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Venetian Spritz Recipe | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva

Cocktails, #DivaStyle: Venetian Spritz Recipe

Cocktail hour is de riguer, ca Toma. Whatever the time of day, my antique Spanish secretary is stocked and ready to indulge. In January I shared with you one of my favorite cocktails, a French 75 – what I call Coco Chanel with a Dagger. While I’ll always be a champagne girl, since moving to Venice, I’ve adopted a new favorite aperitivo: a Spritz! sweet, bitter, citrusy, sparkling and slightly salty, a Spritz is delightful any time of day! 

Nearly every trace of Austria’s occupation of Venice in the 19th century is gone, except the Spritz! Made with white wine and sparkling water, Hapsburg soldiers brought ‘sprizzen’ to Venice. While keeping the name, Venice added the attitude and the color with a dash of bitter orange flavored liqueur. 

When in Venice, expect to pay around €2.50 – unless you too are addicted the Gritti Hotel, where I happily pay €15 for the ambiance and views. Your Spritz can also be made with Aperol or Campari – slightly sweeter or more bitter. While Aperol is my favorite, Select is perhaps less well known around the world so I want to share with you my recipe for a summer Venetian Spritz – Select style! If you prefer Campari or Aperol, just substitute bitters! 

Speaking of substitutions, of course ca Toma I substitute the white wine with prosecco!

Cocktails, #DivaStyle: Venetian Spritz Recipe

Ca Toma with a Spritz and watching Netflix at my 17th-century Spanish secretary turned bar in my Venetian kitchen

Venetian Spritz Recipe 

• 4 ounces prosecco
• Sparkling water
• 1 ½ to 2 ounces Select
• Orange slice
• 1 green olive

In a white wine glass over three or four ice cubes, pour the prosecco, a splash of sparkling water and the Select -, in that order so the Select sinks to the bottom. Garnish with a slice of orange and an olive.

Book A Tour with The Antiques Diva & CoBOOK AN ANTIQUES DIVA Buying Tour to Italy 

Book an antique buying tour to Italy – and be sure to include Venice on your itinerary, I’d love to introduce you to Toma’s Venice!


Toma – The Antiques Diva



Porte Italia Interiors, Venice | The Antiques Diva

Porte Italia Interiors, Venice

The Antiques Diva at Carnival in VeniceShhhh… I have a secret I want to share: I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m besotted with Venice. On the blog, on social media, in person – at any opportunity I want to talk about Venice, dream about Venice – and visit Venice. Living in Berlin, it’s just a short flight away, and I’ve been known to pop in for a tour with a client, a meeting with a new secret source, or to attend a fabulous design salon… and always a prosecco with our two divine Venice guides, Chiara and Orseola. Last year I started taking Italian lessons – because it’s a beautiful language, and I want to be able to greet my friends in their own language. My love affair with Venice is only growing stronger – so I’m taking the plunge! I’m going to experience la dolce vita for more than a few days – I’m packing up my Berlin apartment and moving to Venice very soon. For a few years – I’m going to continue my Italian affair, indulge my passion and live in this beautiful city that makes my heart so happy. There are so many reasons I’m passionate about Venice, the following story is one of them. Ci vediamo… 

Peggy Guggenheim in VeniceIf famous socialite and art addict Peggy Guggenheim were alive today, she would stumble out the back door of her 18th C palazzo – the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni – facing the Grand Canal and meander over bridges and through calli, campi and campielli’s in her neighborhood – the Dorsoduro sestiere of Venice. As she was window-shopping her way past clothing boutiques, jewelry stores antique shops and art galleries, something would catch her attention in the window of a little shop – a shop that wasn’t there before  – at Dorsoduro 868.

She would pause peering in the storefront window of the pop-up shop for Porte Italia Interiors. Her manicured hand would come to cover her mouth as she studied the exquisite craftsmanship and details of the hand-painted traditional Venetian furniture. And I am certain she would sigh… “Porte Italia.”  And she would come inside the pop-up shop, opening per se, the Door To Italy.

