FLORENCE, Italy–“Babbo . . ?” “D’amore?” Italian daddy getting his sleepy, curly headed toddler off the plane. Babbo must have called his son Love or Treasure, I don’t know how many times, just getting out of their seats and into the aisle. Made me ashamed of my parenting skills. I wanted to be that dad and have one of our kids be that lucky toddler for even just that moment. We are in a good place.


FLORENCE, Italy–As I said, we are in a good place. Except. I must do a rant on the new airport. OMG. Has anyone else had this problem? Please tell me it was just us on a bad day. Does anyone else think they’ve ruined the airport with their “renovations”? Who created this mess. I want names. I want them now.

Is this tacky of me? Everyone hates a complainer. In fairness, you may know I have bragged on the Florence airport here for years. Always a favorite. A jewel among airports in my book. I take it all back. They were closed or months to Renovate and all they did was Ruin. Shame, shame. Some how, they did not get the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” memo. Ok, they had already started the goofy unloading thing where you get off the plane and jam your way onto a waiting bus. Then when it is totally stuffed with people and their bags, the driver puts it in gear and goes maybe half a bus length. And stops. You uncurl yourself from around a pole and get out. Totally Peter Sellers movie material and idiotic but everything else was so charming it was sort of light comic relief. Now it is just another annoyance.

Previously, there was one belt delivering up bags along the back wall of the first room you came to right off the plane/bus. Instant bags. Now there are two or three mini baggage carousels. But no baggage. Not without a wait. There was only one plane on the ground and it was ours. Only maybe 15 people waiting for their bags. And waiting. And waiting. The Italians in the group were throwing blind, running fits. A British expat, the picture of patient patrician ennui, said no bag ever comes in less than half an hour in this new system. Whattheheck. The plane is parked right there at the end of the bus right outside the door to this room. I’ve known Malpensa and believe me this is no Malpensa. Just tiny little Florence. And wait a full half an hour we did. The wait for the bags was almost as long as the flight. Unexcusable. And no excuses were offered to anyone by anyone. The Italians kept yelling at the staff behind the glass partition of Lost Baggage and didn’t even get a shoulder shrug out of them. Baffling.

In an aside here, yes I do know/admit that I have advised heartily against non-carryon bags. For this very reason. I was tricked. They changed the rules on us and only one carry on is now allowed on almost every flight in Europe. I will be blogging on that subject shortly. I have a plan!

oh we got dem mean old rental car blues in Italy this time

whats not to like in car rental in Italy today?
Oh, I’m wound up now. It use to be you came out of the door to baggage, had the customs guys totally avoid eye contact with you and you were in The Car Rental Zone. In the Arrivals building. Because you had Arrived. Well, the customs guys in the dove grey military uniforms and the German Shepards still act like you don’t exist and the car rental places? They do not exist. They are solid gone. Now you are just dumped directly into the Departures Terminal where you run into a wall of people trying to Depart. No clues to location of auto rentals at all. If you ask around someone may point you out the door. Where you are literally now on the outside looking in.

The building vaguely to the left as you go out the door of Departures is low, concrete and foreboding with chain link and barbed wire on most sides and there is one side with four windows cut in it, facing the parking lot. The concept appears to be that it is never, ever going to rain or snow here and you can just cue up OUTSIDE for your car. In any kind of weather, all year round without so much as a piece of plywood tacked up as a shelter. And you can stand there all you want. The people inside are so confused and distracted that they pay you no mind at all. At least that was our experience at autoEuro???? Their window was covered with notices in every language saying Stay Outside. Then. OK, if you HAVE to come in, one person in a group can maybe come in. BUT NO BAGS. Leave them somewhere? And so there you are. And really outside really looking in between the friendly notices. And no obvious door whatsoever. The only door that potentially could get you in the building is sort of white painted so you can’t see in and all it has to invite you in is three signs. All saying the same thing. All in English. Here’s what they say: Only Staff.

welcome mat is always out at the Florence airport.Naturally, here and in Wonderland, that could mean Come In because everyone is doing that anyway. With bags. I don’t care what their sign says, you can’t “leave bags unattended” in an airport. So you enter this strange world. Blank white walls, no signage, like a regular row of offices in your accountant’s building except with lines of irritable people cue’d up at the doors of each office. The Germans ahead of me had been given a car with at least one flat tire. They couldn’t even leave the parking lot. They had filled a whole sheet of paper with written explanation of their plight and then the frazzled clerk told them to Go to the car and wait and in half an hour someone would be there to fix the flat.

