Last Ride (Monday, May 21, 2007)

We planned some sightseeing in Firenze later in the day, so we started early for a short local ride. After espresso and a pastry, of course. We are now a known quantity at the bar we prefer in the main plaza.

On our bikes, we headed east out of the main intersection in Greve, for an initial climb up to Sugame Pass, the site of the winery we’d visited the day before. The road kicked up just across the main road as we exited the square and continued at a steady pleasant pace, with light traffic on a weekday morning. About 4 miles later, after the pass, we had a nice descent, and then turned northward with more elevation to give up. We climbed a bit at first, then had one of the most pleasant descents of the whole trip, with nicely banked turns on good roads. This was interrupted only by a bit of a flat section through the town of Cintoia. We then headed out to the east, on an out-and-back six-mile section to the town of San Polo. We dropped a few hundred feet, passed an industrial complex set in the wooded valley, then climbed back up a few hundred feet to San Polo.

It was a small town, but there was a nice bar for coffee. Of course, the smaller the town, the less English spoken, and the friendlier the populace. The barristas were especially entranced with Rick’s rear-view mirror mounted on his eyeglasses. Refreshed, we retraced the last few miles, then hit the main road southward back to Greve. 25 miles, 2250 feet.

Done with riding, we returned our bikes to their boxes for the trip home. Doing it for the second time, we each were much more proficient. So far, we have had no mechanical difficulties (not even a flat tire), on the road, or in shipping the bikes. We had a utilitarian (hardly!) lunch back at the Cantina, and given our dinner plans we probably ate too much. Rob tried to secure a reservation in Firenze for touring the Accademia, where Michelangelo’s David is displayed. No luck, they were booked several days out.

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79. Street Corner, Greve
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80. Ramuzzi Bike Shop, greve
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81. Coffee Stop, San Polo
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82. Apartment, Pasta Factory
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83. Pasta Factory
We drove into Firenze, parking by the Roman gate as on the previous foray. It was a bit of a hike into the center of town, but we were in no rush. We passed the huge Pitti Palace, then crossed the Arno River on the Ponte Vecchio, passed the Uffizi (closed on Mondays), and made our way to the Science Museum. I’d been there before, Rick may not have been as interested as the scientists, but Ken needed to see Galileo’s original telescopes, and recreations of early physics experiments. It seemed Rick was really bored, but we soon learned that he was not feeling too well. Some combination of heat, dehydration, too much coffee, too much driving, and too much food had taken its toll. A quick power nap in the lobby and some water from the bar across the street seemed to revive him.

As Rick Steves says, all the “biggies” are closed on Monday. And Rick and Ken had toured a few places already. And some of the sights had early closing hours. So our options were limited. We visited the Ricardi/Medici Palace, and so late in the day we were free to spend way more than the official 7 minutes in the small decorative chapel. We also visited the Duomo Museum, repository for several relics and one of Michealangelo’s Pieta. Along the way we had some gelato, since we’d be having a big dinner in just a little while.

One of the main reasons for wandering into Firenze again was to take in dinner at Osteria Giovanni. This is the new restaurant started by Giovanni Latini, who had been my family’s gracious host at Il Latini on our trip three years earlier. We found the restaurant on Via Moro, just a couple blocks off the Arno River, and in the process spied the original Il Latini restaurant very nearby, just around the corner.

Giovanni greeted us and I introduced Ken and Rick, and we were shown a table in the back room. It was good to see Giovanni again, but I’d forgotten how difficult it was to speak with him, since his English is not really conversational. On our previous trip, Chiara had always been close at hand, but I also recalled many delightful conversations with Giovanni (about grapa, and Micheangelo vs. Brunelleschi , etc.). We were introduced to Carina Latini, Chiara’s sister, whose English was as impeccable as her sister’s. I inquired about Giovanni’s son (the mathematician), and wondered out loud when I would meet the matriarch (Carol).

Dinner was very similar to our Il Latini meal, panseco immediately, and a delicious soup prior to ordering. I couldn’t pass up the pici and sausage again, and another sea bass appeared, though the tableside deboning was not as gracious. The salad was also tossed table-side. I finished with a chocolate dessert (made by Carol I was told), and then Giovanni brought us all some more dessert, gratis. Rekindling memories of our earlier trip, I enjoyed a glass of chilled muscato. We tipped the waiter commensurate with the value of our meal (which was not what we were charged) and he finally warmed up to us. Another memorable meal. We navigated the long walk back to the car in the dark along streets that were mostly new to us, and drove home without any miscues.