"Haute Brocante" Style at Home

I adore interiors that have been lovingly and beautifully gathered, added to, edited, and maintained over the years.  There’s a sense of the space almost taking on a life of its own.  It’s possible to create an environment from scratch that appears to have been collected over time, but it takes a great deal of talent and knowledge - not to mention the likelihood of costing a lot of money!  It’s wonderful to have decades to source the perfect antiques, art, or new, hip furniture and accessories - but what if you want it all done NOW? Fare spese!  (Italian for "go shopping")

An enormous part of my job as an interior designer consists of shopping.  Fun, huh?  But it’s shopping with purpose.  I love what I call “Haute Brocante” (aka The Mix: Price (High/Low), Age (Old/New), Style (ie: mixing Louis 16th/Industrial). Brocante means "Flea Market" and haute means "high" (as in Haute Couture = High Fashion), so it's "Elevated Flea Market" style.  It takes a LOT of shopping and amazing vendors to successfully - and quickly - create an interior space (or garden) that evokes a collected-over-time aesthetic.  Haute Brocante to the rescue!

 This room's decor WAS collected over time: inherited pieces, antiques added over the years, antique reproductions that are new, Paris flea market finds.

This room's decor WAS collected over time: inherited pieces, antiques added over the years, antique reproductions that are new, Paris flea market finds.

A few months before we moved to Italy, a new client called me and asked for help creating a Tuscan atmosphere in her 1928 Seattle home.  She and her husband had just married in a blissful setting near Florence, and she wanted her home's ambience to remind her of the joyful experience on a daily basis.  We started from scratch and this is the 80% finished result.  Unfortunately, I moved to Italy before it was 100% complete and before I could have professional photos taken….  Please take a look at my website for more photos.

 We sourced from various vendors for everything!  Note oriental rug atop sisal rug; a great way to make the rug larger.   

We sourced from various vendors for everything!  Note oriental rug atop sisal rug; a great way to make the rug larger.   

Since I’ve been living in Florence for a year, I’ve had the opportunity to shop some local flea markets as well as small negozi (shops) and, also, the monthly antiques market in Arrezo.  Take a look at some of the amazing items I’ve discovered since living in Florence!

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This spring I found this wonderfully Florentine chandelier from the 1950's at a swap meet - right across the street from our apartment. 

 Here it is after being repaired and installed.

Here it is after being repaired and installed.

 At our local flea market, adjacent to Mercato Sant'Ambrogio

At our local flea market, adjacent to Mercato Sant'Ambrogio

 Sant'Ambrogio

Sant'Ambrogio

 At the monthly big flea market in Sant'Ambrogio (the dog is not a found object - ha!)

At the monthly big flea market in Sant'Ambrogio (the dog is not a found object - ha!)

 At the monthly Sant'Ambrogio flea market

At the monthly Sant'Ambrogio flea market

 We found this at a shop owned by one of the Sant'Ambrogio flea market vendors....

We found this at a shop owned by one of the Sant'Ambrogio flea market vendors....

 ...and here it is cleaned up and with a bit of decorative painting by moi!

...and here it is cleaned up and with a bit of decorative painting by moi!

 At the monthly antiques market in Arezzo

At the monthly antiques market in Arezzo

 Cabinet hardware and visual art on a side street in Arezzo

Cabinet hardware and visual art on a side street in Arezzo

 The monthly market in Arezzo

The monthly market in Arezzo

.....and then, seen in a store front in Florence, south of the Arno...

 Near Santo Spirito

Near Santo Spirito

It's so satisfying to discover and then give another life to items from earlier periods!  If you'd like me to look for something, just ask! 

Posted on August 6, 2018 and filed under Design.

Our first year in Florence

 The view from San Miniato al Monte 

The view from San Miniato al Monte 

Of Permessos, Apartment Hunting, Friends' Visits and more

Well, we’ve been in Florence for exactly one year now - how time flies!  Last May was a crazy, hectic time:  we sold our house (and most of the furnishings) and sold the car - but still had an enormous amount of packing and moving to do.  Not to mention the endless and often emotional choices about what to keep and what to ship to Italy.

Once we arrived in Florence, we spent a month at Hotel Villa Carlotta and then moved into our apartment on Piazza Santa Croce the end of June.  In August we were panic-stricken about whether or not we’d be able to stay in Italy (see earlier post) but everything concluded almost miraculously at the 11th hour.  I enrolled in Italian classes, turned in my application for a Permesso di Soggiorno and was legally residing here.  Yay.  

