Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reading A Room with a View in Florence

Our view of San Lorenzo from our room at the Hotel Paris, Firenze
Hey, I’m back! I’ve missed you. This past month I’ve been traveling in Europe with my family. Our 21st Anniversary found us in Florence (or Firenze in Italian.)

Remember the 1985 film adaptation of A Room with a View? Recalling Lucy Honeychurch’s despair, I’d booked a room with a view (#336) at the (confusingly misnamed) Hotel Paris. What could be more romantic?

Henry Laurence
One click later, E. M. Forster’s original novel was downloaded onto my Kindle (most classics are free.) We popped mini bottles of Prosecco and pulled our chairs to the open window. Henry read out loud, with all the right accents, this Edwardian tale of class snobbery and passion.

The best lines and scenes from the movie were lifted directly from the book, although the cinematic Lucy (Helena Bonham Carter) was more spunky and outspoken than her literary model. The novel was both more subtle and satirical. It was surprisingly timeless and humorous.

Like Lucy, I had traveled to Italy from the English countryside. 
 My British in laws had rented a house in Somerset to celebrate their 75th and 80th birthdays. 
Happy Birthdays, N&T!

Our view of the Duomo from the Hotel Paris, Firenze

Out our Tuscan window,
church bells rang
and a horse-drawn carriage
clopped down the road
towards the Duomo
(our view with a craned neck).

Forster’s prose rose
above the din of American tourists.

(Snookie had been filming
Jersey Shore on location
only the week before,

My parents in Fiesole

Borrowing a page from Forster,

“The first fine afternoon drive up to Fiesole.” 

We joined my parents,
celebrating their 50th anniversary in Italy,
for lunch in this hill town overlooking Florence.

My dad and I might look Italian,
but we’re native New Yorkers.
From him, I inherited my love of Italy
and passion for exploring the world and photography.

View of Florence from the Pensione's terrace 
As we waited for lunch at Pensione Bencista in Fiesole, dark clouds gathered over Florence ominously.

 Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed over the Tuscan hills.

My sixteen-year-old son, an experienced mountaineer, 
pointed out that metal chairs under a canvas awning offered little protection from electrocution.

We moved inside as the rain lashed sidewise, whipping the olive trees into a frenzy and pelting the vineyards. Lunch was deliciously seasoned by the wild weather. From my mother, I inherited my love of storms and artistic skill for capturing them. The thunderstorm over Fiesole cut short our excursion . . . just like in A Room with a View. I thought of the poor Italian girl (evicted from the carriage for kissing the driver) and George (by his reckless choice) walking the five miles back to Florence. It could have been my son and I, had we set off sooner as planned.

View of Florence from the Uffizi Gallery
Hours later, the sun returned, basking Florence in that particular golden glow of Tuscany. Our best meals were at L'osteria di Giovanni and at Zibibbo. If I could eat only one type of cuisine forever, it would be Italian. Sometimes life is as rich and full as classic literature . . . at least in Italy.

South Harpswell, Maine
Maine in summer isn’t bad either. Our first week back, we drove down to Estes for lobster rolls and local brew on tap (the Italians don’t really do beer) by the sea. Then I fought jetlag to take my daughter and her friends to the midnight premier of Harry Potter (awesome!) Evenings find us enjoying sundowners on our deck after work. Friends stop by to chat and there is wifi. It is good to be back home.


Beth Kephart said...

GORGEOUS! I love those places, wrote perhaps my favorite short story ever about a restaurant in Fiesole. I wonder if you were there. Gorgeous shots.

A Cuban In London said...

It's so nice to have you back! And those shots look great, too.

I might have said this of New York, San Francisco, Paris (or the whole of France, come to think of it), but I'll have to go to Italy one day.

Many thanks for such a fantastic post and wish your in-laws happy birthday from me, too! Congratulations on your 21st anniversary. I'm (almost) seven years right behind you! :-)

Greetings from London.

khaki said...

Breathtaking. The photos are absolutely stunning. Love how your son pointed out about the chairs and electrocution hahaha too cute. Looks like you all had a fantastic time. My husband and I plan to go to Tuscany next summer- I can't wait to show him your photos- not that I need to convince him of anything, it's a done deal. I mean, who needs to be talked into a trip to Tuscany? Too "bad" you missed Snookie- yeah right- can you imagine? I would have been upset had I been there the same time- they would ruin the flair/atmosphere. Great trip- thanks for sharing!

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

What a glorious way to celebrate so many life anniversaries. Great photographs. Welcome back Sarah!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

How perfectly wonderful!
Happy Anniversary to both of you.
All this and Harry Potter too!

Sarah Laurence said...

Beth, is that story published? Can we see it?

ACIL, being lactose intolerant, I do better with Italian cooking with its reliance on olive oil over butter and cream. Italy shares with California the use of fresh local ingredients. I felt healthier after our vacation. You would love Italy too. Congratulations on your 14th Anniversary!

Kacky, Florence is well worth seeing but it is mobbed with American tourists, especially in summer. Better to go early summer (spring would be best) as everything shuts in August. I’d recommend Umbria over Tuscany and will blog about that soon.

Bonnie and Pamela, thanks, it is good to be welcomed back!

tina said...

