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Firenze-Siena, Italia 4 September 2011

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Sunday from Firenze to Siena

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The excitement of Italy is on the girls, and we're all up for breakfast before nine. It's still hot hot hot but the clouds are threatening as we eat breakfast. Afterwards, with an hour and a half before check out, the girls and I head out in search of some medicine for Rochelle ...and end up at the farmer's market, where I leave them to go back to the room and move our luggage into storage and Rochelle, who is not feeling well, to the lounge. Walking past the Duomo on the way back to join the girls I pass a tour group of Japanese – the place is lousy with tour groups, little flocks of sheep dutifully following their shepherd, who holds an umbrella or a little flag aloft for them to follow. The Japanese guide is talking steadily into a little transmitting device she wears around her neck; all her flock are wired for sound, but that's not the funny part. At least half of them are holding their cameras aloft, pointing and clicking every which way. It's a hilarious picture. (Later, in Siena, I see another tour group, Germans this time; they aren't holding their vidcams aloft, but are shooting from belly button level … but it's the same phenomenon. “I don't remember anything about being there, but I must have been, because Look: here are pictures I must have taken...”

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The Farmer's market is a delicious delight. Amongst the schlock tourist booths there are many, many legitimate farmers, offering more than enough to live well on: nucce (chestnut flour pancakes stuffed with ricotta), awesome artisan cheeses, foccacia made with flour ground on the farm from wheat grown on the farm, heirloom tomatoes of multiple varieties, mosto lambrusco (unfermented grape juice pressed from Lambrusco grapes), wooden cooking implements and toys, on and on and on. Damiana negotiates two cheeses, one a soft goat cheese rolled in wood ash. In the process of purchasing tomatoes and a pepper, Sienna is engaged in conversation by the farmer, a lanky, furry boy who would fit right into Mendocino County. He wants to know if this tomato is called the same – ox eye – where we live? Her purchase of four nice tomatoes and a goodly pepper amounts to .9 euro. Damiana experiences the same connection over eight plums of two types and four luscious figs: .80 cents (80% of one euro; a euro is worth about $1.55.) Again and again, the shared appreciation of real food is more of a bridge than our language differences are a gulf.

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<p>Firenze: Nice knockers and assorted hitching rings</p>

Firenze: Nice knockers and assorted hitching rings

The rain starts to fall. At the fruit stand an Australian girl strikes up a conversation with my girls; they share finds. We sit on a stair under a colonnade. Behind us, the children of the vendors and shoppers happily bang, saw, and hew away busily on rickety tables with battered tools. From time to time random parents come by and check, but everyone is cheery and productive.

A note about children and dogs. My daughters and I have noticed that there is a fairly large cohort of both. The dogs are nearly always leashed, and uniformly discomfited by the weather – a whole lot of panting going on ...but very little barking. At the market, there's a chihuahua-like dog in a kennel box who periodically registers a complaint about his imprisonment. With the exception of the children in the kid zone – mostly older, it must be noted – it is not so with the children we have seen. They are fairly uniformly crying, while their parents fairly uniformly are ignoring them. “Children of children” is what we've come to call them, because in so many cases the parents are well turned out, negligent, as if the children are some sort of autonomous fashion accessory that has the unpleasant side effect of making noise when displeased. So disappointing, because fashion accessories should always be pleased.


The hardest thing for us Californios to understand is the sheer age of everything. Some of these rings have been banging up against their stone walls for much longer than europeans have been in California.

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