My love affair with Italy, where I currently find myself for the Anteprime Toscane, began when I was 15 on a trip to Switzerland and Venice. Apparently we passed through Milan when I was 3 but I don’t of course remember that trip. I do of course remember the trip when I was 15. That was the first time that I was aware of the beauty and sensuality of the country, its cities, food, wine and people. According to family lore, my father and I ate pizza and drank two bottles of wine. Mind you I was 15 and I don’t think it went exactly like that. Yet today, I had an experience which led me to believe perhaps that is a true memory.
The real hook into my heart however was planted at 20. My father pretended to be a travel agent and somehow was able to get my Mother and I two weeks at the Excelsior hotels, one in Florence and one in Rome. The hotel pictured above and still going strong was the lap of luxury to me at 20. I was doing a semester abroad in Dijon and living in a garret apartment above my host family’s apartment. The bathroom was down the hall and freezing. I loved living in France but it was grey and colorless at the time of our trip in February that year. My Mother, a sculptor and art historian, and I took the train. I woke up in the middle of the night to see the Borromean Islands peaking out of the fog.
We got to Florence and it was all over. Children were dressed up for carnevale throwing confetti in the air and joyous. The Churches, Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce and the Duomo were riots of color and light and I knew that my future lay in this place.
Walking to Fortezza da Basso yesterday, I saw a poster that mentioned Carnevale taking place that day in Piazza Ognissanti
My memory was spot on, it did happen exactly as I have been telling people all these years later and here was the proof. I was actually really touched to think how much life has changed since that time and that I am exactly where I wanted to be all those years ago.