Then, in early March, after I’d squeezed in a quick trip to Seattle in February to supervise the packing of our furniture and beloved household items for shipment to Florence, my Permesso expired and it was the same crazy frenzy to enroll in more classes and apply to extend my PdS (Permesso di Soggiorno).  When I went to the Ufficio Postale to renew it, I luckily faced the same nice clerk I’d seen in September - and he remembered me!  And when I received mailed notice of my appointment to the Questura for fingerprints, etc it was dated for September - a very good thing!  Now for the rest of our issues…  It sometimes seems like we’ve been spending an awful lot of time and effort, not to mention money, simply trying to STAY in Italy!!

But, we have managed to enjoy some wonderful experiences. Here’s a month by month recap of our first year:

- guigno, 2017  Since we spent a month at hotel Villa Carlotta, we became pretty familiar with Porta Romana, a part of Florence that doesn’t usually attract a ton of tourists.  We visited the Boboli Gardens and the Costume Gallery in the Palazzo Pitti, had some wonderful food at Podere, found Muselab (and have become friends with Samantha and Giulia, designing sisters who also sew everything and source the fabrics), and many more shops, ristoranti, and cafes.  Bob went to a Calcio Storico match, which is sort of a combination of rugby and boxing (!) during which the teams wear Renaissance costumes; I went shopping!

- luglio, 2017 We moved into our apartment on Piazza Santa Croce and devoted more of our time to exploring the surrounding area:  Sant’Ambrogio, Borgo la Croce, Piazza dei Ciompi, San Niccolo’.  

- agosto, 2017 This is when we were scrambling to submit official documents during a time when most of the city was on vacation.  Ferragosto is a religious holiday in the middle of the month that gives people an excuse to take the whole month off.  We discovered Easy Living (the beach on the Arno) and shakeratos.  Also, agosto is very HOT!  We only ventured out of the apartment in early morning or late evening and, the rest of the time, sat inside with the air-conditioning on and the shutters closed, wearing bathing suits.  I read a number of books!

- settembre, 2017  I flew to San Francisco for a few days on August 31st and then on to Seattle for what I hoped would be about a week. (silly me) But I sometimes felt like a hostage in my son’s apartment, waiting for the mail carrier who would deliver my passport with visa enclosed - which didn’t arrive until September 24th. I had major sticker shock in Seattle over the price of wine, groceries, and dining out - wow! It was so fun to see friends and family, but I missed Florence!  Apparently, the weather in September was magnificent - it was definitely starting to cool off by the time I returned.

- ottobre, 2017  I started Italian classes weeks behind the rest of the students and scrambled to catch up!  With the weather cooling, it was the perfect time to get out and explore Firenze when homework was done.  We took a bus to Greve in Chianti one day and had a delightful lunch at Bottega del Moro.  Our friends, Angel and Heidi Diaz, came to Italy and we had a lively dinner together in one of our favorite places.  By the end of the month, it was cool enough in the mornings to wear down jackets!

- novembre, 2017  Brought even cooler weather, but not a lot of rain.  So, it was perfect for more exploring. And, cooking in our minuscule kitchen.  (Which included adapting French recipes for Italian ingredients)  The Christmas decorations started going up around town in the middle of the month, which was festive.

- dicembre, 2017  It was sometimes bitterly cold but, thankfully, clear.  Our son, Nick, came to visit us for Christmas. We were still living in Piazza Santa Croce, at the time, where there was a wonderful Christmas Market set up for nearly the entire month of December.  It was a conveniently close venue for a quick vin brûlée (mulled wine).  And Bob bought a hat there!  The man who NEVER wore a hat, now always wears one! Our friend, Beth Mountsier, came to visit her daughter and we enjoyed a dinner together.  Samantha Rose had chirurgia di ginocchio (knee surgery) and spent most of the month convalescing.  

- gennaio, 2018  We found our new apartment (!) across the street from a beautiful Piazza (more of a park to us) that has a very Parisian feel.  Maybe it’s because the very formal buildings are only 150 years old, instead of 500 years!  And the piazza/park is well-tended and very beautiful - and filled with the sound of children playing, which I cherish.

- febbraio, 2018  I returned to Seattle for a quick trip to meet with our shippers and supervise the loading of our furniture into their truck.  It was still cold in Florence when I returned, but not terribly rainy.  We discovered our new neighborhood’s cafe/bar/music venue, Cafe 1926, that is an absolutely beautiful French bistrot, but serves Italian food, and has a great selection of French wine - perfect!  ( I mean, Italian food & wine are fabulous, but sometimes one longs for French wine.....)