Perfect opening for RyanAir flights to Umbria. Can’t wait to give their Stanstead to Perugia flight a try next trip.

See you in Italy!


P. S.

I would love to hear positive stories of this new airport, because Florence is totally cool. And we have raves on downtown Florence coming up from the end of our trip. Let me know if this airport debacle was just me? Go to the “Comments” icon right here and tell me your experiences there in Florence.

OK, the next blog is a total rave! Promise. Just felt I had to warn travelers about this big sea change at our formerly favorite airport.

Friends, Romans, lend me your Comments?

Still testing out this new format. Give the Comments function at the bottom of any blog a try? Always looking for input. What you like, don’t. What you want to see or hear more of, what you’ve had it up to hear with. News. Gossip. Whatever you got that is even sort of blog related. Bring it on. The Comments section is the main reason we switched to this new format here and just want to hear how it is working for you. Our techs are standing by if there are any bugs in the system . . . don’t be shy, let us know. We’re all about at least trying to be user friendly!



Visiting London, eating Italian

LONDON– But are we really in England? When did London go back to being a Roman outpost again? True, I do gravitate to all things Italian, but that’s lucky for me because it would be tricky trying to avoid Life Italian Style in London today. We have many totally Italian tales from Italy but are going to do a couple Italian in England tales on the way. Bear with me? It all makes sense at some point.

It started the minute the car dropped us at our apartment near Marble Arch. (more about Globe Apts in another blog at a later date. Great cheap excellent way to stay in London). We took the aces day flight Boston – London which was almost empty. But yet as soon as the plane lifted off I saw a concerned dad standing in the row ahead of me holding a pristine, unused airsick bag. Holding it with that aw shoooot. . . tooo late look on his face. That blurr going by? Me. Headed as far away from baby Vesuvius as I could get. Stretched out over yet another five seats across, I drifted off to nap time thinking of the joys of travel with children. Luckily for us, we are traveling to visit adult children rather than traveling with and cleaning up after cute baby children. Yes, the Wiley Traveler is all grown up and living in London for the next year or two. Getting her masters in film direction. She needs us once in a great while so she says she’s actually only two thirds grown up. Regardless, she’s a great excuse to come and visit London and once we’re that far we really might as well drop in on Umbria, right? Hung for a sheep, hung for a lamb.

So there we are. Getting off that lazy flight and thinking happy dinner time thoughts. But by the time we got to our apt we were closing in on full on hunger alert and it was starting to get on the late side of dinner time even for a big city like London. We threw our bags in the apt and shot out to the nearest pub. Too late for pub grub. People throwing back pints at the rail were British from the accent, but all the tables we walked by inside and out were full of people speaking Italian. Stepping out of the pub and glancing around like hungry wolves we see a sign of life across the intersection LOOK LEFT oh good an Italian restaurant. And it is open. They kind of look at their watch and say sure, sit. They clearly are going to feed us as their last customers of the day. And we ate like ravenous kings while listening to Italian musak between snatches of Italian conversation happening all around us. Then off to lovely sleep perchance to dream.


Leonardo and Tuscan Interiors
Hey, its morning already. Lets do something totally British. Lets take the tube to South Kensington and go to the Victoria&Albert, OK? Two shows, no waiting. Choices, choices. Shall we see their show about that famous Italian Leonardo or should we see their At Home in Renaissance Italy show? We’d spent all morning at de Gournays looking at wallpapers for a renovation we’re way into so I guess we will pick “Interiors For 400”, Alex. We may do more on de Gournays at some point. For someone with an artistic bent and a new house to redo, this was a very Kid in Candy Store moment.

Finally, that night we did something non-Italian. The Wiley Traveler has scored us tickets to Wicked the musical pre-quel to the Wizard of Oz. If you get a chance – GO. We got last minute tickets and were almost in the last row and it still swept us away like a Kansas twister.

Apuglian PastryThe next thing we knew it was morning yet again. Isn’t that funny/tragic how fast that rolls around when you have your clock set on Goof Off? Well, it was certainly morning. And you know what that means. Find cappuccino. Find now. We stood on our corner and looked left and looked right and Wait a minute what is that? Another bit of Italy dropped right on our doorstep. A ‘Puglian Pastry Place. Full of Puglians no less. And Pastries. Oh, and what pastries they were. Frutti di Bosco tortes sitting behind glass screaming “Pick Me”, “No! Pick ME!”

