Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Trip to Italy! Florence - Over-Arted, Lizards, More Cats of Italy and Shopping

And here we are...in Florence (or Firenze, if you're going local)! 

Before I forget, linking up to "Visible Monday" over at Patti's Not Dead Yet Style! Get over there, stat! (And yes, I'll be around to visit all y'all's blogs soon - much catching up to do!).

So! We took a train from Venice to Florence - again, we splurged and went for first-class tickets on the train - so worth it! We had our own little enclosed cabin (just like in the movies!), which was wonderful. 

It was a 2-hour trip, so L and I both got a lot of reading in. We both fully unplugged for this trip. L has a cell phone for work (not used on the trip), and neither of us has a personal cell phone or iPhone/Pad/tablet or any kind of gadget, so no email, no internet, no music, no radio. We also rarely turned on the TVs in our rooms (they typically only got 4 channels), so aside from some CNN London, we had no news. It was really nice.

I went to the thrift store before we left, and picked up some reading. I was mid-way through Stephen King's "11/22/63" in hardcover before we left, and realizing that it was way too big and heavy to carry, I bought it in paperback (not much smaller!) to take with me. I finished that on the train to Florence, and left it behind for the next book-loving traveler. 

I also read:
  • "Crooked Little Vein" - Warren Ellis
  • "Black Dogs" - Ian McEwan
  • "Saturday" - Ian McEwan

It was a good batch of books! I'd intended to leave those behind too, but I liked them all way too much, and since L wanted to read them, I kept 'em all. 

My travel outfit (as mentioned yesterday) was way too freakin' hot to wear in muggy Florence, so I changed as soon as I arrived. 

  • Cardigan - Alternative Apparel, thrifted, last seen here with the emerald culottes in May 
  • Cami - one of many I took
  • Skirt - same deets as yesterday
  • Shoes - can't see 'em, but they are the sandals, same deets as yesterday
  • Jewelry - pink crystal stud earrings, local; leaf pendant

Thank goodness for this cardigan - it was a life-saver! It fit into my purse, gave me shoulder/arm/neck coverage from the sun (smart L suggested we bring a small tube of sunblock at the last minute, which turned out to be very much needed), and let me cover up for going into churches. There are very strict rules about how much skin you can show in a church. No bare arms, no midriff, no legs - we saw at least one lady get booted out of Il Duomo (Wiki link here) due to having shorts on.

Although the cardi was one of the best things I took with me, I did leave it behind on the last day before we flew home.

We arrived in Florence on my birthday, checked into our hotel, and strolled over to the Piazza del Duomo for pizza for lunch.
L and Mom in front of the cathedral.

We planned 3 days in Florence, as this would be our main art centre, as well as the primary shopping region for L and I.

Tip: If you plan to go to Florence, buy the Firenze pass ahead of time! It is totally worth it. We bypassed all line-ups for the main attractions, including the Galleria dell'Academia, the Uffizi Gallery, the Duomo dome and cathedral and its crypt, the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens and several other things (it's all a bit of a blur now). We saw so many people stuck in line-ups for well over an hour while we zoomed right to the front. No reservations needed!

We started out at the Galleria dell'Academia, where Michelangelo's David is.
It's much more grand, large and overwhelming in person. But cross one off my bucket list!

We popped into the Palazzo Medici Riccardi (Wiki link here), which was also covered by the Firenze pass. I won't bore you with (too many) pictures of art, but I do enjoy the details in some of the paintings.

Cat of Italy!
But why the horrified face, poor leopard?

Could it be the unfortunate disemboweling of this poor rabbit?
Sad rabbit.

That night, we went out for my birthday dinner.

  • Dress - same as yesterday
  • Cardigan - same as previous
  • Belt - Plum
  • Shoes - black kitten heels, same as yesterday
  • Jewelry - new Murano glass set from L

I took two belts on the trip with me, both of which were utterly useless and unneeded. I wore the studded brown one on the train to Florence (forgot to mention it yesterday), and this black one twice. The brown one was too big anyway, and I have other black belts I like more now, so both were left behind.

