Category Archives: Florence 2022

Italy 2022 – A Postscript

Did you think I’d make you go cold turkey on the travelogues? I thought it might help the transition if I posted once more and shared a few things.

The trip home took some time, but the family was back in a rainy Maryland before dinner last night. Now Nora’s reacquainting herself with the dogs and the garden and putting away all those Christmas gifts. [Insert a procrastinator’s eye roll here.]

When you deal with photos without the experience, creating these posts can take a great deal of care. Usually I’d review the day’s worth of photos everyone uploaded to the shared Google account and pick what I thought would work. Put my choices in a draft blog post and then see what matched Nora’s copy, which would arrive overnight. Occasionally I’d send specific requests (like, Where the heck is the rosemary plant you went on about?? or Where’s a photo of the second puzzle?), but mainly it was going on instinct.

Finalizing the post was the first task of my day, which is why so many of you have sipped your morning drink and read the blog during this trip. Last year’ Montana posts were more cocktail hour ones.

Occasionally a photo would show up after I’d posted the blog.

Like this lovely one of Kayla and BW on the first night in Florence.

Kayla and her Granda. Photo by NR

Or this lovely night shot from Jason.

Clock tower at night. Photo by j a-b.

Speaking of Florence, here’s BW’s video tour of the flat.

On occasion, I’d live up to the Cranky Publicist name and complain about not having details I couldn’t look up. Or would outright say no on a visual pun. More often the real issues were tech ones when WordPress didn’t like a photo format — especially from iPhones or iPads. In those cases, Jason — along with BW, another Android fan — would filter the photos through to me. Fortunately, we quickly figured out the work around and he didn’t have to do double duty for more than 3 weeks.

The work around for the panos — a family favorite — was a direct text to me.

Dining pano. Ensemble credit.
Pano in the flat.

On other occasions I’d have four photos of the same thing. In the case below, everyone liked this butt when they visited Pitti Palace. This is Kat’s version.

And there were several carousel photos, loved this for the action. Photo by Jason

As the goal was to have the photos to flow with Nora’s recaps, sometimes I couldn’t use the random photos everyone sent. I think you saw all of Kayla’s signs, but there was a lot of fabulous street art Kat captured in Florence.

Street art. Photo by Kat.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by Kat.

Or the quirky things Kayla and BW noticed in Gimignano.

Dear. Photo by Kayla.
Oh my — I know the In Death fans will dive down an Eve Dallas hole with this one. Photo by BW.

And I could have just done the flowers in Tuscany for days.

Photo by BW.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by Kayla.

Plus tons of Griffin.

Intrepid explorer. Photo by Kat.

One of the games in action.

And the cloud, horizon, evening, daytime landscape views were gorgeous.

Pink clouds, last night. Photo by Nora.

But you can’t share everything. And all things do come to an end.

Nora and I found the accommodations through Via Villas and just scrolling through their website is almost a trip to Italy in and of itself.

Nora’s home for a couple weeks, then it’s time for Greenbrier. I’ll probably do the recaps for that one with Nora chiming in.

Thanks as always for coming along for the ride.


Florence – Day 10

Our last day has a little of everything.

Food, Wine, Art, Shopping, Games and Danger. (Plus I got some cardio in!)

Packing happens. Things are pretty well organized there before most of us head out. Kat and Griffin stay back, and food’s first as Kayla skipped breakfast. So did I, so did Jason.

BW did NOT skip breakfast since Kat made him an omelet. Photo by BW.

We head toward the Duomo as that’s the direction to take for our booking at the Academia.

Down the street. Photo by j a-b.

On the way, we pass celebrations. Music and dancing in the street. I don’t think my toe would appreciate me attempting to dance in the street just yet, but it’s fun to watch.

We spy what looks like sort of back in the way back religious garb. Long black cassocks, frilly white collars. They must be boiling.

As must the guys in military dress uniforms.

Regardless, the mood is definitely happy.

Window art. Photo by j a-b.

We opt for a new place and take a tiny four-top outside. We immediately confuse our server as some are getting margarita pizzas, some are getting frozen margaritas. Some get both. But we sort that all out. I’m for a Bellini, and it’s absolutely lovely.

From there we have a nice view of the Duomo and people out and about.

One of the servers from a place we’ve had dinner a few times spots as he passes by, and says hello. It’s endearing.

The food and drink are just right, and there’s enough pizza for Jason to take back to his family.

Lunch! Photo by BW.
Dessert! Photo by Kayla.

But first he walks us to the Academia. It’s a ways, but so far my foot’s holding up well, thank you.

There are helpers posted along the route to check, to give you direction. There’s a VERY long line for tickets, but Jason’s booked on line, so much shorter lines to get those tickets, to join the next line as we say Caio to Jason and BW, Kayla and I shuffle our way in.

Lots of rather glorious pre-Renaissance altar pieces, icons of the BVM most popular. On and around to more paintings, colors brilliant, some mythological interspersed with religious scenes.

Photo by BW.
Photo by BW.
The Annunciation by del Verrocchio and da Vinci. Photo by Kayla.

We walk through the musical instrument display. Just fascinating. Cellos, violas, harpsichords, hurdy-gurdies—they win my best of show—drums, bells. Music spans the ages.

Viola. Photo by Kayla.
Hurdie-gurdies. Photo by BW.

Down and around through a long display of various busts of Michelangelo, then into the open and the David.

Photo by BW.

He’s just as brilliant as I remember. The size, the scope, the detail. Every muscle, sinew, line and plane so amazingly realized. I think he looks cocky (I got this), and why not as he stands there, confident pose in his vibrant youth.

He dominates here, as he should.

Photo by BW.

We hear a little girl ask her mom: Mommy, why is that man naked?

It’s a valid question, but I think she’s too young to understand he’s naked because he goes into battle with nothing but his sling, his confidence and his faith.

Photo by Kayla.

I love looking at the master’s unfinished sculptures in the hall, how you can see what he started to reveal from the stone. The figures and feelings emerging, but still trapped and waiting.

Back we walk, a good hike. BW spots the shop where, on our first visit years ago, he bought a leather vest—custom made for him in one day. He, of course, still has it.

I spot gelato. SMALL cone this time, and perfect.

Back home, and let the games begin.

Playing with torsos. As one does. Photo by Kayla.

Danger Guy is thrilled. Mario and company navigate the rapids and waterfalls, avoid (or don’t) big fish, pop balloons. Soon, watching isn’t enough, and he leaps into danger, jumping from couch to hassock and back. The distance between increases with the jumps. I must request, for the sake of my blood pressure, they nudge closer.

The game. Photo by Nora.

Daddy spots him. Then, naturally tosses him around, flips him over the shoulder.

Danger Guy is in his element.

Games continue, Jason v Kayla. Kat knits more Knitted Knockers and I catch up on a hard news day back home.

Time for our last dinner at one of our favorite spots. More good food, more good wine (TWO splashes for Kat!) Much to enjoy. We talk plans for our departure, our arrival in our next home. Dessert because why not.

Dinner for BW. Photo by BW.
Dessert! Photo by BW.
A Portrait of La Dolce Vita. Photo by BW.

Home again. More packing and prep before bed.

Now I’ll pull the last of that together, pull myself together. Bags are starting to line up in the foyer. It’ll be interesting, to say the least, to load them all up.

Soon, it’s Arrivederci, Firenze, and onto the next.


Florence – Day 9

Some mat work on the terrace before getting some laundry going then finishing my Spenser novel. All satisfying.

Random headless torso selfie (as one does). Photo by Kayla.

I start condensing my shopping and manage to cut the bags about in half. More satisfaction.

Then out we go for lunch to fuel up before some target specific shopping. For the second half I’m mostly along for the ride, as my Christmas gift list is complete!!

On our way we spot some writing on a wall. It looks like maybe a poem, by Marie. Jason uses his phone to try to translate. Turns out to be a very angry poem—with lines something like: I want to like you, but I’m full of hate.

Marie had issues.

I thought it was a view of the restaurant next door, then realized it was of the plant (and half of Jason). Photo by Nora.

We decide on our usual piazza and enjoy a meal under cloudy skies. Kat orders her first pizza of the trip (she’s had samples), and wonders why she waited so long. Between ordering and eating, she takes Griffin off for his pre-lunch Stroller Adventure.

Look up! Nora edition. Photo by Nora.

Another school field trip marches and sings its way by. They’re so cute!! And this must be a regular thing. Our waiter remembers us from our last visit, even what table we sat at prior. We must be memorable!

Some of those clouds drip a bit, but nothing major.

Lunch. Photo by BW.
Kayla’s lunch. Photo by Kayla.

Kayla has her I Went To Italy And You Didn’t gifts to scout out for her brothers, and we have a handful of things to get at the market. I also want to buy BW a new pair of sunglasses as part of an anniversary gift—it’s coming right up.

He will deny this, but it is a TRUE FACT. Roughly 30 years ago—that’s three decades—I bought him a pair of Armani sunglasses for some occasion. He still has them. Feel free to state in the comments if you’ve also managed to hold onto a pair of sunglasses for three decades.

There is no prize but your own satisfaction and my sincere astonishment.

They’re still in pretty good shape—though one of the nose things is gone (could be fixed).

So the group hangs together for the first bit.

We find a pair he likes at the first stop. Armani again—the man is brand loyal. Now we’ll see if he can keep them for 30 years.

New and old Armani. Photo by Nora.

Wander on, and Kayla spies something she think Colt will enjoy, and we agree. Wander on, and surprisingly (because he’s tougher) she sees something Logan should enjoy, and we agree.

Mission accomplished!

Signage set in stone. Photo by Nora.

BW, Kat and Griffin have left the field, but we happy few keep going. Jason buys a Birth Of Venus puzzle for the second half of our trip. Fun! Kayla spies a shop with many cute little things. And there we find a #1 trophy for Griffin. At 3 Euro it’s no massive Pitti Palace urn but we hope he’ll like it.

Home again, and the trophy does make Griffin grin.

Foot up for awhile. It really does seem better. I won’t be racing with Griffin for awhile yet, but I do think better.

Griffin wants the TV—which means the Switch. Kat and Kayla accommodate, let him choose the games.

Intense gaming to Griffin’s delight. Photo by BW.

This one?


This one?


This one?

This one.

Baseball—he laughs heartily on outs and strikes. Boxing. POW! Tank battles—and this is entertaining to the point he all but busts a gut at every explosion, and can barely get out his: Try Again.

An intense trio. Photo by Nora.

BW calls our contact for our next home to confirm all arrangements. We learn through her—what our housekeeper had told us (in Italian) that tomorrow is a holiday in Florence. A celebration of its patron saint, John The Baptist. And tomorrow night includes fireworks at the river. Expect a huge crowd.

We will skip the crowd and hope to catch some of the fireworks from our terrace.

We play, read, putz around until about seven then head out for dinner. Stroller adventures include Kat pretending to nearly run into parked bikes.

Selfie with splatter paintings. Photo by BW.

I really want the sea bass. Since it’s grilled, I imagine a fillet. I should’ve known, really it’s not the first time, and I should’ve known. It comes proudly on a plate, head and tail included. No, just can’t. The waiter cheerfully takes it away to remove said head and tail.

