Monday, June 12, 2017

Challenge Link-Up Post: Final Wrap-Up


Have you finished the Back to the Classics Challenge?  Congratulations!  This is where you'll link up to your Challenge Wrap-Up Post, after you've completed a minimum of six different categories from the original challenge post.  This post is only for Challenge-Wrap Up Posts.  If you do not have a blog, or anywhere you post publicly, please write up your post-challenge thoughts/suggestions/etc in the comments section.  Please read the directions carefully. 

By linking or commenting here, you are declaring that you have completed the challenge; that each book reviewed fits the correct definition of the category, and was published before 1967 (except for posthumous publications); and that your reviews for each category are linked to the correct post. If I cannot find links to your reviews, I cannot give you credit and thus enter you into the drawing.  THIS is where I will look at the end of the year and randomly choose the winner for the bookish prize. 


Please remember to indicate within THIS post how many entries you have earned for the prize drawing and include links to your reviews. If you do NOT include links to your original reviews IN THIS POST, I CANNOT ENTER YOU INTO THE DRAWING.


  • If you've completed six categories and you get one entry.
  • Complete nine categories, and you get two entries.
  • Complete all twelve categories, and your name is entered into the drawing three times!
  • Thank you again for participating, and congratulations again for completing the challenge!

    Saturday, June 10, 2017

    A Roundup of Victorian Mini-Reviews

    Or more precisely, a round up of mini-reviews of Victorian and Victorian-related works. (I like my title better). Anyway, I'm making really great progress on my Victorian Reading Challenge -- so far I've finished 16 of the 31 categories I want to complete and written reviews for nearly all of them. However, I've gotten behind on posts for the past few weeks and since three of them seem to go together, I thought I'd write up some mini-reviews and get on with it. 




    Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome. This sequel to the beloved Three Men in a Boat has J and his friends George and Harris reunited for a summer bicycling tour through Germany. A good chunk of the book is devoted to the preparations for the trip (made more complicated by the wives and children of the three, who are not joining the party) and the usual funny asides when an incident reminds J of a funny story. Though not quite as fun as the original, this book has some great moments. It's pointless to describe them, so I'll just include one of my favorite passages. Sadly, the dog Montmorency isn't included in this story, but I had to include this bit which does include dogs.
    This quote is a bit long, but it's one of my favorites from the whole book:
    . . . in Germany most human faults and follies sink into comparative insignificance beside the enormity of walking on the grass.  Nowhere, and under no circumstances, may you at any time in Germany walk on the grass.  Grass in Germany is quite a fetish.  To put your foot on German grass would be as great a sacrilege as to dance a hornpipe on a Mohammedan’s praying-mat.  The very dogs respect German grass; no German dog would dream of putting a paw on it.  If you see a dog scampering across the grass in Germany, you may know for certain that it is the dog of some unholy foreigner.  

    In England, when we want to keep dogs out of places, we put up wire netting, six feet high, supported by buttresses, and defended on the top by spikes.  In Germany, they put a notice-board in the middle of the place, “Hunden verboten,” and a dog that has German blood in its veins looks at that notice-board and walks away.  In a German park I have seen a gardener step gingerly with felt boots on to grass-plot, and removing therefrom a beetle, place it gravely but firmly on the gravel; which done, he stood sternly watching the beetle, to see that it did not try to get back on the grass; and the beetle, looking utterly ashamed of itself, walked hurriedly down the gutter, and turned up the path marked “Ausgang.”

    As I'm currently living in Germany, I found this very amusing. Germany is a nation that takes rules and regulations extremely seriously. 
    I'm counting this as my New To You Book by a Favorite Author.


    Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird. I was inspired to read this after finally watching the new Masterpiece production of Victoria, which had a lot of comments on one of my favorite non-book blogs, Frock Flicks, at which historical costume experts discuss (and sometimes destroy) historical film and TV adaptations. Yes, Lord Melbourne wasn't nearly as dishy as Rufus Sewell, but Queen Victoria was a little bit in love with him. Overall the book is well-written and engrossing, but I got a little bored with Victoria's life towards the end, but maybe there really wasn't that much to say; at that point I think the lives of her children are more interesting -- I recommend Victoria's Daughters by Jerrold M. Packer, which I reviewed a few years ago.

