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February 20, 2009
"Ci vediamo più tardi," the concierge jokes with me when I eventually depart the Lungarno. Literally, it means "see you later," for he knows I'll be back in a month or six, as has been my custom these past two decades.
On the left bank of the Arno, just a half-block from the Ponte Vecchio, this hotel meets my standards of comfort and extreme good taste. Always a pleasant place to stay, the Lungarno received a major upgrade 14 years ago when the Ferragamo family acquired it. All of the rooms, half of which face the river, were tastefully redone. The prints on the walls are notably attractive.
My buying agent, Guido, a close friend of 30 years, originally found it for me. I've been enjoying sojourns there, at a generous discount, ever since.
I have often found the lobby of a hotel to be a good predictor of the overall experience. At the Lungarno, some dozen pairs of club chairs covered in white canvas slip covers with blue cording face the Arno. It's impossible to miss the huge dome of the Duomo. The room bespeaks elegance and sophistication, and you can bet the people-watching is engrossing, too.
I sink into the downy pillows of a love seat and order a gin martini with extra olives. The barman requires no instructions. A waiter in white jacket and black tie, who speaks perfectly accented English, delivers salty almonds with my drink. On the next pass, he presents something delectable wrapped in prosciutto, then chunks of Reggiano with droplets of aged balsamic vinegar.
I'll meditate happily like this until the church bell tolls eight, then repair to any one of a dozen great restaurants within walking distance.
La vita e' bella, no?
Inside this wild warren of shops and stalls, the sun disappears, as does all sense of direction. Little boys weave through the crush of people with small trays of tea, and men with logs of rolled carpet busily scurry from shop to shop.