It’s lovely, and of course, too much. Big fish! But I can share some with BW.

Another most excellent meal. Kayla heads back with Kat and Griffin, and my guys and I wander back with a planned stop of gelato. I want a small cone, but end up with a medium. It’s so much. And so good. I manage about half of it on our walk home, and still don’t know how BW could finish his and the rest of mine.

Jason got a sensible small cup.

Hang out awhile, discuss tomorrow. Two o’clock tickets to the Academia.

I’m going to try a short cardio workout. My foot seems to do better when I move on it now, so we’ll see. Then it’s packing. Kayla and I will travel to our next destination with the luggage while the others head to the airport to pick up the two cars we’ve booked, then drive to meet us.

I expect we’ll head out to lunch before The David, see some of the holiday festivities and crowds on our last day in Florence. It’s been my third trip here, and I hope to come back again.


In today’s #randomkatness: hook and address editing.

Florence – Day 8

Morning terrace time for me until our happy group’s ready to head out. Before we do, I walk in our Kat and our housekeeper discussing the dishwasher. This discussion is in Italian on the housekeeper’s part. It’s adorable to watch (even join in a little) as they communicate, or try, in two different languages. With some help from Google Translate on Kat’s phone.

Everyone’s cheerful about it, and somehow the gist of the issue gets across.

We part ways with Kat and Griffin as the rest of us aim for the Duomo. Lots of other people have the same idea, but the line’s not as long—plus it’s moving at a good pace.

Look up! Photo by Kayla.

It’s beautiful, the vivid colors in the stained glass windows, the elegance of marble, the towering ceilings. I imagine attending Mass there would be an experience. The smaller chapels on the sides are closed off to the public right now, and that’s a shame because I remember them as really lovely.

Candles lit. Photo by BW.

I love the look of the groupings of flickering candles, and have to hit BW up for a two Euro coin as I’ve forgotten my little change purse—again—so I can light one.

Soaring ceilings. Photo by j a-b
Altar. Photo by BW.

We leave the flickering light and quiet of the Duomo for the bold sun and crowds. Kayla missed breakfast, so why not think about lunch? Maybe a new place, new area. BW thinks of the area with the carousel, and that could be fun. A text to Kat to give her our direction, and I follow along, as I have no idea how to get where we’re going.

And here we are at the big piazza with its happy carousel and several restaurants to choose from. And here, almost as we arrive, are Kat and Griffin. We choose a big, open-air place and settle in. Our choice bustles with the lunch crowd, with family groups like ours. Kayla spies a huge calzone going by on a plate and wants one for her own. Pizza, pasta, wine, Fantas, water both still and sparkling.

Kayla’s calzone—just sauce and cheese for our vegetarian—is the biggest I’ve ever seen, and that lean, lanky girl does it justice. It’s sort of amazing. And oh, to have that metabolism!

Calzone bigger than the plate. Photo by Kayla.
More sedate pasta. Photo by BW.

We top off lunch with a trip on the carousel. We figure fifty-fifty that Griffin will go for it, but he does, and has a very happy ride with Mommy, with his cousin on a horse behind them.

Grandda captures the fun. Video by BW.
She’s thrilled to pose! Photo by Nora.

As we start to wander back—some for a quick market trip—Kayla reminds me of a very specific shop where she has a very specific gift in mind, so we split off. I have complete confidence in her ability to get us to the shop, then get us home.

It’s not misplaced.

It’s fun to watch her shop as she always has a vision for what the recipient likes, will enjoy, and she finds just the thing.

And look here, another shop just next door. Platform Converse! In we go as this gives Nana a very specific gift for Christmas for her girl. I would also love a pair, but my toe will strongly object to the trying on process. Another time for me. So white platform Converse and a pair of pretty Nike’s will be tucked away in the One More Room until Christmas.

Christmas gift goal met. Photo by Nora.

Kayla sweetly buys her Nana a raspberry gelato. And oh, my, my!

Home again where our gang is spread out through the flat. Foot up while I catch up on what’s happening in the world on my tablet. It’s mostly not good, so maybe I’ll crush some candy instead.

And maybe I’ll just stretch out here while Kat and Kayla (with Griffin an enthusiastic audience) go through many Mario games on the Switch. It’s a happy way to pass a couple hours. To add to the gaming adventure, Griffin likes to climb on the arm or back of the sofa then leap down on it. With sound effects.

Danger is his business.

This gives Nana palpitations, so she stops watching.

Griffin requests toast. Then more toast. Danger is also a hungry business.

Before long, it’s after seven and time to go out and find a spot for dinner. Continuing the danger theme Kat swerves and jiggles the stroller to entertain Griffin while we walk a narrow, empty street toward a piazza.

Danger Guy isn’t happy when we all settle down at a table. What kind of adventure is this??? DG must be on the move! So his partner gives Jason her order, and off they go.

Salads and soups—minestrone—pesto pasta, spaghetti bolognese, chicken parm-and some grilled chicken for the adventuring boy.

Dinner time! Photo by BW.

A breeze comes up, becomes a light wind. And that’s lovely for a solid, relaxing meal.

Now a day of Danger and Adventure has tired DG out. Bedtime, he says, hopefully. As someone who raised toddlers I find it amazing he’s not only willing, but hopeful to call it a day.

His parents take him off to make this happen while the rest of us linger a bit longer.

By the time we get back, Daddy’s finished his part of the nighttime ritual, and Kat’s not far behind. Danger Guy is down and out.

Kat sits and knits. She’s making knitted—soft yarn—breast inserts for women who’ve had mastectomies. [Ed note: for more info go to Knitted Knockers.]

