Italy travelogue, part I: Arrival Day

Nora, her husband Bruce, son Jason and daughter-in-law Kat are in Italy for two weeks and she’s sharing the experience with us all.  So sit back and enjoy!
Laura
We arrived in Florence this morning after a long, and for this  reluctant flyer, far too bumpy flight. A lot of stretches that felt like–in  Jason’s words–riding on cobblestones.
 
But we’re here, BW and me and Jason and Kat.
 
Zipped through Customs and there was our van and driver. Loaded up  the luggage and whisked off for a much, much shorter journey.
 
It’s been years since I’ve been here, one of my favorite cities,  and my first true glimpse of it was the dome and part of the gorgeous wall of  the amazing Santa Croce. It’s as beautiful as I remember, filled the windshield  for one gasping moment before we wound around, onto the narrow streets between  the wonderful old buildings. All the shops and restaurants, the people, another  view of the church. We zip right along, and even in the night-flight daze, it’s  all so incredible.
 
We’re delivered to the door of our hotel, greeted by the smiling  doorman who takes us through a lobby washed with light, up wide stone stairs,  and to reception. We’re greeted again, warmly, by the concierge. She speaks  perfect English, and when we go by later to ask a question, she’s speaking easy,  conversational Russian with another guest. This always amazes me, how so many  Europeans are multi-lingual. It’s a skill Americans sorely  lack. 
 
We’ve booked two suites that can be closed off from the outside  into one massive space. Only one is ready, but that’s no problem as immediate  unpacking doesn’t appeal.
 
The concierge takes us up, giving us a little tour as we go–the  pretty, sunny courtyard with its flowers and tables, the bar, the dining room,  through to what’s called the music room as in the 16th century this building  belonged to the pope’s treasurer, and this room was for music. She pointed out a  series of panels on the wall, explains that the top three open, and there  musicians would play for the people gathered below.
 
It’s a beautiful hotel that has the feel of a huge, wealthy house,  beautifully appointed, full of charm and light and art.
 
The first suite opens to a large lounge with beautiful wood floors,  richly colored sofas and chairs, old tables, pretty details and an awesome high,  painted ceiling. From there you have a spacious parlor/office–yet another  beautifully painted ceiling, then the bedroom with a HUGE bath.
 
I love me a huge bath.
 
We sort ourselves out a little, hydrate, then go out to walk, get  some sun and air–and as it turns out shop.
 
We’re minutes from the piazza Santa Croche with the marvelous  church, the big space, the crowds of people. And the leather. There’s nothing  like the leather goods in Florence, and it doesn’t take long for me to snag a  gorgeous bag–and enjoy the charm and conversation of the proprietor. 
 
There are street vendors–soft, silky, colorful scarves, silly  novelties, more bags or belts. In another few minutes, I have a couple Christmas  presents and Kat has a pretty new skirt.
 
It’s lovely just to walk, so we aim for the river, just taking it  all in. Shops, restaurants where people already sit at sidewalk tables, tempting  displays of creamy gelato, crowds of people, so many languages, people zipping  and winding through the pedestrians in tiny cars or motorbikes.
 
We get to the Arno, walk along the bridge, pass lines for various  museums–those are for another day–and wander in the warm breezes to Ponte Vecchio.
 
This is very full of tourists, but worth the stroll along the shops  with the sparkle of gold in the windows. Gold and leather–two must haves in  Florence. We make our way down the sloping street, spot the gelato shop BW and I  made good use of our last trip. That’s for after lunch, so we find a little  trattoria. BW gets the biggest pilsner of beer I’ve ever seen. Kat gets a glass  of red, I get a glass of white. Jason sticks with water. It’s pizza for me, and  the first bite reminds me how fresh and gorgeous the food is here–everywhere  here. We keep it light because there’s gelato coming.
 
It’s nice to just sit, watch Florence go by, drink wine, eat lovely  food. Recharge before we start back, with that stop for gelato. Lemon for  me–wonderfully tart, soft, fresh. It’s like eating chilled sunshine.
 
Back along the narrow streets, through the crowds. I see a man  navigating through those crowds on a bicycle with his drycleaning slung over his  shoulder.
 
Another shop, more presents off my Christmas list, then back where the other suite’s ready. It’s just lovely, just as beautifully appointed. We  have a shared foyer, the big lounge we’ll also share, and our own personal  spaces.
 
Time to unpack and take a much deserved nap.
 
Everyone’s still sleeping. I expect we’ll do very casual for dinner  tonight as we’ve accomplished a whole bunch of a lot on this travel day. I  believe I’m going to pop the cork on the complimentary bottle of champagne and  not think about what we’ll do tomorrow until tomorrow.
 
Nora

41 thoughts on “Italy travelogue, part I: Arrival Day”

  1. Sounds like a wonderful time already and they just arrived. Have a marvelous time and drink some bubbly for me!

  2. Oh I could just picture myself there. Wonderful descriptions of a city I would love to visit one day soon. Thank you.

  3. Geez! So much for a first day!
    Everyone vacations differently; I couldn’t go shopping on my arrival… I always feel a bit out of sorts and need to take a grip before enjoying it. It is funny to read Nora’s ways 🙂
    Thank you for sharing,
    Teresa

  4. Thank you. I plan on visiting Italy soon. Happy and splendid travels. Thanks again for sharing your trip with us. Cheers!