    I'm counting this as my Book About Queen Victoria (fiction or non-fiction).



    A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde. Another drawing room comedy, but with more dramatic elements. Taking place over just a couple of days at a country house party, young George Arbuthnot has just landed a plum job with the worldly and sophisticated Lord Illingworth. His mother is dead set against him taking the job, because she has a Deep Dark Secret. The third play I've read by Wilde,  and though it has some witty moments, it's my least favorite so far. Here are a few of his trademark bons mots:

    “One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that, would tell one anything.”

    “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

    “To get into the best society, nowadays, one has either to feed people, amuse people, or shock people - that is all!”


    I'm counting this as my Play or Book of Short Stories for the Victorian Reading Challenge.


    Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope. Third in the Barchester Chronicles, it's the story of Mary Thorne, the relatively poor niece of a country village doctor, and Frank Gresham, eldest son of the local squire whose family is pressuring him to marry for money. I was looking for a good audiobook and realized I could get Doctor Thorne (probably my favorite Trollope novel) via digital download from my library; also, I got my hands on a copy of the Andrew Davies TV adaptation and wanted to refresh my memory before watching the DVD -- I hope that wasn't a mistake! Nevertheless, I loved it nearly as much as when I read it the first time -- I did get a little disgusted by the snobbery and hypocrisy of the Greshams and their wealthy cousins, the DeCourcys, who believe that family connections are everything until they need a massive infusion of cash. A great story, though.

    I'm counting this as my Victorian Re-Read.

    So -- four more Victorians crossed off the list, only 15 left to go!

    Sunday, June 4, 2017

    10 Random Books From My Shelves

    Stolen from Simon at Stuck in a Book, here are ten random books taken from my shelves. Maybe they will give readers an insight about me. Most of them are still unread; last year we made the big move to Germany and I decided to bring mostly unread books with me, imagining that it would behoove me to make a dent in the owned-and-unread pile. (I've hardly read any -- curse you, San Antonio Public Library Digital Downloads!)

    Since I used to be a librarian, they're alphabetized by author, naturally.



    1. Stolz und Vorurteil by Jane Austen. I found this pretty German edition of Pride and Prejudice at Thalia, the bookstore chain that's in practically every German city. They do have an English language section but just for fun I decided to check out what classics they had translated into German. And no, I can't really read the German, but I know the novel so well that I can pretty much open any random page and figure out what's happening based on the character names and locations.


    2. More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. I love food writing and the late Laurie Colwin is one of my favorites. More Home Cooking is a collection of her essays, mostly with recipes, some of which originally appeared in Gourmet magazine. I've owned multiple copies of this book and its predecessor, Home Cooking, and my daughter has read it so many times I finally bought her a copy of her own (a first edition). Her style is very chatty, like you're having a cup of tea with a good friend, and the recipes are good too -- her chocolate pear pudding is one of my favorite desserts and I wrote about it in one of my very first postings on this blog, back when I imagined I'd be writing about books and food. Colwin's fiction is also excellent and I've read all of it.


    3. A Good Place to Hide by Peter Grose. Last year I visiting my eldest daughter in New York City and we visited Albertine, the beautiful French-English bookstore at the French Consulate on Fifth Avenue (just a short walk if you're visiting the Met). It's stunningly beautiful and they have a great selection of books in French, and books in English about France and by French authors. They even had some early editions of classic French writers. I bought A Good Place to Hide which is a nonfiction account of a village in the Loire Valley that saved 3,500 Jews during WWII. I haven't read it yet because I have to spread out WWII books or it's too depressing.


    But here's the best photo I could get of the bookstore. 
    It has two levels and has a beautiful mural painted on the ceiling. 



    4. Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind Letters, edited by Richard Harwell. One of the perks of working at the library was that we always got first pick of the donated books before they were put into the Friends of the Library Sale. I've always been a huge fan of GWTW so I figured it was worth the $1 investment. I think I bought this in 2011 or 2012 and still haven't read it.



    5. The Levant Trilogy by Olivia Manning. The second three-volume set of Manning's Fortunes of War series, this one follows Guy and Harriet Pringle as they've fled the Balkans during WWII. Of course the war spreads to the Middle East and they're caught up in it all over again, plus Manning adds some new characters. Another book I haven't started yet, but I hope to get to it this summer.