We spent a horrible night, battling mosquitoes in our hotel room. Florence was awful for bugs! It's been nearly 2 weeks since we were there, and my bites are still fading!
Up early for a full day of art and sight-seeing!

  • Top - Talbots, thrifted, last seen here in May 
  • Skirt - Club Monaco, consignment, last seen here in October 2013
  • Belt - as above
  • Sandals - as yesterday
  • Jewelry - stud earrings, assorted charms on necklace

The skirt was a hit with my mother-in-law (she doesn't usually see me in my dressy clothes, only my casual travel wardrobe), as well as a few Italian men. I did get my bum grabbed once in a crowd, and had a few comments along the lines of, "I like your skirt" while they started at my bum. *shrug* It didn't bother me!

However, I did leave the skirt behind. I haven't worn it in over a year...time to retire it.

The top - another Talbots item - is also that awful ponte material. Seriously, it may pack well and not wrinkle, but it's hot, doesn't breathe and it's heavy to wear. I wore this top home, but into the donate pile it went!

We got up early, had breakfast; every hotel we stayed at included breakfast. Florence's breakfasts were the worst - they served drip coffee! In Italy? The home of the best coffee ever? That's an abomination! We got our espressos, fruit and a croissant (I treated myself, as we easily walked 10+ KM per day) at a little store on the way to wherever we were going.

Mom, me and Louise on the Ponte Vecchio, which is a bridge famous for its gold and silver shops. I didn't shop at any of them.
Another gloriously warm day, with many sunny breaks.

We did the Pitti Palace with our Firenze pass. Although I took hundreds of pictures, this is a good example of the overwhelming amount of visual input.
Mom, in the bottom left corner. The sheer volume of art was huge.

I got a kick out of Napoleon's bathroom (yes, the Napoleon).
I could chill in there with a book, easy!

I studied some Art History at university, and was awed to see so many of the famous paintings and artists all in one place.
I don't remember who did this, but since I'm a details person, check out the lovely lace on this gent's clothes.
Wow, that's incredible.

Room after room...
You just stand there with your mouth hanging open.

L and I both loved this painting of Van Dyke's studio.
The painting...of paintings!

I had to take a break periodically and take pictures out the windows.
It's Il Duomo!

Another Cat of Italy spotted, having a lick under a bench.
"Ciao, Canadian!"
As well as cats, L and I were thrilled to see all kinds of little lizards in the Boboli Gardens (part of the Pitti Palace).
We hiked up to the top with the Moms, then let them meander back, as we went for a more thorough exploration of all of the side paths in the gardens.

Looking back at the palace.
We were there early enough to miss the hordes of people who showed up by noon. Tour groups were everywhere!

Cat of Italy!
This sweet ginger fellow was one of the friendliest cats we met. He was quite amenable to a skritch behind the ears.

They were really fast - hard to photograph.

I liked that, all over Italy, there was modern art mixed in with the very ancient art and monuments.
I got a kick out of the two little bronze men in this water fountain.

After the Pitti Palace, we girded our loins for Il Duomo. You can visit the interior of the cathedral for free, but to climb the dome, visit the crypts or climb the tower, you need the Firenze pass! Skip that line!

Louise, who is 72 years old, put younger climbers to shame inside the dome. They had to let her pass, while they panted away.
It's 463 steps to the top of the dome and those are little steep steps!

The morning of our last full day in Florence was spent at the Uffizi Gallery (Wiki link here).

  • Dress - as previous
  • Cardigan - as previous
  • Boots - as previous
  • Jewelry - crystal on chain

This was the last wear of the boots - they were way too freakin' hot for this trip, and tore up the tops of my toes. I'd brought all kinds of socks to wear with them - not even touched! - and foolishly wore them barefooted. Bad idea. Bad boots. Bye-bye!

The Uffizi Gallery is probably most famous for this painting, "Birth of Venus" by Botticelli.
Like the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, it's behind glass, and oodles of people were crammed in front of it.

