a beautiful day…(and a room with a view)

When I travel, the one blessing of jetlag is that some days just seem to last forever and it’s possible (with a few catnaps) to just keep going and going and going…This last trip to Europe I had one of those days…

It began with breakfast in the hotel dining room (why oh why is European yogurt always better than anything I can find here in the States) and with a hour’s lounging at the sauna, with an amazing view (above).

And then we went to the station to book tickets on the historic Bernina Express train route through the Alps. Without a doubt that train ride was the most scenic that I’ve ever experienced, and we lucked out to have an entire panorama car to ourselves because of it being off-season in the region. Here’s the train station, just before we left (note: click on any of these photos below for a larger view):

swiss trains in St. Moritz

And here are a handful of photos from the trip, as we made our way up and over the Alps (where I learned that swiss green is greener-than-green):


It was raining and snowing a bit that morning. I loved how the clouds hovered around the tops of the mountains…


Our views out the windows looked like this (i.e. amazing, there was so much to see):

the view

And here’s a view near the top of the pass:

near the summit

And, then, coming back down and into Switzerland and Italy (with those gorgeous clouds):

swiss valley

Our scenic train ride ended in Tirano, Italy. There, I ordered my first Italian meal (caprese salad, Italian-style coffee, and vino rosso della casa)

Tirano & tasty

And then we bought our tickets for the local train to Milan at the nearby tobacco shop (apparently, this is how one buys train tickets in small Italian towns). Because we were traveling ‘in the moment’ and making up our itinerary as we went along, we had no idea that the ride from Tirano to Milano, around Lake Como, would be just as spectacular as the Alps. However, I don’t have any photos from that leg of the journey because the train windows were extra-dirty. But here are some google images if you want to see how beautiful it is there…

The local train was not only a bit grimy (not really that bad, but quite a bit more disheveled than the swiss trains), but also broke down several times along the way. So we arrived in Milan around the time that locals were finishing their workday. We bought tickets to Florence on a TGV and squeezed into the last two seats on board, sitting with lots of tailored suits and leather (leather bags, leather shoes, leather jackets, etc).

At this point I began to get a bit weary. It had already been a long day and it was 3am in SoCal. For me, being tired that means that I get the giggles. The Italians around me did not seem to think that my giggling was very funny. And for the record, I will probably never hear a train announcer say “high-quality salami” again without a mirthful response.

Though we’d intended to rent a car as soon as we got to Florence and head for The countryside, it seemed prudent at that point to get a hotel room in town and rent a car later. Luck was on our side and a last-minute cancellation meant a booking for us at The Brunelleschi–a location that seemed ideal for exploring the city the next morning. We walked from the train station and were delighted to find a rather charming place to stay at the end of a rather non-descript alley:


My favorite part was the moment that I threw open the curtains in our room and saw this view, which was so reminiscent of my favorite Merchant-Ivory movie (except that we were on the other side of the Arno), that I gasped and squealed:

a room with a view
And for those who don’t know the adaptation of E.M. Forster’s book, here’s a little montage from the film (the most relevant scene beginning at 2:11). Swoon.

That final scene is why, when the bells rang from the Duomo tower the next morning, I leaped out of bed, grabbed my phone, hit record, and knelt at the open window until long after the ringing subsided (click the link below to listen). bella bella bella

Bells, in the morning

But back to that day…

After checking into the hotel we found a restaurant for dinner (apparently our late hour meant that we were just in time for an Italian meal). More vino rosso della cassa ensued, along with a primi and secondi piatti (yes, traveling does whet the appetite).

We walked back to the hotel the long way, wandering the streets and enjoying Florence. It was about the time that we hit the Duomo again that we decided to stay another day in Florence. There was so much to see and hear (and eat!). I don’t know that I’ve ever gone to bed any more satisfied than I did that night…