Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Iceland/France/Italy Day 19: Back to Florence

May 17, 2011
Italy Day 19: Back to Florence

On our last full day of this amazing vacation, I was up early and had a shower as the sun was rising. I was up before everyone else so I walked down the crazy amount of steep stairs into Riomaggiore town to get pastries for breakfast. I got a tiny espresso to go and walked back out onto the street to see "The Mayor", our favourite Riomaggiore cat!! He was always walking between different businesses on the main street and sitting on their steps waiting for food. He is hilarious and we just (at the time of writing up this blog, 7/5/2011) found out his name from Lorenza:
"The name of the cat is Silvestro (from the cartoon Twitty and Sylvester) and he has beeen adopted by the shoopkeepers of Riomaggiore."
Haha, Silvestro!!! What an awesome cat. Anyway I saw him there and he meowed at me and then followed me down the street. I sat on a bench and he jumped up and sat on my lap!! Someone was walking a dog nearby and he arched his back. I told him "It's OK! He's on a leash!" and patted him, he was so funny. After saying bye to the cat I walked up with the pastries and had a cappucino in Mom and Dad's room with Norm too. Soon after we packed up and walked to the train station, jumping on the train back to Florence via Pisa.

We got to Firenze S.M.N. and were super familiar with the area since we'd just recently been there. We walked to the same hostel we'd stayed in last week and dropped off our bags. I did a quick email/Facebook check as it had been about 5 days without email. 22 messages! Also there was a hilarious Facebook wall post from Frank: "Is this right? Has there not been a Jutan facebook update in four days? What is going on here?"

Off we went to see the Florence synagogue. Our tour guide was very animated and told us an interesting story about the Pope, the Medicis, and the formation of the Jewish Ghetto in Florence which operated for 300 YEARS?!?!?!?! Very crazy. It was great to see the awesome shul architecture and we all enjoyed it.

Then we headed back to the hostel and unpacked before heading back out to the leather markets via a store on our street. This store was INSANE. I saw a cool Burbury-looking scarf on the outside for 5 Euros and went inside to buy it. As it turns out it was an insane family operation to sell leather jackets to tourist suckers!! All I wanted was the cool light blue Burbury-ish scarf and... "Let me just show you something quick" - I tried on a jacket and then came the fake compliments, "It looks so sleek!", "Oh yes, amazing!", even the old store owner's wife chimed in, "You look like a movie star!" Haha holy crap. This went on for like 10 minutes while I kept trying to tell them I just wanted the scarf. Crazy people!! One guy in the store about my age knew I wasn't interested. The one pushy salesman said, "We make the jackets"... and this guy said in response while grinning at me, "Actually, I made the jacket myself!" Haha. He was the only one of the sales people giving me a break in there, it was like a pack of hungry ravenous hyenas in there.

Finally I took out my wallet to pay for only the scarf and told the old man, "Only the scarf please". As I was trying to pay he called over my Dad who was busy joking around and trying on jackets the wrong way, haha, and he said, "Shh..." and wrote down 120 Euros, "Shh..." he said, motioning at the paper... as if he was giving us an amazing deal. I had seen some jackets that were similar outside in the leather market for 99 Euros, and they claimed this one was 360 Euros marked down a bazillion times. Oh man. So finnaaaaaaaaaally I said no enough times and we finally got out of there, and just with the one scarf!! Ridiculous!! The funniest moment came later, when we had burst out of the store and walked down the street to get away from the crazy shopkeepers, and Mom and Norm went back in there trying to find us... they said we had just left, but then they tried to sell them a jacket!!!!!

After that we took a nice walk and went back to the proper markets to my nice scarf guy from the week before. He was cool and happy to see us again and helped me pick out a cool black and white squares one. Sweet scarf and the shopping experience was way less stressful than 5 over-the-top shop attendants all talking at the same time.

We got some gelato and then headed back to the hostel. I sat with some of the people staying at the hostel and chatted to a cool Belgian dude and some people from England and USA over the free snack and wine that the hostel served every night. What an awesome place!! After a nice snack, we headed out to Vini e Vecchi Sapori for dinner. This is, quite literally, the #1 Restaurant of 857 in Florence on TripAdvisor! The rating was well worth it.

This I think was the best food of the entire trip!!!! We had stuffed artichokes, an awesome eggplant dish, beef stew and a saffron pasta which was so insanely awesome. SO GOOD!!!!!!!! We really enjoyed the vibe of the place and the young waiter appeared to be the son of the main chef and owner. The place was very very small with only about 18 chairs available. We got a half-bottle of the house wine which was a really smooth Chianti Classico and it was glorious!!! I had wanted to try Chianti in the Florence area and it was so good and so cheap!! I'd love to try it again in the USA and see if I can find a nice one like it. We got dessert too, a raspberry Tiramisu which was also the best Tiramisu I've ever had. Oh MAAAAAAAN!!!!!!!!!!!!

The place was so cute and there was a man with a dog sitting at the table near the door. It looked like he was a real local and he kept chatting with the waiter and his dog was happily occupying one of the very limited seats while several groups of hungry-looking tourists were lining up with absolutely no chance of getting a seat!! That was like us last week when we came and tried to get a reservation for the same night, no way. We were SO glad we booked a week before and the food was absolutely glorious. We gave the waiter a crazy tip for such amazing food and excellent service. What a great experience to celebrate Dad's birthday and the wrapping up of our amazing family trip to Europe.

We capped off the night with Mom's favourite pineapple gelato place for dessert part 2. Then we walked along the amazing streets of Florence, taking in the sights and sounds and headed back to the hostel to pack up for the next morning and get a few hours of sleep before a big day of traveling home.

Our favourite cat of Riomaggiore. We called him "The Mayor" because he was always walking the streets of Riomaggiore and checking in on different businesses.
Then the mayor came to sit on my lap!!!! He was very awesome.
The Mayor chillin' out as I drank my morning espresso beside him.
Temple Majorico Israelico in Florence
Norm enjoying dinner at Vini e Vechhi Sapori
Mom and Dad excited for dinner
The menu is all in Italian, but the waiter spoke English well and helped us translate
Stuffed Artichokes
Amazing eggplant pasta
Beef stew
Pasta with Saffron
A great little sketch someone made of the owner of the restaurant
Raspberry Tiramisu, this was literally life-changing
The other dessert we got, it was sooo good
Our waiter and the very confined space at the restaurant. The man at the front seemed to be a local/friend of the owner and he brought his dog with (see the front chair)

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