Isn’t Bosco a funny word for “The Woods”? When I think of a food and the word Bosco, I can’t help think of the funny kids add-it-to-milk-and-stir kind of drink. Wasn’t that an ad icon on Saturday morning cartoons? But Funny name or not, Frutti di Bosco is a wonderment. I want that on pannacotta – when Stefi makes it at Masolino’s in Panicale. And when I can get it on a tasty looking torte sign me up. Like here at La Masseria. Tiny, tart wild berries in red and blue on the lightest pastry almost floated off my fork. Come back here, you pastry you. Nope. All gone. Again with the Italian music in the air and the staff all chattering away in Italian. I swear, these days in London, if you see someone coming at you on the street talking at the top of their lungs and gesturing madly to someone on their cell phone just assume it is another Italian headed off to yet another Italian coffee or food shop. They are everywhere. Case in point.


The Wiley Traveler and her Daniel have the nicest apt in Golders Green. The town is just out of central London but their apt is pure civilization as it is over an ATM, next to a very quiet very convenient train station and from their bay window you can see not one, not two, but three big cappuccino dispensers in the form of Starbucks, Costa, and Café Nero.

totally Italian, really Italian Piazza Express
Side benefit of owning a house in Italy: People COVETwantDESIRE MADLY what you have. And are willing to trade big for it when you are not using it. There are people we’ve found listed in an International house exchange who live in Wiley’s town. They want to trade. In fact, when we call they can’t show us their house as they are in Chianti. We may just consider doing a trade sometime. We’ve done that in the past with a house in the US and it worked swell. Charming town Wiley lives in: Golders Green. (You saw the bit about the number of cappuccino places.) Most of the stores in town are kosher and many people on the streets are the formally dressed in black hats, beards, prayer shawls etc. And yet. There is a Pizza Express. Ubiquitous in London, like Macs in Moline. They aren’t too bad and they are quick and once again we are starved. And even here in the burbs and in a pretty much kosher burb, in a chain pizza joint, the waiters and their friends are all hanging out, folding napkins and nattering away in fast paced Italian. You can run but you can not hide from Italians in London these days.

Daniels Family in Holiday Mode in Harold Wood outside LondonLONDON TIMES

Except maybe at Daniel’s family party in Harold Wood. What happened to the Great British stereotype we are wondering over food, fun and chatter. Where is the famous reserve, the stiff upper lip business? They even challenge Italians to a bit of a contest with hugs and kisses and singing and carrying on and just having a fine time and making darn sure you are having one too. We are so not in Kansas, Dorothy.

Travel tip. Do not assume because 80 year old grandpa George is here filling a glass with whiskey and water and downing it with great regularity that you can do the same. Or accept a beer every time you are generously offered one. We are rank sissy amateurs thrown to the lions here. These are pros. Do not attempt to go where they go.


A scene I’m glad to replay in my mind is the Grandpa and the Spilled Whiskey Moment. He’s neat as a pin, ramrod straight. Was in the service and you can tell. He carefully set his fifth? fifteenth? fiftieth? whiskey & water down next to his chair and someone walking by knocked it over for him. A number of people went Oh, too bad, bad luck that George. And put a new drink in his hand. And a new smile on his face. Then. And this sequence of things is what is important. Then, and only then, did anyone sort out the spill on the carpet. Jolly good. Lesson learned. Life is all about priorities.

non smoking children welcome in London restaurantAND THE SUNDAY TIMES

And yes, yes, yes, ok, we did have a classic Sunday lunch in a pub. Was it the one with the No Smoking Children’s section or was that from the place we went after the play? Regardless, we spent a lot of time in this beyond classic, dark wood, etched glass pub called the Holly Bush in Camden Town.

This is a long-time Wiley Traveler Favorite Pick from her undergrad days. We’ve eaten there with her in the past and will look for any excuse to do so in the future. It was packed to the gills, we got a bit of nook big enough for one tiny table and we sat and sometimes talked and sometimes kept reading the Sunday London Times and watched the show around us. RobertoVision at the Holly Bush in LondonA Roberto Beninni type was behind me with three, count’em three, girls. One had her arm lolled around his shoulders giving him a happy Isn’t This Fun? squeeze every now and then, but when she would go off for more cigarettes or to “the loo” one of her mates (that blonde ponytailed one) would ever so casually slide her hand into the back pocket of Roberto’s stone washed jeans. And just sort of leave it there till her girl friend would show back up. He’d never bat and eye. And of course, neither did we. There was a mirror over our table and so his act was Must See TV for me. I’d read the paper and glance up and get a bit of RobertoVision and read some more. It was swell watching Roberto smoke and talk and talk and smoke and get hugged and patted, and patted some more, his every word producing tickled responses from all three of his adoring crew. They all needed to get a room already. But they settled for our table when we left.

