond of – Residenza II Villano. It’s a beautiful and gorgeous, historical building, minutes from the top visitor Must Sees (I had an exquisite view of the Duomo from my room). Yet tucked onto a quiet street replete with a peaceful courtyard. All features refect the Florentine style of the 15th-century when it was built – the furnishings, brick floors and wooden ceilings – even windows in antique Tuscan style with colored glass. Well, I shouldn’t say “all features” because they do have air-conditioning, and excellent bathroom facilities and showerheads – quite appreciated during these high 80°, humid days I have spent here. The included breakfast is a nice assortment of homemade pastries, eggs, bacon, yogurt, salamis, cheeses, cereals, coffees and juices. Everything is fresh and handmade. And Oh My, Proprietor Barbara!! Not only is she professional, inclusive and welcoming, knowledgeable, and speaks excellent English, she made me feel like family and truly we became friends in the few days I stayed. She is so passionate about not only customer service, but about Florence and her building in particular. She knows so much history and has so much information that I simply sat next to her desk often to have conversation – personal as well as about the city of Florence. And, SHE MADE ALL THE PASTRIES! Traditional Italian cakes and pies – your jaws would drop if only you could see with your eyes let alone taste with your mouth her amazing creations! I don’t normally eat this kind of food, but I definitely did it while here! I am so sorry I didn’t take any pictures. I always meant to just never did! She works Tirelessly!!! I am going to miss her so much! And seriously, if I ever get the chance to come back I will definitely stay here! This place is a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10!!! Parting is such sweet sorrow.
I met up with one of my local trekker friends, Mare, and introduced her to the rooftop bar of Caffè del Verone – That view!!! It’s just too great not to share! Knowing that Mare was on this pilgrimage is one of the reasons that I signed up, too. Then it was on to the one night stay for me at Hotel Il Guelfo Bianco, another boutique hotel in the center of Florence only about six blocks away, and also located in a carefully restored building dating back to the 15th century. The period furniture is gorgeous and they have a great collection of works of art, both contemporary and antique, plus the important modern amenities like air conditioning and great shower heads!I needed the latter after I got back from my afternoon excursion that didn’t pay off the way I had hoped. I had a few parks/green spaces on my list of places to visit and wanted to at least get to one of them. So I set out at 3:30 to go to Parco delle Cascine, 2.2 miles away. Man, it was through super busy pedestrian and motorist areas, including going by the train station and across several busy intersections into a more industrial part of Florence. And when I got there, the whole place was gated off (???!) and I couldn’t even get into it!! I saw high treetops but I could hardly glimpse much of anything else. I did go by tennis courts and a swimming pool (recognizable activities I could hear), but basically I just turned around and went back to my new abode. It was 90° out and very exposed to the sun the entire way there and back.
Just for the heck of it, because it does sound like a really great place, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the place:
“The Parco delle Cascine (Cascine Park) is a monumental and historical park in the city of Florence. The park covers an area of 160 hectares (395 acres). It has the shape of a long and narrow stripe, on the north bank of the Arno river. It extends from the centre of Florence until the point where the Mugnone flows into the Arno. The building of the Park began in 1563, under the rule of Cosimo I de’ Medici, as a farming and hunting estate of the Medici family, ruling the city of Florence since 1434. The very name of the Park derives from the ancient Italian word “cascio”, meaning cheese. The farm and parklands were well cared by the Medicis. Rare and exotic plants were chosen for the park, also for scientific reasons.
In the 18th century, with the Grand Duchy transferring to the Habsburg-Lorraines, the park gradually acquired a recreative function in the urban system, conserved until the present days. However, until the beginning of the 19th century, the park remained usually closed to the public, with the exception of some particular events. The Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo commissioned from the architect Giuseppe Manetti, the design construction of a model farming estate, centered around the Palazzina Reale delle Cascine (small casino-palace now housing the Agronomy faculty of the University of Florence). Other structures added were the Abbeveratoio del Quercionefountain, the pyramid-shaped ice-house, the amphitheater and two neoclassical Pavoniere (originally ornamental peacock cages). Among the fountains was the Narcisus Fountain, from which the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley putatively draw inspiration writing the Ode to the West Wind, in Giuseppe Manetti was also responsible for organizing celebrations and receptions in the park, such as the ceremony to celebrate the arrival of Ferdinand III of Tuscany, in July 1791.
In 1809-1811, the new Grand Duchess, Elisa Bonaparte, converted the farm into a public park. The park was acquired by the Municipality of Florence in 1869, which committed the renovation of the park to the architect Felice Francolini. Sport clubs which regularly competed in the Quercione meadow were: Florence Football Club, Itala Foot Ball Club, Juventus Foot-Ball Club, Firenze FBC, Club Sportivo Firenze and PGF Libertas. However, in 1917 the municipality decided to forbid to any sport club to play football in the park.”
I barely had time to shower, and head downstairs to meet my new group for our 6 pm orientation!! What a wonderful band of adventurers! We shared stories about ourselves, had an overview of what to expect by our Italian guide, Giovanni, and, Leader Extraordinaire, Sandy Brown (look him up!) also shared a reading of Saint Francis of Assisi’s, “Canticle of Brother Sun, Sister Moon”.
Eventually we made our way over to Ristoranti Accademia. I am going to do my best to be flexible about when we leave in the morning, how long into the heat of the day we walk, and how late we eat dinner, all seemingly outside my comfort zone for this go round – starting now! It’s only two weeks, right?
Our meal included luscious rustic bread, salad of spinach, rocket lettuce and pear, panchetta, deep fried bread, carrot stuffed spinach ravioli, and crispy lasagne – filo pastry shaped like cannelloni. There was also to be lemon sherbet, but (like I said, I’m starting tomorrow) – I excused myself and left early at 10:00…
I am staying up late here in Italy to write this submission (it’s just midnight – not my usual prep MO for a big physical event, but hey, we’re meeting for breakfast much later than I get up normally so I’ll even it out.) I don’t know how the days will evolve in terms of free time to do this kind of thing, but tomorrow we set off for an 11. 7 mile walk to Pontassieve, YabbaDabbaDooo!!
I have walked 32.1 miles since I set off for Florence and our walk is roughly 178 miles. Tomorrow’s Florence to Pontassieve is projected at 18.9 km, 11.7 miles.