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Florence in the spring

2 July, 2012 (00:29) | Living in Europe | By: admin

Every year Mark and I try to go somewhere special for our wedding anniversary, which is on May 31. This year we went to Florence, a romantic trip because 15 years ago we spent our honeymoon in Florence, and I first introduced Mark to my extensive, fun loving Florentine family.

1) The usual self portrait from hotel balcony. 2)  View of Ponte Vecchio from our hotel balcony.

1) poetic shot of the Arno River from our room 2) Piazza Santa Croce, just around the corner from our hotel.

We were pretty broke when we got married and we stayed at a funky hotel with a small window looking out to the top of the tower of Castello Vecchio. But now, 15 years later  we travel in style and are staying at the Hotel Balestri where my parents used to stay and Mark and I have been staying the last 6 years when we visit Florence. I’ve been upgrading my gear over the last 15 years, and my new Nikon will be the beginning of more photos, less narrative blogs.

My close cousin, Stefano came out the first night and we walked around the city and had a bite. Stefano has grown a beard. To my surprise, he is one of the few men I’ve ever met that actually looks good in a beard.

Cugino, Stefano

Mark and I strike just the right balance of sightseeing, shopping and catching up with family. We are popular in Florence, and have dates with various combinations of fun loving relatives all week.

My cousin, Robertina is a doctor. She took time off to spend an afternoon with us, bringing us to her lovely villa which represents Tuscany at its best; her views overlook vintage countryside and her big garden is all in bloom. I might have overdone it with my new Nikon, with the cherry trees and various fruit trees in bloom and all…

1) Big cherry tree in cousin Robertina’s garden 2) Mark is the tall guy. He gets to pick us some cherries.

1) View from Robertina’s patio  2) Cin Cin; cousins reunited.

Eating a basket of fresh picked cherries in Robertina’s enchanted garden.

Although Robertina has the most impressive villa of all my relatives in Florence, almost all my cousins have beautiful views from their homes. The last shot is of Robertina’s bedroom window; divine enchantment.

The next day we go to the Museo Strozzi to see an exhibit of American impressionists who lived in Florence and painted under the patronage of various rich Italians. Although its not permitted to take photos, I could not resist a snapshot or 2 in passing, just to keep the memory with me..

Seeing as I snapped a few forbidden iPhone snapshots, I think I’ll also copy and paste the following narrative:

American artists often spent some time in Florence, bringing with them the experience they had acquired first at home, then in other European cities and touring the Old World.

Frank Duveneck and William Meritt Chase shared crucial experiences both in Germany and in Italy. Duveneck worked and taught in Florence in the 1880s in the company of a group of American painters known as the “Duveneck boys”, his disciples from Munich days. Chase lived in Florence in 1907 and 1913, choosing the city to hold his summer classes modelled on those that he and other American painters held in country and seaside settings in New England. The portraits of Henry James and Vernon Lee bring us to the heart of the sizeable Anglo-American colony in Florence.

Made up of scholars, writers and art critics, they moved around between Paris, New York and Florence sharing the same sparkling, stimulating lifestyle. The illustrations of Joseph Pennell and Maxfield Parrish show the villas and gardens which they frequented when staying in the city.

John Singer Sargent – 1906 (Self-Portrait – oil on canvas)

Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, Corridoio Vasariano

Portrait of Bessie Potter Vonnoh
Robert Vonnoh – 1915 (oil on canvas)
Portrait of Bessie Potter Vonnoh

It was fun and educational to see how much American art has been influenced by rich Florentines. I’d never thought about it before.

For our anniversary itself we went to the same restaurant I used to go to as a kid with my parents, called Il Troia. I used to order pollo al burro for dinner and meringhe with fragoline (wild strawberries) for desert. My chicken dish was still on the menu, but not the desert I remembered, so I asked for it.

“Avete meringhe con fragoline?”

“Diamine; si signora,” I was informed by Massimiliano, who is the son of the son of the son of the original owner who opened the trattoria in 1869. He says he’s the last of the line though – no more males coming from his family. (old school;  women don’t count in this scenario…)

This might be the only reasonably decent photo of Mark and I together on this trip, taken in front of Ristorante Il Troia on our anniversary.

I know I should show more food photos (Mark does that) but instead I’ll share with you some of the delicious deserts we’ve had this week.

In order to burn some calories and also go on a Nikon shooting spree, we walked to the Bardini and also the Boboli Gardens one day:
From our hotel we cross the bridge and walk up this street to the Bardini Gardens entrance.

1) Classic Bardini garden inlet 2) We can actually see our hotel from this spot.

From here we wend our way to the Boboli gardens.

Its hard not to get carried away with such beautiful vistas.

There is no place as enchanting as Florence in the spring…

These last two shots show how fantastic the zoom is on my new Nikon.

As I mentioned earlier, I got together with cousins Lisi and Francesca, had dinner one night at cousin Sivia’s as well as lunch with my Zia Fiorella.  I’ve blogged about my family in Florence at least twice in the past, so I’m just gonna go with the best photos of Florence in Spring  for narrative.

On Friday night we were invited to dinner at cousin Stefano’s, who lives in Mugello, which is a bucolic 45 minute drive from the city. Stefano also has a great view, so again I went crazy with my Nikon.

Although the original plan was to go for dinner, we spent the night there and got to experience the magic of Mugello:

Mugello is really removed from the stress of the city and is in full spring blooming.

Stefanino’s wife, Laura and his son, Giovanni.

There’s nothing like fresh fruit from your own garden.La familia.

I recently found this photo of Stefanino and me as kids, about the age of his son Giovanni. We’ve always been close. This shot is from Santa Monica Beach in the 60’s.

Weren’t we precious at that age?


1) Stefano’s dog Sally looks a lot like the dog I had as a kid (her name was Jackie) who is in the photo above of us as kids. 2) Another spectacular bedroom window view from Giovanni’s bedroom.

Goodbye Stefanino

On our last Sunday in Florence we decided to take the 40 minute train ride to Pisa, where Mark had never been. Why not? Its fun to improvise, and we were leaving the next night.

Pisa is in my opinion an unexceptional place, but I suppose the tower is interesting to see. What Mark and I found more fascinating than the leaning tower is the way people pose in front of it. Out of context they look like they’re on some weird drug or something. Here are a few examples:

People posing in Pisa

And now for some real silliness; Mark bought a souvenir plastic leaning tower, which I had fun photographing on the train ride back to Florence. Hopefully he won’t object to their being included in this blog: