Wow, is this ever NOT the story I thought I would write!
When my husband and I boarded our plane for Rome, fully believing we'd make our connection for Florence, we were you’re typical blasé Americans, thinking it’ll happen to the other guy.
Wrong again! Here’s our story of how, with the invaluable help of many, many kind Italians and others (even Americans!) we had a fabulous vacation even though we were under a menacing volcanic ash cloud.
This story in three parts is, of course, suffused with the beauty of this magical city, Firenze as the Italians call it, Florentia, as the Romans called it.
First, this is story about people. People who inhabit Rome, Florence and Tuscany. And about the beauty they bring to an exceptionally beautiful place. Everywhere we turned, when we had a question, someone graciously helped us out—especially if I used a little Italian to ask it.
Second, I can’t wait to tell you about the wonderful experience I had learning Italian with Rosetta Stone’s new, on-line language system, TOTALe . That’s a story in itself. I’ll include a link to it in this story and I’ll cross reference it. Just one point, though: knowing some Italian saved our vacation. Without it, we could still be in Rome. For my review of Rosetta Stone TOTALe, visit http://www.chicago-splash.com/cgi-bin/artman2/admin.cgi?action=articleEdit&num=8869.
Third, before we left the States, a dear friend highly recommended Context Florence, www.contexttravel.com/florence/, a company that leads (per Rick Steves, no less) “walking seminars.” Two trusted recommendations! We had the pleasure of walking with Monica Shenouda, PhD through the Uffizi, where we learned the true meaning of the Renaissance, its birth, artists, impact and beauty. To read that story in full, click here.
You’ve heard of life-changing experiences? Well, this was a husband-changing experience. My husband, Herb, always ignored Renaissance art (I think he confused it with the medieval art that preceded it) but now he is just as fascinated with it as I. Whew! That could have been a sour note in the birthplace of the Renaissance!
So to get on with my story about the people of Italy, we, along with EVERYONE in the airport, made a mad dash for the train station. Only most of the throng actually knew where it was and if a train was headed for their destination. Not us! We just knew our Alitalia boarding passes wouldn’t get us anywhere. I must have looked like I was about to blow. That’s the only explanation I have for what happened next.
After many questions in English, French and Italian, we found the train station and everyone else from the airport. They were in line ahead of us. It was about 5:45pm and we were told that the train left at 6:00 pm. This person made it sound like this was the last train and we had better be on it. Suddenly, a woman grabbed my hand, took me to the ticket seller at the head of the line (and MANY other desperate people), and asked how many tickets we needed. I said “but there are these other people…” and turned around. The woman in back of me shrugged, “Go ahead.”
We got our tickets, did not get killed by an angry mob, and got on that 6:00 pm train. We arrived at our hotel, the Monna Lisa (that's NOT a typo. The hotel spells her name with a double n), at 11:00 pm.
Ah, the Monna Lisa! More like a safe haven than a hotel, so much like the palace it had been in when it was built before 1300, she made us forget our trials and tribulations.
And when we arrived in our opulent breakfast room the next morning, we were greeted by such a feast (can you see the baked apples?), we felt right at home (like I serve baked apples for breakfast!).
Though the Hotel Monna Lisa takes hospitality and comfort seriously, its shows off its sense of humor in the Mona Lisa room.
We thought you might enjoy a close-up of this one:
In and around Florence
We had the pleasure to meet Vanna, Owner, Manager and Chef at Caffelatte, a vegetarian restaurant near our hotel:
Lori and Tony, two lawyers getting ready to sign a very important contract:
A lovely young woman who knew we were lost:
and an angel who liked me instantly!
Read about our wonderful 3-hour tour of the Uffizi Museum/Palace/Renaissance gallery extraordinaire! Click here.