Kayla’s using her phone to research and help plan a weekend birthday trip for her younger brother—Lego Land (Lego World?) in NY. Colt will be 12, and as she says, he never asks for anything. She Face Times him to make sure this is something he wants, so we all get to say hi.

Between FT and texts back and forth with their mom—and to Kayla’s boyfriend who’ll join them—the trip’s planned. The girl is good.

And now it’s bedtime even for those of us who try to avoid danger.

Quiet this morning as Griffin hasn’t yet joined me. It may be that he woke somewhere in the middle of the night and tried to talk his parents into a party. It happens.

Since cardio’s still off the table, I may try some mat work, then that morning terrace time.

Don’t know what, if anything, on the agenda for today. We’ll take it as it comes.


Today’s #randomkatness/Street Art Division.

And #kaylaseesasign (2!)

Florence – Day 7

A hearty breakfast for Griffin as Daddy offers Italian sausage, toast, cherries. He mows through the sausage, and asks for more.

A little morning reading on the terrace since working out is off the table. Ace Atkins’ realization of the late, great Robert Parker’s Spenser. For those who asked I read What We Harvest, Ann Fraistat—a friend of Jason’s—and her debut YA novel.

There’s a bird nearby who whistles like a human. It’s not the pigeon who comes to stand on the wisteria-smothered pergola, but I look up from my book to watch him apparently hunt for insects. He keeps slipping, flapping wings to regain his balance. Then it’s peck furiously in the wisteria, slip, flap, repeat.

He either gets enough or decides it’s not worth the flapping, and flies off.

I think my stupid toe’s up for a little outing before our big Uffuzi outing later, so off we go to wander. It feels good to be out again, soak up a little sun, a little shopping, and lots of Florentine sights and sounds.

Fountain of Neptune by Barolomeo. Photo by j a-b.

The buildings are so beautiful, the heat-soaked colors, the red tiles, as you go from wide, crowded streets to quiet, narrow ones. Bells chime as we go, and they say: Lunch.

Pasta for me today, and a perfect choice. Griffin, with a tummy full of sausage, glazes over and naps while the rest of us eat. And while we eat, what must be a school field trip swarms. They’re so cute!! Chanting and singing and obviously delighted with themselves and the day. The rest of us dig out memories of our own field trips.

Basic lunch. Photo by j a-b.

After lunch we detour to the big building with its bell tower on the edge of the piazza. I can’t remember the full details BW told us from the guide he read, but back in the ago, a monk stirred up the population to displace (temporarily) the Medicis. Then he took over that building, made it his home. Until the population turned on him, and he ended up burned at the stake.

At least he had a lovely home before going crispy.

We part ways with Kat who heads off to a yarn store she spotted. She plans to take Griffin, when and if he wakes, to an interactive DiVinci exhibit while the rest of us tour the Uffuzi. We head home first, and I put my foot up.

Oh, thanks to whoever told me about the Voltaren gel. Found it, used it. It works!*

Thanks to Jason who once again obtains our tickets on line then gets the paper ones, and we’re in, shuffling along, giving my foot a workout with steps. More steps. Hey, an elevator!

Laocoon and His Sons. Photo by j-ab
Body in action. Photo by Nora.

And here we are, that long, long, wide hall lined with Roman sculptures with rooms off it holding paintings. Pre-Renaissance, that fascinating flat style, all gilded. Madonna and Child are the most popular images. I wonder what churches or homes they came from, and isn’t it amazing we can stand and admire them centuries later. Look up, and the curved ceilings offer more art.

Coronation of the Virgin by Anna Maria Lorenzoni. Photo by j a-b.
Ceilin with grotescques by Alessandro Allori, Antoni Tempesta, et al. Photo by j a-b.

We wander, absorb, room-by-room, then the Botticelli’s show the evolution of styles, the light, the movement, the dimension and details. Religious imagery abounds, BVM and Child—who almost always has the face of a middle-aged man (as Jason points out). Odd to me are the works that show an adult John The Baptist with Toddler Jesus, but I suppose they’re allegories, symbolic.

The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Photo by j a-b
Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi. Photo by j-ab

And there she is. The Birth Of Venus, just as glorious as I remember from our visit years ago. Everything about that work is magnificent. And what a difference to see it, really see it, rather than a poster, a photo.

(from l-r)The Discovery of the Body of Holofernes by Botticelli. The Return of Judith to Bethulia by Botticelli. Photo by Nora.
Fortitude by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by j a-b.
The birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by BW.

I’m pleased to see my personal favorite, the sad, baffled face of the arrow-struck Saint Sebastian as we wander.

And here’s DiVinci, and oh, here’s genius in every brush stroke. Now Michelangelo, and more genius. The use of color, the brilliance of it, the magic pull of light created with paint and stunning talent. I feel blessed to be able to actually stand so close, and to share that with Kayla.

Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by j a-b
Doni Tondo by Michelangelo. Photo by BW

There’s more, so much. There’s the head of The Baptist on a platter. He looks resigned. Here’s Venus with Cupid, an odd couple when Cupid’s the little guy. Portraits of serene-faced women, stern-faced men. And lots of the BVM—The Annunciation, the Madonna, the Assumption.

Diptych of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza by Piero della Francesca. Photo by Nora.

We spend nearly two hours before Kayla, my toe and I call it. We’ll meet the guys back home.

The Uffizi Gallery. Photo by BW.
A view from above. Photo by BW.

They wind you out through the gift shop, of course, so when we get out, both of us are turned around. We head one way, stop, second guess ourselves, double back. Learn as we approach the Arno we should’ve trusted our first instinct. Double back again, and my toe’s not happy with me.

