Category Archives: 2022 Italy

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

Florence – Day 1

At last, after a two-year delay, we’re off to Italy.

BW and I are so lucky to have our unflappable traveling companions, Jason and Kat, along with our youngest and oldest grandkids. This is Kayla’s high school graduation trip—and she’ll be a junior in collage next fall.

This is a three-week trip (!) so we have a LOT of luggage,

The minute the plane starts down the runway, Griffin’s smile spreads. The boy loves to fly. Kayla and I do not, at all, but seeing the kid’s shining face makes the takeoff easier.

It’s an overnight flight so before too long most of us settle down to get some sleep. Or try. I’m grateful for the solid two hours I went under before turbulence woke me up, and—as always—had me lying there wondering why the hell I was in this tin can bumping along at 50,000 feet.

The light on the horizon. Photo by Kat.

I love my house, my gardens, my dogs. Why wasn’t I home where I belonged?

In the morning as it’s smoothed out and we’re all waking up, I learn Kayla had similar thoughts and issues.

But all’s well that ends well, and we touch down into the Italian sunshine.

We’re early as our flight time moved up, so we wait awhile for our transportation. No problem! We’re on the ground and that’s what counts.

Then they’re loading up the ton of luggage six people need for a three-week trip. It’s awesome.

We weren’t expecting the flat we booked for our initial 10-day stay in Florence to be ready until late afternoon, but the gods looked kindly on us, and it’s ready when we get there.

We have a roomy two-level flat with terrace right in the heart of Florence in what was once a rich family’s kind of palace. It’s gorgeous—rebuilt after being bombed in WWII. The wonderful big entrance doors, the stone, the statues and light in the big entrance hall.

One view of the flat. Photo by BW.

We’re four flights up, and the elevator’s narrow. Our lovely hosts, Lucia and Serena, are undaunted by the mountain of luggage. It takes a few trips, then we get a tour of our Florence home. More art! Though the statue of Mao Tse Tung waving from the second floor balcony is a bit baffling to me.

Hello! Photo by Nora.

More light, streaming through windows. A sweet little kitchen, a generous living space, a second hang-out space on the second floor. And everyone gets to choose a bedroom that suits them.

The terrace is just lovely, and my goal is to sit out there drinking a Bellini.

But first, unpack!

Then let’s do what we came for and take a walk around, have some pizza or pasta.

Kat opts to stay back with Griffin, maybe sneak in a nap.

And out we go. We’ve stayed in this area of Florence before, so the feel’s familiar to me. Shops we’ll explore when we’re not so lagged, the piazza that’s only around the corner. The sound of so many languages buzzing around from others who walk. And that light that’s so brilliant and magical.

Wandering. Photo by Kayla

We pick a restaurant, sit outside in that light and air. Like Jason I decide on pizza, will save pasta for later. BW and Kayla do the opposite. I can attest no one made the wrong choice.

Choices, choices. Photo by Kayla.

I order a Pinot Grigio to go with it. Kayla samples a sip—thumbs down for her.  She’s just wrong!

It all feels a little dreamlike—part jet lag, part actually being here after the two-year gap. The food’s wonderful, the wine terrific, the service quick and friendly.

The guys head off, and Kayla and I walk. And isn’t it sweet to share my girl’s first trip to one of my favorite cities in the world?

We look at stalls filled with colorful leather bags, belts, tee-shirts. My head’s not fully in shopping mode yet so it’s fun just to wander and look. The girl does find a tee-shirt, so score one for Italy.

Then? Gelato. Mmmm. We both want mint chocolate chip—a taste we share—get a medium cone. So good, beyond good and into perfect. I plan to repeat perfection in different flavors every day we’re here.

Mint chocolate chip gelato with extras. Photo by Kayla

Back we go. Jason, Kat and Griffin have gone to the nearby market to try to score some Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke for me, and add to our food supply.

I sit down, chat with Kayla and BW. Then lie down on the sofa and conk. Out! A good hour at least before I wake up and find Griffin asleep in his stroller beside me, Jason and Kat on the other couch, BW zonked in bed.

All asleep except for Kayla. Pano by Kayla
Restorative nap. Photo by Kat.

They couldn’t score my usual cold caffeine, so bought some Coke Zero. I will adjust to the taste. They did score peach nectar, so I make myself that Bellini and go out to the terrace.

Just ahhh.

Bells chime the hour, birds wing across the sky, voices float up from the street as I sit under a pergola that must rival heaven in the spring when the wisteria that smothers it’s in bloom. Now I have hydrangeas, white as snow and the oak leaf variety pink-tipped.

We talk dinner, and it’s unanimous we stay in our first night. That sends BW and Jason out for a hunt, something take-out. Kayla and I just want a salad anyway.

They bring back enough to satisfy. Kayla manages a few bites before she calls it. The girl’s tired!

Griffin, not so much, and he and I have our first Italian race—or our first several. To add to the fun, there are little steps on our course. JUMP down the step from living room to foyer. Jump up it, down it, up it. Then RUN. Through the living room, into the kitchen, back to the foyer. JUMP!

Then he expands the course to jump the step to the hallway, back to his parents’ room. Where he adds hide and seek. Kat must seek, and when she finds, we must squeal and run.

I worked off that gelato.

Bedtime for Griffin, and I’m not far behind him.

Slept like a rock for a solid eight and woke to sunshine.

I’m going to workout, gear up. I think the Duomo is on the slate for today, and the all important shopping and eating. Add that glass of wine and I expect more perfect for our first full day in Florence.

Right now it’s quiet, and I’m pretending this Coke Zero is Diet Pepsi. I’m pretty good at pretending.

It’s just lovely to be here, and lovelier yet to be here with people I love.