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Enchanted April (What's that you say? "Crazy dear one, it was January.") Dont fret, for it was oh so very Enchanted April in our minds. DH & Tiffs Italian Journey

Enchanted April (What's that you say? "Crazy dear one, it was January.") Dont fret, for it was oh so very Enchanted April in our minds. DH & Tiffs Italian Journey

Old Feb 21st, 2006, 07:12 AM
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Enchanted April (What's that you say? "Crazy dear one, it was January.") Dont fret, for it was oh so very Enchanted April in our minds. DH & Tiffs Italian Journey

Greetings all you beautiful Fodorites, I thought I might never 'see' you again!

Upon our return I was unable to post. (gasp!) Our precious LoveItaly emailed me that Ira had suggested it might be our internet provider and filters. Ira, you are the man, and indeed you were correct, so thank you, all is well in the land yet again. I had forgotten that we had changed it before we left. LoveItaly, bless your heart, thanks for always looking out for all of us and keeping us connected.


Bird�s Eye View:
~Fly NWA Minneapolis-Amsterdam-lovely Florence 5 nights (to include one day trip with private tour guide, the extraordinary Luca from Hills and Roads)
~Train to Venice
~5 nights in magical splendor
~Fly Venice-Amsterdam-Minneapolis via NWA

Thank you is a MUST to all Fodorites that post here. I really mean that, I read and read and read, it enhanced our trip so very much and we are quite grateful. ESPECIALLY everyone that posted on the restaurants they dined in, not one bad tip in that arena. With each delightful bite in each new restaurant, my DH would look at me and nod, "Fodorite rec, huh�" and I would nod back in agreement, it was beautiful, he was so happy.

Thanks to every Fodorite that:
~Told us we weren�t crazy to travel to Italy in January, you were right.
~Answered my thread, "Why do you love Venice?" You influenced our decision, and brought us from the "Hmmmmm, perhaps." to the "On my heavens, yes."

Preplanned Tools of Survival:
~Look at pictures and read everything you can about your destination.

~For winter travel, select a lovely jacket that can be dressy or casual, after all you will be wearing this every day, you had better love it. (In addition, I had our wonderful tailor add inside pockets into DH & my jackets, no need for purse, or those awful neck pouch thingys!)

~Do call Italy to confirm your hotel reservations, if only to hear them say, "Oh, how very lovely of you to call, Mrs. Tiff, we are so looking forward to your arrival."

~Seatguru (thank you, Tedgale ~ this website has every airline and seating descriptions on every plane, what a handy tool, loved it. I since have seen many recommend this site but Tedgale, you were the first that I saw, so thank you.)

~There comes a time during one�s planning, that one should perhaps stay away from the computer and trust that they have gathered 'enough' information (you will know when you have reached this point, please see below in section: Pre-Trip Minor Myocardial Infarctions.)

Pre-Trip Minor Myocardial Infarctions:
~Came across an article off the AP less than two weeks before departure that read: "Effective September 2005, the US gov will no longer accept amended passports." Ran downstairs, put Sophie in her little bed (because after all, one cannot call DC with a Schnoodle on their lap) ran back upstairs, called DC IMMEDIATELY, and the kindest gentleman I�ll ever have the pleasure to speak with informed me that the article was incorrect, that effective September �05 they will no longer MAKE amendments passports, one who has name change, etc, will need to reapply for a new passport, however, those that currently possess amended passports will be able to use said passport for the life of the passport. Heart goes back to regular beats per minute, I love you, kind DC man, I love you.

Decide that perhaps I should stay away from the computer until our departure.

The trip for me always begins when I have to drop off our little Sophie. She is an angel and any pet owner in Fodorville will understand my 'sigh' as I pull away from dropping her off. So sad to leave her but happy and excited about our trip. It is indeed bittersweet. For those that reside in my area, Minneapolis/St. Paul, I will tell you that Goldwood is Sophie's home away from home (651-429-0648). This is a family run business that has been around for 34 years. They LOVE what they do and it shows. Sophie loves it there.

