Not me of course - that's decades away - but my brother-in-law, Alberto. Lara's husband decided to celebrate half a century with a dinner and party in his hometown, Florence. Lara event managed this into a 70s theme - no exceptions. The whole family was there: Lara, Lisa, Pops, me, and Janine, our cousin and Mom's "third daughter".
I did not have fond memories of Florence from my first visit almost ten years ago. My friend Sean and I were based in Bologna, and, short of time and money, did a daytrip into the city of the Medicis. I remember parking far away, walking frantically from one tourist hotspot to another, eating very ordinary pasta, and then quickly returning back to Bologna. I have had very little desire to return.
In the years since, I've learned that Italy is not to be rushed. There's just too much to see, and if you try to see it all, you'll miss the point. This trip was all about the party, with a few casual dips into the city, and it made all the difference. Over the years, wealthy families have competed to leave their mark on the Tuscan capital, and the result is a handsome, confident city, which fits naturally into the hills around it. Every street eventually leads to an elegant piazza, arcade or church that one patron or another financed to impress his peers and God. There is a constant stream tour-groups with selfie sticks flowing throughout, but walk a street or two off the main routes, and you get to see the city as it is as a home.
The quinquagenarian party was held at a prince's villa, as one does, about twenty minutes outside of town. Being Italy, we first had apertivos - wine with food - before sitting down to dinner - food with wine. From there, the party moved upstairs to a grand hall for spirits, sweets, and dancing disco style.
It was a fantastic party and fantastic weekend, and turned my first impression of Florence on its head. Now I regret not visiting Lara there more frequently; she is moving the family up to Bremen, in Northern Germany, where Alberto has been working for the last 18 months. Il sospiro.
The Florentine skyline.
Lara, me, Janine and Pops in front of the Ponte Vecchio, which is still covered with buildings, as was common for bridges in the past.
The smallest outdoor restaurant in Italy?
Oops! Someone asked me if had been drinking wine, and I said no...
One of the many gorgeous squares of Florence.
The Duomo, Florence's heart and glory.
Janine and a family friend, Laetitia, got into a spot of trouble.
Ready for the party with Lisa Fawcett.
Getting ready to dance!
And, to end the weekend, brunch in Lara's backyard. Not bad at all.
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