    6. Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham. I'm not actually sure if I've read this or not -- I read my first Maugham, Of Human Bondage, way back in college (mostly to impress a cute boy in my dorm). I think I tried to read this one during a college summer break when I was home working at a boring job, with no friends my own age. I started reading Maugham again about ten years ago and I've loved most of his books so I couldn't resist this beautiful Vintage edition, also from Half Price Books.


    7. The Lark by E. Nesbit. A new favorite of bloggers who read middlebrow women's fiction, this novel for adults by E. Nesbit was finally reprinted this year by Dean Street Press, thanks to Scott at the Furrowed Middlebrow blog. This book was nearly impossible to find until Dean Street and Scott coordinated to republish these hidden treasures. I have actually read this one and really enjoyed it, it's a bit of a fairy-tale; set in London just after WWI, cousins Jane and Lucilla have to make their own way after a rascally guardian loses most of their inheritance, except for a small cottage and a tiny income. They hit upon the idea of selling flowers from their garden and miraculously find help wherever they need it. It sounds soppy and unrealistic but it's really charming, just the thing when current events are too depressing. (And check out Scott's Middlebrow Syllabus if you want guidelines to find great middlebrow authors, though I warn you it could be dangerous to your bank balance.)


    8. The Barbara Pym Cookbook by Hilary Pym and Honor Wyatt. Years ago I went to cooking school, and I worked for about five years in professional kitchens. I love cookbooks, especially those with a literary connection. Barbara Pym has a lot of food in her books and I think this cute little cookbook has the same jacket designer as her beautiful hardcover editions. I've read bits and pieces of it but I haven't tried any of the recipes yet.


    9. Private Enterprise by Angela Thirkell. I started buying these nice Moyer-Bell paperback editions of Thirkell's Barsetshire series whenever I found them at the Half-Price Books in Texas, and I think I have about a dozen so far. (This one is number 16 in the series).I haven't started any as I'm rather daunted by the 32 books in the series -- I fear once I start I'll end up buying the other 20 as my library here doesn't own any and I don't know if they're available for digital download!


    10. The Other Day by Dorothy Whipple. I'm a devoted follower of Simon and Rachel's podcast Tea or Books? and I was quite jealous when I heard that Rachel of Book Snob had found a copy of this memoir by Dorothy Whipple at a used bookstore for only about £4 !! So I'd been keeping my eye out for a copy and bought one from an online seller a couple of months ago. Unlike lucky, lucky Rachel I did not pay £4. It was more than I usually spend but I thought I was only going to buy 24 books this year so I felt justified (and my 24 books vow has been an utter failure -- but I still have the book! Unread of course. (And wait and see, Persephone Books will wind up publishing it, I bet.) Anyway, I'm sure I'll treasure it. And if you haven't checked out the Tea or Books? podcast, you're in for a treat.

    So, that's basically me in ten random books -- some food writing, some literary biographies, a little history, a couple of classics, and a lot of middlebrow fiction -- mostly unread! Maybe this will be a good jumping off point for my 20 books of summer project.

    Wednesday, May 31, 2017

    My Italian Vacation, Part III: Siena

    A Tuscan sunset from my hotel window.

    The last stop on our Italian vacation in April was Siena. I'd never been there and a well-traveled friend had told me it was by far his favorite place in Italy. It's only about an hour's train ride from Florence so that was the final stop on our trip.




    I found great online reviews for the Palazzo Ravizza hotel, and since it was the end of the trip I splurged on a room with a view. It was actually two rooms with a sitting room and amazing views. I especially loved the decorated ceilings. It was like sleeping in a cathedral, but cozier. 


    Ceiling of our sitting room.



    Ceiling over the bed.


    The second floor of the hotel had a beautiful common room with a grand piano. One night I was reading my book here, and another guest treated me to an impromptu private piano concert! It lasted over an hour, until the staff had to ask him to stop because some silly guests wanted to sleep. This isn't my photo, but I had to add it because it was one of the highlights of the trip (if this is your photo, please let me know so I can give you credit or find another one). 


    Our room had amazing views and a beautiful terrace. The first night I sat outside with a little snack. I had a book with me but the view was so stunning I just sat and admired it. 