I also liked "Spring", also by Botticelli.
See Winter grabbing at one of the nymphs on the right? Winter never wants to let go!

L and I were both boggled by this incredible statue.
There was so much incredible statuary. We were very much "over-arted" by the end of this gallery. You just can't take it all in.

This shield of Medusa is by Caravaggio.
It's actually on a shield. What a cool piece!

After the Uffizi, we split with the Moms - they went souvenir shopping, and L and I wandered around doing some personal shopping. I loved this modern art installation down a side street. It's called "Personal/Impersonal" (article about it here).
There are figures suspended across the street.

I love seeing a modern installation in the middle of such an old city.
There was also a grouping of figures on the sidewalk, but there were too many tourists gathered around taking pictures.

And...travel outfit! Up bright and early (and covered in mosquito bites!) for the train to Cinque Terre!
  • Top - as above
  • Skirt - as previous
  • Shoes - Doc Martens, as previous
  • Scarf - in hair

I had no hair dryer for the trip, and relied on L's styling product, so I had a few dubious hair days, ha! 

Note about prices in Italy
Food and wine are cheap, very cheap. Hotels are not that bad (I come from a tourist town, so am used to higher rates). Goods are EXPENSIVE. Clothing/shoes are either super-cheap crap, or ridiculously over-priced. There are few sales in stores, and no sale rack for the most part. I had a bit of sticker-shop after years of shopping consignment, but I was looking for that mid-range price for good-quality clothing, and I don't mind spending on good quality pieces. But they were very hard to find. 

L and I had a very productive and exhausting shopping afternoon on our last day. We drooled over the clothes in Dolce & Gabbana (and were followed around like we were shoplifters!), but managed to find a couple of stores where I liked the clothing enough to want to buy. 

My first purchase was this burgundy pleather skirt. 
I thought it was leather until I got back to the hotel - it's a very good imitation. Still, I wouldn't have bought pleather if I'd known.

I like the micropleats at the top, which widen to slightly larger pleats at the bottom.
It was from Lui-Jo, which was in the Club Monaco price range.
I know my European sizing, so it was easy to find my size.

I was thrilled to see a good amount of "made in Italy" clothing at Max & Co.
The ultra-exaggerated bell skirt was a big trend that I noticed. It goes to knee-length and stands away from the body.

The fabric of this is actually woven in Italy.
Purple back! This is called the Corolla dress (link here).

A better look at the teal, purple and gold pattern of the jacquard weave.
So pretty!

Right near our hotel, I found a little boutique that specialized in local designers. And they even had a sale rack! This crazy dress spoke to me.
It's a little wrinkled from being crammed in my suitcase for over a week.

It's 100% silk and has really interesting construction, with the sides being gathered at the front, buttons right down to the front hem, the little keyhole at the back of the collar, and the exaggerated pouf of the back of the skirt.
And two little ties to cinch in the waist. It's more of a summery dress, but I'll figure out some way to style it for fall!

The brand is "I'M Isola Marras" by Antonio Marras, from his Spring/Summer 2013 ready to wear collection. All made in Italy.
Yeah, that's the 210.00 sale price, in Euros! That's around $300 Canadian...Of course, the original price is over $600 equivalent, so that's a bargain, right? I had birthday money to spend from Louise, so I don't feel too bad about it.

Check it out, here's a Vimeo of the collection - you can see my dress briefly at 11 seconds, 2:08 min and 2:28 min.

My lovely Winesday women gave me some Euro spending money. I bought this lovely ring at the Uffizi Gallery gift shop.
The stone is a quartz with two red stones at the top/bottom. It's sterling silver, plated in gold. Every single museum shop we visited had these rings (with all different stones), but very few in a small enough size for me. The lady in the Uffizi shop was kind enough to open all the packages and find the smallest rings for me. Aw...

We had some awesome shopping luck for L. He is a man of sartorial creativity, and has trouble finding interesting menswear in Canada. I knew we would spend some money on timeless fun clothes for him. Our first stop was at Etro.
And compared to the "we're following you, vile shoplifters" at D&G, the staff at Etro offered us champagne and appies while we shopped! I could get used to that kind of service. Since I already own a piece of Etro (this jacket), I knew that their bold styling would appeal to L.