But the girl’s directional skills wind us back, and it’s home. Foot up!

Despite all the walking (and stairs!!) the bruising’s fading fast and the swelling’s actually down some.

Kat got her yarn—gorgeous!—Griffin got his first exposure to DiVinci, and we can hang out awhile. We had some plumbing issue in the morning in Kayla and Griffin’s bathrooms—apparently they share a Y thing. Anyway, the housekeeper called the plumber, and all fixed. But he left a dirty towel and some dirt besides in Kayla’s room.

There’s da Vinci, then there’s Super Mario. Photo by Kat.

Kat, also the best aunt in the world of aunts, cleaned and sanitized.

In her role of best dil, she makes me an ice pack.

Dinner! Close by with my toe in mind. This is the place of the earlier cheesecakes. Our waiter is Gianni, and delightful. Kayla and I both order side salads with our main—pizza for me, fettucini (I think) for her. I don’t know whose sides they came from because HUGE. And fresh as a stolen kiss. How about some Chianti with that?

Don’t mind if I do.

Another lovely meal on another lovely evening, though after the salad, I barely manage half of my lovely pizza—but that leaves room for vanilla gelato with strawberries. Many strawberries, so I share.

Then Gianni offers complimentary meloncino. Not a melon fan, so I pass, but Jason downs his, then mine, like shots.

BW’s dessert and cappuccino. Photo by BW.

A short walk home, a short hang-out time, then bed.

More wiggle in the toe this morning—if not I’d’ve sucked up a visit to the ER, but definitely more wiggle. So we’ll keep doing what we’re doing, and not doing what we’re not doing.

I miss my workouts!!

Griffin and Jason have joined me, and there is hilarity in Cookie Swirl’s visit to Grandpa’s very strange house.

BW’s up, too, and Jason’s making Griffin’s breakfast. I might share the morning video amusement, then take my book onto the terrace.


Today’s #randomkatness.

#randomkatness – circle division. Photo by Kat
#randomkatness – street art division. Photo by Kat.

* Ed note: that’s Laurie Herman on the JD Robb FB page with a second from me. ~Laura

Florence – Day 6

I remain on the IL, but a day of mostly foot up brings improvement. Nobody seems to mind a primarily easy day. I spend a large part of it reading out on the terrace. Jason, Kat, Kayla and Griffin head to the market for more milk, fruit and whatever. BW straps on his camera for a walk about.

Settled in for the day. Photo by Kat.
Exterior niche Orsanmichele Church. Photo by BW.
South side of Duomo through BW’s eyes (and camera).

Jason and Kat brought their Switch, so they hook it up. Game time! Which entertains the participants and Griffin as on-looker. Hanging out, conversation, cheering on the gamers passes the day.

Cousins. Photo by Kat.

Kat and I discuss titles for the next In Death I’m working on in my head (just my head right now). Our fun favorite, Comeuppance In Death won’t make the cut—nor will He Had It Coming In Death, but we make our own fun. A year or so from now, you’ll be able to see what did make the cut.

Birthday girl and family. Photo by Kat.

We opt for dinner at the nearby place I had my famous steak. It’s the same restaurant where Griffin had a sad followed by a solid sleep. He does exactly the same this time. It actually works out well as Kat can now enjoy her birthday dinner without tending a toddler.

We arrive right after 7–and there’s only one other table occupied. 7-ish is about time for our American stomachs, but early for Florence. Kat actually has a splash of wine!

Birthday dinner table. Photo by BW.

I’d thought pasta for me, but decide on their grilled chicken, which is just marvelous. And we have a fine time being out in the warm evening.

Dessert choice is unanimous, and it’s tiramisu all around—with a candle in Kat’s. We sing Happy Birthday, very quietly, as we have a family pact regarding overt restaurant birthdays. No singing waiters allowed!

Birthday tiramisu. Photo by BW.

The dessert choice proves most excellent, as does the full round of cappuccinos.

Back home, and sleepy Griffin goes right down. More hang out time for us. Kat makes me another ice bag. Best dil ever. Still pretty swollen, but the bruising’s going down, and I can wiggle it just a little—seems better to me.

A lazy day into a lazy evening then bedtime.

Definitely less bruising this morning, and it seems like less swelling. Still very stiff though, so I have to be smart and skip working out for at least one more day. Griffin’s up after a solid night’s sleep. Daddy’s fixes his breakfast, and he’s again sharing his hilarity with his breakfast videos with Nana.

Some of us—not Griffin—are booked for the Uffuzi this afternoon. I really think my toe can take it. Maybe, with luck, a bit more walking around.


Not a #randomkatness, but a sweet Griffin photo.

Florence – Day 5

Bells ring in Sunday, and we’re off for our walk to the Pitti Palace. It’s a short hike though the crowds at Ponte Vecchio are thick even on a Sunday morning. Jason got our tickets on line, and the deal is you transfer those to physical tickets on arrival.

Roar. Photo by Nora.

You have to wonder what life was like living in this massive palace back in the day. There a very distressed-looking lion carving, and it seems he’s had enough of it all. Then there’s the massive courtyard inside, and Jason and I agree we’d enjoy such a space, with rooms opening out to it.

Garden view. Photo by Nora.

We’re advised—and thanks to the ticket taker—to do the gardens first before the heat on the day, and we’re directed around and about for a flatter entryway for the stroller. It’s still a challenge to maneuver it and its passenger over loose gravel. Then there’s the steep, steep incline which Kat manages and Griffin enjoys as it’s Up, Up, Up!!

Gravel is fun! Photo by j-ab.