    Siena is a beautiful walled Medieval city and the streets are very narrow and winding. It's also hilly so some of the streets are really steep. 




    Yes, those are cars driving amid the pedestrians. All the streets are one-way you have to have a permit to be able to drive inside the city. I don't think tourists are allowed to drive there, with good reason. Amazingly, they do have buses which are tiny. Sadly, I was never able to snap a photo of one in time.


    After walking through the winding streets I suddenly found a big open space, the Piazza del Campo which is the main square. 


    That's building is the Palazzo Publico, the city hall. The "square" in front is actually a semi-circle, and it's on a slope so it's a little like an amphitheater.


    I didn't actually go inside any of the buildings this time. After almost a week of sightseeing I was happy to just walk around and enjoy the architecture. 


    I can't remember what this building is but this courtyard reminded me of Game of Thrones. I kept looking over my shoulder for Lannisters. 


    Another square has the Siena Cathedral, which is big and gaudy.


    Outside the cathedral is this mysterious wall which leads nowhere. You can climb to the top, but I was a little worn out from all the climbing in Florence so I passed on this one.


    Another thing I noticed was that Siena has pig images everywhere. This one was carved into the doorstep of a restaurant where we had lunch. Guess what was on the menu? 


    This shop sold nothing but pork products. 


    If you are looking for seafood on a menu in Siena, you are out of luck. Seriously, I didn't see fish on a single menu, except maybe anchovies on pizza.


    Naturally, the food in Siena was amazing. This was paparadelle, wide pasta with a braised pork and tomato sauce. 


    A lot of the restaurants in Siena are in 14th century buildings which feel like wine cellars with bricks and vaulted ceilings. We loved this restaurant and ate there the first night and the last. That's my daughter hiding behind her menu.



    Her favorite thing to eat in Tuscany was pici, handmade noodles like thick spaghetti, a local specialty. I think she ate them every day. These were served cacio e pepe -- butter, parmesan, and black pepper. 


    At the same restaurant we had an appetizer which was basically a truffled potato cake with cheese. Those slices on top are white truffles. I averaged about 15,000 steps a day in Italy so I needed those carbs, right?


    Every day we had amazing sunsets. I can't believe I actually took this photo on my phone. 

    So that was Italy! It was a wonderful vacation and I'd love to go back -- I want to drive around Tuscany and visit all the little towns, and I also want to visit Cinque Terre, Amalfi, and Capri. Bloggers, have you visited Italy? Which other Italian places belong on my wish list?

    Sunday, May 21, 2017

    Over-the-Top Victorian Melodrama by Mary Elizabeth Braddon


    Since I started seriously exploring Victorian literature, I've made some unexpectedly delightful discoveries. One of my favorite surprises was Mary Elizabeth Braddon, a Victorian writer who is best known for her Victorian sensation fiction. Author of more than 80 novels, she's best known for Lady Audley's Secret, which I read several years ago for the RIP Readalong. When I saw that the library had her debut novel available as an e-book, I couldn't wait to download it. 

    First published in 1860 as Three Times Dead, Braddon reworked the novel and republished it in 1864 as The Trail of the Serpent. Basically, there are three intertwining plots. The first is the fate of Richard Marwood, a somewhat ne'er-do-well scamp who is trying to turn his life around, and is mistakenly accused of the brutal murder of his wealthy uncle. Following a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, he's sentenced to life in an asylum, while a sympathetic deaf police detective tries to prove his innocence and catch the real killer.

    The second plot involves a psychopathic schoolteacher named Jabez North, who was fished out of the river as an orphaned baby. He believes he deserves better than working as a teacher in a second-rate boarding school and is merciless and diabolical. 

    The final plot is a wealthy Spanish heiress, Valerie de Cevennes, who lives in Paris and is secretly married to a star opera singer. A manipulative adventurer named Raymond de Marolles manipulates and blackmails Valerie, forcing her to become his wife and control her fortune. Eventually, all the threads tie up together into one super-dramatic plot.  There are swoons and fevers and poisonings and dopplegangers, and of course, lots of Big Secrets and dramatic reveals. 


    If this sounds really over top and melodramatic, well, it is. There's a lot of swooning and mustache-twirling, and I wouldn't call any of the characters well-developed. It's not so much a mystery of who the criminal is, but really how they did it and more importantly, will they get away with it? 

