Rome was a faint memory when we arrived home a few nights ago, the wind blowing fallen leaves against my ankles as I fumbled in the darkness to unlock our back door, opened it to a slightly musty, closed-up-house smell, and glimpsed the film of dust on everything. Venice, and moonlit walks along the canal in Murano, seemed a lifetime ago as I winnowed down the mounds of laundry, hanging a load on the clothesline, then rushing out with the clothes basket when it began to rain, and then snow. Okay, it was only a few flakes. But still... snow!
Looking at our photographs of the blue, blue sky in Florence this morning, it's hard to believe that we were even there. Florence, beautiful and ancient, is a favourite stop for many travellers. But sadly, not for us. Perhaps visiting Florence so close on the heels of Venice was a mistake on our part. Of course we thought it was beautiful. Wandering the narrow streets of the old city, climbing the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo, strolling along the Arno to get a better view of the Ponte Vecchio, it was all beautiful. But very, very crowded.
|View of Florence from Piazzale Michelanglo|
And when it's very crowded, one doesn't actually stroll at all. Shuffling, milling, maybe. The shot below was obligingly taken by a young American couple, after I had taken theirs. Since we were killing a half hour before we toured the Uffizi Gallery, we didn't mind waiting patiently for a small space at the railing to get a good shot. Silly isn't it? Everyone jockeying around to get their selfie and prove that they were there.
|Stu and Sue do Florence with the Ponte Vecchio in the background|
|Statue of Giotto by Giovanni Dupré|
I am in awe of sculptors. How do they make the soles of feet, or straining biceps look so real? See the harsh grip of the Roman's hand on the buttock of the woman in Giambologna's "The Rape of a Sabine Woman" below? The fingers actually press into her skin. "How do they do that?" I kept asking. Like Paul Newman's refrain "Who are those guys?" in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, one of my favourite movies, I was a broken record. "How the heck do they do that?" I murmured to our guide, to Hubby, to the air. You can read more about Giambologna's work here.
|This work by Giambologna stands in the Loggia dei Lanzi, near the Uffizi Gallery|
|Somewhere in Tuscany, enroute from Florence to Urbino|
|View of Urbino from the topmost set of stone steps that snake up, down, and all around the old city.|
|Look, Ma, no crowds in Urbino.|
|Dawn at Country House Ca'Vernaccia, near Urbino. No filter, I swear.|
The next night we stopped near the old town of Norcia whose lovely historic buildings were so damaged by the 2016 earthquake. Norcia is struggling to rebuild, and, despite the plethora of scaffolding and building sites, is very much open for business.
|Rebuilding work in the town of Norcia|
|The local speciality, norcineria, wild boar and pork, ham and sausages named for the town|
We sampled some of the local wares at dinner that night at our accommodation, another wonderful "agriturismo." How can you not love a place that has donkeys, eh?
|The donkey paddock at Agriturismo Il Casale Degli Amici outside of Norcia|
|The view from our room at Agriturismo Il Casale Degli Amici|
So when we left Norcia we hoped to find a tourist information office, or a helpful local, at a town further along. We'd both read about the earthquakes in 2016, Hubby had communicated with my friend Liz's brother who lives in Abruzzo, and we'd already seen the damage in Norcia, but none of this prepared us for our first sight of Amatrice. We drove past a military vehicle and two soldiers, around a turn, and down a street that was walled with wooden hoardings behind which was total devastation, piles of rubble, and the skeletons of buildings. It felt like a war zone, and I whispered to Hubby, "Should we even be here?" We felt like voyeurs. And I remembered an article I'd read in which the mayor of Amatrice railed against insensitive, selfie-taking tourists, who stood amid the rubble, smiling, to have their picture taken.
|Some of the devastation in Amatrice where a 2016 earthquake killed almost 300 people.|
Further along, in a street that was relatively unaffected, we parked and stood for some time talking to two local young men who'd been passing. They seemed to want to chat about the earthquake, and if their town will be able to recover. As one of them said, many have left, some want to remain, but whether we leave, or stay and work to rebuild, it is "all difficult." When Hubby showed them our map they understood where we wanted to go and assured us that all the roads had been repaired and were open. But that was only after a Monty Python-esque moment when I mispronounced the word "closed" in my mangled Italian. They both brightened, and one grabbed the map, and began to point out a route, and talk rapidly, "Yes. Yes, you will like Chooso." Or something that sounded like "Chooso." Maybe it was "Cheeso?" "No, no, not 'Chooso,' 'chiuso,'" I said, and with fumbling fingers I managed to translate "which roads are closed" into Italian on my phone translator, and then showed him the screen instead of trying to say it correctly, and confusing them further. Then we all had a good laugh. "Parlo male italiano. I'll have to remember that line," I thought.
|Somewhere between Amatrice and "Little Tibet"|
And so we were off, not to "Chooso," but to the high Apennines and "Little Tibet," where the crowds of Florence will be forgotten and the views will be magnificent. But I think I'll save the rest of our journey for another day.
I must say, Ottawa weather was a bit of a shock for us after balmy Rome. But still. There have been compensations for the cold, and the snow flurries, and the many tasks that always need doing when we've been away for a while.
Like mashed potatoes; I always miss mashed potatoes when we're travelling. And tea and toast, and a good long read. And the wonderfully luxurious feeling last night of sinking onto the couch in front of a roaring wood fire, stocking feet propped on the coffee table, wine glasses in hand, deciding if we should make popcorn or not.
Italy was wonderful. Travel is wonderful. But, you know, the very familiar view from our couch of the Rideau River, and the geese gathering as dusk falls, isn't so bad either.
Now, what have you been up to my bloggy friends? We haven't chatted in ages. I wasn't able to respond to your comments on my last post from Agerola, but I'm ready to talk now.
Linking up with #ShareAllLinkUp and Thursday Favourite Things