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.