- marzo, 2018  We moved into our new apartment on March 1st and it snowed that day!!  There wasn’t a taxi to be found, which is kind of important when you are moving clothes and boxes and you don’t have a car…. Also, I started Italian classes again and, this time, was not behind anymore - but a model student!  

- aprile, 2018  Our son came to visit!  And our furniture arrived from Seattle!  Our friends, Steve and Linda Cuddy, came to Florence to have dinner with us - oh, and visit their son who was studying abroad here - ha!  Another fun time with friends!  The trees in the Piazza across the street suddenly leafed out and it began to be quite pleasantly warm. And Samantha started running again after her successful surgery!

- maggio, 2018  We hopped a bus to Fiesole and had a lovely Mother’s Day lunch.  On a pleasant Saturday, our wonderful landlords took us to the family home in Montevarchi, just southeast of Florence about 40 minutes by car.  They drove us there and even included Sammie in their invitation!  An amazing place:  beautiful home and pool, landscaped and fountained grounds, several large accessory dwellings, farmlands.  It’s fabulous and —- for sale!  After an incredible lunch in the country with them at Osteria dell'Acquolina, we wandered through their vineyards….. bliss.  Finally, (technically in guigno, not maggio), we boarded the train to Arezzo, about an hour's ride from Florence, to peruse the monthly Flea Market (the first Sunday of every month and the Saturday before - I don’t know why they reference it that way, but everything I’ve read about it uses the same strange description - ha!)  It’s not really a flea market, more of an Antiques Market, with equivalent pricing.  Though there’s lots to see in this charming little city.  We had a delightful (and delicious) lunch under the arcade at La Lancia d’Oro. And, our piazza is full of Linden trees that burst into bloom mid-month - the heady fragrance was intoxicating!

We’ve discovered over the past year that Florence has definite seasons. L’invernale (winter) was bitingly cold, at times, but mostly clear and sunny.  Estate (summer) is HOT.  Pirmavera (spring) and Autunno (Autumn) are delightful.  There are a lot of zenzare….(mosquitos) all year round.

Here are some favorite photos from the last year:

 Easy Living, the Beach on the Arno

Easy Living, the Beach on the Arno

 Giardino Boboli

Giardino Boboli

 The Costume Gallery at Palazzo Pitti

The Costume Gallery at Palazzo Pitti

 At Calcio Storico - A member of the retinue for Verde team 

At Calcio Storico - A member of the retinue for Verde team 

 A great lunch in a homey ristorante in Greve, Bottega del Moro

A great lunch in a homey ristorante in Greve, Bottega del Moro

 As the weather begins to cool, just snuggle into faux fur!  In Piazza Signoria

As the weather begins to cool, just snuggle into faux fur!  In Piazza Signoria

 Only in Florence....!

Only in Florence....!

 A glimpse of a secret garden

A glimpse of a secret garden

 LOVE this!

LOVE this!

 Christmas street view

Christmas street view

 The Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce

The Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce

 Rinascente store at Christmas

Rinascente store at Christmas

 Exploring the beautiful private garden at the Four Seasons Firenze 

Exploring the beautiful private garden at the Four Seasons Firenze 

 Moving day!  Yay!

Moving day!  Yay!

 A feel of Paris in this Renaissance city

A feel of Paris in this Renaissance city

 Montevarchi

Montevarchi

 A guest room at Montevarchi.  LOVE the furniture!

A guest room at Montevarchi.  LOVE the furniture!

 Our local Parisian-inspired cafe, the 1926

Our local Parisian-inspired cafe, the 1926

 It's a work in progress and we’re constrained by it being partially furnished.  But, with the addition of our own things, the apartment is coming together!

It's a work in progress and we’re constrained by it being partially furnished.  But, with the addition of our own things, the apartment is coming together!

 

 

Posted on June 21, 2018 .

11th hour craziness in pursuit of Italian citizenship

 It's exhausting being petted so much on Piazza Santa Croce!

It's exhausting being petted so much on Piazza Santa Croce!

Cittadinanza

After we moved into our Piazza Santa Croce apartment on June 27th, we went to our local Mailboxes, etc right around the corner and requested that the Italian Consulate in Los Angeles send our citizenship file originals to us in Florence, where we would pursue Italian citizenship for my husband.  We received the file July 4th, then we spent several weeks trying to connect with an attorney we had met on our last trip to Florence.  (We took a wonderful cooking class from his sister, who owns Cooking in Florence, and she introduced us to him)  We finally made contact with him mid-July, and he told us things were crazy busy getting work done in preparation for the August holidays.  (Pretty much all of Italy, except for tourist-dependent businesses, shuts down most, if not all, of August!!) 

