Tuesday, September 11

Moving day again!

We only had a few hours left in Florence so we went to the Bargello Museum.  It was fantastic, especially on top of what we have already seen.  In fact it was so good we didn't even have time for our last taste of Vivoli! We had to run to get back to the hotel before the noon check-out time. Then we rented a car. It was a wild ride to get out of Florence - not for the faint of heart!  We got stuck in a rotary; cars and bikes whizzing all around! But we actually made it our safely and didn't get lost.  We took a beautiful ride to Montaione; it's only about 40 miles from Florence.  We checked into our hotel which is just beautiful; a renovated 15th century palazzo with tile floors and wood beams and a fantastic view of the Tuscan countryside. We then had a simple lunch overlooking the valley. it was at a bar / deli / snack bar - we wouldn't dream of going to a place like this in the States, but it was recommended by the hotel so we risked it.  We had grilled vegetables (peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, onions), mixed olives, crostini with liver, pizza with mushrooms. Then we went to the pasticerria next door and had miniature Italian black-and-white cookies and cappuccino.

Next we drove to San Gimignano, a 10th-century walled town about 18km from here.

It was really neat from the outside, but unfortunately, the inside was just a big mall of stores, stores, stores. It was like a miniature Firenze: leather stores, gourmet food stores, ceramic shops, gelato shops, artists' stores, etc.

And then we heard about the attacks on New York and D.C.

We were in a small gallery buying some watercolors at about 3:00. As we were checking out, the clerk was on the phone. He paused and asked if we had heard about the explosions at the World Trade Center where "50,000 people had been killed". We had no idea what he was talking about, nor could we imagine. We took our purchase and left. But why would he say something like that if it weren't true? We got a sick feeling in our stomachs. We were heading back toward the entrance gate when we noticed a group of people clustering around a TV in the window of a bar. It was tuned to CNN and the headline said "America Attacked".  We watched for a few minutes in the same disbelief and shock that everyone everywhere felt. After a few minutes we hurried back to our car and drove straight to the hotel. In our room we put on CNN and saw those terrible images over and over. We tried to call home; it took us a while to get through, even longer for the kids in Connecticut and Boston, MA.  And we sat there watching for several hours.....

We had no appetite (we had earlier cancelled our dinner reservation), but eventually went in a daze down to the hotel's dining room. The food was probably wonderful, but we took no notice and practically forced ourselves to eat. The room was somber; there were other Americans there. The staff was obviously distressed and kept saying how sorry they were and could they do anything. Soon there were hand-printed signs in the lobby and elevator expressing sympathy and support for the American people. 

We spent the rest of the day and much of the next just trying to block out the anger, shock, and deep pain of what we had seen, but it was impossible. Those ghastly images kept replaying over and over in our minds. Unfortunately we live in a world that features both huge concentrations of people and the tools of technology that allow a madman to cause untold destruction if that is his intent. And when dealing with fanatics for whom heroic death is the path to martyrdom and eternal glory, we must face the disturbing reality that the game is always in their favor.

Obviously, the tragedy hung over us for the rest of the trip (we actually talked to our travel agent about leaving ASAP, but that was not to be with the grounding of all flights), but we did do what we could to instill some kind of vacation normalcy. We certainly were not going to sit and watch CNN for the next 5 days.  So on we went.

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