  5. Love reading about your travels. Can’t wait for some pictures.
    I would love to go someday but in the mean time, this is lovely!

  6. Oh, I’m going to enjoy this travelogue! Florence is one of my favorite cities to visit. It’s been seven years since I’ve been there and I’m aching to go back. Thanks for letting me “visit” again through your eyes, Nora!

  7. I adore Italy and kept a travelogue while there for 2 weeks several years ago! Of course no one ever read that one but me! Wish I was there right now again too but will live vicariously through Nora for the next while. Divertiti!

  8. One of Nora’s many talents (and one of the things, besides the story lines, that I love about her books) is the way she can describe a place – real or imaginary. When reading the descriptions, I can truly see the scene right in front of me, smell the aromas and taste the foods! Thank you for bringing me along to Italy with you!

  9. I’m going to follow this travelogue carefully. In less than two months my daughter and I will be visiting Florence so any suggestions will help.
    Thank you so much for the detailed description.

  10. I have never been to Italy. But I love your descriptions as you move through Florence. I will definitely follow you throughout your trip.

  11. I spent 10 glorious days by myself in Florence (Firenze) in 1996. I still have the beautiful and soft leather swing coat I bought from a leather goods store in Piazza Santa Croce. Oh, and got gold, diamond and pearl earrings as well (small diamonds). My greatest love is the art and I immersed myself in it during the entire stay.

  12. Nora’s description of places make one feel like you are seeing it yourself. This might be the only way some of us visit these places!

  13. hi, I’m an italian fan of Nora. I’d like to know if Nora will meet their fan. I hope ………..

  14. Thanks to Nora & Laura for sharing this glimpse of my favorite writer free writing. She could easily write for travel magazines or have a show on PBS films of her travels. I could see in my imagination every detail especially the man riding his bike. Hope to see more of Nora’s trip & they continue to have a wonderful time. Peace – Melissa

  15. My father comes from Italy and last year I finally visited this beautiful country. Although I travelled to many different cities and on the day I visited Florence, it was sunny and 40 degrees Celsius (104 fahrenheit), it remains one of my favorites!!!

  16. What a wonderful way to start my morning with an amazing visual of travels in Italy! Enjoy your time together and I’ll be looking forward to hearing more! Oh, and I would have picked the lemon gelato too—sounds divine!

  17. Wonderful! My husband and I are flying to Italy for two weeks in September also, so I am looking forward to hearing all about your trip. Have a spectacular time.

  18. Florence is my favorite city in the world! Love to just walk and meander, but a stop at the “Straw Market” is always a must for a new purse! Enjoy!

  19. Oh, this sounds like a wonderful trip. For some of us who may never get the chance to visit Florence, Nora will give us a taste of it through her eyes and words. And for those who love to shop, especially in a new city, her retail therapy is making me just a little jealous!

  20. Why?? Oh, why do I get THIS excited about reading these travel journals?? I have no idea. I just do!
    Tricky airplane ride aside, I am so excited to read about this fun beginning! Will there be some pics commemorating the shopping, Il Duomo, the gelato, the shopping… 😉 I like that part quite a bit.
    Cheers to the start of a lovely family holiday!

  21. I spent the summer with my aunt and uncle in Germany when I was 15. We went to Italy for the weekend and I remember we spent a whopping 45 minutes (I KNOW!!! Said in best scandalized Craig Ferguson voice) in Florence. Never even got out of the car. My uncle would just drive past something, point, and say “that’s where the statue of David is,” or “that’s the famous door where…” and by the time I could focus on one spot, he’d already driven off to another. Sigh. Some day I’ll go back and do it right!

    Thanks for sharing, Nora — please have some extra fun for me! 🙂

    1. I’m working in Germany for six weeks and just spent the past 36 hours in Pisa!! Wanted to get to Florence but headed to the coast instead. I love Italy 🙂

  22. I last went to Italy in 2004 and the food in Florence was the best! Walking across and back over Ponte Vecchio was just plain and simple fabulous! The history of the city just sent chills throughout. Hope you have a wonderful time Nora. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

  23. My husband and I just came back from Italy. I love seeing my country through your eyes, it makes me miss it even more. Thank you and have a great time!

  24. Love to see Italy through your writing! Great way to get away for a little while, even if it’s only in your mind! Nora does it so well in her writings! Have a wonderful trip!

  25. Thank you for sharing your experiences through your lovely travelogue. I am living the Florence experience vicariously and plan to thoroughly enjoy it all!

  26. Lovely! I was in Italy many, many years ago and can still remember how I felt in each city we visited.

  27. What a wonderful description of the lemon gelato. I’ll have to try that one next time 😉
    Italy is such a remarkable country and Florence is one of its many gems. So much charm and history…and wonderful food. Bella Italia!

  28. Love to read along with Nora and get to explore these amazing cities with her.

    Would it be possible to share with us the name of the lovely hotel where she is staying while in Florence? We are trying to plan a trip to Europe and would love to stay somewhere that came so highly recommended (and i love a HUGE bath too!)

    Thanks 🙂

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