And so, the journey begins�

Thinking of SueHoff, I promptly changed location of ink pen from my special-for-Italy handbag and placed in DH�s black messenger bag, OCD almost compels me to place it a baggie first, but I deny this urge and am proud of self.

Onward! Go forth, NOW we are ready.

Our wonderful driver from Manny's Private Car Services (again for those of you who reside in my area, they may be contacted at 651-483-3033) picks us up on time and off we go to the airport.

Flight is on time, everything is smooth. We see someone we know, visit for a bit and before you know it, it is time to board.

This is where you will really begin to know what a freak your fellow Fodorite is. I have with me: comfy travel pillow, comfy socks, exceptionally soft clothing, my Sharper Image eye mask, ear plugs (with alternating use of travel sound machine with strong preference to �rain� at highest volume on plane), and a sleep aid on board. My DH has and desires nothing. I ask him before we leave, "Honey, what can I get you, what would you like? Perhaps a little pillow like I have? Would you care for an eye mask, maybe some ear plugs? A little music, would you like an IPod? NOTHING. I still don't believe him and this time I give in to OCD and pack an extra pair of earplugs 'just in case'. I love him, he is so LM, I on the other hand am very high maintenance, but admitting it is the first step, no?

So there we are, all equipment (on Tiff that is) donned and I literally am laughing because I think, if I could see how I look right now... But I can't (because of my Sharper Image Eye Mask, and that solves THAT problem.

DH falls asleep immediately after eating delicious treats I packed. Even with, what I will refer to as the DSB's (Drunk Scotch Businessmen) behind us, he is OUT like I drugged him or something. I, on the other hand, rest and am very comfortable, but sleep is nowhere in sight.

When we are about an hour away from Amsterdam, they begin breakfast service. In classic fashion, one of the DSB's states to the flight attendant, "I sure hope this breakfast doesn't make me sick!!!!!" Oh yes, DSB, it won't be the bzillion little bottles of cheap Scotch you belted down over the last 8 hours that will irritate your tummy. I think of you and know this is the stuff trip reports are made of...

We arrive in Amsterdam, and let me just say, I LOVE this airport. Easy. Clean. Nice internet/office center. Many food choices. It rocks.

Leave on time for Florence. Again, even with the sweet Italian flight attendants speaking a million miles an hour behind us, DH is again out. I am reading, A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi and enjoying it. (I have, of course, A Thousand Days in Tuscany packed, or as I say "On Deck" for when I finish 'ATDIV'.

As we take off, Amsterdam is so lovely. We break through the ceiling of clouds and I feel as though we have entered another land. The sight is breathtaking. What once was a ceiling of clouds has now become our platform. Large pillows of continuous fluff. I feel that if I were very careful I could tip-toe across it without notice. My jet-lagged eyes begin to play tricks on me and now the platform begins to look like the Sahara. Sun shining, never ending.

As begin our descent Florence, I get a tear in my eye. The sun is higher now, the land is rolling and greener than I expected during these winter months, it is beautiful and I can't believe that I am bringing my true love here. We first spoke of my love for Italy when we were practically strangers. He was curious and asked many questions, and so I went on and on about my love for this enchanting land. He later told me it was one of those first moments when a man thinks, Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, something here�

We land in my beloved Italy and DH wakes. We are here. It is real.

Next installment:
Heyyyyyyyyyy, Hey Baby, I want to know, will you be my girl? And it�s a Holly Jolly Christmas
Tiff is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2006, 07:32 AM
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Yippee, Tiff - We are so glad you are back (both from your trip and computer isolation period)

The report is off to a great start....can't wait to read all!

