Traveling With Sis to Florence, Chiavari and back to Rome

January 10, 2022

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Sunset on the Arno River in Florence

I was so excited to show Patrice and Diana Florence, my favorite city in all of Italy, that I was at the train door long before we stopped. Patrice and Diana were with me and my sister, as usual, thought she should watch out for me. I was leaning on the bathroom door which was open. She reached over to close it and got her fingers jammed in the mechanism. Welcome to Florence.

Patrice was in a lot of pain. I carried her bag and mine as we rushed to McDonalds where I knew they could get a glass of ice. They had been wanting to try a McDonalds in Italy. Now was their chance.

They got right inside with their American CDC cards showing their immunization shots. I was delayed as I could not find my Green Pass. McDonalds was vigilant. I eventually found it after they had already ordered. I asked for a glass of ice for my sister and got it right away. What a way to to begin our time in the Renaissance capitol of the world. Damaged fingers and McDonalds. Life is like that.

We headed to our low-priced hotel, Hotel Nizza, close to the church of Santa Maria Novella. I had a bit of trepidation as it was really well priced. We had reserved a quadruple room to be used for 3 people for about 170 Euros for 2 nights. I was cautiously hopeful since all the reviews had bee very good. 

When we found the location, it was up one flight of stairs into a traditional pensione type hotel from my past. The owner was behind the desk and was very helpful. He spoke excellent English too. Our room was ready and just a few steps from the desk. There was an extra bathroom outside of our room along with the one inside. That was a refreshing opportunity for 3 women using one bathroom. 

Our room had 1 double bed and two singles. I took a single across from the foot of their bed for some distance. We dropped our bags, freshened up and put a Bandaid on Patrice’s finger. We grabbed a map and headed for the Hard Rock Café in Florence—our last Hard Rock visit of the trip. 

While they shopped, I joined them inside for a bit of air conditioning and to enjoy the Rock N Roll items on the walls. 

Once their Hard Rock shopping was completed, we headed for Piazza Della Republica right outside the door and enjoyed people watching and a bit of music.

Next, we shopped as we strolled along the streets of my favorite city. They know a good deal when they see it. She was filling up her shopping bag with gifts as we wandered.

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Patrice and Diana were in awe of the Duomo, the church shown above.  We agreed that if we got separated look for the dome of the church and meet in front of it.

Eventually, we wandered to the Arno River. It was almost sunset.

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The Ponte Vecchio before sunset.

We arrived on the bridge at the perfect time. It was almost sunset. The colors were changing.

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The Arno River from the bridge.

We all slowed down to enjoy the sight of the sun shedding her yellow for the warm colors.

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The colors were incredible. 

Suddenly, a violinist began to serenade the crowd. She was talented and her choice of music was enchanting. Patrice and Diana were caught up in the mood we all felt. We were experiencing an unreal and romantic moment, a clip in time we would not forget nor ever duplicate. 

When the sun was asleep, our appetites awakened. Patrice and Diana were ready for FOOD. We stopped at a restaurant just down the street from the bridge and decided on ravioli for dinner—all of us. 

The highlight of the evening for Patrice, was meeting a dog owner.

Patrice stopped to pet dogs everywhere we went. She was respectful. She and Diana missed their animals waiting for them at home.

After dinner and dessert, we wandered to Piazza Signoria, my favorite resting spot in the city. 

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I hadn’t seen this fountain since it has been cleaned. It is more beautiful than ever.

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Piazza Signoria is enchanting always but moreso in the evening.

Patrice and Diana began discussing finding a place to buy near Florence. Florence was pecking at their hearts. We people watched and wandered for another hour before returning to our hotel for the night. I think we walked about 15,000 steps that day. I was sore but I loved every moment in Florence. 

As we unpacked, found our night time accoutrements, and settled in, I elevated my legs but was wide awake. We took turns in the bathroom—Patrice used the one in the hall to give Diana and I more time—and I was slower at getting ready for bed. Diana was tired and turned off the light. I realized I needed to get under the covers and try to sleep. I found out I had chosen the bed with NO SHEETS. 

They were already asleep. I roughed it for the night and realized it was my own fault for not checking. 