Up, around, up more for our first gorgeous view where the city spreads out below and the mountains rise behind it. All those sun-baked colors, the red roofs, the domes and towers make a hell of a picture a camera can’t truly capture.

Florence view from Pitti Palace. Photo by Nora
Photo by Kayla.
Photo by j -ab
Kayla approved? Photo by Nora.

Then it’s up, up and up some more. If any of the residents regularly walked the gardens they must’ve had calves like stone and well-tuned hamstrings. It’s worth it for the views that never seem to end. At the top of each long stretch of stairs you can see forever, and thick green hedges, tall, thin cypress, huge old twisted trees line the walkways.

Group shot!

Up more stairs, curving ones, and we reach the top and the brave flowers that fight the unseasonal heat. Pictures here, and pictures there, take in the views after our long climb.

In the gardens – Nora’s happy place. Photo by Nora.

There are ways around for strollers, wheelchairs, but they’re not easy, and they’re longer. Griffin’s treated to a carry-down in his stroller by his parents. And LOVES it.

We pause awhile, a bench in the shade by a very interesting sculpture. And Griffin has some olives—a favorite—and a cookie.

Taking a look. Photo by Kat.

Down and down some more on the stroller-coaster ride, and that is, no question, the boy’s favorite part of the outing.

Photo by Kayla.

Into the slightly cooler palace now. Griffin and Company take the lift, the rest of us the stairs. A lot more stairs. And into the world of art. Glorious paintings, some massive, some small, and the light in them is magic. Heavy on the religious art, of course, and many paintings of the BVM and Baby Jesus. Saints and sinners abound, as well as portraits of serious-looking men and women.

Photo by j a-b.

The rooms themselves are art with their curved ceilings covered with murals, the marble, the ornate doors, gorgeous inlaid tables. You could wander for hours and still be struck with wonder moment by moment.

Photo by Kayla.
Photo by Kayla.
Photo by Kayla.
Photo by kayla.
Photo by BW.

We do a lot of that wandering, then Griffin spots a huge urn. To him, it’s a trophy and he wants it for his own. I can’t blame him.

Photo by Kayla.

We cut our palace tour short. With the hiking, the heat, the close air inside and the crowds, we decide to break for lunch—and sitting down.

Through more crowds and to a table in the restaurant where we had dinner our first night. And it is lovely to sit. Have food, drink wine, and water, water, more water.

Perfect pizza. Photo by kayla.

We also make a plan. We’ll head home, refresh, then the girls will head out to the stalls to make serious inroads in our shopping agenda.

Amothe the leather stalls. Photo by kat.

We do just that, and with great success all around.

It’s so colorful there, all the scarves, the bags, the belts, the leather jackets. Three females on a mission can get a lot accomplished. We’re loaded and satisfied on our walk back.

I decide it’s Bellini time on the terrace—seems fair. However, it doesn’t turn out that way. A cord’s on the floor in front of the door and somehow finds its way between my big toe and the next. Yanks hard. I catch myself—that’s good—but the cord’s dislocated my toe! Doesn’t hurt much really, but it doesn’t look right either. I go to sit on the terrace, elevate it while Kat fixes me an ice bag. While she’s at it, I decide to see if I can wiggle the toe. Hear and feel it pop back in place. But that little piggy’s had some trauma. Ice, ibuprofen, elevation.

Doesn’t take long for the bruising to show.

No walking out and about for me, so dinner in.

Jason, Kayla and BW head out to pick up some salads, sandwiches, pasta. Stupid toe’s stiff and some swollen. No racing with Griffin tonight!

Still, a nice little family dinner a fresco and a lazy evening at home—with some gelato that Jason goes out to bring back.

This morning, there’s swelling, stiffness and spreading bruising, so no morning workout, which I resent!

But Griffin comes out as I write this, and I take a pause to join his hilarity in his very strange Cookie Swirl video. You can’t be too cranky when a kid’s gut-laughing beside you.

I’ll surely have to pamper this toe today, so maybe hang out, read a book or start playing with one of my own.

We’ll find something fun today because it’s: Happy Birthday, Kat Day!!

Tons of love to the best daughter-in-law in the history of daughters-in-law!


Bruce sent a video tour of the flat which I’ll share at a later date. Somehow he wound his way to this guy. ~Laura

BW and Mao.

Florence – Day 4

Since we don’t head out until about noon, our plan is: Duomo, lunch, shopping. Kat and Griffin will catch up with us at lunch as navigating Duomo crowds with a stroller and toddler seems unwise.

Afternoon light at Palazzo Vecchio with outside David. Photo by Kayla.

We’ve got a bright, hot day, and a pleasant if seriously crowded walk. I hadn’t taken Saturday into the equation, figuring for tourists every day is Saturday. But when we arrive at the Duomo, we find this is clearly false as the line to get in stretches, stretches, wraps and goes on.

On the shady side of the street. Photo by Nora.
Dress day. Photo by BW
Look up! Photo by Kayla.

Though it’s moving reasonably well, we decide to try on a weekday. I imagine with Covid, they’ve limited the access—only so many inside at a time. So lunch after a little shop wandering sounds good.

The intrepid Kat and the much-more-rested Griffin find us, no problem.

Alternate use for a bottle opener. Photo by Kat.

After last night’s feast, I opt for a salad, and it’s just the thing. It’s a lively outdoor spot under a canvas roof with misters whirling to beat the heat. I’m fine with the heat, but the misters are lovely. When I order a glass of wine, the waiter asks if I’m over 18–and tells BW he’s a lucky man.

Lunch alfresco. Photo by Nora.
Nora and Kat. Photo by Nora.
Perfect plate. Photo by Kayla.

Guess who’s going to get a very nice tip!

