We made it! That is always one of the most stressful parts of the whole trip - getting everyone here and safely checked into the hotel. Well this year we did great. All the flights were on time, the transfer from the airport to the hotel was waiting for us and the Hotel Brunelleschi is always dialed in. Last trip the airline that will remain nameless, and never to be used again, lost nearly all of our travelers' bags and screwed up our flights to the point of being laughable - well actually it brought my wife to tears. This trip - perfect - thanks to all the hard efforts of my assistant, Evelyn, who has done a spectacular job making this trip and all its millions of details come together. So, despite me, the tour guide, leaving my little carry on at the gate check in desk in Frankfurt, we had no issues and no drama! Bag has been found and is here in Florence so we are good to go!
Once we checked in, despite traveling for many hours, everyone wanted to take a quick glimpse and explore the city around our hotel. We checked in about 2pm local time and we were on the streets by 3pm. Perfect weather, 80's during the day and cool 60's at night. Everyone started out right on my hip, but after passing a couple shoe shops, clothing stores and of course by the time we hit the Palazzo Vecchio I was down to one or two who wanted to go back to the hotel after this quick peek and grab some shut -eye. The rest were out and discovering all Firenze has to offer.
I grabbed a quick siesta and awoke to the sounds of the Florence street life below. Quick shower and shave and then we all met in the lobby decked out to the nines. We were off to dinner at truly one of the most beautiful spots I've ever been to - the Villa San Michelle - see the link on our September List at the top of the blog! To paraphrase their website: "The Villa San Michele must be one of the most romantic places in the world. This former monastery, nestled on a hilltop surrounded by trees and terraced gardens, overlooks the city of Florence below.
Dating from the 15th century its facade is attributed to Michelangelo. To step inside is to experience the ethereal beauty and solitude of a renaissance building that is as much a part of Italy's culture as the country’s greatest cathedrals and galleries. Here, each visitor is a privileged guest, invited to stroll in the Italian gardens, filled with lemon trees and roses, and savour the superb Tuscan cuisine on the alfresco loggia as if in a private home."
None of this is an understatement and I'm sure my guests, after sitting on a plane for God knows how many hours, were blown away and now are just beginning to understand what this trip is all about. I must back up a bit as the drive from our hotel to the Villa San Michele of course at dusk is devine. You escape the hustle and bustle of the city and wind your up the Tuscan hills villas, estates, olive groves and end up at this magical and formidable facade with a view of Florence that is unrivaled. I love the looks on everyones' faces as they step out of the bus and set foot on this small piece of heaven. The service is impeccable and after a few pics - yes we were the poppaorazzi, we were guided through the lovely and to the garden for appetizers and bellinis. How civilized! Sitting in the garden and enjoying the fall air, and the last few strands of light on the hills, I knew I had finally arrived. I could feel the joy of being here and sharing this magical place with my guests.
Of course this was just the start! Following appetizers in the garden we made our way through the building and back to the grand Loggia overlooking all of Florence. It is here we dined to a wonderful pre-set four course meal featuring a blue lobster filet served with a herb sauce, followed by ravioli with wild mushrooms and a truffle sauce - by far the most talked about dish this evening, followed by thinly sliced sirloin of beef with a Brunello sauce and fresh spinach, finally followed by Florentine crepes filled with fresh fruit and muscat grape sauce, capped with a cappuccino of course. Absolutely phenomenal and obviously a high bar set for the balance of the trip.
Quick cab ride back down the hill following our 4 hour meal and back to the Hotel Brunelleschi. It's midnight and the streets are empty but everyone was so jazzed that we took a stroll down to the Duomo, which is only a couple turns down the street, for a few pics, a couple more laughs then it was off to bed.
Today was a great day - considering it was really almost two days. The first 12 hours in Florence - amazing!!!! Tomorrow is our first full day in Florence and features our three hour guided walking tour through the streets of the city. Time to sleeeeeepZZZZZ. Ciao!