A Trip (back) to Fiesole

Ciao Readers!

You may recall that a few weeks ago I attempted my first organized run in Italy and promptly got semi-lost in a little town called Fiesole.  As I was preoccupied at the time with finding my way back, I knew I’d need to return with Steve some other time in order to properly appreciate the town (and amazing views).  That time was last weekend.

I specifically chose last weekend because it coincided with the Festa de “schiacciata con l’uva” (which literally means “crushed” with grapes, but is a grape-covered pastry).  I had a slice of this cake at Cafe Serafini a couple of weeks ago (it is only made for a few weeks during grape-harvest season – i.e., now) and it was delicious!  (Steve is not as fond of it as the grapes, and thus the pastry, still have seeds inside).  I was looking forward to seeing the town, but especially eating cake (am I that one-dimensional?).   In any case, we walked to the north part of Florence where we caught a bus out to Fiesole.

Fiesole is such an adorable town!  It is very old, complete with Etruscan remains (pictured below) and a tiny town center with a few outdoor restaurants (ditto).  It was so relaxed compared to the hub-bub of Florence.  However, there did not seem to be grape cake anywhere!  In the center of town there was a quaint little flea-market (pictured), but still no grape cake.  We took a walk around the scenic outskirts for a phenomenal view (once again, it was hazy and my pictures are flat – arg!).  If you look carefully in the second picture you can see the Duomo (it’s like playing “Where’s Waldo”).   We were having a very nice time and could not get over the amazing view….but I was still holding out hope that I had not imagined reading about a grape cake festival (my Italian isn’t that bad!).

Finally we found the grape-cake festival part of town…it was basically a few sweet retired ladies having a grape-cake-only bake sale outside their church (pictured below).  We bought 2 different slices of schiacciata – the one pictured on the left was interesting because it included walnuts and rosemary (but you could patch a wall with the crust); the one on the right was less complex, but had lighter (and more edible) pastry.  To be entirely honest, the schiacciata at Serafini is much better, but we had a lovely mini-adventure none-the-less!  Thanks, as always, for coming along on our trip!

My First Italian Run

Ciao Readers!

So, I think how I’ve mentioned that I miss all of the runs back home this time of year.  If there’s a 5K, 10K or 1/2 marathon, I’m usually there!  I may have also mentioned that I have been thwarted here by the need for a professional sports medicine certificate in order to run organized races.  As they say, where there’s a will there’s a way (and in this case a nice woman willing to help me) – so this past Sunday I got to participate in my first Italian run.  Before you read this, know that as I write it I have a smile on my face and am laughing hysterically (lest you become concerned).  So, here’s the story:

Saturday afternoon I get a call from my new acquaintance telling me there’s a run the next day – an easy flat 8k and an uphill 12k; since it is sponsored by a running group I can choose “non competitive” and won’t need the sports certificate.  Since there have been many occasions where I have run a 5 or 10K without adequate preparation, I decide to be spontaneous and over-confidently say (in reference to the 8K) “sure” – sounds great!   The next morning we take off on her moped to where the race begins (first motorini ride in Italy – fun!).  Since she can’t stay, I’ll be walking the 3-ish miles back after the run.  I get signed up for the run, no problem, and we’re off…

Or rather everyone else is off – for about a mile I was able to keep the back of the pack in my line of sight, but soon after that it was just me.  In any case, the route seemed very well-marked with chalk and there were people at intersections pointing the way.  When I encountered one woman she asked “otto?” and while my Italian is not very good, I am sure she was asking if I was running the 8K, to which I said yes and promptly followed her direction.  There were actually a few runners (i.e. walkers) I passed at this point, so I still felt like I was part of the “run.”  Soon after, though, I again found myself alone and at a literal (and figurative?) fork in the road.  With no chalk marks this time I did the best I could – seeing a runner off in the distance and going as fast as I could to catch up with him, I pointed at my bib and said “corso?”- to which he promptly responded “no” and pointed back in the direction from which I had come.  I ended up running into 2 other participants who asked me in Italian which way to go – boy were they asking the wrong person!  In any case, they asked some non-runners along the way if they had seen anyone running by, and we went in the direction they pointed – up a steep hill, into a new town called Fiesole

Now, I have been here long enough to know that things are not always what I expect.  But even in Italy I was guessing that when I saw my very first water stop (and my iPod was telling me I had already gone 7.5K), that this was probably not the water stop for the 8k…  And, as I guessed from the clues (and as you have guessed by this point), I was in fact now on the 12K trail.  I stopped to talk to one of the race volunteers about my confusion and if there was another way back.  He asked me “bella, no?” pointing out to the view.  And, alas, he was so right.  The view from the top of that hill was breathtaking.  If I had any idea I would have brought a camera!  (Since I didn’t, I have found one online for you, below).  At this point I really had no idea where I was except that I wasn’t in Florence (nor Kansas) anymore and I guess my fear got the better of me and I decided to take his directions back to town instead of finish the beautiful trail. In hindsight (knowing after-the-fact that I was really only another 3 miles out) I would have finished the run (in other words walked it) to fully take in the incredible view.  In any case, we have a great place to go back to and really appreciate!

At the bottom of the hill I encountered a family cleaning their little restaurant and I asked the son who was out front how to get to Piazza Beccaria (a landmark close to home).  He looked at me and asked “a piedi?!?!?!”  Which translates to “what – on foot?!?!?!”  I pointed down at my running clothes and race bib and said “certo!”   Since I was lost and had no idea how far from home I was, he got me really scared  – from the way he asked I was guessing I was 10 miles from home (yeah, I know, the math doesn’t add up).  To cut this story a little short, between his father’s directions and a few calls to Steve (“Ah – you’ve walked into the map now!”), I found my way home a mere 3 miles later.  All in all, it was a grand adventure – from the spontaneity of saying “sure” on a day’s notice, to my first motorini ride, to getting lost amidst the most beautiful scenery.  Needless to say, though, I am not quite ready for “non-competitive” runs here!

Bella, no?:

photo by Jefie on “virtual tourist”

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