After a decent breakfast we headed to the Accademia, the home of David by Michelangelo and more. Patrice and Diana were not interested in a great number of museums. I had insisted on the Vatican and also this one. 

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When we entered, they got their first view of the Giant.

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Michelangelo was such a master of sculpture that I have rarely seen anything to match his gift. David, of all of them, is almost overwhelming. I could spend an hour just looking at David’s veins in his hands.

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Or his eyes, his eyebrows, or his curly hair.

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I love his ribs, his feet. His entire body is exquisitely sculpted. 

It is a work of art worthy of the gods, themselves. 

Of course there are other pieces of art, including unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo. 

As we left the museum, we talked about the experience. Both were moved by the sculptures and the art whch made me very happy.  I had stopped them from buying most leather goods as we had traveled. I told them that Florence was the place to do it. And do it they did.

We were off to the outdoor and indoor sellers of all things leather. The bargaining went on and on. The bags began to weigh both Patrice and Diana down. And they truly had fun shopping. I was ready to go back to the room for a bit and elevate my legs because of the blood clots. My sister had gotten good at handling things on her own (without me) and bid me farewell. 

By the time they returned to the hotel, they had found a restaurant for dinner. We had discussed the famous, Bistecca Fiorentina, the beef steaks made in Florence from specific cows and only served rare. It is expensive usually. They did not want to spend that much nor did they want rare steak. They found a steakhouse serving Angus Beef where the price was right. Actually, it was tasty but not the same. They were happy, though. Therefore I was fine.

Earlier in the day, we had enjoyed a lunch behind the Duomo. My friend, Patti DeRosa met us for lunch and a chat. The food was tasty and authentic. 

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I enjoyed Pappardelle with Wild Boar Sauce plus great conversation with my friend.

We only had 2 nights in Florence. But the girls were happy with their shopping, with the city, and with the beauty of the city. Now it was time to take them to Chiavari, my home, and the surrounding towns. 


We took two trains to arrive in Chiavari. We took a taxi to my apartment as we were carrying a new suitcase full of goodies purchased plus overstuffed backpacks and carry on suitcases. Once we arrived at my home, we dumped our bags and went to the sea for a bit of food—especially gelato. 

Patrice tried braesola, a cold beef plate—not her favorite meal. But we finished with gelato.

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Diana wanted a banana split. It arrived inside a gondola.

Patrice and I also had gigantic gelato dishes. We could barely moved afterward. I introduced them to the owners of Papy’s, the first place I visited in Chiavari 5 years ago. They were very kind and welcoming. 

Next, we watched the sunset. We all took copious photos. 

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It is just beginning to set. Another gift from heaven on a calm, nearly cloudless evening.

Patrice and Diana wanted to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and go on a scooter ride. Day 2 in Chiavari was the day they ventured out on the train to Pisa. They rented a scooter with a GPS tour of the surrounding areas in Tuscany and headed out for the little switchback roads and to Lucca. They did enjoy their time on the scooter and in Pisa. But it was a challenge as there was no backrest on the scooter and the roads were bumpy. That night we chilled and they stretched. 

Day three in Chiavari we did more exploring. First we enjoyed lunch at the Miramare Restaurant across from the sea. 

We spent time walking through town, exploring town squares and side streets.

I also visited my doctor to get checked out, set up another examination with a specialist and order more Eloquis blood thinner. Throughout our adventure, I needed to remain on the medication, wear compression socks and elevate those legs. It was a boring challenge but needed doing. So, that evening, I skipped the sunset and elevated my legs. Patrice and Diana enjoyed time alone, exploring the seaside and planning for another day.

Day 4, Patrice and I went shopping at the market in the morning. I think it was her first time ever shopping for produce in a market setting. She put on her plastic gloves as did I, and we got our basket for our purchases.  Next, we searched for a good butcher. I had thawed some homemade red sauce and was going to make pasta. But they wanted HOT DAGOS. Basically it is a polpette, (giant meatball), or meatloaf made of hamburger and sausage, eggs and cheese, cooked in the sauce. Then you slice it, cover the slices in Sauce, and bake them. Next you make sandwiches with the meat.  It is a Minnesota or Italian-American meal. We needed to find the meat, buy the eggs and get more cheese and bread.

