Arriving At Maridiana (Umbertide)

The weather here today was simply gorgeous. The further away we got from Florence, the cooler and breezier it became.

We made several stops on our way to Maridiana, the alpaca farm. Our first was the Prada outlet.

The Prada Entrance

This is the best I can do with this – the front door! No photos allowed inside. It would have been fun to have had images to show the flashy goods and the ridiculous prices – I came across a women’s simple leather jacket for €2500 (we saw beautiful leather clothing in the market yesterday for €150-€400!) I didn’t last long – a key fob for €100 was way beyond anything I was prepared to spend for a Prada trinket. I retired to the cafe to wait for the others.

Our next stop was the town of Arezzo – a typical old Italian town with a large Duomo which we stepped into. We wandered about town for a bit before stopping for lunch in the Piazza Grande. The town was mobbed since April 25 is an Italian national holiday of some sort; people everywhere enjoying the day.

Piazza Grande in Arezzo

By the time we’d finished lunch at 3:00 we decided to head straight to Maridiana. The farm is situated in the Umbrian hills. The photo flattens the countryside which in reality consists of well defined slopes.

At Maridiana

Green, green, green! The landscape has turned verdant this past week we were told, with red poppies in bloom along the highways, and lots of other vegetation in flower.

This is one of the two houses on the farm. This one is large – it houses Giani and Marissa the owners as well 3-4 guests in a separate half of the building. Another building close by has space for another 3-4 guests so the place accommodates our party easily. Each building has a kitchen, dining room, living/sitting room on the main floor and two bedrooms on the second each with its own bathrooms. Definitely more than comfortable for our stay.

The Back Side Of The Farmhouse

The star of the establishment is the newborn alpaca. The animals were lingering near the house to welcome us.

Alpaca

Marissa had prepared us a welcome dinner of fresh local cheese, salami, a barley salad and pizza, finished off with fresh fruit tarts, and of course white wine. Here we are eating on the patio under the wisteria which had bloomed in the past two days. Quite lovely.

Dining Under The Wisteria

Tomorrow we venture further south to a hemp museum which houses a largish collection of hemp artifacts gathered from local residents who have had these curtains, tablecloths, garments in their families for multiple generations.

We will have an early-ish start in the morning in order to arrive by ten or so. Should be very interesting.

More Florence

Sheila and I decided to return to the Piazza Del Duomo again, via Bus route 22, but this time we wandered toward the river through the galleria and leather market.

The Galleria

The Leather Market

The leather goods were sumptuous – I couldn’t resist a pair of bright turquoise lined leather gloves. Sheila was drawn to the handbags.

After browsing through the leather stuff we headed toward the Uffizi. It was one in the afternoon and the Piazza was packed with people (and pigeons).

Piazza Near The Uffizi

There was no point in attempting to enter the Uffizi, the lineups snaked the length of the building. Instead we strolled toward the Fiume Arno and the Ponte Vecchio.

Il Ponte Vecchio

It was interesting to see a heavily armed presence guarding the route:

The Military Presence

The two soldiers in an armoured truck on one side, two young soldiers with assault weapons across the road from it. A determined van driver however could have mowed down many pedestrians before being stopped, the moving crowds were so dense.

Lots of interesting shops on the side streets:

A Glass Shop

I loved the array of colours and shapes on display in this one. Don’t know where the glass was made (quite likely in Venice).

After a number of hours strolling in the sunshine we headed back to a bus stop and back home. We ended the afternoon with some gelato from a shop near our B&B Hotel.

At Gelateria Barroccino

This young man (didn’t get his name) makes wonderful gelato – many flavours, different ones each day. I’ve tried straccitella, nutella, and today cioccolatto.

We ended the day by having dinner with the other women in the group, including Linda who has organized the trip. Tomorrow we head out to Umbria and the alpaca farm, a long winding trip planned to take most of the day. Looking forward to whatever comes next.

Shmoozing In Florence Centrale

Sheila and I started the day slowly by meeting two other of the women in our group (Elaine and Marion) for breakfast here at the B&B. Then the two of us took the #22 bus which stops right outside the B&B into Florence Centrale.

The bus was packed; they weren’t all tourists, many would have been locals heading to somewhere through the city center, which is where we got off – across the street from the main train station.

We mosyed through pedestrian filled narrow streets as we headed toward the Duomo.

Typical Narrow Florence Streets

We stopped at a couple of market stalls near the Station, one with leather goods, didn’t buy anything in spite of some haggling on a leather wallet,  but neither of us could resist the rainbow colored shawl/scarves which called out to us (it had nothing to do with the young persuasive women selling them).

Heading down one of the main streets from the station you can see the Duomo in the distance. Crowds lined up everywhere to get in to view the art and architecture. Since we’d not bought tickets in advance we simply walked slowly around the outside of the buildings – something I hadn’t known was the bell tower is a separate building. Plenty to stop and look at on the outside – the main door to the Cathedral building is spectacular! The whole exterior of the buildings is replete with statues and other decorative sculpture. I can only imagine the interior from photos I’ve seen.

Il Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

Main Doors of the Duomo

The Duomo Bell Tower

We walked past many small shops, clothing, footwear, handbags (all expensive due to their proximity to the Cathedral). we decided to stroll further from the church to find a street cafe serving lunch. We shared a salad and sandwich which was more than enough to eat.

One shop caught my eye – a small hole-in-the-wall filled with beautifully crafted paper/wood objects – and the artisan creating them.

Shop Of Beautiful Hand Made Paper Objects

The Artisan At Work

The latest fashion accessory, to judge by the number of shops with many on display, is a very fancy bejeweled bra (and panties to go with them). They’re meant to be shown off. (I can’t see me wearing one, however).

