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I'm going to Florence!


No, that's not what the angel Gabriel says to Mary in this, my favourite of all of the depictions of the Annunciation by Fra Angelico. (And yes, I am ashamed of myself for making a joke about the Annunciation.)

Anyway, I've found a decent price for my flight to Italy this September and the most reasonable route turns out to be Ottawa-Zurich-Florence. So, because flying into Rome has become so expensive, I'll begin and end this trip in Florence. Which is great, I love Florence.

Of course, my trip is focused on Umbria, and that is where I'll spend the majority of my time. My first stop is Assisi, so I figure it's about as easy to catch the train to Assisi in Florence, as it would be to travel to Assisi from Rome. I'm thinking this will work out well. I'll get to spend a few days in Florence before I fly back to Canada, which will be wonderful because I love Florence (and my favourite hotel there is about half the price as my favourite hotel in Rome!)

And one of the first places I want to return to in Florence is San Marco. The frescos in the monks' cells are amazing. And this is my favourite of the frescos, located in a hallway between cells. I have a few reproductions of this fresco, as I collect Annunciations (that is to say, I collect memories of beautiful paintings of the Annunciation, photos and inexpensive reproductions.) I love the way the wings on various versions of the angel Gabriel are painted, Mary's serenity -- even when she has been startled by the arrival of the angel -- the background scenery. I just love this theme!

There are a few different versions of the Annunciation by Fra Angelico, who was born in 1395, and was also known as Beato Angelico, Guido di Piero da Mugello, or Fra Giovanni da Fiesole. A Dominican, the painter worked in Florentine churches in the 1430s and also carried out several commissions for the Dominicans in Cortona, including the Cortona Triptych and the Annunciation panel (which I think is absolutely fabulous!). From 1438, he worked on his most important commission, the San Marco Altarpiece and the frescos for the convent of San Marco in Florence.

Here's the story behind the Annunciation – as told by Luke in his gospel. "The archangel Gabriel was sent by God to Mary. Gabriel announced to her that she was to give birth to a son, Jesus, who will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David, and he will be king over Israel for ever; his reign shall never end. '"I am the Lord's servant," said Mary; "may it be as you have said." Then the angel left her."

Comments (12)

How exciting!! I am so happy for you. Now you have tickets and firm dates!! What is the name of the hotel you love in Florence?

I have been thinking of taking a daytrip to Florence while in Bologna. I haven't been to Florence since 2001. I have visited San Marco and agree that the frescos are amazing.


Thanks, Girasoli! I am looking forward to being back in Florence -- if I had more time, I would definitely get an apartment, but 3 nights is pretty short.

I've stayed several times at the Hotel Casci, which is a really lovely little 2 star, about 100 euro a night. The rooms are small and simple, but everything is always absolutely clean and works perfectly -- from AC to a little bar fridge, good reading lights, -- all those little things that sometimes even 3 and 4 star hotels don't always get right. And the family that runs it is extremely helpful and kind. And now, they even have free wifi!

It looks like a nice, simple train ride down to Florence from Bologna, it would make a good day trip. Especially since you know Florence and likely have a good idea of what you would want to see and do.

Fantastic! Florence is such a wonderful city to start and end a trip. I absolutely love the city! Fra Angelico's Annunciation is breathtaking. When I saw it in 2001 I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I thought I was going to fall down the stairs. Have fun planning your stay in Florence!

Hey, I stayed there once! Free wifi, that's cool. The family is very nice there. They insisted I take breakfast and juice to go the day I left since I did not have time for breakfast.

Too bad we won't be there at the same time this year. That would be fun meeting in Florence.


Oh Sandra, that's wonderful! I love Florence too. I have recently been daydreaming of spending a month there alone...sheer heaven! Fra Angelico's Annunciation is the image for one of the months in my calendar at work.

I love Annunciations too (and I think jokes about them are just fine!). That is such a beautiful one. I went to a big Fra Angelico show a couple of years ago in New York and it was just breath-taking. I've been working on a blog entry about one of my favorite paintings in Venice, Titian's Annunciation in the church of San Salvador, so great minds think alike! And I'm so glad that your trip is shaping up so nicely for you. Have a good weekend!

How fun! And your hotel sounds great. It is wonderful to have a hotel like that that you can keep coming back to.

Florence-Bologna is very easy, just an hour on the train. (Take the interregionale or intercity, don't spend extra on the EuroStar.)

Mindy Smith:

Sandra, I am so happy that you will get a visit to Florence, my favorite city! When my sister and I were there in Oct., the day we planned on going to San Marco there was a strike so we weren't able to go. I had told her so many wonderful things about the "Monkee's" cells, LOL. We ran out of days so couldn't return, major bummer.

Assisi is also another favorite. I should just meet you there, LOL. If only I could. Not in the cards for me in 2008. At least the Pope won't be stalking you again. **wink wink**

I have "my" apt. in Florence so I can relate on how comfortable it is to return to a place you can call "home" if only for 3 or 4 days.

Happy planning and congrats on getting your tickets, a huge relief!


I love Florence too! I took Alessandro there last October.

My favorite place in Florence is San Marco and my favorite painting in the world is The Annunciation!

Sandra, please let me know when you will be in Florence.


My favorite hotel in Firenze is also the Casci!! And I have been FIVE times to date. They are such a super place.

May I ask which is your favorite in Rome, as I have yet to find one that I would call favorite there? Thanks and have a great trip!!


Hi everyone, thanks for commenting and I'm sorry I'm late in replying. I've been away for a week and haven't had computer access (talk about withdrawal!)

Girasoli, isn't the family at Casci great? They're half the fun of staying there. The price doesn't hurt either! It would be fun to meet again in Florence -- altho your travel plans for this June sound pretty amazing.

Maria, Anne, I'm really looking forward to seeing Florence -- and San Marco -- again. It's such a wonderful city.

Annie, I envy you having seen an entire Fra Angelico exhibition. I'm going to check your blog for Titian's Annunciation.

Chiocciola,it IS fun to have a favourite place to return to!

Mindy, what a shame that you and your sister didn't get to visit San Marco; I'm really looking forward to seeing the monk's cells again. And Assisi sans Pope should be wonderful. Maybe that would be a good place for a giant ST GTG in Italy, we'd take over the town!

Angie, I'll email you my dates in September. Maybe you'll be in Florence at the same time?

Leslie,Alessandro is so lucky to have you as his tour guide -- you must have shown him some wonderful sites!

Dorit, I think we have the same taste in hotels! I've booked the hotel in Bevagna for September, based largely on your review! That said, my favourite hotel in Rome is quite a bit more expensive. (That's Rome, I guess!) I've stayed several times in the Residenza in Farnese, which is just off the Piazza Farnese, which is very close to the Campo de'Fiori, so it's very central. The hotel is fairly small, very well kept and the rooms are a good size. I've reviewed it on Slow Travel because I like it so much.

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