What a wonderful vacation and anniversary! Welcome back!

elizabeth Schmid said...

Possibly your best blog post ever --from my point of view --Italy, books, England, family, wonderful photos. My favorite the storm at Fiesole.
Totally green with envy of you spending time in Florence.
Yes, the Helena Bonham Carter movie was hilarious and nearly got a gaggle of us ex-pats thrown out of movie theater in Hicksville LI for laughing too loud. (Merchant Ivory after all.) Forster is more subtle, of course, but the movie was splendid.
Congratulations to all parents and in-laws on their various birthdays and anniversaries.
Good to have you back.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

omg, how I love Florence. The Uffizi is a place I wish I could drop in anytime.
Thanks for the luscious pictures. I'm glad you had such a fine trip and then came home to lobster and Harry Potter. Seems you're having a great summer.

Amanda Summer said...

room with a view is one of my alltime favorite movies - how wonderful that you were able to book that very room! what a glorious trip you've had — congratulations on your anniversary as well as your parents' - what an adorable photo of them~

welcome home, sarah. so good to have you back in blogland - will look forward hopefully to more stories and images from your journeys.

Cat said...

Welcome home Sarah! We spent our honeymoon in Europe with Italy being our favorite stop...I hope to get back with my children some day. Absolutely, hands down, amazing food!!

Rose said...

Oh, what a wonderful way to spend your vacation! I've been to Florence twice--both very brief stays--and I loved it. I'd love to go back someday and see the Tuscan countryside as well (other than from a moving train or bus). Even better that you were able to share this experience with your parents, too. Your photos are beautiful, and you certainly do have a talent for capturing storms.

I have to admit I've never read "A Room With a View" nor have I seen the movie. But I'm much more likely to read or watch this than Snookie's adventures in Italy:)

SG said...

It is wonderful to see you you are back on blogland. What a beautiful holiday you've had, love everything about your post. Italy has been on my go-to-and-live-for-some-time list for quite some time now; some day I'll make it.
Congratulations on your anniversary.

Carol said...

What a wonderful post Sarah of what must have been a magical month! Your photography captures the feelings of Italy, England, family and environmental forces . . . fabulous! Great views and what fun to be reading Foster there. Congratulations on your 21st! Many Happy Returns! Your parents look terrific. Thanks so for sharing.

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Hello Sarah

Congratulations on your 21 anniversary!! The pictures are lovely and thank you for sharing your special time with your readers.

Have a great day!

Tracy :)

marc aurel said...

Lovely blog entry. I lived in Florence for six months after the terrible flood of 66. On a day trip to Fiesole, I missed the last bus home and stayed the night in a nunnery there. The view when I openned the shutters in the morning was well worth the inconvenience of being stranded.

Sarah Laurence said...

Tina, thanks!

Elizabeth, Merchant Ivory hooligans – I love it! Oops, thanks for catching my typo on Foster-Forster. I just fixed it. One problem of a Kindle is you are always on the page and never see the cover with the author’s name every time you pick up the book.

Tricia, we spent hours at the Uffizi, especially in the Botticelli room.

Amanda, I’ll post more photos of Italy after I edit them. Thanks for the warm welcome back.

Rose, my mother chose the Italian countryside for her 50th anniversary because in past visits all they did was drive through it on the way to sites. This time they rented a house in farm country for all 10 of us. More on that later. You would enjoy watching a Room with a View – a gorgeous film full of gardens, wildflowers and beautiful buildings. I have no desire to watch Jersey Shore either.

SG, Carol, Tracy thanks!

Marc, that must have been a fascinating experience. I could see getting stranded since you can’t drive into Fiesole in a car. We took a cab there and back since there were 4 of us. As for the flood, there was a high water mark, nearly neck high, in my parents’ hotel.

Sarah Laurence said...

Cat, a honeymoon in Europe must have been special. I had my reservations about traveling for a full month with our kids, but at 13 and 16, they were just the right age to appreciate it without making it more work for us. In fact my oldest child helped a lot with carrying bags and navigation. The kids barely remember anything about our last trip to Italy when they were 6 and 9, beyond feeding the pigeons in Venice. That was when we were living in England and Europe was on our doorstep.

David Cranmer said...

Simply wow, Sarah! Beautiful, beautiful shots and great being there with you. Thanks for sharing.

troutbirder said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere, Sarah. Sounds and looks like a wonderfull vacation. I've only been in Italy once (Roma and south) so Firenza has always been on my bucket list. :)

cynthia said...

Oh my gosh, one of my favorite posts ever--the photos, the words, Italy, E.M. Forster (recently read his Aspects of the Novel and loved it), the colors, the one thing leads to another feel of it all...and then Maine. And it's still summer.

Welcome back.

Jan said...

WHAT a posting!! What a time been had! ( And your folks look very nice too!)

septembermom said...

I want to visit these beautiful places some day. I am overwhelmed with the beauty of these photos.

Kelly H-Y said...

What a trip! And, to be able to celebrate such wonderful milestones with your family ... perfect!! Gorgeous pics! The last time I was in Florence, I was eaten to pieces by fleas ... they were having a heat wave that had caused an outbreak of them, and I had an allergic reaction to the multitude of bites! I'm eager to go back and have a non-flea experience ... it's such a beautiful city!