Tales of a wandering lesbian

Anchors aweigh

As I’ve mentioned, I really enjoy Italian words that sound similar to each other.  Come to think of it, I really like English words that sound similar to each other.   For years, I kept a list of homophones in my underwear drawer.  They might still be there.  I’ll have to look next time I’m home.  Yes, I know I’m a freak.

Anyway, one set of words that I’ve learned is ancora (stress on the first syllable) and ancora (stress on the second syllable).  The first means “anchor” – as you would find on a boat.  The second means “more”.  I use the second word quite a lot.  When Franca and I won at Burraco, for example, “Ancora!” and we played on.  When I finish a befuddlingly good meal, “Ancora!” and my plate is suddenly full again.

Today was a day of ancora.  More great food, more beautiful places, more fantastic people.

I had no idea (my Italian is improving, but I miss some of the finer points), but Franca works in Florence!  Fabulous.  She’s the regional secretary for the country’s largest union.  Too cool.  So, Giovanna and I decided to take the bus with her and bum around the city while she worked.

When I was here last time, my family visited Florence for a day.  We knew it was a bit insane, but armed with Rick Steves’ (incomplete) guide to Italy, we got up super-early and hopped a train to Florence for a whirlwind tour.  One major thing I want to accomplish on my current leap is to experience places with locals, as though I’m living here, and not as a visiting outsider.  Today, that happened in a couple of ways.

First, we took the bus, and not the train.  Interesting.  While the train ride from Lucca was kind of dirty and took a couple of hours, stopping in a gazillion little towns along the way, today’s bus ride was just over an hour, very clean, and direct from Lucca to Florence.  We were really proud of ourselves to have figured out the train last time.  I would never have thought to take the bus.  Good tip:  take the bus when traveling from Lucca to Florence.

Second, while we tried to cram everything into one day last time, today, we picked out one exhibit and spent the rest of the day wandering around.  The exhibit was at the Palazzo Strozzi, and was about all manner of trompe-l’oeil.  Everything from the program to the paintings to the floors of the exhibit were designed to fool the eye.  The art was beautiful-  but the exhibit was marvelous.  I kept trying to step over decals that had been placed at the thresholds of rooms, making it look like you needed to step up or down to enter.

Fake threshhold

And there was an entire gallery dedicated to experiential art.  Giovanna and I took turns posing with the other optical illusions, walking through a wonky room that looked normal from the right perspective, and donning 3-D glasses to watch rotating images pop to life.

FramesGio frame

Then it was off to wander.  We grabbed a sandwich and coffee and strolled the streets of Florence.  In this off-season, the streets were very quiet and the experience was much different than last time.  The temperature was perfect, prices were really reasonable, and we were able to walk through the streets easily, just enjoying the day.

This morning, I had a pretty serious fashion crisis.  This is somewhat rare for me, but it hit today.  Over the last couple of days, Franca and Gio have outfitted me with new coats and boots, totally suitable for strolling around fabulous Italian cities.  I wasn’t able to wear anything new yesterday, because it was raining the entire time.  However, today, it looked like the rain had stopped, and so I decided to get duded up.  That meant figuring out what, exactly would go with the navy blue coat and tan suede boots.


After a wardrobe change or two, I had it worked out.  Now, walking down the streets of Florence in my hip Italian clothes, I felt like I could melt into the city.

After a while we decided to visit Franca at her office across town.  A short taxi-ride later we were sitting in her second-floor office surrounded by union slogans, books and materials.

Franca at work

We chatted about Franca’s work – what she does, how much she truly loves it – and when I left, I had a film about workplace discrimination and a beautiful book detailing the history of women in the union over the last century.  Bello.  But heavy.

When she finished up work, we headed back downtown for some shopping at a fabulous department store, and then a bookshop, where I picked up a super-handy Italian-English dictionary.  At this point, my little computer bag was overflowing with goodness – heavy, heavy goodness.

Full bag

While we waited for the bus to Lucca, we sat in a café drinking tea and eating a chocolate-dipped cookie.

Tea time!

By this time in the day, I’d had 4 coffees and declined two more.  I especially love that the people I’m around not only drink coffee, in actual cups at bars, but they also take English-style tea – in pots – in the afternoon.  It’s lovely and somehow more civilized than grabbing a venti latte to go, or drinking tea all day long from a mug at my desk.  It means more stops for little coffees, and more interactions with more people.  Ancora.