Welcome home
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 07:36 AM
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Greeting to you,Tiff! Sounds as if you had a magnificent time in Italy. I read this installment with a big smile on my face. I am looking forward to the rest of the report - especially the Venice part since we are going there in July for the first time - many times to Italy, but never to Venice. Thanks for the report and keep it coming!


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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 07:45 AM
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I've been waiting for this report--keep it coming!
ellenem is online now  
Old Feb 21st, 2006, 08:10 AM
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If you are handing out "iPods", I wouldn't mind having one. But wait, I'd have to have another battery charger. Too much trouble. Nevermind.

Could you write faster?
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 08:21 AM
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Hello Tiff!! I was so happy when you told me you were able to post! Know everyone will so enjoy your trip.. I felt so lucky to get to read it first

I can hardly wait for the next installment.
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 08:29 AM
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Love your writing style--looking forward to next installment.
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 08:30 AM
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an Enchanting Trip Report!! Yay!!
Tiff, welcome home, darlin and keep writing!
Everything is charming and funny and even my Yankee smiled when I read the part about your DH not needing a thing...hmmm.
Please, continue (right away)...
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 08:37 AM
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Hi Tiff,

You made me laugh with your fully equiped airline gear!

So glad you had a good time and can't wait to read the rest.
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 08:51 AM
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Welcome Back Tiff!!

I laughed out loud when I read about your husband! Mine just needs to look at an airplane and he falls asleep, lol. Here you are, prepared to the hilt, all in the name of sleep -- and then you wait...and wait...nothing.

I can't wait to read the rest of your report.
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 09:10 AM
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Welcome back to Fodorville Tiff! I've been looking forward to your report so much and am so glad to hear y'all had a wonderful time
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 09:16 AM
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Hi everyone!
Thank you all for your kind words, you guys are the best. I have to dart out to buy a very important birthday but will post again asap, I promise!

Be back soon!
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 09:25 AM
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Tiff:
This post was hilarious. I loved it, and was surprised to see that you and I are married to twin brothers. My DH travels just like yours (has few needs, wants for nothing, and I have my "comfort" pack to dig into the second I am seated on the plane. Airplane socks, MP3 player, reading glasses, ear plugs, eye mask, lip balm...it is hilarious really. Sounds like you had a great trip. Italy is my favorite country (of course I have several favorite countries) and we are going back again this june. I am so glad you were able to glean great info from these boards. Fodorites Rule! Wonderful post. Thanks so much for sharing it with us!
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 12:13 PM
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The Arrival

It is midday. I am, of course, in a deep, sleep deprived, state of euphoria. We arrive at Palazzo Niccolini (Via dei Servi, 2) and the enchantment begins. It is absolutely lovely, simply oozes history and the location is fantastic. It is a half block from the Duomo. It is very quiet especially for the prime location. I know that we are about to enter our junior suite that has original frescoes on each wall and am excited to see DHs face, he is completely unaware.

This historic residence dates back to the 14th century. Donatello had a workshop here. A short time ago, 2003 I believe, the present owners decided to renovate one area of their private palazzo, without altering its original features and created 2 suites, 1 junior suite and 4 double rooms. There is a lovely drawing room, where breakfast is served, and guests have access to it at any time. They provide internet access on a lap top for guest use in this area. Cocktails available for your enjoyment, honor system. It is a beautiful room. The drawing room is very inviting, it is home to heirloom family pictures. They include a detailed photo album showing the renovation that was done from start to finish.

