October 16, 2012

Hotel degli Orafi in Florence

My favorite hotel in Florence is the charming Hotel degli Orafi. I have stayed there about 10 times in the past six years, usually for about a week at a time.There are many reasons why I like this hotel so much, and I’m excited to share them with you.

First of all, the location is idea. It is situated on the lungarno, between the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi galleries.  Everything is within walking distance, whether you want to go across the river, or in the other direction, towards the Duomo and beyond.

Their staff is consistent; I see the same familiar faces each time I visit. Even the housekeeping staff stays the same. Each person I have encountered is warm and friendly. It really feels like home to me.

No matter how tired and stressed I am from overseas travel, as soon as I get into my room, which usually is room 403, sometimes 401, I feel completely at home.  The décor is calming, sheets are crisp and clean, and the view—well, you can’t any better than this.

Each of the rooms that I stay in overlooks the Arno and has a perfect view of the Ponte Vecchio and the Vasari Corridor. One can gaze out the window and imagine Renaissance daily life.

It is said the memory of a particular scent makes a strong impression.  Hotel degli Orafi takes care of that as well. In each bath, they provide a room freshener by the Ancient Pharmacy of Dr.Vranjes , in the scent Terra. This scent is warm and rich, and this time I purchased some to bring home, so that I may have the same scent in my own home.

Other touches include free bottled water daily in the frigo bar, a beautiful breakfast room-although I do get room service and watch the local news over tea, croissant and yogurt- and nightly turn down service which includes candies and  a weather report for the following day.

You can read more about the history of Hotel degli Orafi here, which by the way, is where A Room with a View was filmed.

And here are a few of my photos:
 Views from hotel room

Welcome Fruit Bowl

Breakfast Room Service

June 19, 2012

Enjoying the Vogalonga in Venice

We recently spent 5 glorious days in Venice and were fortunate enough to be there, just by chance,  when the 2012 Vogalonga took place. Probably just like we did, you are asking yourself,
“what on earth is the Vogalonga?”

The Vogalonga is a celebration of all types of  watercraft, which takes place in Venice every May. It began in 1974 on Saint Martin’s day, when a group of people interested in Venetian rowing got together for a regatta. Since the world was turning more and more towards motorboats, these lovers of Venetian traditions wanted to show their commitment to the older traditions and encourage others to do the same.They instituted a non-competitive regatta, the first of which took place in May 1975.
500 boats arrived that year, carrying 1500 participants, and nowadays there are about 1500 boats with over 5000 participants. It is an exciting day in Venice! The event, whose participants were originally only Venetians, has grown to include lovers of their oars from other parts of Italy, Europe, and beyond.

Early in the morning, from the windows of our hotel room which opened onto the Grand Canal, we got to see all the boaters travelling towards Piazza San Marco, where the regatta begins. There were sculls with crew teams, individual kayaks, and gondolas. The celebration of color and camraderie was so exciting on that glorious late May morning, and even as tourists and onlookers, we really felt that we were participating in an extraordinary happening.

Here’s a short video, taken from our window, of the rowers heading towards Piazza San Marco at about 7AM:

November 22, 2011

A Fashion Blog That I Know You Will Love

It is always refreshing to find a new blog that catches your interest, that is informative, and that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Recently, I have been reading the fashion blog CardigansandCouture.  

Written by a dynamic duo- identical twin sisters- one on the east coast and one on the west, we get a peek, well really more than a peek, into how to put outfits together for work, how to  accessorize them, and we learn how to create one’s own style even in a conservative work environment.

Many of their blog posts are not work related; some feature and discuss the merits of great party dresses, or hand bags, or how to stay fashionably warm and cozy.

I really like that Katie and Regan showcase new and interesting finds, sometimes comparing a designer bag with a similar knockoff. And there are themes to some days-stripes, or workout gear for example- I’ve found some great pieces. And there are always links and clear info.

Oh, and make sure to check out their Facebook  page, where you can join all of their other Facebook fans!  You’ll find blog posts there and other useful info.

photos courtesy of CardigansandCouture

October 12, 2011

Florence, Home away from Home

After a very misty early AM, the streets are waking up. It's 8AM, I've had my usual room service of yogurt, brioche and tea, and am watching the local news. This hotel room has become my home away from home over the years. It is consistent, comfy and nurturing.

I'm also looking through my favorite fashion magazine, Grazia. The local magazine stand, known as an edicola in Italian,  is one of my usual stops on my first day, where I load up on Italian fashion and news magazines. I've been reading Grazia for over 30 years. It's full of glossy fashion photos of this season's trends, and has interesting articles.  This edition is heavy- I think in a pinch I  could use it to do some bicep curls!

Off this AM to Angela Caputi's shop and showroom. A presto!

September 19, 2011

Counting Down The Days

In three short weeks we’re headed once again to the luscious city of Florence, Italy. Even though here at home we are just starting to think about our winter holidays and gift ideas, we’ll be thinking ahead and buying goodies for all of you for spring/summer 2012.

