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From Oxford

Sundial in Christchurch college Oxford

Sundial in Christchurch college Oxford

To Florence

The view from our inspirational first Negroni

The view from our inspirational first Negroni

Where they serve a mean Bisteca Fiorentini at il Latini.

Cow slab for three.  Delicious.

Cow slab for three. Delicious.

And then a train to Cedri. Well kinda. A train to Pontedera and a car ride to Cedri. Cedri has population 7 or maybe 8 if you count the dog Kiko. We arrived at 3am.

Our secret pad in Cedri

Our secret pad in Cedri

Incredible beam ceiling.

Incredible beam ceiling.

We set out on a Saturday morning after a leisurely breakfast to get some errands done. Having lived in Italy, I knew we were in for some fun. Our plan was to head over to the Tenuta Serravalle restaurant outside of Montelopio and make a reservation for dinner with Paolo. The problem being that nobody knew exactly were exactly the restaurant was located. After an hour driving around looking, we ditched the plan and headed to Peccioli to get some dry cleaning done. That plan also failed when the sole dry cleaners in town was closed…forever. By this point it was time for a refreshment on the patio. Or three! Things began looking up.

The best part happened when we found the grocery store. Our car ended up blocking the exit for Paolo (the restaurant owner) who was more than happy to accommodate us for dinner. Of course we still did not know where the restaurant was actually located.

Some dining hints for Tenuta Serraavalle. Bring your instruments and play for your dinner…and your lunch the next day as well. As a result of all the music, we now have a gig Thursday for an official cena featuring us!

Eventually, in spite of Sabato in Italia, we made it to Tenuta Serravalle

Eventually, in spite of Sabato in Italia, we made it to Tenuta Serravalle

Tuscany is incredible.

How do London, Paris, and Florence compare shower-wise in our ultra-scientific three data point shower comparison experiment?

London.

London.

Paris

Paris

Florence

Florence

Florence wins, hands down. Curvy glass, superb water pressure, and not really large enough to fit really fat Americans.

Paris comes in a close second, suffering only from not enough light to determine whether the soap is working.

Alas, poor London drags in way last. Hot water that has a life of its own (it’s hot, it’s cold, you can’t tell, jump!), variable pressure, shower curtain over a tub. Too many shower-oriented bugs to overlook.

Shower in Florence if you get a chance.

How about art?

We’ll have to give that to the Pompidou Center in Paris. I’m afraid my preference for modern art over so many tortured Renaissance Jesuses is showing!

Food?

Though there were many memorable meals to be had, the best meal on this journey was experienced along with some superior jazz in Florence at the Golden View Open Bar. Chez Oscar in Paris comes in a close second due to the warmth and hospitality of the owners who also happen to make a great duck confit.

And mixology?

London hands down, where the Zetter Townhouse now feels about as much like home as a bar 3738 miles from home can feel. Thanks to Kamil Foltan, Aga, Nikko, Will, and everyone else for making us welcome.

Experimental design.

Experimental design.

Firenze (or Florence as we English-speakers call it) is the tourist mecca of the Renaissance. Things have been pretty much the same here for 1000 years. Except for the swarm of Americans that is.

We’re staying at a small hotel (pretending that it is a B&B) called In Piazza Delle Signoria. It’s a hotel. The Leonardo room and the Botticelli room are both very nicely appointed in a sort of nouveau rich way—almost tasteful but not quite.

But the view? Unbelievable. And the location? Could not be beat.

The view from our window at sunset.

The view from our window at sunset.

The Leonardo room is large and has beautiful huge windows that open on the square. The only issue with the room (and this has more to do with this part of Florence than anything…kinda) is a tendency to fill with a whiff of sewer gas when it is sealed up. Opening the windows solves that problem.

The bedroom.

The bed is large and very comfortable.

The bed is large and very comfortable.

Angels overhead.

Angels overhead.

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The bathroom is about as tiled as possible. It’s also a bit hot since the towel heater is on perpetual hellfire and damnation mode (it should be called fra savonarola). No turning that thing down. I suppose it would be nice if it burned up the swamp gas?!

Tile in the bathroom.

Tile in the bathroom.

We should also say that though the local wifi net is fast and well-designed, the ISP that the hotel is connected through must use a straw or semaphore flags. Expect delays and dropped connections.

And no need to practice your Italian, because I met only Americans staying here (if you count Canadians as Americans, that is). All very nice, interesting people.

On the other hand, the shower is awesome (esp for Europe).

Modern shower pod with slidey curved glass.

Modern shower pod with slidey curved glass.

Sink pod.  With tiles and random water pressure.

Sink pod. With tiles and random water pressure.

All in all this is a very nice place to stay. We’ll give it a high four showerheads rating.

Some advice if you stay at this hotel. Do not ask the night managers (as the case may be) where to eat. We were directed to the worst meal on this trip at the truly awful Acqua al 2. We have heard from locals that it used to be good. It is not good at all now. How could you be any good shoving 300 Americans through night after night?! After complaining (in Italian no less), the owner cooked me some very nice penne with their signature sauce. But the stuff we were served before that was truly awful. Avoid this horrible restaurant. (And note for the record that picking a non-tourist restaurant in Florence is an NP Hard problem.) A discussion with Monica cleared up the bad data problem I hope. She seemed to know better than the very nice but clueless night manager (a labrador retriever?).

Fortunately we were joined by Stefano the next night for a delightful and delicious meal at Il Latini which was so much more genuine, delicious, and Florentine that it is hard to imagine the difference.

Day 1: San Lorenzo market (many leather goods). The Uffizi. Shopping in Oltrarno. Buying shoes and all the other stuff that entails from Jennifer Tattanelli at Casini.

Ponte Vecchio from the Ufizzi.

Ponte Vecchio from the Ufizzi.

Day 2: Bargello, then Academia delle belli arti (for David of course), followed by a very late lunch at a local enoteca. Then the most important part of the day. Eli’s haircut at Ciro (thank you Jennifer) where Marco was not only fabuloso, but careful and kind as Eli had his first real cut in 8 years. He looks great. We topped things off before dinner with a trip up the Torre.

Palazzo vecchio torre.

Palazzo vecchio torre.

Da torre.

Da torre.

Dinner at Golden View was excellent. Not only was everything superb: there was jazz, modern art, buontalenti gelato, and Grappa della cantina privata bocchino 1994. Best meal in Firenze by several kilometers.

But the devil may care, even as its head is removed.

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