Italy Letter no. 1

Here I am in Florence at last. Safe and sound with quite a story to tell..

After my 10th and final greeting to my family, everything was going so well, until..

We had just taken off and I had switched my screen on to pass a 13 hour flight with some movies. But Murphy’s law had it that my screen, the only one on the whole plane I might add, was not working. Luckily the flight wasn’t very full so they moved me to a four seater that was miraculously available at the very back of the plane. I later gave my spot up to a father in distress with constantly red faced infant. At last I settled in a two seater by the window which was perfect because it was full moon and I’m a Cancerian after all. Staring out the window while blissfully listening to some movie soundtracks, I saw lightening below me. How amazing is that? Below me! Soundtrack + stars above + patches of city lights + full moon + lightening = an amazing feeling.

Moving on. After a while when my movie and music supply ran out and I couldn’t sleep, I got bored. So those who are family, or who know my family, will know that we love to sing. Wether we can or not, wether it’s appropriate or not, we sing. So I sang. And seeing that the airline I was flying was called Edelweiss, the first song that popped to mind was none other than Edelweiss, a song from The Sound of Music. I was just humming the tune quietly to myself, closing my eyes and loosing myself in a world of singing in the hills and making cloths out of curtains. Suddenly the rather enthusiastic, burly swiss gent behind me heartily joined in at a splendid tenor tone. Courage quickly over rode my initial shock as I fell back in with him, singing with a little bit more oomph myself. A few verses later an old Lady at the other side of the plane joined our accapella and then, to my greatest delight, three more joined. We were not the best of choir but it was fun until a baby started crying and we all fell silent and went stiff, terrified of getting a tongue lashing from the mother. To our surprise and relief she only picked up her babe and hummed Edelweiss to it until it fell asleep again. With a sigh of relief and a twinge of embarrassment I sank down in my chair. Having had quite enough excitement for the day I closed my eyes for a nap.

About two hours before Zurich, we passed over the Alps. It was a sight of pure fiction. The sun was out and white peaks peered at me through thick clouds, teasing me with mere glimpses. At times I could see right through the clouds for a few blissful seconds at the unknown world beneath but then the clouds would snap shut again like a scandalized nun who just caught a boy peeking up her skirt.

When we landed in Zurich, everything about the trip had been acceptable up to the point. But right then and there my life’s karma decided to catch up with me. Swiss customs decided I looked suspicious and the fact that I had more liquids in my hand luggage than permitted didn’t help my case. So I was taken aside were my luggage was neatly unpacked, object for object, for the whole freaking Switzerland to see. And to make things even more peachy, I was thoroughly frisked by a scary Swiss lady, who looked more German if you know what I mean. I was terrified and so far not impressed with my first solo international trip. By the time they were finished with me and I was free to go, I was sweating and overheated and ready to faint with relief. So I dragged myself to the nearest bar were I had a big glass of water and a bigger glass of wine. I then set off looking for my next boarding gate. On the board it said my flight to Florence would be boarding at gate A/B. Thoroughly confused seeing that gate A and gate B were on opposite sides of the terminal, I set of in search of gate A/B. Along the way I found an officer who told me in a heavy accent that it would either be gate A or gate B, they haven’t decided yet. So he pointed me in a direction and started walking in that very direction. So I followed him, naturally. He kept throwing me, what I know now to be suspicious glances, over his shoulder as he quickened his pace but I kept pace with my night in shining armor. It was only when I tried to follow him into a restricted area that he turned around and politely asked me why I was following him. Embarrassed, all finesse vanished as I turned around abruptly like I had not heard or seen anything, and walked away casually. Not one of my smoothest moments I admit.

The flight from Zurich to Florence was terrifying and nauseating to say the least. The pilots were two beautiful men who looked like they were at boarding school, eyes full of mischief. They quickly lost their charm as the flight started. It was bumpy, shaky and unpleasant. The weather in Florence was to bad to land so we barely made it alive to Pisa airport. Upon landing the whole plane burst into applause and a few tears were shed in relief. When we came to a halt one of the pilots appeared to apologize for the rough trip with an all to sheepish grin on his face. I would have laughed at the absurdity of the situation if I didn’t feel like retching. We then waited an hour for a bus to take us to Florence. It was a nice relaxing drive. I sat at the very front with a beautiful view and the air-con on full blast as the driver played “You Can Leave Your Hat On” loudly on the stereo. Things were starting to look up. At one stage the bus driver put his phone on loudspeaker and had an intense conversation for the whole bus to hear. Luckily for him most of us didn’t understand Italian but the Italian lady next to me had a good chuckle however refused to share the joke.

When I arrived at Florence airport I went straight to arrivals but found no-one there. So I went to information to ask for internet/sim card/pay phones but they had nothing anywhere. Distresses I camped out at arrivals for about an hour, trying to come up with a plan but none came to me. I then got angry and went back to info to drill them a bit and found out that there was still internet cafe’s open at the train station. So taking my bags, which I had been dragging around with me the whole day I might add, I went in search of a shuttle. Luck had it that I walked into Simone Ferradini and his daughter, Camilla, just as they were about to leave after waiting for hours and hours. Relief flooded me and I almost burst into tears.

When we got to Casa Ferradini I met them all: Nono and Nona (the grandparents), Angela (the wife), Paolo (Angela’s brother) and Alessandro (the little boy). I could barely keep my eyes open as they lay a feast in front of me. I could also barely eat and I’m afraid I might have offended Nona, who was the cook.

The next day Simone F, Angela and Camilla took me to the center of the city, despite the heavy rain, which I thought was very nice of them because I was ever so curious. We went for a cafe (espresso) at a little cafe were we all put our umbrella’s in a big bin outside. They took me to one of the most mesmerizing churches I have ever seen, Santa Croce. It was filled with beautiful paintings, picture windows, candles that gave of an intoxicating aroma and there where also loads of graves of important politicians and poets. When walking through the surprisingly busy cobble stone streets one had to lift ones umbrella up every now and then to avoid collision, making every second person look like Mary Poppins too me. We the passed by and through Piazza Signoria and La Vasta Vecchio (an old government building where every now and then there was a market of a sort). On our way to Punte Vecchio (famous bridge in Florence with all the jewelry shops) we passed the Galleria Degli Uffizi, which was to busy to go in. After the bridge we went through Piazza Rupablica and right past the Duomo, which was breathtaking. We then ended up at a little cafe called Verrazzano for a quick bite.

Verrazzano In Florence.

Verrazzano In Florence.

Angela, Camilla and Simone F at Verrazzano as we took our pit stop.

Angela, Camilla and Simone F at Verrazzano as we took our pit stop.

All in all it was a wonderful day. That night we had a feast of note to celebrate easter and what an experience. Will need to dedicate a few pages to that alone so for now all I will say is amazing. After dinner I went for a walk, something that you can’t do on your own or at night in South Africa because of crime levels. In front of their house is a cobble stone courtyard with benches and olive trees strategically placed at random from the edge to about halfway in, leaving the center open. Every step or so there is a light, the size of a cobble stone, in the ground shining like stars. When looking out of my window on the fourth floor it looks like a galaxy hiding just beneath the surface of the earth, peeking at us.

Courtyards in front of the apartment.

Courtyards in front of the apartment.

Day two Simone F and I cycled Camilla to her horse riding school, Casa Di Risparmio Di Firenze, where we were joined later by Angela and Paolo. We had an espresso there then we were off.  Paolo took me to show me the center of the city on a sunny day. It was beautiful. We stopped every here and there to look but kept on the move most of the time. We stopped for an ice cream at an amazing gelato’s called Grom. I quickly became addicted to their Vanilla and Pistachio.

Grom in Florence, best gelato ever.

Grom in Florence, best gelato ever.

Vanilla and pistachio gelato from Grom. Addictive goodness.

Vanilla and pistachio gelato from Grom. Addictive goodness.

We the passed threw a few more Piazzo’s like Piazzo Pitti (where the fashion shows are held in summer hosting designers like Valentino and Armani) and Palazzo Santo Spirito (the oldest church in Florence). At the end of the day we had done more than 15 km of cycling and I still felt fresh. Tonight we had another memorable meal, I went for another walk while taking the garbage out and here I am now, 1 o’clock in the morning and knackered.

Buonanotte tutti

Simone Troskie

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