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Report 943: Italy Alone

By DMae from Alaska, Summer 2005

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Page 7 of 9: Shawls in Florence

Did I mention how handy my friend Sara found calling me on my cell phone? Well, while she was planning her daughter's wedding, they both decided that the bride and all the bridesmaids needed silk shawls. In "the colors of the sea". From Florence. Thank you.

Who am I to upset wedding plans? And it gave me a reason to revisit Florence. I decided on an overnight trip and made reservations at the Davanzati Hotel. Last year when we were in Florence, Sara had gone into this hotel and viewed the rooms. However, the hotel is on the second floor (European counting) and the elevator does not go to the ground floor. I was sporting a cast on my left ankle and could not manage the stairs so I had not seen any of the rooms. When I was given the mandate to find silk shawls in the colors of the sea from Florence, the Davanzati came to mind. I made my reservation for a single room and off I went via ES train.

When I got off the train in Florence, it was raining. No, not raining - pouring. I needed an umbrella and bought one from one of the street vendors who magically appear when the heavens burst forth with a deluge. I only had a soft, fold up bag to bring back those silk, sea-toned shawls, so the walk to the hotel was easy, but somewhat damp.

The hotel proved to be a lovely three star. I related my story of not being able to manage the steps with a cast last year and the owner said that it was indeed a problem for the hotel. If you are an able-legged person, don't let those steps stop you. The Davanzati is a pleasant respite in the center of the city. I loved the single room with its pleasant view over the street and the huge bathroom.

The next morning I had breakfast at the hotel and then headed out to find those shawls. It was still pouring down rain so I chose to shop at the nearby, covered Mercado Nuovo instead of going over to the market at San Lorenzo. I had received a sample of the wedding dress fabric (turquoise, hand-woven silk and silver from Indonesia) and began to search the stalls for the right shades of silk. I went from one to another and found a couple I thought were fine. Then, a shy young woman approached me and said, "I think I have what you are looking for."

She pulled out a silk Duponi shawl which matched the wedding dress sample wonderfully. I bought it immediately. By now, several vendors were into finding the best matches for the wedding party. Such fun! I soon had all the shawls I needed wrapped up for mailing back to Alaska. Once again I was impressed by the warmth of Italy. The vendors took my needs to heart and made sure I had only the best items at the best prices to send to Alaska for the wedding.

After finishing my "chores" I wandered around the city, exploring places I had not been to on my last visit. I did revisit Zecchi, the art supply store I used before and bought some sketch pads for myself and gifts for other artist friends. I visited an exhibition of models of da Vinci's machinery. I bought a beautiful bowl as a wedding gift for the bride and groom. I visited the Duomo. I shopped Passamaneria Valmar on Via Porta Rossa for fabrics to use in projects for the next long, Alaskan winter. Finally, it was time for me to find a café bar and relax. I found one not far from the hotel, the Bar Poste. If you have read through this monologue thus far, you by now know that I have an ongoing affair with the bars of Italy. Add another one to the list.

Sara, who has been to Florence before, wanted me to dine at the restaurant La Poste. This is a favorite restaurant of hers, so I had my dinner there. I settled on a bistecca fiorentino and a porcini mushroom. I finished with coffee and conversation with another table. I felt so comfortable that I pulled out my watercolors and sketch pad and spent the evening sketching and chatting.

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