Porte Italia Interiors


Porte Italia Interiors, whose headquarters are based north of Venice in Ronchi dei Legionari, has roots reaching back in the past. Their goal was to create furniture inspired by those famous Venetian antiques – the painted furniture of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that in years past had enlivened Venetian interiors. Traditionally the locally made painted furniture in Venice – like the city itself – was more exuberant, whimsical and over the top than its European counterparts.  Bright colors, exuberant silhouettes and whimsical motifs were the name of the game.

Today Porte Italia continues this tradition – employing locally trained artists from Venice Accademia of Arts – to create quality hand-painted furniture that can become the antique of the future. Founded by Enrico Lenarduzzi, this family-run business continues its tradition with son Emilio joining the leadership team at the small company which employees 35 local artists, decorators, frame makers, artisans, blacksmiths and carpenters. Each member of the team is dedicated to bringing the past alive in new interiors.

Painted Interior Arts by PORTE ITALIA INTERIORS

Taking care of every single detail… painted interior arts.


Each piece in their collection is custom made – and the company specializes in working directly with interior designers.  Designers mail the company samples of the fabric to be used in an interior – and Porte Italia creates custom furniture to coordinate with the tissues used.

Painted Interior Arts by PORTE ITALIA INTERIORS

Precious details, bespoke Venetian creations. 


And like their Venetian forefathers who always had their eyes focused out to sea, Enrico and Emilio are also looking globally for expanding their business. An average week has this father-son duo jetting from Italy to the Middle East to the United Kingdom and then popping across the pond to America. Their client list includes everyone from sheiks and sultans to princes and princesses – rumor has it that Camilla has purchased one of their tables – to rock stars and legends. One of the largest collections of Porte Italia furniture in the United States is actually in the home of a Back Street Boy!

Porte Italia Interiors bed collection

From the wonderful 5 star hotel “Castello di Casole,” Tuscany, Italy. Handmade in Italy and entirely hand-painted inspired by the authentic Venetian techniques. 


Currently seeking relevant distribution channels in the United States, Porte Italia is bringing Italy to the world. Their collection included painted doors, panels, mirrors, sofas, chandeliers and even frescos. Perhaps their bed collection has been the most popular piece in their collection – making the cover of Architectural Digest magazine as well as decorating 5-star hotels such as Ashford Castle in Ireland and the Castello di Casole in Tuscany, both members of the Leading Hotels of the World.

Porte Italia VeneziaDiscover Porte Italia 

Feature image by José Manuel Alorda


Toma – The Antiques Diva 



Dream of Venice Architecture | The Antiques Diva

Dream of Venice Architecture

I’m delighted to share with you a guest post by JoAnn Locktov. JoAnn is sharing stunning photographs by talented architects in her new book, Dream of Venice Architecture. You know I’m smitten with Venice and welcome any opportunity to visit with clients, meet with our Antiques Diva® secret sources, or just stroll along the canale or savor a macchiato and work at a small café and relish my surroundings. Our Venice Diva Guides Orseola & Chiara have opened many Venetian doors for me, the architecture at the Fortuny Museo is a favorite of theirs. The lovely photos and charming commentary in Dream of Venice will transport you to this special city. If you haven’t been, you must schedule a trip to Venice very soon. And if you haven’t visited recently, you must return. Until then, I invite you to Dream of Venice Architecture. 


JoAnn Locktov, author

Venice.  Venezia. La Serenissima. The city has inspired artists, musicians, writers, lovers, and poets for over a millennium.  The beauty of Venice is well documented. Originally through painting and verse, and now through photography, movies and if we’re lucky, our own eyes. But have you ever wondered what makes Venice so mesmerizing? Can we attribute her appeal to one element? Is it the Lagoon light, the dancing reflections, the patina of age, or the subtle hues of salt-washed color?

Venice is an urban oasis. The natural water that you find everywhere, is delineated by the construction of palaces, churches, boatyards, gardens, and bridges-some iconic and many that are humble.  We wanted to know if this city that originated over 1,500 years ago could still be relevant to our contemporary lives. This is what we found out. Come take a passeggiata with us and wander through the memories of architects, architectural writers, and the evocative images of the award winning filmmaker and photographer Riccardo De Cal.

