Buongiorno from Florence, Italy! I’m here on my last day of a Rick Steves Family Europe tour. As I mentioned, this is one of my favorites and this tour hasn’t disappointed. Actually, it’s gone almost without a hitch which makes me a little uneasy…karma is circular in my profession.
But the heat though. It hasn’t been as bad as they’ve predicted so far, although Florence is pretty warm and getting warmer. This is normal for this city in the center of the thigh of Italy’s leg. There isn’t a breeze here the way we have in Rome. So, the cobblestones and palazzi simply heat during the day and radiate all night, and it never cools off. I am curious about whether we could bake a pizza on the sidewalk and just may try this scientific experiment. I think Leonardo would approve.
My group is lovely. I am closely monitoring their water intake and mood because I am a mothering type and I worry about my flock. Thankfully, chocolate and gelato can cure a world of ills. The trick of tour guiding is reading the thoughts of the group and anticipating what they will need and when. I whipped out granola bars this afternoon, just before entering the Uffizi Gallery, because low blood sugar equals low attention span.
There have been some really glorious days on this tour and it has gone by too fast. A good group is like that, I miss them already and they are still here. Tour guides are chess players, really, and I’m already in London in my head, starting the next tour.
I can report that the Swiss Alps are still where I left them and remain divine. I have about a 60/40 track record of clear skies, and we hit it just right, warm and completely clear.
We hiked from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg as per my usual plan on a clear day. There is not finer (and easier) walk in the Swiss Alps in my humble opinion. I could bore you with a million incredible photos but here are just a few good ones.
I didn’t get my usual lunch of rösti but that’s probably for the best. Hashed-browns covered in Emmentaler cheese aren’t exactly good for the ticker. Instead I took a nap. I still feel guilty about that four days later but man, did that feel good.
These tours always have an assistant, usually a college-aged guide trainee (and often the kids of my colleagues, which is fantastic) but instead I had a Turkish colleague join me. Taylan Tasbasi leads tours of Turkey for Rick Steves and also does his own thing on the southern Turkish coast. He’s been great, and a great assistant makes me a better guide. After all of our conversations, I’m thinking about next summer and considering spending it in Turkey.
Our day off on this tour takes place in the Cinque Terre. I don’t really get a day off, I’m on call, but as long as everyone is fine I can find some time for myself. I chose to spend that precious time with my friend Ruth Manfredi and her husband Christiano. She has a terribly romantic story about how she ended up marrying a local in Vernazza, but she’s going to have to tell that to you herself. (Hmmm, maybe I should start a podcast…)
They invited us to go out boating for the day, which is my favorite thing to do in the Cinque Terre. If you’re going to splash out on one thing in Italy, I’m telling you, this is the thing. As more companies are doing boat excursions, prices are becoming much more accessible, starting around €120 per hour for four people.
We jumped into the water in sandy pirate coves, ate seafood on an island, putted around the coast for glorious views of each town. I feel almost embarrassed telling you this because it was so very much like being a movie star. But Ruth is just so darned down to earth and knows her region. We talk and talk and it’s always good fun. She also gives me great tips that I can pass along to you and to the Rick Steves guidebooks, so it’s all for a good cause, right?? Ok, now I don’t feel so guilty. By the way, I’ve done this before.
Our tour arrived in Florence last night. I haven’t been here in a while, which is super weird for me since this is like another home. I scurried around town last night to reconnect with people that I’ve missed. I also met for a cocktail with Georgette Jupe (www.girlinflorence.com) who is a blogger that I respect and have wanted to meet. We’ve been lobbing tweets at each other for a while, and I was glad to finally make her acquaintance. I’m on a mission these days to meet and connect quality writers/guides/entrepreneurs etc. because then I can connect them to you. Success for all!
I had dinner with my tour guide colleague and friend Antonia Lanza d’Ajeta. I will have to tell you more about her another time, but I’ll just say that she is everything that a guide should aspire to be and she’s an absolute national treasure. And I’m not exaggerating. Our lunches last hours and feel too short. It’s spritz o’clock at the moment so I’ll meet with my other guide friends Elisabetta Franchetti and Brenda Cai.
Now I have a few days off to breathe and nap a bit. Back to London to do it again! But with a job like this, who can complain about doing more of it? Spreading the joy of discovery with families is just what I was meant to be doing, I just hope my efforts are worthy of their time.
Sending you light wherever you may be. I’ll have a gelato for you, just tell me which flavor.