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Firenze. The Renaissance City. The second capital of Italy between 1865 and 1871. History. Beauty. Elegance. Opulence.

The last time I was here it was in 2010, celebrating the New Years Eve with my family in Piazza della Signoria and being fascinated by the classical performance of a Florentine orchestra. I remember drinking champagne from our balcony and overlooking river Arno, surrounded by the legendary Tuscan hills. And dreaming.

Soon the train operator announces: “Stazione Santa Maria Novella”.  Travelling by train is one of a traveller’s most rewarding experience. It’s The trip. It’s the way. The experience.

Firenze. It looks like nothing has changed. Same streets, and endless crowds. Same “je ne sais quoi” that drives millions of visitors from all over the world each year. The taxi took longer  to drive to our destination than it was supposed to. But who cares. Getting a ride through the narrow Italian streets seems like a hide and seek game which I don’t really mind. I am embracing it.

“Ecco lo qui”, Seignora. Palazzo Tolomei, said the driver with a kind smile. “Grazie mille. Ciao”.

Once somebody told me: ” Never look up when you are in New York City. They will always spot you as a tourist.” Here I am in Florence, looking all the way up in the sky, mesmerized by this timeless beauty and not even being bothered by the weight of my black bag that was pulling me down. Finally, I am here…at Palazzo Tolomei, Residenza D-epoqa, a 1500’s palace, mysteriously hiding probably hundreds of captivating human life stories. The heavy, beautifully carved wooden doors, doubled by a couple of iron ones are not that welcoming at the first sight. They are somehow even frightening leaving every passerby wonder what is there behind them. Soon enough I found myself behind the ominous doors, entering into the realm of 16th century. The columns, the inside garden, the numerous, old, steep stairs, the tall locked doors, the statues of Roman Deities at the end of the stairs….give the immediate impression of a majestic, old labyrinth. My fascination is growing with each step I take. I am living the authentic florentine experience. “Hello There. Bienvenuti! Please take the elevator to the second floor”.  A young men, with an welcoming smile greeting us warmly from the palace window. “Welcome to the Palazzo!” we heard a sweet female voice as we were trying to find our way to the elevator. Her bright smile, warm handshake and genuine hug was so uncommon.  So out of this world. So strangely kind. How many times have you been hugged by the hotel stuff or even the owner herself the minute you arrived? Probably never.

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Soon after exiting the tiny elevator, the young man from the window met us in the hallway. After a short introduction, he handed me the key from our suite. I felt like Alice in the Wonderland. That key was saying it all. That’s it. I was holding the very confirmation in my hands that for the next days I will be the “owner” of this amazing palazzo. I mean the palazzo that hosted the one and only Rafaello and some of the most noble families of Florence. The very first owners of the palazzo, the Tadei family used to have important business relationships with de Medici themselves!

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That long, metal, heavy, centuries old key opened the doors to my lovely suite –  the most luxurious of all. A dream come true or…a dream I never had. I closed my eyes and fell into the sparkling white  princess bed, living the most amazing of the florentine experiences. And once again, just like I used to read the geometrical figures on my grandmothers wall carpets in my childhood days, here I was, covered in silk, bundled in this aristocratic bed trying to read the metaphors hidden on the ceilings frescoes.

Stay with me and follow my journey.

Always,

Sabina

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