Medici Fantasies Like You Can’t Imagine…

In Florence, I stay at Loggiato dei Serviti — a stately former convent, crisp with elegance and history. I consider it a splurge — but it’s far less costly than a night at the Sheraton, and it stokes Medici fantasies like you can’t imagine.

My bedroom looks out on a courtyard. The building across the way is the Accademia, housing an art school…and Michelangelo’s David. The courtyard in between is gravelly with broken columns and stones set up for students to carve. Like creative woodpeckers, all day long I hear the happy pecking and chirping of chisels gaining confidence, cutting through the stone. With this actually enjoyable soundtrack, I spent all yesterday here in my room pecking doggedly yet happily on my laptop.

Moving into my room, I got set up: Put the TV out of view. Ask for a desk and an extra lamp for writing. Pick up and stow all the clutter that comes with a hotel room so it’s just pristine, Old World Florence. There’s a creaky freestanding armoire (I open the huge door with its skeleton key). The heavy wood beam ceiling fifteen feet overhead evokes a day when monasteries had Pentagon-like budgets. My circa-1980 phone is ruby-red, and the receiver rattles like a maraca if I get animated while talking. The mini-fridge is just big enough for my liter box of pompelmo (grapefruit juice) to sneak in with all the overpriced drinks that don’t exist in my mind. The parquet floors have extremely slip-slidey little throw rugs. I think they’re called throw rugs for what would happen to me if I carelessly stepped on one.

My hotel is on a grand old square and faces the first Renaissance building — a hospital designed by Brunelleschi. Outside, an arcade shelters the local lowlife. Enjoying a warm slice of pizza bianco while leaning against a column, I ponder the scene. While these well-worn people littering the steps used to get me down, now I realize that for 500 years, vagabonds and street people who couldn’t afford a bedroom like I’m calling home for these six days in Florence could enjoy the architecture (or at least the shade). Since the days of Michelangelo, they have set up camp free under the loggia eave of my fancy front door.

Each midnight, I open the window and untie the big sash that lets the heavy-tasseled curtain tumble straight…like princess hair. At 6 a.m., the birds chirp. I get up, look at the sleepy courtyard with its unfinished statuary, and close the windows hoping to grab another hour’s sleep. But too often I pick up this laptop and start pecking and chirping away.


13 Replies to “Medici Fantasies Like You Can’t Imagine…”

  1. Thanks for blog – I find it more interesting to read a person’s thoughts and opinions instead of just a list of the regular tourist checklist.

    My wife and I are currently in the midst of a six month stint in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland (you can check out our website/blog at and are making several side trips during that time – any tips on Provence or Lake Como that don’t make the guidebooks?

    Again, thanks for your opinions/insights and give us a buzz when you’re in Switzerland!


  2. I just got back from a 2 week holiday with my 9 year old daughter to London and Great Britian. It was a great holiday-just the 2 girls minus Daddy loose on the world. We used your guide book every day-“Where would Rick go ” my daughter would say. We are reading your Blog together. It is quite enjoyable. Thank-You for making people realize that travelling in Europe doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. My daughter’s highlight was feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar square after a Grandpa gave her some bird seed. She could have stayed there all day. Our next trip together will be Italy in 2 year’s time. I have done both your Venice and Rome tours so I am confident in what she will like and won’t like. Thank-You again for your great books and “keep on travelling.”

  3. This Tuesday 4-17 I will arrive in AMS for a summer that will end July 21 in Lisbon. I have used your Guidance for my combined 17 months in Europe during the last 20 years.
    Last year in Long Beach you told me I could live on $100 per day plus transportation costs. I have that covered but when I purchased my Euros to start the trip I found they cost $10 more per $100 than my last trip in Dec 06.
    Damn the falling dallor I’m going anyway.
    Retirement is too good and too short to spend at the same coffee shop.
    Rick, we will be in the same countries so I’ll be looking for more advise such as the Vatican crowds, I’ll come back next winter for Rome.
    Lead on.

