I couldn’t wait to attack the city of Firenze – a city that I had been longing to visit for the last few years and had not made it to as yet. A few days after I was done tweaking my vacation itinerary; I had to make a sudden decision: Monaco vs. Firence – and I had all of one day to confirm the change. I was truly torn. On one hand, I believed that Monaco was a chance opportunity - to go to a real ball, mingle with European royalty and feel like a modern day princess. So I accepted that offer, and convinced myself that I could visit good ol’ Florence any other time instead. With a heavy heart, I admitted to my mum, who was readying up to play my Florentine guide, that I had chosen otherwise and I told her I was canceling my Florence trip and that she ought to carry on with my little sister.
But something wouldn’t give. And as it unfolds, the Monaco Ball plan got dashed.
How was I lucky, you might wonder, given that I now had neither Monaco nor Florence?
Turns out – I had never gotten down to actually canceling my Florence trip – because I simply couldn’t get myself to do it! So I was extremely happy that Destiny had Her way and I was going to make it after all…
So here we were, super-cruised out, looking like first-time travellers, each with a suitcase larger than the other, in a continent, not known for porters or hired help. And in the sweltering sun, at the brink of summer heat, looking for a certain Palazzo Tolomei in Florence. Now thoroughly tired, thirsty, hungry and in desperate need of the bathroom, we found ourselves standing in a lovely (and lively) side street, trying to gracefully lug our beasts of burdens (or “hudpas” as we say in Marathi), off the cab and on to the side walk trying our best not to attract too many eyeballs. With no sign in place, we weren’t sure if we are the right address. We were booked to stay at Palazzo Tolomei, which wasn’t exactly a hotel, nor was it an inn, it was meant to be a converted Florentine home/city estate.
We enter the courtyard through the iron grill and are greeted by a tiny, young lady, who turns out to be the girl on the other side of the emails. “Ahh, so we are at the right place!” I thought. She looks at the 3 of us and breaks into her Italian-english, that she is Chiara, and is expecting us. I ask for a porter and gingerly eye the staircase, wondering if there isn’t an elevator, then taking these bad boys up a flight of old stone steps is definitely going to pose as at least one of the many problems! She jauntily tells us, that she is the help and we will manage the bags in smaller lots, AND there is an elevator, a modern one at that!
So great – lots of good things already and after the herculean task are complete – we walk through a corridor, then a room and then enter the “reception”.
LO and BEHOLD! The reception is a wonderful, quaint salon, with a ceiling 20 ft high…the room has a beautiful marble fire place, a quaint bar stocked with all the right bottles for an Italian appertivo, a mini-library with books on Florence and Italy and my favourite nook - a tiny alcove with marvelous light – perfect to gather one’s thought or just flip through a newspaper! At this point, I actually started jumping and shouting in absolute delight and glee – hugging my mum and Chiara, as my sister watched me going crazy.
Enter: Daniela, the Lady of the house…she comes in, looks at the 3 of us and just jumps in for the group hug. It is amore at first sight. Daniela who owns this delightful pallazo, runs it almost single-handedly, I was tipped off on this jewel-esque property by my Mumbai buddy (thank you Saj!), who had lived in Florence, during his years as a student of jewelery manufacturing. But I had made the booking, going with a good gut feeling (not to mention, an acute shortage of time) and look how well it had turned out?
In a gush of love,Daniela announced that we could get to choose our room from the 8 rooms in the property and we were led into the first room.
“Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!” More gushing and gawking and gasping and squealing….”wow wow wow!” I had to pinch myself to believe that we really could stay in this magical pristine, white room on a gigantic four-poster bed, falling asleep under the watchful gaze of the heavenly angels depicted in the original 16th century fresco that was on the ceiling above?
The room was really some thing out of one’s ralm of imagination – marble floors, fireplace, large windows, not to mention, all the tiny perfect details that Daniela had added to the room.
We saw the other free rooms, each one, so very special, but stuck to the first on this one, on account of its sheer grandness (and proximity to the elevator!)
Daniela’s palazzo continued to delight and surprise…as I continued to venture through the various staircases and inquisitively open all the heavy doors that came my way – I found:
~A dance studio which must have been the original ballroom,
~A fully-functional gym, with all the machines of a normal modern gym – just that here the treadmill was placed near a magnicent David-like marble statue. (Does a girl need more motivation to burn calories now!?)
~A little pantry with the old heavy brass pots and pans,
~A common bathroom, which was the original community toilet for the house staff
To add to the experience, Daniela and my mum turned out to be soul sorelles (soul sisters) and to mark their union, Daniela even organized a special “gift”. It was a boat ride down the Arno, in the traditional riverboat. We saw all of Florence, glittering in the gold light of the setting sun. We listened to Lorenzo, who earnestly translated his father’s (the boatman who was rowing us) words to us the various wonderful structures along the river, whilst sharing little secrets of their marvelous city.
As we floated down the river that magical evening, I couldn’t help but be thankful. It was the perfect moment, with the perfect sunset in the perfect city.
Ciao Florence, I shall visit you again…arrividerci.