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[personal profile] serinde
Two and a half weeks after my return, I am finally writing up my trip before I forget completely...

Setup: A year or so ago, I had come to the conclusion that if I did not commit to travel every few years, I was never going to see anything I wanted to see in this world. As this was coalescing, [ profile] solomita was looking to plan a trip too, so we joined forces (which ended up as "Ethan did most of the legwork"--not my intent, but he is a master at it) and started drumming up trade. Final roster: us two; college friend Joe; Ethan's Californian friend Debbie; [ profile] nedlnthred; her mom; and Beth's old chums Cindy and Kevin. Final trip length: 1 week. Final venue: Florence, with one day of day trip to San Gimignano & Volterra. (But with personal flexibility; Ethan flew out a week earlier and went to Venice and Lake Como; Joe left us a day early to spend a few days in Lucca and Pisa, etc.)

For Beth and me, the trip actually started Friday night, since we were on the red-eye. Swissair cattle class, heigh ho, but at least it is far better than your domestic cattle class. And however squished and uncomfortable I found it, I could be assured that I had it better than the two strapping Swiss lads next to us--I don't even know how they fit their knees in, to be honest. We transferred in Zurich (duh)...Firenze airport is small and dinky, and you do not get to go there direct from the US; you are transferring in Frankfort or Dusseldorf or Zurich, or else you go to Pisa and take a train...and had an entertaining sprint across the airport, since our first flight was an hour late. Although it is a fair bit of mileage from one terminal to the other, the Swiss operate with their usual efficiency, and as the red-coated gate agent told us, "you have plenty of time. Don't stop to shop, but you will be fine." He was not wrong.

In the I Can't Believe That Worked department, our flight, Cindy & Kevin's flight, and Debbie's flight were all scheduled to arrive at Firenze within a 45-minute window. AND THEY ALL DID. (I am still stunned about this.) We picked up Beth's mom, who had landed a couple hours before and was just hanging out waiting for us, and got cabs to the hotel.

So, the hotel: Casa dei Tintori. If you have a nodding acquaintance with Romance languages, you can puzzle this out to be "House of the Dyers", and you are not wrong. The building is on Corso dei Tintori (you figure it out) and is a restored 13th-century weaving and dying workshop. (They are not the whole building, just the first floor--the building was carved up in the 50s.) There is still a bunch of the original stonework and archways, and it delighted the hell out of me. On top of that, it was friendly and charming and well-appointed, and the hosts utterly lovable. (Riccardo, our main interface, also had really good English, and that helped a lot.) The continental breakfast was delicious and varied, if awfully starch-heavy, but they were responsive to our plea for some protein and added some nice spready cheeses to the board of fare. And OMG CAPPUCCINO JUST HAPPENED. This is what life should be. Oh: and there are right now four cats in residence. They do not let the cats into the guest area for the most part, but one happened to amble out and upon our cries of delight they let the others visit in a controlled fashion.

Beth, Weezie, and I stayed in the Green room, and it worked for all of us and all our crap, which there was a lot of. The only issue I had with the room was that due to the age and weight of the lovely antique wardrobe and dresser, it is completely impossible to operate either of them silently. So, when Weezie would open them up long before we were up, or when we came in long after she had gone to bed, it was guaranteed to disturb someone. In the grand scheme of things, though, so not a problem. We never had any noise issues, but on Saturday night, Joe (who had a forward-facing room--Blue, I think) was disturbed by the hootin' and hollerin' from the youths at the bar a few doors down.

Two words about Florentine housing: like England, they do not do screens in their windows; but unlike England, there are lots of mosquitos. At all times. Like, right now it's way too early for them in NY/NJ, but if we left the balcony door open we'd have several visitors to hunt down and kill every night. One of which bit me and I ended up with a far worse bite then I ever had from one here; it was with me for several days, and this without me scratching it. (Beth theorized that maybe the venom is different?) Also, I learned that the Italian word for mosquitos is "zenzare".

So, we got in and met up with Ethan, who had arrived earlier in the day, and did some basic settling in; and then we went for a bit of a stroll up to the Piazza della Signoria and the Loggia dei Lanzi. After a bit of desultory sight-seeing, it was time to consume foods, because it was about 4 o'clock and most of us were frazzled and starving. We ambled back down our street to a very highly-regarded sandwich shop, All'Antico Vinaio, but a) the line was out the door and b) there is nowhere to sit (except the curb), which was not what we wanted at that moment. So we tootled back up the road a bit to an outdoor cafe, sat down, and had overpriced but tolerable food and wine. Thus refreshed, some stayed there while Ethan and I went on side quests: he to find somewhere to do his laundry, I to get a local SIM card for my UK cellphone. This took about 45 minutes, in the event, but finally we rendezvoused with the others, and then we took a leisurely stroll across the Arno, then back up along the river, and across the Ponte Vecchio. (Gelato happened somewhere in there, too.) At length we headed back to the hotel to take counsel about actual dinner or equivalent.

Rumor had it that the so-called "American bar" (no.) Kitsch had a very good apericena (this is a free hearty buffet kind of thing), so we forged out to see that. It was much further than it looked, but the walk was good because it was taking us through a somewhat less-tourist oriented part of town, and the shop windows were interesting. I am not just saying that because one had Hello Kitty moka pots, either. Finally we got to the place, and it was mobbed, and loud; clearly a happening scene, but not the best choice for jet-lag recovery. We couldn't get a table and ended up sitting in a line at the bar where we couldn't hear more than one person away. The apericena was good. The wine was good. The cocktail list was silly. After while, we withdrew from the scene and started heading back, where we met poor Joe who had already come 90% of the way only to be told that we were leaving. More gelato was consumed on the way back, and then it was home and bed.
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