Buon Halloween! In case you've wondered what Italian Halloween is like from an American perspective, it's mostly kids (and some adults) dressed up 80% as witches, 10% as skeletons in 10% in various masks/facepaint, walking around going to parties or restaurants getting a single piece of candy each. It's definitely not as big a deal here as it is back home but it's very sweet nonetheless.
It was our second full day with the car and I'm glad I didn't book it for more than this: it's been fun but tiring. After breakfast this AM we drove first to Siena, which was one of my favorite cities I visited last time. We got into an argument (this is a pattern) trying to figure out where to park, then we found a spot, crossed our fingers and walked into town. I think it's a beautiful city still but being the day before a holiday (All Saints Day) everyone was off work and the streets were fairly packed, which made it less enjoyable for Steve and which made it less enjoyable for me by proxy. We saw the Campo and the beautiful Duomo. We didn't have time to go to San Domenico to see St. Catherine's head but we went to La Osteria Loggia for lunch, where I went with my parents last time I was here. I had a glass of wine, eggplant parmesan and we shared a salad and white beans and Steve had some branzino (whitefish) and spinach. With a little bit of luck we found our car and pressed onto Perugia. We were deciding between there and Orvieto (where I spent a weekend back in the olden days) and I think Perugia was a little closer. We passed a beautiful lake on the way there (I am too lazy to pull out my guide and find the proper name) and fought once again about parking--this time we had been told by our guide to park outside the city and take the train, so it was doubly stressful to figure out not just where the town is but where this train station was. Once again, with luck we found a train station with free parking. This train was called the "mini-metro" (or something like that). Each car was about half the size of one of those airport shuttle trains and with no operators. Kind of strangely cool. We got up to town, which has a beautiful view above Umbria and walked about. There wasn't TOO much to see (it was about 5 PM so we were tapped on serious sightseeing) but we bought some chocolates and various souvenirs. When in doubt, shop.
I almost thought it was the end of us when Steve urged me to got in a mini-Metro right as it was closing and he got stuck behind me but we were reunited 10 minutes later. We drove back to Siena, listening to podcasts, figuring out the Italian toll system (not that bad: you get a ticket when you get on and pay when you get off) and getting some gas. Steve got a cold latte in a can, I purchased some sort of potato chip thingie called Groggys made into the shape of horrified faces and some Smarties by request for a friend of mine (Smarties here are like more-delicious M&Ms.)
We got back with no problems (we had discovered yesterday that our GPS needs to be updated) and walked down to a restaurant my friend Stephen Dypiangco had recommended called La Casalinga, near the Pitti Palace so not too far from our hotel. It was brightly lit and very crowded but we got a table right away. We ordered a liter of wine because we're terrible people and I had a salad that consisted of very thinly-shaved raw artichoke hearts, lots of shaved parmesan, and fresh lemon/olive oil for me to add at liberty. We got bistecca ai ferri, which was a smaller steak than the one we got a few nights ago, IE not nearly as thick and rare, so we were both happy. I got an arugula salad and we loaded it on top and we were very happy. For dessert, just because we were in Florence, we got biscotti with vin santo, or thick, sweet wine for dipping. Steve seemed pretty happy.
Our waitress was kind of intimidating at first because she was so harried but she was really nice. After waiting for the check for forever (this has been par for the course this whole trip, and something we are working on getting used to) I told her I was sorry my Italian was so terrible and she gave me some crap for having studied here for a whole year, but told us that Americans aren't so great at picking up Italian since we all hang out with each other, speaking Italian, and that when she went to the States she didn't speak English that great but everyone was really nice to her. That's what I think she said, anyway: she said this all in Italian.