Posts filed under Travel

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!

Confessions of an over-packer (and my subsequently developed list of travel essentials!)

I love to do jigsaw puzzles and pack "things" into other things uber-efficiently.  So, of course, no matter how hard I try not to, I can't seem to not over-pack my suitcase!  Squeezing in just one more rolled-up article of clothing is almost addicting....but that makes bags much heavier, too, unfortunately.  

 Roll, roll, roll your clothes....

Roll, roll, roll your clothes....

In fact, on my last trip we shipped home one suitcase, full, because it was so heavy to lift on and off the train. It was obvious I didn't need all that I had brought.....Plus, there wasn't room for new purchases!

 

So, through trial and error, I've settled on some fabulous, can't-miss items, that can help make traveling a little more efficient, comfortable and stylish!

Storage:

Samsonite Curve - Super light and the ones made in the EU are much better looking than those made in China, which is all you can find in the US.  You can buy online at Valigeria Gazzarini  - they ship anywhere!  I shopped in their store in Firenze and was happy to be able to order from them when I returned home.

 The 25" bag is only 7lbs!

The 25" bag is only 7lbs!

Baggalini wheeled tote - Fits under most airplane seats and carries all the essentials:  laptop, tablet, makeup, jewelry, extras.  It also does double duty as a rolling briefcase.

 Telescoping handle and a sleeve to slip it over a large suitcase handle

Telescoping handle and a sleeve to slip it over a large suitcase handle

Baggalini expandable tote bag - So lightweight, yet hauls so much!  Carry it on as your "purse" along with the wheeled tote.  You can stash your crossbody bag (below) in it along with a book, magazines, camera, etc., then use it later on the trip to hold impromptu purchases!

 Lightweight nylon and foldable

Lightweight nylon and foldable

 

Cocoon Gridit for laptop and tablets - These handy cases protect your laptop or tablet and keep all essential accessories in one easy-to-access place:  power chargers, adapters, earbuds, pens & pencils, etc. 

 Everything in its place

Everything in its place

High*Way cross body bag - I bought this bag for traveling and it performed so well, I bought another for everyday.  It's compact, has a zillion compartments (many zippered), is super secure when worn crossbody, and is made by an artisan in New York, Jem Leaf.

 I love my High*Way bag!  (It's the metallic one...!)

I love my High*Way bag!  (It's the metallic one...!)

Tumi Windsor jewelry roll up - This will hold enough women's (and men's) jewelry to take you through the glitziest trips and has an easy-to-fasten clasp.  Plus, you can't beat the reliability of Tumi quality.

Shoe bags - Protect everything else in your bag from street grime (ew!) while you protect your shoes.  And stash extras (they don't take up much room!) to wrap those delicate purchases you've found on your travels.....

Accessories for luggage: 

Passport cover & luggage tags - Dress up your luggage and it's easier to find on the carousel.  I love these leopard items from J Crew!

 Is there ever too much animal print??

Is there ever too much animal print??

Makeup/grooming:

Battery lighted makeup mirror - For years, I travelled with a magnifying mirror and sought out the best natural light in the hotel room for applying makeup - woe to early morning flights or trains!  But then I found this battery-powered mirror by Floxite that takes up just a tad more packing space than the other mirror and even has a little tray for small items.

 An excellent quality mirror

An excellent quality mirror

Trish McEvoy planner - As a designer, and a faithful Trish user since 1997, I appreciate functionally beautiful design and these planners have it!  They hold the magnetic "pages" containing the eyeshadow and blush I use every day as well as all the brushes.  Then, everything is just popped into the planner, which goes into the wheeled tote.  One less thing to think about.

    Sleek and organized

 

Sleek and organized

Samples - I collect a variety of samples and travel sizes of everything from luxury skin care to deodorant, then stow them away and take inventory about 2 weeks before leaving for a trip to see what needs replenishing. 

 

Clothes:

Shoes that do double duty - Since I usually journey either to large cities or warm places, I love sandals that can dress up or down (I power walk in bronze FitFlops), casual walking shoes, strappy neutral or black sandals.  

Basics - Neutral colors (duh!), black, grey, pops of colorful tops, hand-washable items.  This outfit is, I think, a perfect travel ensemble!  Neutrals, crossbody bag.....

....stylish but comfortable metallic shoes.....

 Cole Haan

Cole Haan

.......and a big cashmere scarf to wear and use as a blanket or pillow on the plane/train.

Indispensable:

Don't forget a camera!  I take a lot of pics with my phone, like almost everyone, but I love my Sony!  The photos are great, it has interchangeable lenses and it's really not that much effort to download to a laptop or tablet.....

 Sony a6000

Sony a6000

Last word:

Finally, a wonderful attitude is the most indispensible travel accessory!  Remember, nothing is as important as it seems.... and the purpose of traveling is to get a little lost in order to find yourself!

Posted on December 8, 2014 and filed under Travel.

Neighborhood Beat, Seattle Style: Hometown tourist, Part 1

In preparation for our Italy/France trip - we're in training now that it's less than 3 months away - we decided to take advantage of the lovely spring weather recently and "seize the day" to become tourists in our own town.  We spent a warm and sunny day at the Pike Place Market, "seeing" everything as tourists might.  

The Market, as we locals refer to it, opened in 1907 and is Seattle's original farmer's market. There's so much to delight the senses: amazing smells, sights, the people  - it's a must!

We began our tour at Watson Kennedy on 1st and Spring St, a shrine to merchandising - second only to ABC Carpet and Home in NYC, for me.  I love the way everything is displayed in zones: by color, type, subject, etc.  It's my go-to store for gifts for anyone!  Lots of candles, glassware, food accessories, cards, calendars, jewelry, themed items (Paris/London/Rome) - even pet gifts! There's also a smaller location at the Market, itself, in the courtyard of the Inn at the Market.

As we sauntered north on First Avenue, we paused to watch the Hammering Man do his thing in front of the Seattle Art Museum and admired the view of Elliot Bay and the Great Wheel.

We dropped in to DeLaurenti Specialty food and Wine, a haven for foodies, to gather some essential household supplies (hot pepper oil, basil oil, cheese.....you know).

Meandering within the Pike Place Market, we watched fish flying through the air....

....pondered the various gorgeous offerings of flora...

and produce.....

...... before settling on a pint of the BEST Greek yogurt in the city, made by Ellenos.

By this time, we were in need of refreshment, so we snagged an outside table at Cafe Campagne (full disclosure: it's my favorite restaurant at the Market) and had lunch.

I ordered what I always do there (I'm so boring), Croque Savoyarde.  And it was delicious, as usual.

Bob had a wonderful salade Nicoise...

....and we shared some light and refreshing Pic Poul blanc.

It was a lovely day!

Countdown to Maison et Objets 2014

11 months to go!

Now that I’m focusing my travel planning energy on France (and Italy, too, since we’ll be starting the voyage there), just as you seem to see a particular make of car - constantly - when you begin to even consider buying one, I feel like like I’m seeing French-inspired design everywhere I look:

I believe it’s never too early to begin detailed planning so I’ve been researching flights, train schedules, car rental agencies and, most importantly, Paris apartments…..

There are some amazing rental companies in Paris and they offer everything from the uber-pricey to places that looked like a college kid just decamped for a semester abroad.

I love this Myra Hoefer –designed pad (though it's probably out of our price range!) through Chez Vous , a Sausalito, CA company:

J'adore this unit on Ile St Louis offered by Special Apartments, except that the bedroom is a loft…may not work.  But isn't it grand?

I love both of these apartments, fromGuest ApartmentServices:

.....sigh....so much to think about - but what fun problems!  A bientot!