Wednesday, March 30, 2011



I always got a kick out of showing my appartamento, because it was so very special. Fernanda and Arnette brought me a present—a bottle of Cynar (artichoke liquor) with a card saying: "Molto Brazi a un 'Florentino' that has shared Florence with us! Love, Fernanda and Arnette." Wow! Now, where should we go for a special dinner? La Cave in Maiano had already been ruled out because of being all booked up. We decided not to go to a place called La Beppe as it would require a taxi. So we took off walking and talking. Arnette and Fernanda were interesting as always. Gary was an architecture student from Parsons, who was very knowledgeable about many subjects and Mario, who was always charming, explained about his family in Guatemala. We went off to check out several places I knew: Enoteca Nationale, which is in an old palazzo, molto beautiful and molto expensive, was closed; a decision was made not to return to Il Paiolo; and we checked out several happened-upon ristoranti that didn't look special enough. So we took off for one of my very favorites, Ristoranti degli Antoinelli on the south side of Piazza Santa Croce. It's frescoed ceilings and pretty garden delighted my friends. We had a wonderful meal complete with a bottle of Brolo Classico Riserva and even after dinner drinks! Mario surprised us by insisting on paying! He said it was the least he could do for the wonderful party I had given the group!

Walking back, I showed them the huge palazzo that occupies three-fourths of the entire block around the corner from my place. As we were admiring it, a nicely dressed old woman came out of the palazzo. She was hobbled-over, using a cane, smoking a cigarillo and wearing a very long necklace of pearls. We showed concern for her as she began to cross the street which made her stop and talk. She knew Italian and French. We knew English, Portuguese (Fernanada) and luckily French (also Fernanada). We chatted for a while and found out that the Palazzo was built by a Borghese that had married Napoleon's sister! We explained that we were studying Italian architecture. She said the palazzo was modeled after Versailles! (The Palazzo Borghese, I was able to research later, was built in 1822 in less than a year by Camillo Borghese, for a party to celebrate the marriage of Ferinando III, a Medici!) 

Taking note of our enthralled interest, she went to the intercom, called upstairs and told us that we could go up to see it! We wondered who SHE was. She went on, and up we went. 

The piano noble was now a private men's club, and the upper floors had been turned into apartments.  The manager met us at the door of the club and nervously showed us several of the grand rooms. 

The former ballroom had gilded carvings, lots of carved marble and enormous chandeliers. 

Several of the rooms had drapery clear down onto the floor ('puddled' it's called). The furniture seemed original, etc., etc., etc. 

We noticed men playing cards, who seemed a little disturbed by our visit.

The manager said it would be better if we would come later, during an afternoon. He explained, "Of course, the Duchess insisted that we let you up now."

  ---SHE was a DUCHESS!  (a Borghese?) It was HER family's Palazzo!!!

       We were all glowing after that neat experience. The club, we later found out, was for royalty only! Even Giuliano was very impressed that we had gotten in. He'd never seen it.

Next day I stayed home. I was spent and had stuff to do. I didn't feel too guilty about cutting class, because they were only seeing what I had already seen. I also realized I was homesick.

But I soon got over my malaise, as I began to get ready to go to Venezia. I had been there on my 1971 trip and had loved it.




bobc said...

Absolutely amazing!

Don Voth said...

Yes, it was! And the Countess was delightful. But wow! what a place!!!

Caliban said...

How did I miss this post? Marvelous story. Magnificent Palazzo Borghese. A must see if I get to Florence one day. Do you recall the name of the "Duchess" or did no one tell you? What a treat to learn of the Napoleon-Borghese-Medici connection. Who was the woman who you met on the street?

Don Voth said...

THE DUCHESS HERSELF was the lady!!!!!!!!!!!