We scrambled to get our documents submitted, then spent a few weeks waiting for the police visit to verify our residence.  Then, suddenly, the cittadinanza application was halted - the woman reviewing it had found several discrepancies (Bob's grandfather's name was spelled differently in a few places).  Our attorney wrote a lengthy "act" in which he explained everything, and the application started again, which meant waiting for the police to visit, again - not leaving all day!  On a whim, Monday morning I checked our mailbox and found a document that stated the police had been to our residence on the prior Friday and not found us here, even though we'd been dutifully sitting and waiting for them ALL DAY!!!!  We faxed the document back to the police, giving our hours of availability, and they showed up the next day!  One down.....

Permesso di Soggiorno

With the cittadinanza restarted, and the residency verified, it was now time to submit the Permesso di Soggiorno kit.  We went to the Ufficio Postale on via Porta Rossa (a beautiful building, by the way) and they would NOT accept Bob's application (!) because he didn't have a visa, which you don't need if you are here and applying for citizenship.  So, Bob and our attorney met the next day at a different post office and the application was accepted! On August 29th, Bob's last day to legally remain in Italy without the citizenship/residency/permesso di soggiorno applications being accepted!  2 down in the 11th hour craziness.....

 Our Florence attorney, Ugo Franceschetti

Our Florence attorney, Ugo Franceschetti

A visa application of some kind....

Meanwhile, because of the 90 day Schengen tourist restriction, I had to leave Italy and return to the US to get a visa from the Italian Consulate in order to return to Italy! 

 At the tiny Florence airport about to embark for San Francisco

At the tiny Florence airport about to embark for San Francisco

I flew to San Francisco August 30th, intent upon imploring the consulate to give me a visa.  But, they would not!  They said, since my husband's citizenship application was in process, granting me a visa would "confuse things".  What??!!  (They are telling me this as I beg them, standing on tiptoe, talking to Giorgia, the visa employee, via microphone, behind thick glass) 

 The Italian Consulate in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood

The Italian Consulate in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood

In the meantime, our attorney had come up with a plan:  I would enroll in an Italian language course and apply for a Student Visa.  I mentioned it to Giorgia, she was adamant that, no, it wasn't possible. I teared up, she softened, and then - surprise! - she suggested I enroll in classes and apply for a Student Visa.  (I wish we'd thought of that!) So, Bob enrolled me in the Lorenzo de Medici Institute, with classes beginning September 4th. I flew to Seattle September 1st and set about getting all my ducks in a row.

 My new school in Florence!

My new school in Florence!

I met with the Honorary Consulate in Seattle on September 12th.  My file was ironclad, complete, each section was clipped together, with a cover sheet that summarized the pages, and the entire file was in the exact order of the checklist on the Consulate website.  After Mr Tesorieri reviewed the file and handed it to me, I was told to send it to San Francisco for processing.  And write them a nice note about my impending departure, September 20th.

I overnighted the package to San Francisco, it arrived Thursday, September 14th, delayed a day because of the hurricanes and other disruptions (none on the west coast, but oh well).  I called and emailed the SF consulate about my application and ticketed flight back to Florence September 20th but was answered with a terse note admonishing me "not to pressure them about my airline ticket".  Well!

The day of my flight arrived and my passport and visa hadn't.  So, I proceeded to change my flight (had paid extra for a changeable ticket) - but to what day??  I intuitively chose Sunday, September 24th as my new departure date.  And hoped my passport/visa would arrive the 21st, 22nd or 23rd.  

On Friday, September 22, I sent another email to the San Francisco Consulate requesting "Visa Status - Flight in 3 days" per directions on their website.  I got an answer at 1:12 pm:  "Hello. Your passport has been mailed." I opened up the USPS website I had been obsessively checking daily and..... nothing. I refreshed the page over and over and - suddenly! - there was info!!  My passport was picked up in SF at 11:20 am and in transit!  But would it arrive to me by Saturday, so I could make my Sunday flight??  

YES!  ...... at the 11th hour....... IT DID!!!!

 I haven't been so excited to get the mail in a long time....!

I haven't been so excited to get the mail in a long time....!

It was a ton of consternation, hard work, planning, organizing, frustration, and incredible stress - but it was fabulous to see friends and family in Seattle  - and I even made a new friend in San Francisco - while I waited for my visa....

 With my brother and step brother

With my brother and step brother

 Leslie and I love these basil-infused drinks at Bar Cantinetta

Leslie and I love these basil-infused drinks at Bar Cantinetta

 Fab 4 celebrating Tana's birthday

Fab 4 celebrating Tana's birthday

 Nick on his way to the airport

Nick on his way to the airport

And pretty nice to get back to my Florence neighborhood....