Our junior suite was the most unique room we have ever or probably will ever have the pleasure of staying in. Each wall decorated with frescoes that had been recently restored. They were fantastic. Gorgeous high beam ceiling (16 feet would be our guess, however our height approximation skills are not the best, see below with David) hardwood floors, four post king size bed, lovely fabrics, fantastic bed pillows and linens, a large wardrobe, two massive windows, sofa and three sitting chairs, large dresser, along with the usual safe, mini-bar/fridge. The bathroom, fitted in marble, was by European standards gargantuan in size. Lovely pedestal sink, shower/bathtub with great water pressure (a feature that my husband never fails to comment on when it is good) heated towel rack, hairdyer with decent airflow, although I did end up bringing my own. The room had new individual thermostats that operated well. I first read of this palazzo through
www.initaly.com and so I booked through them, they are based here in the States. No hidden charges and pricing the same as if I had booked directly. The direct page Palazzo Niccolini through In Italy is: www.initaly.com/hisres/niccoli/niccoli.htm
If you are searching for quaint, unique and historical accommodations as we were, this palazzo would appeal to you greatly.

We decide collectively to walk, try not to sleep, so off we go, to the Accademia.

It is sprinkling, we dont care. It is quite cold, do we notice? We walk in wonder. We love the streets of Florence. We love the sidewalks. We love looking up and seeing the window boxes. Oh, is it winter, are they empty? I only see geraniums, as red as a fresh ripe Washington apples. We love the shutters, and the doors and the hardware. We love the street lamps. We love people watching. It is east to detect those that are fortunate enough to call this city I love home. Off they dart so fast, are they walking back to work? Are they running home? Are they going to purchase that cute handbag I saw in the window. (hee)

Ahhhhh, yes, so it is off to see David. It is to see the unfinished sculptures. My second visit with David. We have met once before. I will introduce my DH to him, let them have a good chat together. After introductions are made, DH and I sit and stare, oh it is rude I know to stare, but David doesnt mind. We sit and admire in the exact saw spot I sat six years ago. We speculate as to Davids height. We think at least 18 feet and laugh to ourselves later when back at the palazzo we read he is 13 feet. A good error we say, after all a man never minds being regarded as taller, no? We love to watch the unfinished sculptures crawling out of their stone.

We stop in at Le Botteghe di Donatello (Piazza Duomo 28R - angolo Via dei Servi) We sip Italian wine, we eat. This is a good little spot if you need a bit of food and you are by the Duomo. We are told it can get a bit touristy during high season because of the location, but that the food is good. For us, in low season, it is a comfortable spot close to 'home'. It is a half block from the palazzo and we eat here twice during our five days in Florence. It fits our needs quite well, which at the moment is 'hunger needs to be satisfied now'. It is always wise to have something you can depend on around your accommodations and this is our safe place. My honey satisfies his hunger with delicious mussels and pasta. My risotto with asparagus is fantastic and one of the best risottos I will have in Florence (you may note in the future that my ability to feast on risotto is never ending, I am its loyal subject). With the vino is it approximately 40 Euros.

Full and smiling we crawl back to the room, and get settled. We try to stay up as late as possible but give in to sleep quite early. Our hearts are happy.

It is 1:50am when I wake to the sound of "HHHHHeeeeeeyyyyyyyyy, Hey Baby, I want to knowwwwwwww, will you be my girl?" It is coming from the street. Even with the Sharpter Image travel sound machine (set again at rain sleeping volume at 7) I can hear their happy, giggling, singing voices. These are happy people, ok, very happy people, ok, very happy Italian youngsters that may have been drinking a bit, and I cannot help but smile. On it goes, "Heeeeeeeeeey, Hey Baby, I want to knowwwwww, will you be my girl?" Then the next lyrics they sing in Italian, and I find myself at 2 in the morning mouthing the words to myself in English while they scream out the same words in Italian, "When I saw you walking down the street, I said thats the kind of girl Id like to meet, shes so pretty, Lord shes fine, Im gonna make her mine all minnnnnnnnnnnnnne." It is precious. They are laughing and singing English and Italian lyrics all at the same time loudly, their passion for this song is adorable. It is perfect. I love that it doesnt irritate me. I know the next question on your minds Yes, DH slept through the entire Italian Idol episode. You gotta love him.