The butcher ground the meat together for us, half beef, half sausage. We bought the cheese and fresh bread at the market and then stopped near home to buy the eggs. It turned out very well. The meat was better than we would normally buy. 

We really had a relaxing day while they took time for them to repack and think about returning home, and I cooked in my tiny, Italian kitchen.

Day 5, we took the train to Cinque Terre, the Five Lands. We didn’t have time for all five towns. I took them first to Manarola, my favorite.

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Entering Manarola from the train station.

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We walked through the main street down to the water. Then we took our time walking to the top of this hill, by Nessun Dorma Ristorante for the view. 

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View 1

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View 2—I love the well kept homes and buildings in their pastel colors.

We walked, shopped, rested by the water and then headed to the train station once again. Next stop, Vernazza.

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Vernazza by the sea is a favorite of many travelers.

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The colorful buildings are not as well kept up as in Manarola. Still the scene is gorgeous.

This would be the last shopping day for my guests and we were going to shop till we dropped in Vernazza.

By the time we arrived at the shop above I was tired and wanted to sit outside and enjoy the sea. 

The Emporio featured many perfect items for gifts and souvenirs. But I should have been in there. Suddenly, my sister called for me to talk with the salesperson. My sis thought that they were overcharging her for a jacket. Unfortunately for Patrice, she was wrong and she had already charged it before she realized it. The owner and the saleswoman worked things out with us but she did have to pay that amount. They gave her a couple other things for free to counteract the pain of the big price tag. It’s all a part of traveling in another country. And I would still recommend the Emporio as a good place to shop. Just verify that you heard or read the price correctly before charging. 

We did enjoy a meal while in Vernazza shortly after this event. It wasn’t a place I would recommend but it was fine. What I definitely would recommend is some gelato from Gelateria Vernazza. We completed our marathon adventure of the day eating some of the best gelato I have eaten in Italy.

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Who wouldn’t love some of this?

It was nearly dark and it was time to return to Chiavari. They needed one last night to pack, check for things they might forget, and get ready for a train ride to Rome. I would be going with them to the airport and staying with them until after check-in at the airport. 

We enjoyed a last sunset in Chiavari and then home. We needed to get up early to get PCR tests for them so they could fly the next day back to the USA.

We arrived at the farmacia, pharmacy, very early. We talked with the people there who said we did not need an appointment but come back at 9am. We crossed the street and had coffee and focaccia—I insisted that my sister try focaccia from here before she left. I believe it is the best in Italy. As we finished our coffee and focaccia bread, we notice people arriving. We went crossed the street again to confirm our plans for 2 PCR tests and another person said that since we didn’t have an appointment we couldn’t do it. I went all American on them and, in Italian, told them, that was not true. You were standing next to the woman who said we didn’t need an appointment, Patrice and Diana will receive their test. No excuses. After about 5 minutes of arguing, they were told to wait outside in line after the pharmacy took their information.

Sometimes, Italy makes things more challenging then is necessary. La Dolce Vita, the sweet life, is not always sweet.

Waiting for the PCR tests by the pharmacy under the portico.

After the PCR tests and results, we walked back to my apartment, got the luggage, and headed to the train station and Rome. Our hotel for the night was right inside the airport. The place is called HELLO SKY, AIR ROOMS ROME. It was surprisingly good. If you have an early flight, I would highly recommend this hotel. All you need to do is walk through the walkways, and down one flight to check in. They offer food service—we had dinner there and it was inexpensive—they have a chef there too. They also have extra spots to work on your computer, snack foods, breakfast—we didn’t do that—and a conference room if you need it. 

I went down to the check in point with them in the morning about 430 A.M. I went up to check in with them to assist if needed. We said our farewells before they entered the secure area. My sister told me that she planned to try to visit me once per year and I got teary eyed. Diana and Patrice were both ready to go home but it was still difficult to say goodbye. They arrived safely in the USA with all their pets and friends there to greet them. I think I slept for a week, myself. I learned so much about travel planning through them. And I had an opportunity to enjoy my sister and Diana without the distractions of animals, tv, work, or anything else. Thanks so much for traveling with us. I hope you enjoyed it. 

A dopo.

Ciao for now!

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