All photos and excerpts from Dream of Venice Architecture

Published by Bella Figura Publications

For so many people, cities are captured by the visual memory of an iconic panorama but for me Venice is a wholly visceral experience where what we see is so much less than what we perceive or feel. In Venice, there is all at once the sound and smell of the water, the chiaroscuro of confined passageways that give way to expansive campi, the constant rise and fall of crossing so many bridges and the twisting irregularities of its labyrinthine streets. A place of great intensity; I know no other city where one must navigate by way of intrinsic memory rather than conscious understanding. 

Selldorf Dream of Venice ArchitectureAnnabelle Selldorf, FAIA


Every entrance has a four-digit number, always applied onto the frame in a uniform stenciled typeface. A few years ago I happened to be passing by the house numbered 1937, which featured a particularly distressed and ominous-looking door. Suddenly I had a strange vision that the horrific memories of the year 1937—Guernica, Kristallnacht, Stalin’s Great Purge—are hidden behind that locked portal. It took a good half-a-bottle of wine before I could let this disquieting fantasy go. Yet ever since, I cannot rid myself of an impression that every Venetian door represents a particular year; that the city is, in fact, a museum that contains all human history and all our future as well. This would of course explain why the doors are so mysterious and forlorn: why they are always locked; why nobody seems to be ever entering or coming out.

Boym Dream of Venice ArchitectureConstantin Boym


Venice may be too hot, too cold, too humid, too crowded or too easy to get lost in, but “her streets, through which the fish swim, while the black gondola glides spectrally over the green water” — as Hans Christian Andersen eloquently stated — release us to imagine alternatives to the general standard of urban living. Venice is not on the sea but of the sea, eclipsing the tale of Atlantis with a modern mythology both repeated and rewritten with every tide. 

Davidson Dream of Venice ArchitectureCynthia Davidson


Just inside the windows, several pet bird cages were hung above a grand piano, and these, plus the lure of crumbs from the damask-covered tables where guests were eating their morning brioche, attracted small flying birds from the square. As we sipped our coffee, birds darted through the windows, soared around the ceiling twenty feet overhead, then hopped and chirped about the rug at our feet. It was pure enchantment. Those first few days in Venice were one of the transformative experiences of my life. 

Parrott Dream of Venice ArchitectureDial Parrott


Venice: the ageless city. How can we take measure of her to a finite time, she who is crystallized by the juxtaposition of styles, of forms, of places, of spaces…

When you walk through Venice at night, in the silence, in the darkness, the canale fills you with anguish, fear, anxiety, dissatisfaction, as if you’re seeing a sleepless dormitory town, full of ghosts and dark clouds…

Inside the places on the ground floors you imagine unmoving ghosts reclining on large tables surrounded by chairs with the light filtering through from the outside—thus faint, so very faint, in the depths. The gondolas are moving slowly as the water laps the shore; the silver blades almost black and you think they are open funeral carriages ready for the reclining ghosts in the rooms. 

Baleri Dream of Venice ArchitectureEnrico Baleri


When I hear the voice of Venice, my mind wanders into that nebulous space where time momentarily stops and I am quietly propelled into an intimate dialogue with my own free floating thoughts. The voice of Venice thankfully reminds me that there is an arena in which fantasy and reality can collide, coexist, and comfortably accommodate contradictions. Venice, for me, is a metaphor for unexpected creative possibilities. This notion never fails to captivate me.

Braverman Dream of Venice ArchitectureLouise Braverman, FAIA


For the architect, the recognizing of a city is nearly always expressed through emerging elements: a bridge, a monument, a tower, a neighborhood or a geometric structure.  In the end, nearly all of us reason like collectors of snow globes, those that are found in all souvenir shops, and show the stereotypes of different cities.

It is rare that landscape is used as the substantial element of a city, its GEOGRAPHY.  But Venice is the exception.

Fuksas Dream of Venice ArchitectureMassimiliano Fuksas


For all its floating qualities, Venice is heavily laden with history, stone, and gravity.  Though its marble monuments aspire artfully upwards, they are ultimately more preoccupied with down than up.  One counterpoint to all this weight is the prominent windvane poised lightly atop the Punta Della Dogana.  This figure of Fortune, presiding over the Bacino’s daily ballet of watercraft, pirouettes between architecture and flight. It has for centuries signaled the comings and goings of Adriatic weather that tints this city’s beguiling atmosphere. For some, perhaps, it pivots to the ebb and flow of dreams as well.