They next day we wake, and it is as if we have never ate before. Starving does not even begin to explain the hunger. Our lovely breakfast in the drawing room awaits. Coffee for DH, God bless them they have hot tea for me, the most delicious croissants and pastries, fresh fruit, toast, yogurt, all the usual but it is really fresh and quite yummy, much better than the normal continental breakfast. You can also order anything such as eggs and whatnot for a small fee. And we do. We begin each day with this blessing, it stays with us, it keeps us warm.

We have reservations at the Uffizi. I almost want to run to visit my old friend, the Botticelli room. Six years and I can still remember rooms 10-14. No guidebook needed. We walk in awe, were getting closer, every corner we turn holds new wonder. We are so lucky. There is the piazza, what a wonderful square to people watch, Piazza dell Signoria. We walk first to say hello to the Arno. There she is honey, do you see her? I had framed some of my photography of the bridges and the Arno for DH as a birthday present three years ago. He recognized her right away, I knew he would.

We wander through all the beautiful art. We have the privilege of enjoying it with few others surrounding us. We adore museums and this is a favorite. The peaceful quiet, the long halls, the high ceilings, the views. To find your favorite work of art and stand beside its greatest for as long as you desire. What an honor.

We walk the rest of the afternoon, our feet just traveling wherever they desire. My camera steady and loyal. We stroll along the Arno, and across Ponte Vecchio. We had lunch at a wonderful spot called, Trattoria Anita (Via del Parlascio 2R) It is delicious, our hosts fun. My DH is happy. A wonderful restaurant. Excellent service, wonderful food and wine. Quite cozy. (vino and two courses 25 E)

I should state that every restaurant we went to was highly recommended by posts I read here, from friends of ours or from my previous trip. I should also state that we chose to visit moderately priced, casual dining, as I knew from experience that one does not need to spend a fortune to dine well in Italy. We wanted to pack lightly, as light as one can when traveling in winter. So in doing so, we did not pack a sports coat for DH, no dresses for me, etc. I wore my black Franco Sarto boots (yes, with a heel, gasp, I know) and also my Born walking shoes, DH floated between two pairs of brown leather loafer type walking shoes, they were both good in between shoes. This winter travel required light packing. The 'not too dressy, not too casual' clothing suited us for this journey. No regrets. There are some travel destinations where more formal attire is needed, this was not one of them. I wore a little faux fur black jacket from Anthropologie, DH an outerwear type jacket from REI, both were perfect. Cute with jeans, lovely with dress slacks, flexible, and served us well.

As we walked back to our room, we hear the musical notes of "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" coming from, we think, DHs pocket. What is that? Is it coming from his pocket, is it the Italian kids from last night, sleep deprivation no logically allowing us to draw a conclusion? What, where, who? Oh yes, it is our global cell phone, we hadnt ever heard it ring and this is what it was preset to. Laughing we say buon giorno and greet our caller.

Next installment:
"Leo, precious Leo, please tell us we can just stay here forever..."
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 01:32 PM
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Tiff,
Loved the second installment. This is wonderful. I've taken note of your florence dining entries. I've been to Florence many times but want to try out the ones you mention!
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 01:52 PM
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What a neat place to stay!!! Thanks for the links and the awesome second installment
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 02:01 PM
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Oh, what a great report!

More, please MORE, MORE, MORE!!!

BRAVO!! =D>
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 05:23 PM
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Tiff, I always knew you had the gift of gab!!

After a day of stress and work, this was a most needed distraction!

me

Sooo, where's the rest???
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 05:33 PM
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I too needed the distraction Tiff as you know. And the Palazzo Niccolini is beautiful as is their Jr. Suite!! Perfect in fact. And I sure agree with you two, one does not need to spend a fortune to eat well in Italy (or drink well either).

No wonder you two were so enchanted with your visit in beautiful Italy, the trip really sounds perfect, right down to the Italians seranading you in the middle of the night! Love the Italians.
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Old Feb 21st, 2006, 07:29 PM
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As Barbara said, write faster!
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