 Basilica di Santa Croce

Basilica di Santa Croce

 Our apartment building on Piazza Santa Croce

Our apartment building on Piazza Santa Croce

 The nightly constitutional with Sammie

The nightly constitutional with Sammie

Posted on October 25, 2017 and filed under Firenze.

A new perspective!

 Looking at Florence from Fiesole

Looking at Florence from Fiesole

We made it!  It took a teeny bit longer than we had hoped or wished, but we're here now (yay!) and busily exploring our new environment.  

 Yes, we brought our dog Samantha Rose - how could we not? Florence is dog-friendly in the extreme.  I just wish our son were here, too...

Yes, we brought our dog Samantha Rose - how could we not? Florence is dog-friendly in the extreme.  I just wish our son were here, too...

 Saying goodbye to Nick at the airport.  We're smiling to keep from crying.

Saying goodbye to Nick at the airport.  We're smiling to keep from crying.

 We happened to glance out the lounge waiting area at the exact moment Samantha's crate was being taken to the plane!  (We flew Lufthansa, not Southwest - ha!)  What do you suppose she was thinking...?

We happened to glance out the lounge waiting area at the exact moment Samantha's crate was being taken to the plane!  (We flew Lufthansa, not Southwest - ha!)  What do you suppose she was thinking...?

One of the reasons we chose Florence (apart from the art, history, architecture, shopping, food, and walkable-ness!) was for the pace of life.  It is Italy, after all.  After spending a fair amount of time in France and Italy, I've been struck by how the French and Italians really savor life:  food and wine are eagerly tasted, stores are small, thereby encouraging frequent trips (the better to get to know the proprietors) and even a trip to empty the garbage/recycle/yard waste is an excursion.

 Our home for the first month in Florence

Our home for the first month in Florence

Our first home in Florence - for 30 days! - was the Hotel Villa Carlotta in Porta Romana, the Florentine gate that one passed through to journey south to Rome.  

 Porta Romana, the Florentine gate toward Rome

Porta Romana, the Florentine gate toward Rome

The area around the hotel is full of beautiful villas, parks, wide walkways, and a luxurious hotel, Villa Cora, as well as bed and breakfasts.  We discovered some wonderful shops and eateries in our monthlong stay.  

 One of our favorite restaurants, Podere 39, on Via Senese.  The pasta is amazing!  https://www.facebook.com/Podere-39-Firenze-919420918172225/

One of our favorite restaurants, Podere 39, on Via Senese.  The pasta is amazing! https://www.facebook.com/Podere-39-Firenze-919420918172225/

 Looking out to via Senese from the interior of Podere 39

Looking out to via Senese from the interior of Podere 39

 The pizza at  Antica Porta  is so thin and delicious!!

The pizza at Antica Porta is so thin and delicious!!

 I have bought quite a few items from sisters Guilia (above) and Samanta of MuseLab.   https://www.facebook.com/muselabfirenze/

I have bought quite a few items from sisters Guilia (above) and Samanta of MuseLab.  https://www.facebook.com/muselabfirenze/

 This home store is so amazing I could live there!  Kitchen and bath cabinets and fixtures, tile, fabric, cooking lessons in the fully-equipped kitchen - everything!   Riccardo Barthel  on via Romana.

This home store is so amazing I could live there!  Kitchen and bath cabinets and fixtures, tile, fabric, cooking lessons in the fully-equipped kitchen - everything!  Riccardo Barthel on via Romana.

 An art restoration business on via Romana

An art restoration business on via Romana

It's been very, very hot here in Florence since the beginning of June.  One evening, while dining at Podere 39, I saw a woman at a nearby table fanning herself.  She didn't speak English but did speak French so I asked her where to find a fan for myself.  She tried to explain what sort of market might have one, then suddenly, a few minutes later, she handed her fan to me!  And told me it was a gift!  What a wonderful experience!

On June 27, we moved into our apartment (for the next 9 months, or so) on Piazza Santa Croce. It's right smack in the middle of the action, so is inundated with tourists from late morning until late evening - but we love the apartment.  It's a good temporary home!

 Our apartment on Piazza Santa Croce, looking toward the terrace. 

Our apartment on Piazza Santa Croce, looking toward the terrace. 

 Sky from the terrace

Sky from the terrace

From this new venue, I plan to write about the design scene in Florence as well as events, restaurant and accommodation recommendations, nearby places to discover, and some historical perspectives - and everything in between!  Please join me! 