Levy Dream of Venice ArchitectureMax Levy, FAIA


The main facade of the Fortuny palazzo faces the Campo San Benedetto. It is adorned with the characteristic ogee arches of Venetian Gothic, a classification of the Gothic architecture that originated as an ecclesiastical style in northern Europe where it can be dour and forbidding. Venetian Gothic is neither. Adapted to residential construction and suffused with Byzantine and Moorish influences, it is light, graceful, and whimsical—almost feminine. The right setting for the fashion maven who was known as the “Magician of Venice.”

Witold Dream of Venice ArchitectureWitold Rybczynski


Social Links:

Dream of Venice Architecture

Bella Figura Publications

JoAnn Locktov

Palazzo Fortuny, Orseola and Chiara’s favorite

Orseola & Chiara’s Posts on Venice



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Ciao, and pleasant dreams of Venice

Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva® 





Venice Salon Recap

Dear Diva Readers,

A s many of you know I recently attended a very special event hosted by my two Diva Guides in Venice, Orseola and Chiara of O&C Antiques. These ladies delivered once again by creating a fabulous Salon style evening where artists, designers and collectors came together from all over the world for a few hours of thoughtful discussion while viewing some very special pieces of art and antiques. The mobile Salon (last year I attended their event in Berlin) encourages guests to learn about the pieces which have been curated by Orseola and Chiara, all the while enjoying antiques, art, music and scintillating conversation with like-minded people. The great part is that every piece, be it a rare antique or modern art piece, is available for purchase.

Venice Salon Recap Italy Antiques Diva Guides with Toma Clark Haines

While everything at the Salon was gorgeous, I wanted to highlight five of our favorite pieces here on the blog to give everyone an idea of the type of objects these ladies are bringing together – better yet – it just so happens these are still for sale so even if you missed the salon you still have the opportunity to shop it!

First up is the sleek RM58 Classic chair originally designed by Roman Modzelewski in 1958. This fiberglass chair is one of the earliest Polish designs of polyester-glass laminate furniture and has no counterpart from that time, either in Poland or the rest of the world. One of the original chairs was purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and was displayed at the “Cold War Moder: Design 1045-1970” exhibition which was the first to explore the works in modern design, architecture, film and pop culture developed in the context of the Cold War, on both sides of the Iron Curtain. This design is currently available in red, black, white, yellow, and green and is priced at 934€.

Venice Salon Recap RM58-classic-black chair

A digital print on photographic paper by Costanza gianquinto also caught my eye. Every shot this artist takes represents a moment which lends itself to the story of his mind, an esoteric and symbolic path that enables him to sneak in his perception. In the artist’s own words, “I do not take pictures in order to create, I do photography to communicate, to release myself. I seek to express what I imagine in a tangible way, to discover what makes me worried and what trickles down from the scraping walls of my thoughts. There is not reasonable research, neither an obsession or cruelty but only the sweet
tones of aromas and vibes that lay soaking while they wait to be discovered.” The untitled print is priced at 750 € and would make a fantastic addition to a private collection.

Venice Salon Recap Untitlet Print

A 1964 fresco on plywood titled, immagine n°509 2b, by artist Gino morandis is another show-stopper. I love the colors and composition of this piece. It is priced at 2500 €.

Venice Salon Recap fresco from Gino Morandis

Dating back to the first half of the 17th century, a pair of miniature Italian portraits of Bianca Cappello and Giovanni di Bianca Cappello added depth to the Salon. These very special enamel on copper portraits of the Florentine School are priced at 4800 €.

Venice Salon Recap Miniature Italian Portraits

Venice Salon Recap Miniature Italian Portraits

I was thrilled to see the work of a friend displayed at the Salon as well. Dutch designer Mariska Meijers is a multi talented artist, boasting her own fabric lines and wallpaper designs. She also paints and offers all of her designs at her showroom in Amsterdam. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Salon was seeing her stunning Venetian style lamp shade in Bold Cubisn Parisian Pink (298€) atop an antique lamp base (300€). The juxtaposition of the modern shade and the antique lamp seemed to sum up the feeling of the evening. Mixing the past with the present and curating objects from all time periods is the name of the game and Orseola and Chiara have a flair for winning at that game.