These trousers are from their new Autumn/Winter 2014/2015 look - here's the full suit!
L has tons of great shoes and clothes that will go with that orange, brown, baby blue and red plaid. Of course, the trousers are wool, and are made in Italy.

Lovely interior detail:
Once the legs are hemmed, L will be rockin' these!

We also had good luck for him in Sisley. Another plaid, this time in classic black and white.
As well as being a real statement suit, these pieces work really well as separates.

Nice zipper and pleather detailing on the cuffs.
The fit on the jacket and all pants is still very slim for men.

L had to have the green/navy plaid as well.
More zipper trim on the rear pocket.

L can never resist a funky patterned shirt.
 Great pattern and colours.
The brand is Ateseta and it was just a glorious store full of beautiful shirts, ties and scarves.

This gorgeous handmade tie was L's first purchase in Florence.
He wore it to work yesterday with a bright yellow shirt and his suit - it looked awesome.
Yup, real Versace.
It even has their little head logo.

The only touristy things we bought were these two magnets from the Uffizi Gallery:
They've been added to the collection on our fridge!

Tomorrow, the beautiful Italian Riviera area of Cinque Terre!


  1. beautiful!!!!
    hubs was over the moon with the italian menswear too :-)
    cant wait to see the dresses worn!

  2. How wonderful to be able to see all this great art! Medusa was a horror of my childhood - she really captured my imagination then. I wouldn't know where to begin shopping in Italy, I'd want to buy just about everything, twice! I admire your purchases - very chic and artful.

  3. O, Italy, how I swoon for thee!
    I adore L's new purchases! He is a man of fine taste!
    Wonderful pix...so much to exclaim over! And cats! I get very excited over foreign cats...oddly enough...ha!
    That Gorgon magnet is fantastic! I've always fancied a tattoo of her, but don't think she really suits my aesthetic!

  4. Oh what a fabulous trip! Too much to comment on really, but all I can say it WOW - to the fabulous art, the great shopping, and the cutest kitties! xxx

  5. So much beauty! Including the Cats of Italy. I love the dress with the full skirt, and all of L's treasures look marvelous. What a memorable birthday, xox

  6. Thanks for the lovely trip to Florence I just had over my breakfast! Hassle free travel!
    Your silk dress is amazing...gotta love silk.
    Interesting to watch how you work with a limited wardrobe. I enjoyed the outfit shots!
    I too become over-rated very quickly. But I think that's because I am also a details person, and take in so much I fill up easily:-)
    L's clothing was also wonderful.
    Thanks for sharing! Oh and the cats! I remember some cat encounters in Venice. Xo JJ

  7. Awesome! I read it all, and I love your photos, and I just have to comment that I have the same Alternative Apparel cardigan, only in blue-grey. Haha! Wore it just this weekend and as soon as I saw you wearing it on your first outfit photo, I recognized it. :D

    Clothes twinsies no longer! Now I must do the fusion dance with some gal in Italy.

  8. Gorgeous pics! Love the Corolla dress. Compliments are ok, but someone actually grabbing your bum---I think that might make me unhappy!

  9. Wow, what a great post. And smart purchases.

  10. You surely looked like a Medici walking the streets of Florence in that great skirt Sheila.
    My favourite piece you bought was the ring at the Uffizi gallery and the Max and Co dress. I absolutely love that dress.
    Oh and that shield with the medusa magnet, I think you should turn it into a pin. Its gorgeous.

  11. Definitely wonderful shopping. L's picks were gorgeous, and certainly something *I* could see myself wearing. Plaid suits - swoon~

  12. So much to see! Thank you for the lovely tour ... I've seen so many of these works over the years, I'm thrilled you got to see them first hand. Know what you mean about "Laocoon and His Sons". Hard to look away, isn't it! You look love in each of your outfits, and I know you had the best birthday ever! Good for you, and Happy Belated Birthday!


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