Friday, September 26, 2008

Part Five: From the Sublime to the Sublimely Ridiculous

View of the Duomo, Florence from The Grand Hotel Villa Medici at Dusk

We had initially planned to stay for four nights in Florence. However a couple of weeks before we were due to fly British Airways sent a confirmation e-mail to T which also had a little button labelled "Click here to extend your holiday by two nights". She went giddy and an then involuntary spasm later and she'd clicked the button. We were now flying back on the Sunday. Our hotel booking ran out on Friday morning. Having tried in vain to extend our stay at the Hotel Davanzati (I guess you don't become the number one hotel in Florence on TripAdvisor without being popular) we started a search for alternative sleeping arrangements. As it was pretty close to the date of our holiday there were quite a few last minute offers available at some pretty swanky looking hotels. We eventually plumped for the Grand Hotel Villa Medici in which we booked a junior suite (I'd never been in a suite before let alone stayed in one) for a hugely reduced rate. It wasn't in any way cheap but we felt we'd earned it with all the overtime we'd been doing.

We checked out of the Davanzati just as it began to rain. Well I say rain, there was a hint of moisture in the air and the odd spot of water. Nevertheless as we headed westward, dragging our bags, we witnessed the crowds of tour groups covered in waterproof ponchos, rain coats and all sporting enormous golfing umbrellas. I was wearing a light linen suit and scarcely got damp the whole half hour it took us to walk to the new place. Mind you, the locals were no better at dealing with a touch of drizzle with unforeseen hazards for me. I am a little over six feet tall. When I walk around in London the pointy metal spoke ends of the average height Londoner's umbrella are roughly level with my eyes which would make walking around in a rain storm rather dangerous if I didn't wear glasses. I've had nasty scratches along my neanderthal eyebrows before though. Italians are, as a rule, smaller putting their brollies at throat height. This was really frightening and I was dodging and weaving like a out punched prize-fighter as I dragged by suitcase up to the hotel.

Suite in the Grand Hotel Villa Medici

When we tried to check in our designated room was unavailable. The receptionist asked if it would be alright if we could be put in a full suite as there was one available at no extra charge. We considered it for a femto-second before agreeing. Our rooms were ridiculous. The walls were covered in heavily patterned fabric and slightly squishy to the touch, the carpet was patterned and comfortable and the walls were painted a rich yellow apart from the pattern created by wood panelling. It was quite a strain on the eyes and certainly not somewhere I'd want to wake up with a thumping hangover: a time when one yearns for simpler, more austere design sensibilities.

We had a(nother) lazy lunch on the Porta Rossa at a restaurant owned by the Frescobaldi wine company. As well as delicious food they also offer wine "flights". A "flight" consists of three generous half glasses of a wine connected by a common theme, usually the grape variety. We picked the Sangiovese "flight" and it did not disappoint.

We were very disappointed in the evening when the restaurant that the guide book had recommended half poisoned me and T. The alarm bells rang when the caprese salad consisted of tomatoes that tasted of water and mozzarella that seemed made from inner tube. The wine was vinegary and I poured most of it into a flowerpot next to our table. Judging by the condition of the plant it contained I don't think was the first to do this. We had half a plate of really filthy pasta before calling it quits. Sadly I don't know anywhere near enough Italian to kick up a fuss so I'll just mention it here: don't eat at the restaurant called Napo Leone in Florence. I spent a mostly sleepless night feeling pretty sick and not looking forward to our last full day in the city at all.



Blogger Churlita said...

That last restaurant sounds horrid, but at least the rest of it was nice. I have a friend who is terrified of umbrellas, probably for the reasons you mentioned.

11:26 pm  
Blogger booda baby said...

Oh no!! Too bad about the restaurant. I'm sorry to say that when people say you can't get a bad meal in Italy (or France, for that matter) I say right back: Are you fucking kidding?

(I guess the profanity was uncalled for.)

And here's another thing about Florence. It's a good thing you were not afraid of a little rain and were willing to navigate umbrella impalings because getting a taxi around there is night.mar.ish. Oh, sure, they SEEM to fly by on every other street except exactly when you need one.

What a wonderful thingie - to have a suite in anything called the Grand Hotel Villa Medici. It's too bad you have such spartan tastes. I wish you'd declined and asked them to set aside their invitation for a future visitor. Some one like mmeeeeeee.

12:27 am  

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