  4. Ciao Rick,
    Come stai? Tutto bene? We just missed each other. Two weeks ago I was one of those sitting on the old hospital steps, devouring my favorite almond gelato from Carabe. I am a foodie and spent the last 3 months in Florence learning some language and cooking skills. I scoured the city for the best of everything foodie, and found some amazing places. Some are great for food, others for the people. I encourage you to check out the following: Moglia Snack Bar across from your hotel. Two old and characteristic sisters run the place, Giuliatta and Maria Rosaria; Pizzeria Antica Porta just past the Porta Romana at via Senese, 23/r. tel. 055220527; Canapone club ristorante just off P. Santo Spirito at via Mazzetta 5/A. Chef Simone is incredible and authentically interested in giving. 0552381729;
    Cioccolateria Ballerini at borgo Ognissanti, 132/r.; foccacia/schiaciatta at Pugli on P.San Marco or at small bakery on Borgo Pinti just north of San Egidio. Buon appetito!

  5. Rick,

    You’ve got to post pictures! Your descriptions are so enticing it’s hard to not want to hop on a plane. But it would be so much more awesome if you would post snapshots along the way.

  6. Dear Rick and fellow travellers,
    We had those slip-slidey throw rugs in our house. I remember my Dad calling me and I ran to him stepping on one of the slip-slidey rugs and had my first travel experience at the age of 8yrs old when I travelled on that rug straight under the bed. Since then I have never stopped travelling.
    So keep on travelling whether it is by train, boat, plane or slip-slidey rug.

  7. Rick,

    my wife and I were in Italy during March and used your guidebook extensively. We stayed at the Loggieto dei Serviti and found it to be full of ambiance. (I even requested a room in the back to avoid the noise per your guidebook) One complaint, we had gelato at the place you listed in your guidebook that is just down from Ponte Vecchio. They wouldn’t let us sit down in the cafe, said it was for coffee drinkers only (at least I think that was what the lady said.) The odd thing was, we were the only customers at the time.
    Also, the Gregorian mass at the San Minato(sp.)church that we happened upon was even better than the one in Venice.

  8. My wife, 4 year son and my wife’s parents stayed at the Loggieto dei Serviti and found it absolutely great. Close to a park for getting our sons energy out, as well as very accommodating to all our needs, especially with a 4 year old. The staff was great and several restaurants you recommend in your guide book were within easy walking distance a big plus with my wife’s parents( mid to late 70’s). They had a room on the plaza which was great for them as a major festival was being held on the Sunday in May we were there and could watch the bands march by as well as a Church ceremony several days later at night that was very moving on the plaza. My wife and I plan a return soon, and highly recommend your lodging choice.

  9. Does anyone have recommendations about what to do in and around Padova, italy. I will be there for about four days with my wife and four children in June.

  10. Rick:

    My kids were thrilled beyond beleif to get a chance to meet you not once but twice in Florence. Thank you for being so kind and generous with your time.
    Casa Rabati was a great place to stay and your restaurant recommendation in Florence were spectatular for atmosphere and Tuscan flavor.

    Thanks again.

  11. Rick, 3 of us women are going to Italy Sept 20th for 2 wks. Rome, Florence, Lake Como and Venice. Are the prices a little cheaper at that time? We are traveling cheaply. Which place would you splurge on a better hotel? We have your Italy 2007 book and it is the best!

    Thank you for all the pleasure you bring on the travel channel. I have been to Europe twice before to different places. Some can atleast dream thru your television travels and only wish.

    Thank you,

  12. Thank you for this entry. Florence is my absolute favorite city in Italy-maybe it’s because Michelangelo had lived his formative years and my favorite structure, the Duomo, is situated there. I am very much looking forward to going back there later this month. I think I may check out the Loggieto dei Serviti, because you make it sounds so nice.
    Mr. Steves, please continue to go on these trips and sharing your tips of a fun travel through Europe, especially Italy. They’re always fun to read.

  13. The homing-pigeon driver (me) found the way exactly to the campground in Florence, Italy, Campeggio Comunale on Viale Michelangiolo, next to the Piazzale Michelangiolo. The best view of downtown Florence is from either the campground, or Piazzale Michelangiolo, right next to each other. On August 24, 1970, twenty-five years ago next month, we camped here, and that Journal says, “In Florence we camped ($3, for 4 people) in the Piazza Michelangelo on a hillside across the Arno River from downtown.” Now the cost was $20 per night for two people. The manager asked what had changed the most, beside the price. We said that in 1970 we wanted a fire hose to clean the facilities before we used them, and this year they are clean and in excellent condition. We’ve visited Florence five or six times, and have stayed in this campground on three or four occasions, and two other campgrounds on other visits. (1995)

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