 

 

 

 

Posted on July 10, 2017 and filed under Firenze, Travel.

Springtime in Italy - Memorable Moments

It was late winter when we started our 5 week Italian exploration in Rome, at our favorite hotel: Campo de' Fiori......

 The early March view from our balcony in Rome at  Hotel Campo de' Fiori

The early March view from our balcony in Rome at Hotel Campo de' Fiori

 A vegetable stand in the Campo de' Fiori market

A vegetable stand in the Campo de' Fiori market

 I was struck by the packaging on these spices, herbs and dried beans, etc at the market in Campo de' Fiori

I was struck by the packaging on these spices, herbs and dried beans, etc at the market in Campo de' Fiori

 The view of  Hotel Campo de' Fiori  from our favorite enoteca  Verso Sera

The view of Hotel Campo de' Fiori from our favorite enoteca Verso Sera

 The staff makes the hotel --- and these two are the best!   Valentina and Francesco at Hotel Campo de' Fiori

The staff makes the hotel --- and these two are the best!  Valentina and Francesco at Hotel Campo de' Fiori

 The late-winter view from the rooftop at  Hotel Campo de'Fiori, Rome

The late-winter view from the rooftop at Hotel Campo de'Fiori, Rome

 Rome window shopping.  Incredible children's clothing!  I think I would wear these things. Maybe not the shoes......

Rome window shopping.  Incredible children's clothing!  I think I would wear these things. Maybe not the shoes......

 Creative parking in Rome!  Ha!

Creative parking in Rome!  Ha!

After 3 days, it was on to Florence, where we'd live for a month.....

 It was fairly brisk in mid-March, but not raining!

It was fairly brisk in mid-March, but not raining!

 Our normal breakfast at a cafe half a block from our apartment

Our normal breakfast at a cafe half a block from our apartment

Shopping in this city is the best!

 One of my favorite stores for higher-end clothing and shoes:   Raspini

One of my favorite stores for higher-end clothing and shoes:  Raspini

 I love this store, too - much less pricey!   Vincent Croce   There are 2 locations (that I found):  in San Frediano, near the Ponte alla Carraia and on Borgo la Croce, near the mercato San Ambrogio 

I love this store, too - much less pricey!  Vincent Croce  There are 2 locations (that I found):  in San Frediano, near the Ponte alla Carraia and on Borgo la Croce, near the mercato San Ambrogio 

 This is how we roll when shopping

This is how we roll when shopping

 I adored this cafe the second I walked in!  It's small and charming.  Cafe Cibreo

I adored this cafe the second I walked in!  It's small and charming. Cafe Cibreo

 Shops like these are everywhere.  This was me provisioning on our first night in Florence.

Shops like these are everywhere.  This was me provisioning on our first night in Florence.

Connecting:

 We met  Melinda Gallo  after corresponding with her for about a year.  We ended up having Easter lunch with her, hosting her for Friday night nachos (gathering the ingredients for  that  dinner is a post in itself!), and here is our farewell luncheon, the day before we left Florence.  Check out her  blog!

We met Melinda Gallo after corresponding with her for about a year.  We ended up having Easter lunch with her, hosting her for Friday night nachos (gathering the ingredients for that dinner is a post in itself!), and here is our farewell luncheon, the day before we left Florence.  Check out her blog!

 This shop makes masks and wigs and ALL kinds of special makeup for cinema and theater.  We passed by the storefront almost every day and one day ventured in:   Filistrucchi

This shop makes masks and wigs and ALL kinds of special makeup for cinema and theater.  We passed by the storefront almost every day and one day ventured in:  Filistrucchi

Daily life.....

 Florentine police at Piazza Santo Spirito

Florentine police at Piazza Santo Spirito

 Florentines park creatively, too!

Florentines park creatively, too!

Venturing beyond the borders of Florence....

 One Sunday, on a whim, we jumped a city bus and climbed the hill north of Florence to Fiesole.  This is what's left of a Roman amphitheater.

One Sunday, on a whim, we jumped a city bus and climbed the hill north of Florence to Fiesole.  This is what's left of a Roman amphitheater.

 In mid-March we took the express train - 2 hours! - to Venice. 

In mid-March we took the express train - 2 hours! - to Venice. 

 This shop was  amazing!   Not only the drama of the setting, but much of the clothing is designed in-house and is superb quality.   Pot-pouri

This shop was amazing!  Not only the drama of the setting, but much of the clothing is designed in-house and is superb quality.  Pot-pouri

 Of course, while in Venice, we HAD to have a real Bellini at  Harry's Bar.   The room was startlingly small and unpretentious - and the glasses were surprising - but it was an experience.