Once we were back in Lucca, we sought out an open restaurant.  Many restaurants are closed on Monday, especially in the off-season, but we found one where they knew the owner and the lights were on.

As has become customary, we sat at the table identifying food items in dueling languages, deciding what we would eat.  Tonight it was gnocchi with truffle and pumpkin.  Buono.  The ladies had spaghettini arrabbiata and some kind of fish balls.  While they ate fish I had a plate of baked cheese with honey and tomato.  This cheese and honey thing that the Italians have going is pretty great.  I’d suggest trying it, but I can’t remember exactly which cheeses you’re supposed to do it with, or which honey goes best.  I’ll let you know if I get a hard and fast set of rules

Gnocchi tartufo e zuccaAngry pastaFish balls

Cheese...PotatoesSpinach - we think

Finally, it was time for dessert.  When we walked in, Franca and I rushed to the counter to look at the torte.  All manner of yummy things stared back at us.  The most interesting is a vegetable pie that has peppers and pine nuts and spinach, I think.  Tonight’s was extraordinary.  Giovanna asked for a sampling for one person, and a plate big enough for three arrived.


Franca, who pretends not to like sweets the way she pretends not to speak English, and Giovanna, who had declared herself too full, found it in themselves to help polish off the plate while we examined my little dictionary for words we weren’t able to translate during the day.


As we walked from the restaurant to their flat, a stone’s throw away, the night was magical.  We saw only one other person in this often busy city.  Very few stores had open windows, and the cobblestones of the street glistened with the memory of that morning’s rain.

“WHEN you return…” Franca had said over dinner as Giovanna nodded.  “WHEN you return we will…”  Ancora, ancora.  It’s a lovely feeling to know you aren’t the only one wanting more.

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1 big mama { 11.10.09 at 3:42 pm }

We tried to duplicate the cheese and honey when we came back home and it was definitely lacking. You can only imagine what it was lacking!! Ancora! Ancora!!

2 Dad { 11.10.09 at 4:02 pm }

My problem with your postings Kid is that I typically read them in the morning with my cup of Joe (not Cappo). Your descriptive prose and elaborate pictures of the food make me want to run to the kitchen and start throwing things together for a gigantic meal. Problem I have however is that somehow pasta for breakfast doesn’t seem quite right and since we have no place in town to find the wonderful cornettos we experienced in Italy, I go away longing for another trip back…..every day!!!!! Nevertheless, I gotta tell you, I look forward every morning to your post so keep them coming…..and continue to experience as much of that wonderful country and those beautiful people as you possibly can

3 Frank { 11.10.09 at 6:56 pm }

The recommended cheese (hereabouts) is percorino stagionato (aged cheep’s cheese) with miele di castagna (chestnut honey). But goat’s cheese can be substituted for the former and any good mountain honey for the latter.

4 Ryo { 11.10.09 at 7:01 pm }

… and you know where you can get a jar of chestnut honey, don’t you?… just come and raid our cupboard! 😉

5 KFlick { 11.10.09 at 10:16 pm }

Thanks Frank! I was hoping you’d help a sista’ out, as I learned this from you.

And Ryo, that honey was fantastic. You’ll have to tell me where you got it.

M & D, if you’re lucky I might be able to smuggle a couple of jars back. Dad, check mom’s book “100 ways to be pasta”. It has some breakfast pastas in there.

6 Ryo { 11.11.09 at 12:29 am }

I got it off our cupboard…

No, seriously, I don’t know where exactly it came from, as it was a part of MANY hampers that came our way last Christmas. It has no label, but we could tell it’s a chestnut honey. And, no-body uses it in our family.
It’s simply too strong for toast.
I use honey on buttered toasted spelt bread slices every morning, and I tried to like the chestnut honey… but, I couldn’t… until, one day, in a grocery store, I read labels of various honey jars and found chestnut honey was indeed NOT recommended on bread. It said “with strong cheese”.
My guilt for not being able to like chestnut honey just lifted there and then… and, in fact, it works lovely with cheese.

You’re most welcome to free us of the started jar, however, if you have to buy a fresh jar, you can find ones by bee-keepers who are local to Barga.

I will stick with acacia or orange blossom honey on my toast.