    Nevertheless, the plot is really great and it's a fun, fast read. It's one of the earliest British detective novels, published a full eight years (in its first incarnation) than The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. And it always pleases me to realize that women authors in the 19th century were just as prolific as some of the men (which then leads me to wonder why the male authors are studied as canon, yet many of the works by women have fallen out of print and are largely forgotten). This is the Victorian equivalent of a vacation read and I really enjoyed it.

    I'm counting this as my 400+ pages novel for the Victorian Reading Challenge and as my Classic by a Woman author for the Back to the Classics Challenge

    Sunday, May 14, 2017

    Top Ten Books My Mom Would Love

    Flowers for Mom!
    (Actually, it's the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands).

    I'm a couple of days early for a Top Ten list, but in honor of Mother's Day, here's a list of books I think my mother would love. We have quite similar taste in books (and I'm pretty sure she's read some of these already). But this is my Top Ten List of Books My Mom Would Love.

    Polly Walker, Joan Plowright, and Josie Lawrence in the film version of Enchanted April.

    1. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. Four Edwardian women rent a castle in Italy for a month. Beautiful gardens, a castle, and ocean views. And Italian food! What is not to like? (Also has a great movie adaptation).


    2.  Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. Probably the most popular book in the Persephone catalog, and with good reason. A down-on-her-luck spinster accidentally gets the wrong assignment from an employment agency, and is swept into a whirlwind when she works as a secretary for a glamorous nightclub singer. The movie adaptation was brilliantly cast with Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew and Amy Adams as her employer, Delysia LaFosse. (McDormand also narrates the audio version, also wonderful).

    The ladies of Wives & Daughters: from left, Cynthia, Molly, and her stepmother Hyacinth.
    3.  Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. One of my favorite Victorian novels, it's the story of young Molly Gibson, whose life is upturned when her widower father remarries because he thinks she needs a woman's influence. She's not exactly a wicked stepmother but she's very misguided, and Molly also gets a stepsister Cynthia in the bargain. A great story about class and the role of women in 1830s England. And yet another great TV miniseries, one of my all-time favorites. (Also stars the brilliant Michael Gambon as the local squire).

    4.  Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope. My mom is actually the one who introduced me to Trollope, but I don't think she's read this one. One of Trollope's romantic comedies about the course of true love never running smoothly. It's one of his shorter novels and it's not one of his two famous series, so it's a great introduction to Trollope if you're daunted by the Pallisers and the Barsetshire Chronicles. One of the few books on this list that hasn't been adapted for TV or movies, but I wish it were! 

    Prunella Scales, left, as Miss Mapp; and Geraldine McEwan as Lucia.
    5.  Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson. The fourth in the Lucia series, and my favorite (though they're all really funny). Set in the 1930s, two middle-aged social climbing women in an English village  constantly try to one-up each other, with hilarious results. There have been two TV adaptations so far. I haven't seen the 2014 version, but the 1980s version is brilliant -- Nigel Hawthorne is especially delightful as Lucia's best friend Georgie. 

    6.  Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson. Another delightful book reprinted by Persephone. Like Miss Pettigrew, Miss Buncle is a spinster in financial straits, but she makes her own luck by publishing a thinly-veiled humorous book about her friends and neighbors in the small town of Silverstream, and life soon begins to imitate art. Stevenson wrote more than 40 novels and was a bestselling author with over 7 million copies of her books in print during the mid-century. Most of them are currently out of print but a few have been reprinted by Persephone and Sourcebooks and there are a lot of used copies for sale online. 

    Dorothy Whipple

    7.  The Priory by Dorothy Whipple -- well, pretty much anything by Dorothy Whipple, one of my favorite Persephone writers (though I already I forced a copy of Someone at a Distance on poor Mom on a previous visit. She did enjoy it!) Whipple is one of Persephone's most popular writers and her novels and short stories are just wonderful, though they're often tragic tales of mid-century domestic fiction. She's very middlebrow but there's nothing wrong with that. 

    8.  84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. A charming true story of a postal friendship between a sassy New York journalist and a reserved London bookseller. Hanff was looking for particular classics in the 1950s  and couldn't find them in New York, so she began writing to a second-hand bookstore in Charing Cross. What followed was a long friendship based on books but is so much more. Ann Bancroft stars as Hanff in the movie adaptation -- she loved the book so much, her husband Mel Brooks bought her the film rights. Now, that's a lovely gift!