More wandering—it really is a pretty day—then gelato!

Daily Gelato. Photo by Kayla.

It’s the girls and Griffin for shopping time. We have purchases to pick up at the leather shop, and Kat has somehow remembered a shoe shop I really liked on our last visit—nine years, but she remembers. And I score some pretty red sandals while Kat scores another gift.

I’ve been steadily crossing off names on my Christmas list and feel I’ve done a good shopping job in that area. We poke here, poke there, and I now have targets for the rest of my list.

Lego Vespa. Photo by Kayla.

We wind our way back home for a lazy early evening, and decide to put our leftovers together for a dinner on our terrace. The always dependable Jason heads out to the market for a couple things, and Kat and I organize our smorgasbord. BW’s working on photos on the second floor, Kayla’s watching TicTok on her phone, and Griffin’s very entertained with videos on his IPad. As every toddler ever he can watch the same thing a dozen times with equal hilarity.

Abduction of a Sabine Woman by Giambologna. Photo by BW
Slow reveal at Palazzo Vecchio. Video by BW.
Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by BW

I enjoy he likes to share that hilarity and often join him so we can give each other amazed looks, echo each other’s WOWs! Or Oh Nos!

The whole gang joins in on getting plates, etc, and we lay out our spread. A little meat? You got it. Some pasta, no problem. Pizza’s right here. Plenty of salad and veg. There’s music playing somewhere, and that drifts up. Bells ring, dusk slides in.

Buffet dinner at the flat. Photo by Nora.

A perfect little family meal.

Kat and Kayla deal with clean up, so I’ll have another glass of wine, enjoy some conversation with my guys, and amuse myself with Griffin.

Griffin decides to amuse himself with Kayla and challenges her to the evening race. Or it may be a chase tonight as Kat turns out to be his home base while the foyer stands as finish line. I join in for awhile. Then it’s back to the iPad for Griffin, Nana and Kayla where he clicks and swipes ten-twenty second previews with abandon.

His parents issue his One-More-Episode warning before bedtime. But he’s crafty and doesn’t settle on one, just click, swipe, laugh or Oh No! He does understand the rule, however, and when it’s bedtime, goes off without a fuss.

I’m not far behind him.

We’re heading out early (for us) today to explore the Pitti Palace and its amazing gardens. Fond memories here, and it’ll be nice to make new ones with Kayla and Griffin along.

After that, we’ll see what the day offers.


And now, a selection of photos that didn’t fit the narrative – Laura

In the lobby of the building – as per BW. Photo by BW
Palazzo Vecchio, Bruce’s version. Photo by BW.
Moody view. Photo by j a-b

And of course, some #randomkatness – which is more random? You decide.

Truly, #randomkatness. Or is it #randomartinflorence? Photo by Kat.
Astrological belt. Photo by Kat.

Florence – Day 3

It’s all about shopping, and eating.

First stop, the market. Fruit, bread—and a surprising score of peanut butter that makes Jason very happy. How about some jelly with that? Drinks including oat milk for Kayla.

The plan is the guys will take the groceries back, and the rest of us will hit the Ponte Vecchio for that shopping. It’s crowded, but the display windows do sparkle. It’s fun to look, and more fun to eventually buy. And of course, we stop for pictures on the bridge of the lovely Arno.

Ponte Santa Trinita photo competition! Photo by Kat.
Kayla’s entry.
Bruce’s entry.

I give Kat and Kayla full props for a much better sense of direction than mine—which isn’t hard—but they both really handle the twists, turns. And we wind our way to the leather shop where Kat has a pick up.

It’s wonderful! More scores there, plus a quick tour of the work area, which is fascinating.

Not quite #randomkatness. Balconies, flowers and vines. Photo by Kat.

We run into our guys who stepped out for a walk-around and decide: Lunch time.

Griffin’s mildly cranky—honestly for a three-year old who’s been plucked out of routine, shipped across the ocean and time zones—hauled around, etc, he’s been remarkably cheerful. And the crankiness vanishes when French fries appear.

Lovely wine, lovely food—Jason got a large Fanta. I think it was a solid half gallon. We hear thunder toward the end of the meal, and get a few drops of rain. In this unexpected heat, it feels pretty good.

A girl and her Nana. Photo by someone using Kayla’s phone.

Then back home for a respite. That equals a little terrace time for me.

I decide I’ll take my passport—which I forgot earlier—back to the shop where I scored a good chunk of Christmas gifts. I need it for the tax back deal. Ponte Vecchio is only two turns. My companions are unsure about me wandering on my own, so they install Google Maps, with a tracker so they can find me, on my phone.

Fortunately, I have no problem—even my shaky sense of direction can handle making two left turns going, two right on return—but I appreciate the concern. And I score two more gifts on my journey.

Some napping’s happening when I get back, so it seems like a find time for a Bellini.

Siesta time. Photo by Kayla

Kayla wants more Instagram shots, and I am the official photographer (in-training). Out we go. And here, my girl’s directional acuity far outreaches mine. I would have wandered lost for close to ever after we hunt for the perfect street to match her vision.

The first Nana-taken, Kayla-approved Insta image of the trip. Photo by Nora.

The streets, the buildings are all just lovely, but not quite the thing to match that vision, until one does.

The second Nana-taken, Kayla-accepted IG shot. Photo by Nora

I truly have no idea how she knew the way back, but am grateful to know if she should find herself alone in some unfamiliar city, she’d handle it.

The eye is always drawn up. Photo by Kayla.

She also spied a likely spot for dinner, and when that time comes, leads us back. Sadly, the little spot turned out to be lunch only. But there’s another steps away. A little outdoor area in a kind of alley. And it’s simply fantastic.