Window Shopping

The weather was a sunny 27 – compared to just around 10 at home in Halifax. Lovely for walking slowly and taking in the crowds and sights.

Late in the afternoon we picked up the #22 bus where we had got off and took the scenic route back to where we had embarked in the morning – right outside the hotel.

We’re planning on hooking up for dinner with Elaine and Marion shortly and then we’ll call it a day.

Travel Update!

Waiting At Heathrow

I’ve arrived at Heathrow. I was able to get my connections reworked: in a couple of hours I’ll leave for Zurich then on to Florence arriving, I hope, at 6:25 this evening. No overnight stay in Rome with a 17 hour wait time to fly to Florence.

That’s the good news. The bad news is my bag was checked to Rome (but I’m now not going through Rome). When I checked in with Lufthansa they thought there would be enough time to pull the bag off the Brussels flight and send it along with me to Zurich, then Florence.

Fingers crossed! We’re leaving Florence early Wednesday morning for Meridiana, 35 minutes from Perugia. I might just end up with a whole new summer wardrobe but I’ll miss my spare glasses, my newish sandals and pink Sketchers that are also in that bag.

I HATE travelling.

 

Not A Good Omen!

It’s 9:30 pm and I’m still in Halifax. A problem with the altitude switch on the plane to Montreal (connecting to Munich, then Florence) so after sitting on the runway for over an hour the flight was cancelled.

It ought to be plain how little you gain by getting excited and vexed. You’ll always be late for the previous plane and always in time for the next.” Piet Heine

I spent over an hour on the phone with a patient young Air Canada man who cancelled existing outgoing flights, found me a new set of flights: Halifax – London – Brussels – Rome – and 17 hours later – Florence! Instead of arriving in Florence at noon on April 22, I should arrive about the same time on April 23!

Waiting in the Halifax airport

So now I’m waiting in the departure lounge of the Halifax International Airport for the London flight.

I’ve checked out trains from Rome to Florence. Cost ~ €60 one way, and that may involve a lot of schlepping at both the Rome and Florence ends. The B&B I’m booked at in Florence is a 15 minute cab ride from the Florence airport so I may overnight in Rome at Air Canada’s expense – I’ll see about organizing that when I arrive in London.

I love being places. I HATE the travelling! With a passion!

Italy Adventure About To Begin

I learned about Let’s Go Italy Tours a number of years ago through Catherine Goertz’s New Year’s Travel letter. Linda Kirsch’s Italy Tours was listed. This past fall I contacted Linda about a textile focus tour – there were a few others interested in the same kind of visit so she pulled one together and we’re about to embark.

We’ll be staying at an alpaca farm outside of Perugia – Maridiana! The alpaca look friendly and I’m guessing the scenery will be beautiful. The temperature for the next several days in Perugia: mid 20s (although much cooler at night).

The focus of this trip is textiles and crafts: weaving, bobbin lace, linen, tapestries…. We’ll be visiting many small walled towns in the mountains/hills surrounding Perugia (Umbria). There will also be lots of Italian food and wine!

Our group is small. I contacted the others last week to say Sheila (my sewing friend from Toronto who is joining me on this trip) were arriving mid-afternoon Sunday and hope to run into them before the group meets on  Wednesday.

Sheila and I are planning to shmooze for a couple of days – fabric shops, botanical gardens, and of course the Brunelschi dome (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) and other architectural and art must-sees in Florence.

I’m about to depart in an hour. I expect to take lots of pictures and to share a few with you each day! So stay tuned.

San Francisco 6

The sewing retreat ended around noon today. People who live closer to the west coast have already departed the city. I couldn’t make connections all the way to the Canadian east coast work so I don’t leave till 8:10 tomorrow morning. 

Had lunch with another gal who has to spend the night here, then we went fabric shopping. Linda wanted to purchase some, I was happy to tag along. 


Britex does have some lovely if expensive fabric. A week ago I saw this silk panel that reminded me of the paintings of Gustav Klimpt – the colors and detail are simply gorgeous. Each 60″x60″ panel was priced at $125. I thought it stunning but couldn’t think what I’d make with it – my present life style is more LandsEnd than Tiffany. So I walked away. I was hoping when I returned today it might have sold – nope, it was still there. Again, I looked at it but in the end I walked away – I had no idea what I would want to add to my wardrobe.

I stopped on the third floor to look at the petersham (a softer, more pliable version of grosgrain). I was expecting a few colours – I thought I’d pick up a yard of a couple – forget that! The adjacent shelves held rows of shades from white through grey and beige to black. With no specific project in mind it was impossible to choose any.  I left Britex empty handed this time which is just as well since there is no room in my suitcase for one more item.

I love this window display. It caught my attention two years ago. It’s still there. It’s a clothing store next door to Britex. There are garments in a window further along but three of the windows are filled floor to ceiling with these antique machines. Wonder where they’ve found so many.

I can’t imagine walking in anything like these shoes;

Or these.


The Apple Store is wide open to the street on this sunny afternoon. The Apple people in their green jerseys are just waiting there to help you. I had no questions or concerns today so we walked on by. I wonder whether there are any other Apple stores so easily accessible.

I have had a great week, the women were all experienced sewers, all were deeply involved in learning more about fitting and sewing technique. Sandra Betzina is a whiz at fitting. I followed her most of the morning just watching as she spotted adjustments that people could make to their garment muslins then grab a pen and make the corresponding changes to the paper patterns – 3/8″ here, 1/2″ there, opening it out, taking it in. Several modifications to each pattern. At this point in the week those muslins were fitting pretty well.

An early night tonight. I have to be ready for the Airport Shuttle which is picking me up at 5:45 in the morning. I haven’t looked at Halifax weather all week. Hope it’s not snowing when I get back!