about it was that the nasty weather caused the function to be moved inside, into one of the buildings in the town’s fairgrounds. There must have been 800-1000 people in attendance, coming and going in waves, who for a small donation could enjoy various bands along with the main draw – a local pasta called “cannazza”, along with peas, and stuffed rolls of beef that had slowly cooked while bathed in sauce all day. Outside the fairgrounds, all but one local restaurant had remained open. It insured there was at least one place to eat that night for those not attending. The other restaurateurs were at the gathering helping out with cooking and serving. It was nice to see the entire town working together toward a common cause.
was a king sized, four-poster with draped, hanging shear linens leading to a down-filled duvet and puffy pillows. After a long day of travel, it beckoned us but would have to wait. Our bathroom was large, modern, and clad in Italian marble. The showerhead cantilevered from the wall, as a diving board might, with hundreds of tiny nozzles ready to create a pillar of water. A concave magnifying mirror, like none we’d ever seen before and edged with lights, caught our attention. Behind the door, on the wall, hung the added courtesy of two fluffy bathrobes. The finishing touch to our room was a generous, mirrored, walk-in closet. To complete our swank space, our windows opened like the Pope’s to a view overlooking the entire historic plaza below. A chilled welcoming bottle of Prosecco from the hotel manager was just what we needed. We had arrived in grand style as the name, Grand Hotel Minerva and the arrival celebration in our son’s room proclaimed.
through a suite recently occupied by Madonna. Massive and impeccably decorated in classic Italian style, it was a knock-out, nothing less than a Presidential Suite. Afterward, we were offered cocktails in their Michelin starred Winter Garden Restaurant. It was there that we were treated to their celebrated “Sabering”, a tradition where nightly the foiled and wired top of a bottle of Prosecco is severed from the bottle with the swipe of a saber’s blade. Evidently, when hotel patrons want their Prosecco, they expect it quickly!
opened the door to the lobby. There we were greeted by a cutting edge contemporary atrium flawlessly paired with unique renaissance features. The marble floor alone was exquisite; the entire room the epitome of consummate elegance. It distracted from Front Office Manager Raffaello’s welcome, who with pride, then proceeded to give us tours of their various classes of rooms. The staircase in particular, leading up from the lobby, featured a striking Italian Liberty Style. This 19th century design, an Italian adaptation of Art Nouveau, emphasized spiraling, sinuous architectural forms. Looking down through the central void of the staircase, its descending stairs clinging to the walls in boxy lockstep, I felt a sense of infinity as it fell away, almost indefinitely, to the converging rules of perspective.
next morning following a wonderful breakfast. Our first stop took us next door to the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella (see lead photo).
hall, Palazzo della Signoria. Just inside, an Asian couple dressed in wedding finery were being photographed as part of what I can only guess was a destination wedding - a really special destination, half way around the world. Nearby were some of our favorite sites including the Loggia dei Lanzi open-air sculpture gallery, as well as the Uffizi Gallery which unfortunately closed that day. Of course we couldn’t miss showing Chris the spot where in 1497 Girolamo Savonarola carried out the famous Bonfire of the Vanities, burning books, gaming tables, fine dresses, works of poets, and finery of every sort. We pointed out the round marble plaque marking the exact spot where a year later Savonarola, having fallen out of favor with the Pope, was hung and then burned. I would have thought excommunication would have been enough.
phenomenon” has also put down roots on Ponte Vecchio. This current fad is connected to the idea that lovers, by locking a padlock (many times to another lock) and throwing the key in the river, the lovers became eternally bonded. With so many tourists, thousands of padlocks appear annually, which need to be removed due to the resulting damage to the centuries old bridge. Honestly, I felt it was an attractive blight, far better than spray tagging. Currently, this form of love art is reportedly on the decline after the city put a sign on the bridge mentioning a €160 penalty for those caught locking something to the fence! On a return visit we’ll just have to see if love conquers all.
gave it a classic Tuscan look, but then, we were in the heart of Tuscany not some knock off Italian restaurant in Fiji. It is best known for its Florentine steak, but this being only lunch, I instead chose a Caprese salad antipasto followed by an indulgent pasta alla carbonara with crispy cubes of pancetta, while Chris enjoyed a pizzas, and Maria her favorite, pasta alla vongole. My only excuse, I’ll work out when back in the States. However, an unexpected workout lay just before us.
squares to tiny, quiet streets, away from the bustle of an overrun tourist infested city. But to think, weren’t we part of that infestation? Arrived at the Four Seasons, we at least felt we were somehow special, apart from the masses in that upper 1% stratum we are so often politically reminded of. Of course we were not staying there, but in our short while there, whether seated in their main lounge, or later in their atrium-like bar enjoying a refreshing aperitivo, we experienced their exceptional brand of what I can only describe a persistent perfection in elegant surroundings of the highest quality. In a completely separate building we toured a personal oasis in the heart of Florence, their spa, which extended underground. For a wine lover like myself, just imagine the “Chianti Wine Massage” treatment I noted among the spa’s offerings. I can only imagine sensations worthy of Bacchus! They had created an experience much admired but not easily replicated anywhere else in Florence.