Of course, while in Venice, we HAD to have a real Bellini at Harry's Bar.  The room was startlingly small and unpretentious - and the glasses were surprising - but it was an experience.

 We visited the Cinque Terre the end of March - a great way to greet April!  This is the view of Vernazza from the tower of Castello Doria....

We visited the Cinque Terre the end of March - a great way to greet April!  This is the view of Vernazza from the tower of Castello Doria....

 .....And the view looking out toward sea from our room at  La Mala  in Vernazza

.....And the view looking out toward sea from our room at La Mala in Vernazza

 A wonderful wine we first discovered when our son found it at a wine seller in Seattle for us.  Made in Cinque Terre!

A wonderful wine we first discovered when our son found it at a wine seller in Seattle for us.  Made in Cinque Terre!

 A day exploring Monterosso in the Cinque Terre

A day exploring Monterosso in the Cinque Terre

 Some Italian men having lunch behind me at  Ristorante Ciak in Monterosso .  Note the ties and scarves even in a beach town.  I love the way Italians and French  dress!

Some Italian men having lunch behind me at Ristorante Ciak in Monterosso.  Note the ties and scarves even in a beach town.  I love the way Italians and French dress!

Italian travel mistakes....

 So, we missed our train connection in La Spezia and had to wait for the next one to Florence.  We met some young Americans - west coasters, like us! - and enjoyed (!) wine in the ambience of the train station....ahem. The company was definitely better than the surroundings but it was a memory!

So, we missed our train connection in La Spezia and had to wait for the next one to Florence.  We met some young Americans - west coasters, like us! - and enjoyed (!) wine in the ambience of the train station....ahem. The company was definitely better than the surroundings but it was a memory!

 .....and then, one Sunday, we decided to take a bus to Greve in Chianti.  We bought tickets and were directed to the bus --- which, it turned out, was going to Grosseto, not Greve, sadly we discovered an hour into the trip!!!  2 1/2 hours and not much to see around the bus/train station, then 2 1/2 hours back - the whole Sunday spent on a bus....!  We made the best of it, though.... Inexpensive Chianti and a delicious flat bread pizza sort of thing - lunch totaled 5 euros. 

.....and then, one Sunday, we decided to take a bus to Greve in Chianti.  We bought tickets and were directed to the bus --- which, it turned out, was going to Grosseto, not Greve, sadly we discovered an hour into the trip!!!  2 1/2 hours and not much to see around the bus/train station, then 2 1/2 hours back - the whole Sunday spent on a bus....!  We made the best of it, though.... Inexpensive Chianti and a delicious flat bread pizza sort of thing - lunch totaled 5 euros. 

Sometimes it's best just to put up your feet and relax..... There are some changes on the horizon....Stay tuned for the next adventures!

 Looking toward the terrace in our Florence apartment.

Looking toward the terrace in our Florence apartment.

Posted on June 8, 2016 and filed under Firenze, Travel.

Florence: From a designer's Perspective

I clearly remember the first time I visited Florence.  It was late September, 1979, and the air had a crispness, foretelling the changing of the seasons.  I was astounded by the beauty all around:  architecture, monuments, the contrast of terra cotta roof tiles against blue skies, chic people wearing furs and gorgeous leather!  

 The view from San Miniato al Monte

The view from San Miniato al Monte

After several trips over the years, we decided to spend a month in between winter and spring (the idea was to avoid heavy tourist times - ha!) soaking in all that is the wonder of this compact city.  

 Palazzo Antellesi 

Palazzo Antellesi 

We rented an apartment through Italy Perfect and stayed in Palazzo Antellesi on Piazza Santa Croce, a wonderfully central location.  According to various sources, the Palazzo was first built in medieval times and enlarged in the late 16th c, then acquired in the early 17th c by Niccolo' dell'Antella (from whom the name originates) and joined with a nearby building to make one large palazzo.  He commissioned frescoes to cover the entire facade. The frescoes faded over time but then the Cinelli family bought the building and restored them in the 1920's and again in 1990. Young Federica Cinelli inherited the Palazzo in 1945, then married Count Piccolomini, becoming La Contessa Piccolomini. La Contessa still lives here, as does some of her family. And we so much enjoyed meeting her and her daughter, Francesca!

 Our first apartment, Paradiso

Our first apartment, Paradiso

Our first apartment had amazing Renaissance frescoes and high, high ceilings.  After being there about 10 days, we moved to another apartment in the building that we absolutely loved!  The colors of the Belvedere suit me perfectly.... 

 Living room of the Belvedere

Living room of the Belvedere

 We spent many hours enjoying the sun-filled terrace

We spent many hours enjoying the sun-filled terrace

 The kitchen is small but has everything someone who loves to cook needs

The kitchen is small but has everything someone who loves to cook needs

Once we unpacked, gathered provisions and settled into our apartment, we began serious exploration. First up, a cooking class and market tour with Laura Franceschetti of Cooking in Florence. We had the most delightful time spending the day (!) with her, starting at the Mercato Sant'Ambrogio and then at her wonderful home, which happened to be a 5 minute walk from our apartment!  (Almost everything is.... more on that later)

 Laura Franceschetti and me at Mercato Sant'Ambrogio

Laura Franceschetti and me at Mercato Sant'Ambrogio

We met at the Mercato Sant'Ambrogio (which is not as touristy as the larger, newly renovated Mercato Centrale, but feels more "authentic") where we learned about purchasing seasonal foods, pasta, cheese ("there's no such thing as Parmesan cheese - it's Parmigiano"), meat, seafood and generally started to feel like being with a friend.

 Look at the color and the care with which everything is displayed!

Look at the color and the care with which everything is displayed!

The cooking lesson was informative and the food tasted incredible, but I was equally enthralled with Laura's home.  The floor tile!  The ceiling!   

 Laura's kitchen floor

Laura's kitchen floor

 A frescoed ceiling at Laura's

A frescoed ceiling at Laura's

After eating like kings, a few days later I convinced my husband, Bob, to make the hike up to San Miniato al Monte, my favorite little Romanesque church, with the most glorious view of Firenze!

 San Minato al Monte

San Minato al Monte

 The view from San Miniato al Monte

The view from San Miniato al Monte

Downhill from San Minato al Monte we found the charming San Niccolo' neighborhood and beautiful Piazzale Michelangelo. 

 A building in San Niccolo'

A building in San Niccolo'

....and we stumbled upon the most lovely boutique hotel, Villa Vedetta, where we felt like royalty, as we dined privately near the pool...

 The pool at Hotel Villa Vedetta

The pool at Hotel Villa Vedetta

 The lobby of Villa Vedetta

The lobby of Villa Vedetta

As long as we're on the subject of hotels, the Four Seasons Florence, located in the fifteenth-century Palazzo della Gherardesca, is quite lovely and has an amazing private garden that only guests of the hotel are privy to.  We had coffee in the gorgeous bar, so technically we were guests.....

 The Renaissance courtyard

The Renaissance courtyard

 the Bar

the Bar

 The gardens....

The gardens....

And the JK Place hotel, on newly renovated Piazza Santa Maria Novella, was a complete treat for the senses!

 JK Place terrace on Piazza Santa Maria Novella

JK Place terrace on Piazza Santa Maria Novella

 An interior shot

An interior shot

 Ceiling detail, JK Place

Ceiling detail, JK Place

I loved the exterior of this little hotel even more when I saw the name:  Hotel Botticelli  And then I discovered it was built in the latter half of the 16th c.  Sort of average for this city - ha! - but still impressive!   

 This is what 16th c Florentine looks like....

This is what 16th c Florentine looks like....

 Another 16th c building, another amazing ceiling....

Another 16th c building, another amazing ceiling....

So many incredible edifices in one city!

 Santa Croce at night

Santa Croce at night

 The Duomo peeking out.....

The Duomo peeking out.....

 ....and from the Boboli gardens

....and from the Boboli gardens

 A little corner of green

A little corner of green

And then there's Florence shopping!  The food markets, flea markets and special/holiday markets.  The clothing stores, shoe stores and perfumeries - so much to explore!

 Mercato Centrale

Mercato Centrale

 The flea market by Mercato Sant'Ambrogio

The flea market by Mercato Sant'Ambrogio

DSC02060.jpg
 on Via Santo Spirito

on Via Santo Spirito

 On Via Santo Spirito

On Via Santo Spirito

 No visit would be complete without a stop at  Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella  - lots of history here and it smells divine!  Wonderful architectural details, too.

No visit would be complete without a stop at Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella - lots of history here and it smells divine!  Wonderful architectural details, too.

 Great little boutique next to Rivoire on Piazza Della Signoria - I don't remember the name, unfortunately.  But great stairwell!

Great little boutique next to Rivoire on Piazza Della Signoria - I don't remember the name, unfortunately.  But great stairwell!

I could go on and on - and I will, in the next post! - but I'll close with this designer-y cup of espresso machiato I had at JT Caffe, across from the Palazzo Pitti.

Ciao for now!