    9.  The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard. OK, this is an entire series, not just one book, but they're so good I have to include the whole series. It's the story of an extended upper-middle class family starting just before WWII, and how they react to the War and what follows. A great saga with well-developed characters, and I loved all five volumes.

    10.  The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer. Part Pride & Prejudice, part Emma, this Regency farce is pure fun, and just the thing when you've finished all of Jane Austen. Heyer's books are great escapist fiction -- and unlike Jane Austen, she wrote about 50 books, so it'll take a long time to finish all of them!

    I could go on and on, but these are books I know my mother (and many other mothers) would love. Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

    Friday, May 12, 2017

    Four days in Florence

    View of the Duomo from the Campanile.

    Part 2 of my Italian vacation -- on to Florence, where we spent four days, filled with art, gelato, and climbing hundreds of steps (therefore justifying all the gelato, of course).


    I took this photo just off the Ponte Vecchio. I like how the buildings are reflected next to the gelati.

    We had mostly good weather, except for the first day when it was scary and overcast just as we were about to climb the Campanile, or tower, in the main square by the Duomo. (We had to make a reservation to climb the Duomo another day). Naturally, it started to rain (with thunder AND lightning) when we reached the top of the tower. It made for some good photos, but it was a little scary. 


    Not the tallest tower, but the best views in Florence. 



    Like the tower in Pisa, there are several different levels where you can stop and admire the view, plus catch your breath, so the climb wasn't as difficult as I thought. Plus, I think I'm much more used to walking stairs and hills than my last trip to Italy; living in a four-story house, in a hilly neighborhood, you tend to get better at it. 


    That's the Piazza Vecchio in the foreground, and in the far left you can see Santa Croce (famously visited by Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with a View.)


    The next day I went inside the Duomo, which is surprisingly plain -- apparently they used up all the money and resources to decorate the outside. Inside the actual Dome it's quite elaborate, with all kinds of Biblical images, especially hellfire and damnation. 


    At the opposite end is this amazing clock, which is clearly not telling time how I learned it. Here's an explanation if you're curious.

    We did climb the Duomo a couple of days later but it was less fun than the tower because it was really narrow and crowded, because people are climbing up and down the same staircases (some towers have designated up and down routes, in different stairwells. Also, the Duomo is the most beautiful thing in Florence, and obviously, you can't see it when you're inside. But the views of the countryside are pretty spectacular. 


    Naturally we had to visit a couple of museums. My daughter isn't a huge art fan but even she found David to be pretty impressive. 


    Her favorite thing was to take photos of statues and give them snarky captions on her snapchat account. I was able to save a couple of them.





    Aside from towers and museums, my other favorite place in Florence was the Boboli Garden, part of the Palazzo Pitti, the mansion of the Medici family on the opposite side of the Arno. It's a bit of a walk from our hotel but it was worth it. It's a huge, beautiful garden (supposedly the inspiration for the gardens of Versailles) and it's on a hill, so the view is amazing. 



    As you'd expect, the food was amazing. I am eternally grateful to have children who will eat just about anything. My daughter discovered she loved one of the local specialties which is crostini with chicken livers. We had crostini almost every day. 


    At this restaurant, it was more of a DIY crostini, but it was really good. 


    I only had pizza once the entire trip. It was pretty amazing.


    We also enjoyed the Florentine steak, which is served in a large piece by weight. The smallest we could get was 600 grams -- for you non-metric readers, that's about 1 1/3 pounds. We shared but it's still a big portion, especially if you've already been eating crostini. 


    Nearly every restaurant in Florence has Vin Santo and Cantucci on the dessert menu. Vin Santo is a traditional sweet dessert wine and cantucci are twice-baked cookies that Americans call biscotti (technically, biscotti just means any cookie in Italian; cantucci are always twice-baked). These had chunks of chocolate baked into them and they were the best I had in Florence.

    And finally, here's one of my favorite photos, a view of the Ponte Vecchio from the Uffizi Gallery:



    It was my second trip to Florence and I loved it just as much as the first time. Next up: Siena!