God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Natale in Firenze

Firenze is just down the Chiantigiana from us--a short ride by car or bus. We go frequently--always pinching ourselves to prove that it is really us who so casually feel at home in this city of history. But last Saturday and Sunday were especially delightful.

We decided to stay the night so that we could wander at leisure with no thought other than enjoying the bustle of holiday shoppers, the store windows and decorated aisles, the crisp fresh air, the beautiful lights strung overhead like stars in the night --the excitement of a city at Christmas.

The first magical moment was at the Westin Excelsior when we were personally escorted to our room by the manager. Because Ken is a platinum member (a business traveler's perk for many stays), we were upgraded to an exquisitely beautiful suite overlooking the Piazza Oggnisanti and the river Arno. Suddenly we were part of the jet set.

See Casey--feeling quite at home in the privilege of luxury. I'm afraid that he is developing a somewhat distorted view of reality. He doesn't know that Motel 6 is just around the corner.

We left Greve early on Saturday
as there was a special English
language presentation by the Florence International Theatre Company at the Paperback Exchange store in Firenze. Friends of ours who live in the city had made reservations for their girls and for Casey. The play was a very cute rendition of the book Merry Christmas Strega Nona--a lot of humor and cornball stuff that children love so there was much robust laughter--which is always music to adult ears.

The rest of the day we window shopped but didn't buy much. I find shopping in Florence difficult. Department stores are arranged very differently than I am accustomed to in the Stati Uniti and I become overwhelmed quickly. The hundreds of smaller shops are very specialized so you need to move from one to another to complete an outfit. Eventually I just give up. Which doesn't mean to say that there were no purchases--just not as many as I planned. I did get a gorgeous sweater for Ken for Christmas and soaps and perfumes from the Santa Maria Novella Farmacia for gifts.

When we were in one store, a call came in from a friend with whom we had eaten earlier, telling us to hurry to the corso as there was a marching band. We caught up with it just before reaching Piazza Signoria where they stopped and performed for quite a while. It was very cute and we laughed as we listened to John Phillip Souza in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.

The baton twirling young girls
were quite intense as they performed
their dance routines and tosses
--missing as many as were caught.

While we stood watching this, we heard a familiar bark--friends of ours from Impruenta were there with their little dog. We talked and walked with them for a while and ended up on the Ponte Vecchio watching famous golfers hitting balls onto platforms in the Arno--quite strange!

At night we went over the bridge to a nice osteria on the Oltra Arno (other side) and then joined Florentinians and visitors walking the streets, admiring lights and trees, drawing our coats tight as we enjoyed the Christmas air.

Finally we wandered our way back to the wonderful room awaiting us, stood on the balcony for one last look at the Arno in lights

and took off for dreamland.

Dreaming here was easy! But, leaving was hard.


Anonymous said...


I love reading your blog and living the good life in Italy vicariously.

I dream of doing what you have done - spending long-term quality time in bella Italia.


Ring Stafford said...

in the generous spirit of Christmas, I am trying very hard not to seethe with envy. As you know, Florence is my favorite place in the world, and I have not yet been there at Christmas. The photos I've seen from you and from Tania are moving that goal to the top of my priorities list. Buon Natale, my friends!

and maybe Casey-at-the-Excelsior could write his version of Eloise at the Plaza......