Sunday, January 11, 2009

Europe Report I of IV: Florence, Italy

Ah...Firenza. I love Firenza!

And apparently many of my friends do as well. Whenever plans for the Christmas holidays were discussed, to which I would share that we were going to Italy for Christmas, and often the first question out of any ones mouth was, "Where are you going in Italy?"

"Florence", I'd answer.

To which they would respond, "Ah...I love Florence!"
And I do.

The purpose of the trip was to retrieve our daughter who had been attending a semester abroad program through the University of Arizona. I say 'attending' because I don't know if saying the word 'studying' would be the quite right word to describe her four months in Italy.

Oh sure she was bound to learn more about life, the world, culture, and more here than had she been sitting in her classes at the U of A, but school work isn't really the focus of these programs anyway, is it
No matter, my intent for her and her 'studies' abroad, the main point was giving her the opportunity to broaden herself, to experience life in another country, see the culture first hand, from her own home environment there, and not from the window of a first class hotel. I wanted her to be a participant in life there, and I think she got my money's worth.

I've got to recommend this to all students and to those of you who are parent's, that if you can by hook or crook: Go, or send your children, just do it! Mortgage the car, the house, the yacht...just do it, send them.
I was amazed at the change in the demeanor of my daughter, now a Junior in college. She seemed more informed, well spoken, and focused on current affairs rather than on fashion, though Fashion Design was the purpose and the focus of her studies there.

I liked her. I liked her a lot, and of course I love her to death!

I liked her new European inspired "eye". The difference in the things she pointed out, the news that she wanted to discuss, or watching her point out a display in a store window that was remarkable. We first saw it in her commentary, that which she attached to the pictures that she regularly uploaded to Snapfish ( Sure there were photos of she and her new girl and guy friends on Pub crawls, over imbibing at a pizzeria or gelateria, but the photos and comments that struck me the most were the ones that featured history, architecture and art.
Our daughter toured us by some her favorite stores, both home furnishings and clothing stores (and a few other types!).

Above, Left: A favorite neighborhood Gelato store.
Above, Right: A major nuisance--the Italian motorino's: Loud and reckless.
Especially noteworthy was that of the famed Ferragamo clan, famous for their upscale footwear, and now making quite a name for themselves in the luxury hotel business, with their new hotel brand Lungarno Hotels (

Left: Living Room /Tea Room where you can also order from the hotel restaurants reduced Bar Menu.
Right: A guest Suite

These Ferragamo hotels launched the luxury boutique hotel craze in Florence and throughout Europe. The Hotel Lungarno is located on the Arno, not across the street from the Arno, but on the Arno, where it's terrace overhangs the water and is immediately adjacent to the Ponte Vecchio, there is no other location so magical in all of Florence.
This view of the Ponte Vecchio is from the terrace of the Hotel Lungarno.

Dark, waxed centuries old wood flooring was covered with deep burgundy carpets, multiple sofas and overstuffed chairs were upholstered in white linen with flat-flange trim instead of welting. The art was a series of carefully placed graphite and conte-pencil drawings trimmed in simple gold leaf frames. The other color comes from a beautiful collection of Blue & White Chinese porcelain from various dynastic rules, filled with simple flower arrangements overflowing with white flowers. I did not tour the hotel rooms, but I found the picture above on the Internet, which shows an overall traditional look, but notice how the furniture is carefully placed , with each item treated like a special object, as in the main floor Living room.

The original woodwork of this former "tower" home was whited out, as was the elaborate circular staircase that ran from the basement to the top floor of the tower, now the hotels 'panoramic suite'.

History tells us that at one time in Florence, there was a society that was more akin to 'keeping up with the Joneses', where upon each family would build their tower house taller than the last. Gee, just to think that one-ups-man-ship originated in Florence not in LA!

Not knowing just how fabulous these Ferragamo hotels really were until she took us to lunch there, our family has habitually stayed at the historic Helvetia-Bristol Hotel ( Located across the street from the Palazzo Strozzi. It is a beautiful old world hotel, once a sumptuous pallazzo, that is never too crowded, and has a quiet and demure staff.

It's located just two blocks from the Arno, and one block from the Ferragamo Flagship store and company museum, D & G, Gucci, Pucci, Prada, Zegna, Missoni, and everything else Italian, and even Dior (a little French thrown in for good measure). Obviously fashion is the focus of most of the easily accessible shopping, with antiquing and home furnishings a bit more off the beaten path.

Now that we have the Hotel thing covered, we'll focus on the incredible shopping in our next report, Europe Report II of IV.
Good night moon.