Now Griffin’s just sad. What am I doing here? I’m hot, I’m tired, I don’t know what I want. He makes sad noises—no temper, no tantrum, just sad. He holds Kat’s hand (with his monster school bus in his other) as she talks softly to him. And Mommy talks him to sleep. It’s so sweet, and he slept through the meal, through the walk home, and went straight to bed on return.

Tired bambino. Photo by Nora.
In dreamland, still holding his mama’s hand. Photo by Kat.

I’d planned to get a salad, some fries. But their specialty is Steak Florentine, and if you’re a meat-eater and in Florence, you absolutely must have Steak Florentine. I order the small portion. Perhaps I should’ve been forewarned by the size of Jason’s lunchtime Fanta.

Kayla, Nora (with a steak as big as Griffin — she’s never going to eat it all) and BW. Photo by j a-b

I’m served enough steak to feed a family of five, and their little dog, too.

Nora’s bistecca. She will eat leftovers for days. Photo by Nora.
BW’s more sedate ravioli. Photo by BW.

Jason’s wisely ordered that salad and fries, so I cut a chunk off for him, another chunk off for BW. I tuck in pretty well because OMG beyond delicious—and still have enough left-over to feed a a trio of hungry people.

The salad option. Photo by j a-b.

Plans for after-dinner gelato are postponed as everyone is stuffed.

I miss my night-time race with Griffin as he’s zonked, but we did get a brief one in during the afternoon.

Today’s sort-of-plan is a return to the Duomo to go inside, then more shopping—I have my own plan there. We have enough left-overs in our fridge to make a meal here if we opt to do that.

Now I’m going to work out, and hopefully work off some of that steak.


Kayla’s on a mission: to find as many Clet Abraham street signs as possible. #kaylaseesasign Photo by Kayla

Street art by Clet Abraham is all over Florence. (I couldn’t find a website, but that’s a story about him.) And Kayla appears to have a knack for spotting them.

Could this technically be a #randomkatness? After all she sent it. Will consider. For now we’ll call it #theartofgriffin

Art by Griffin. Photo by Kat.

Editor’s note: When Nora and family travel east of Command Center (my desk), they add photos throughout the day to a shared album. I look through, select what I think will work for the next day, set them up in the blog media library then match them to the copy Nora sends overnight. This year, I’m playing a little game: I caption the photos when they come in — without any reference to Nora’s words — taking the chance I know my group well. Pleased to say for this post I hit it 97.3% of the time (Kat captioned the one with Griffin holding her imaginary hand). <g> ~Laura

Florence – Day 2

Some of us pop awake, others stagger, but eventually we’re all up, and it’s time to roll out of here. Our first goal today is the Duomo. Lots of walking and window shopping along the way. I love the narrow streets, the cobblestones, the sun-washed colors of the buildings with their impressive doors.

Look up! Photo by Kayla.

Then those streets open up, and The Duomo dominates the world with its massive beauty. The white rise of it with its soft rose and green marble, the stunning detail work of carvings, the glorious red-roofed dome. And with the sky a perfect summer blue it’s just magic.

Roar. Photo by Kayla.

It’s closed to visitors today, but we walk around it, and we’ll go back. And for now we can just admire the glory of it, take in the spectacular gold doors of the Baptistry.

On we walk and admire the artists and their paintings lined up . Kayla chooses a beauty for a gift—a very good eye.

Signage. Photo by Kayla.

On we walk and walk—I’m having no luck so far in the gift department, but I’ll get there.

We want to head back to a place on another piazza where we had lunch on our last trip. We learn after this long walk they’ve erected a stadium—for traditional Italian soccer right beside it. This greatly hampers the view we remember—but the food doesn’t disappoint.

Perfect pizza. Photo by Kayla.

And, there’s gelato after. Strawberry for me today. Yum.

Daily Gelato. Photo by BW

Kat takes Griffin back while the rest of the group walks—and walks—to the river and more glorious views. The water, the buildings, the rise of hills and the distant mountains. Kayla’s definitely getting a taste—in every way—of Florence.

Tree of life by Andrea Roggi. Photo by Kayla.
Uffizi Gallery. Photo by Kayla.

Back we go for a little respite, and Kat sneaks out to pick up a gift—and spies a nearby restaurant for dinner—AND bless her, scores some Veuve for me! More Bellinis!

Kayla wants to tutor me on taking proper Instagram photos and has a vision. Down we go where she sits on the steps in front of our impressive door. But the light’s just wrong, and we both agree there, so we move down to the next impressive door.

I get an A plus from Kayla on my lesson! It helps my subject is so pretty.

A little terrace time, and it’s head out to dinner.

Kat also has a good eye, and the restaurant with its cheerful servers and outdoor seating under roof is perfect.

Indoor/outdoor dining. Photo by Nora.
Saluti! Photo by j a-b

So is the food. And the wine. And the company.

It’s busy and lively and just fun.

Table full. Photo by BW

Griffin and I both get spaghetti pomodoro, but I believe the boy out-ate me. He can pack in the pasta. Then there’s dolce—more mmmm. And complimentary lemoncello—BW and I are the only takers there.

We roll home, full to the gills.

But I work off a little of that lovely dinner racing with Griffin and Kayla.

And we all crash.

As I write this, Griffin runs down the hall from his room. A happy morning boy. BW’s been up to make coffee, and Kat’s up and dressed. I’d better gear up and get my workout on!

Not sure what the plan is for the day, but I’m determined to cross some names off my gift list.


And now I’m pleased to present everyone’s favorite feature: #randomkatness

Did she climb on a roof? Zoom in from afar? You decide. ~Laura