I am so excited to be returning to Italy, as Florence really is my home away from home. A week there sounds like a lot, but we are already pretty booked, and I am hoping to have enough time to fit in all of my cultural visits (and some personal shopping, too!)

On the business side, there will of course be a visit to Angela Caputi’s showroom to see once again her fabulous fashion jewelry. There, we’ll have a chance to view her spring/summer 2012 collection and place an order. And if we see any special 2011 holiday pieces, we’ll order some- which make great gifts for women.

Other visits are to a jewelry company in Arezzo, not far from Florence, and also to a showroom in Milan. We’re establishing a relationship with a company there, and look forward to bringing you new Italian designs, some of which are casual, others more dressy-and easy to wear with anything.

Florence is full of exhibits and events this time of year, and there are also weekend fairs “in campagna”, in the countryside. The fresh fall crisp air, especially outside the city, is a delight. I hope to spend time with my Florentine friends away from the city, at least one day, and have a chance to reconnect with them.

We will be in touch from there, with photos and great stories to tell.

In the meantime, if you’d like to help us make space for new merchandise, help yourselves to a 15% discount by entering code FLORENCE upon checkout. Valid through October 1.

August 23, 2011

Online Shops- Do They Diminish The Fascination?

One of my usual stops when I am in Florence is at the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella. Visiting and shopping there is a ritual of mine, as I always feel such a sense of calm upon entering; the scents are heavenly, and this ritual marks the beginning of a fabulous week time and again.

My favorite products are the Calendula Face Cream (one of the best face creams ever), Crema Viso Protettiva (for sensitive skin), and their potpourri. Other products I buy there are bars of soap (great for gifts), bath salts, and talcum powder, usually in their trademark melograno (pomegranate) scent.

But wait a minute, I can just order these online from their US distributor and have them shipped to my home! I have known this for a while now, but kept telling myself that I still needed to carry all these heavy (because I stock up for at least 6 months...) items back home directly from Florence, usually causing my bulging suitcase to be over the allotted weight limit.

So why the hesitation to just go ahead and order these products online? Does their easy availability from anywhere in the world make them less special? Does taking away the exclusivity make the products any less effective?

Of course the face creams are just as effective- on the other hand, yes, maybe these Italian products become less magic because anyone can buy them, and the allure is taken away a bit. Nevertheless I still adore them. I’ve given in, and am now anxiously waiting for the UPS man to knock on my door. Most probably I’ll still stop at the Farmacia on our next buying trip, just to get that unique feeling, and maybe even pick up a few new items to try.

Above you'll find a few photos of what the Farmacia looks like; and here is a link to some information. This shop is definitely worth a visit when you are in Florence, and will allow you to take a step back in time and imagine yourself back in 15th century Florence.

July 26, 2011

What to do in Paris- Serena's Top Ten

Here’s my list of 10 really fun things I did on our recent Paris jaunt.

Next time you are in Paris, try to experience them! I know, I haven’t mentioned any museums, and there are so many fabulous ones to visit over and over again.
1.      Take an evening Bateau Mouche ride along the Seine. This takes a little over an hour and is delightful. Try to time it so that they sun is setting while you are on the boat.
2.      Go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We did this very late, around 10:45 pm and I think we got the last elevator ride up. And fortunately we did not have to wait in line at all. It happened to be July 13th, the evening before Bastille Day. At 11PM there were fireworks all around the city, which we were able to enjoy from atop the tower. An extra treat.
3.      Take a walk around Ile St. Louis, the smaller of the two islands in the Seine. It’s a quiet area, with interesting shops and restaurants. Make sure to stop for ice cream at Berthillon.
4.      Have dinner at one of the restaurants in Place du Marche’ Ste. Catherine. This plaza is in a residential area, with a park in the middle and restaurants surrounding it. It’s a bustling place for local Parisiens to meet and spend an evening, and you’ll see young and old enjoying each other’s company.
5.      Walk through Place des Vosges, the oldest park in the city, or go and sit on the grass and relax a bit.
6.      Visit Montmartre for a few hours. It’s an easy metro ride from the city, and be ready to climb lots of steps. The church of Sacre Coeur is beautiful and there are some pretty streets all around the area. Shops are a little touristy but you may find some treasures to bring home.
7.      Eat some macarons from Dalloyau. There are a few branches of this patisserie around the city. You can buy a box of them to take home, too, which is what I did. They are pricey but worth each bite.
8.      Try a variety of French cheeses. The window displays in the cheese shops are works of art, and each cheese has a different taste. A taste test is always fun; and get some great bread to go along with the cheeses.
9.      Walk through the Jardin du Luxembourg. The flowers and gardens are breathtaking. We were there on Bastille Day and families and lovers were out and about taking it all in.
10.  Sit at outdoor cafés and brasseries and get a little lunch, or stop for tea. You will get a taste of what the real Paris and Parisiens are all about.