Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 16, 2011. So, when you stay up until 1:30 a.m. looking through telescopes, drinking wine and enjoying good conversation there's every reason to assume you'll miss the 'direct train" to Florence. And that's just the way it went. We finally boarded a train for Florence at 12;22 p.m., but it went to Livorno and Pisa first -- entirely in the wrong direction. But, board the train we did, and we finally pulled into the Florence station at 3:30 p.m.

Our lodgings were a 30 minute walk from the station and our directions to the hostel were perfect. It turns out the hostel is in a 200 year old building on a cute side street not too far from the Florence Duomo. Cute cafe's and other shops line the narrow street in both directio
ns. We're on the 2nd floor, and looking down onto the passing crowd is fun and enjoyable.

We've decided to stay an extra night, so we'll be in Florence for 2 full days besides today. That'll give us 2 1/2 days of adventure in this most beautiful city. Upon our arrival, the desk clerk knocked on our door and presented us with a nice bottle of red Tuscan wine from the owner! A most surprising but welcome gift. Just outside our room is a refrigerator full of beer and water, and we were told to 'help ourselves".
For those of you who may be wondering, and noticed that I used the term "hostel" rather than "hotel" -- it should be known that Europe is full of hostels of one sort or another. Many people refer to them as "youth hostels" -- but the reality is that these dwellings are just another way for the owners to attract their guests. We have a private room, for example, and in this case, we share the W.C. with another room down the hall. The advantage is that one can obtain lodgings for 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of the average hotel
and still be in a clean safe environment. We're right in the middle of the city with attractions all around us, so it's well worth the perceived inconvenience of sharing a bathroom!!

After a bit of exploring and shopping we'll call it a day and get an early start in the morning. Florence is a city well worth exploring with lots of sights and activities to enjoy.

We had a lucky find as we were wandering throughout he streets near our lodgings. Besides the fact that there is a Picasso, Miro and Dali exhibit at the art museum (we're going there tomorrow), there was an amazing performance of "progressive jazz" by a quartet of musicians just outside the museum. The performance started at 9:30 p.m. and they played until 10:45 p.m. or so.

One really neat innovation was when the drummer came out from behind his drums and played the cello!! The sax and guitar player were able to make sounds I'd never heard in music before -- a truly wonderful exhibit of musical skill. I wish I could do that!!

So, as always dear reader --

Stay tuned......

July 15, 2011 -- Wandering Tuscany. Francesco and I spent the morning working on one of his telescopes. After disassembling the mountain and cleaning some of the worm gears (I don't want to get too technical), we were able to make the drives on the mount work nicely.

Francesco arranged for us to visit Villa Ferraia ( for an evening of food, drink and astronomy. Vittorio, the owner of the villa has a 14" Meade telescope in an observatory. We set out by car around 1 p.m. and headed into the country-side. Along the way, we visited a number of Medieval villages including Montancino, Sant' Antimo and finally Tocchi where the Villa Ferrais is located.

Vittorio's Villa is in a fairly remote part of the country-side and we drove over a rough dirt road for about 20 minutes. Yet, there were many visitors at the Villa, including people from Europe, the U.S. and "down under". There's a beautiful swimming pool with lush grounds and gardens.

After dinner, we set out for the observatory at about 10 p.m. The moon was up and pretty bright, but we were still able to see quite a nice selection of deep-sky objects.

Today we'll be heading into Florence for a couple of days of sightseeing and exploration. Among the sights we want to see is the U.S. Military Cemetery which is the final resting place to more than 50,000 WWII soldiers.s including the great globular star cluster in Hercules. We explored the skies, drank some wine and talked until we all agreed it was time to head home at around midnight.

More to come.. Stay tuned.