Tripping over the pond. The day flight. Fun facts to know and tell:

teatime in londonBOSTON/LONDON –This was a real flight of fantasy. We wanted to go to London to visit the Queen Wiley on our way to Umbria. To see her, spend a few days enjoying London and to get almost on Italian time. So that let us take the day trip to London. Love, love day flights to Europe. And really loved this flight as the plane was almost empty. The airlines rarely do that empty plane thing anymore. But this flight, on this day, on this AA flight, was less than a quarter full. In Economy.

My wife has a theory on the joys of Economy Class. She has noted several times that on less than full flights Business Class will be stuffed to the gills and YOOHOO, ANYBODY HOME? in dumb old Economy Class. She thinks the airlines are making nice and upgrading favorite flyers because they can – on a lightly packed flight. But she observes that it is sometimes better to just hang back in steerage and spread out. Case in point: this particular trip. Midge had her own row. I had staked one out as well. Until the dad ahead of me jumped up holding an empty “airline sickness” bag. I usually more delicately refer to them by the street name of barf bag but in the name of chic and decorum thought I would show that I knew it had a real name. Anyway, daddy pops straight up out of the row ahead of me like a Jack in the Box hoping to get out of the line of fire and looks down at Little Billy – totally wide eyed and open mouthed. You can read what he’s thinking “Hey, Billy. I’ve got the bag. Right here.” I could tell which way the wind was blowing so jumped up too and said “Please. Take this row.” And I was gone. I was so checking out of that hotel and quickstepping it to the back, trying not to trip over my armload of blankets and headsets. Seconds later I was taking over yet another empty row of five across.

Huh? Are we in London? Already? Cool.

But you’ve got to wonder: Who’s sitting in little Billy’s row the day after? Ugrrrgh.


Here’s the good part of day trips to London (versus the more typical overnight flights to Europe): they get you to London in early evening – London time. What we call dinner and see you, goodnight time. Totally lovely. And you’re not beat from the flight because even if its midnight there in London, its only seven pm on your body clock. How tired can you be at seven pm with all that napping on the flight anyway, right? That’s what I think. This continues to be my favorite flight concept of late. Great excuse for a couple days in London.

So. Day trips rule. And on day trips or any trip, don’t let them upgrade you out of economy if economy is empty. Of course if an airline offers to upgrade you past Business and all the way to the whole sleeper seat First Class, sure, take that! Smile and say “Thank you very much, I will try to be worthy. And I will try to look like First Class material.” British Airways has upgraded me to that twice. No idea why but Oh Stewardess, more hot towels here please! We never turn those sweet seats down.

See you in Italy,


P.S. The new format on the blog here? Love it? Hate it? We think you can finally leave comments now. Probably should be careful what I wish for! And it has a search function. I don’t know if it has perfect recall but it seems to be able to dredge by subject to some extent. I wish it would highlight the word you put in search but we haven’t trained it to do that as of yet. Meglio di niente as they say.

Having fun as fast as we can

We did it. We did some autumn in Umbria as you can see from the foliage all around our rental car in the Piazza Regina Margherita in Panicale with the countessa’s palazzo in our back window. Every day was sparkling blue skies and silent nights. So many stories so little time. Isn’t that the way it goes? Well, it should be. I mean if we are really having a good time and out there tearing it up when do we stop and do html and such? Sigh. One of life’s cruel mysteries. Working on it. Working on it.

I know, I’ve been a bad blogger buddy and sort of MIA. But hey, the blogging application we were using has been messing up big time and we’ve had to do a run around on that. Plus, I was in Italy doing story research. Yes, that is it. Going to make up for it now. Coming right up: tales of London, Umbria, Tuscany, wining, dining, olive picking, olive pressing, eating anything at all with olive oil, porcini, proscuitto, or white truffles on it and just general high times over on that side of the pond. I have a notebook busting with adventures. Will tell all. Watch this space.


You are right. We do have a different format going here. We were having “issues” with the former blog application, so we’ve changed and have high hopes for this new version.

You should even finally be able to leave comments. We are testing this function now, working out the kinks, trying to make it as user friendly as possible, let us know your response to how it works?

See you in Italy,