Venice Salon Recap Lamp by Mariska Meijers

If you’d like more information on any of these pieces or on future Salon events, email us at

The Antiques Diva®

Salon in Venice by O&C Antiques

Dear Diva Readers,

Do you have plans for Halloween? If not, you are officially invited to join me in Venice! I’m thrilled to be the special guest at the 2nd Salon hosted by our Venetian Diva Guides, Orseola and Chiara of O&C Antiques. The first Salon event they hosted in Berlin last year was themed around “Drama,” and showcased a wide range of antiques and modern art including ancient textiles, precious jewelry, works in mixed media, and photography. This Salon which will take place on October 31 at 6:30 PM is called “FOHAT,” and will be in a gallery space in Venice. Guests will have the exclusive chance to see and buy gorgeous pieces of contemporary art and antiques showcased together for the first time.

firma o&c

Salon in Venice by O&C Antiques Italy Antiques Diva guides Chiara and Orseola

The Salon will feature a selection of antique art objects (O&C Antiques, ANTICHITA’ MARCIANA, Antichita’ Pittarello, Trame d’incanto – Venice), contemporary art (John Kleckner – Berlin, Marco Thiella – Venice), photography (Costanza Gianquinto – Venice) modern art (Gino Morandis, Alberto Gianquinto) design (Mariska Meijers – Amsterdam, NO WÓDKA – Berlin) and a music permormance (Francesco Enrichi – Venice), in an extraordinary visual and conceptual dialogue between objects and time. The event will be curated in collaboration with Venice Actually and Luca Caldironi.

Salon in Venice by O&C Antiques invitation

If this sounds like the type of event you want to attend, RSVP to to be registered and to have more details about the event. Of course, if you’d like more information on future Salon events or if you’d like me to source pieces for you, please contact me! These international Salons are a truly unique way to acquire one of a kind artworks and antiques. I cannot wait to spend the evening sipping champagne, discussing unique objects, and possibly purchasing something for my own collection!

Ciao for now,

The Antiques Diva®

Design & Wine at Palazzo Rocca

Dear Diva Readers,

s we’re looking ahead to a new fabulous 6 day tour called “Design & Wine”  , which will start April 30 2016 in Italy, I can hardly contain my excitement for each part of this experience which will be a combination of dazzling design destinations and delectable wine, food, and antiques. Adam Japko, founder of The Design Bloggers Conference , Jeremy Parzen, founder of Do Bianchi  , and me have worked very hard to put together an itinerary that will thrill the senses and inspire the creative mind.

PalazzoContariniCorfù0I’m particularly pleased to announce that we will be kicking off this tour with welcome cocktails and dinner in a 16th century palazzo called Palazzo Rocca in Venice! This Venetian Gothic fortress palace happens to still be privately owned and is also the place where Prince Charles and Princess Diana stayed in 1985 when they visited Venice.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01


Set on a stretch of the Grand Canal between the museum of Ca ‘Rezzonico and the Academia Bridge, the palazzo is a unique magical place—truly a landmark on the Grand Canal— and seems to float on the water. Accessing the palazzo by water, one can simply pull up to the private dock and step into a grand reception hall. If you arrive on foot, you are welcomed into a private courtyard which leads to the same reception room that spans the entire building. Either way, upon arrival at this palazzo, one can’t help but be awed by its beauty.


We’re so thrilled to welcome guests of our tour to this historically significant place which has played host to important figures including royalty, nobility, poets, composers, and great thinkers throughout the centuries. Inspiration is sure to flow as we discuss the interesting historical treasures relating to the art and architectural attributes of the palazzo, all while enjoying a glamorous cocktail party in what is considered the most exclusive and aristocratic Gothic palace on the Grand Canal.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

For more information on the upcoming Design & Wine tour or to reserve your spot today, email us at Space is limited so advance reservations are required. We’d love to have you join us on this fabulous 6 day tour of beautiful Italy!


The Antiques Diva®

Venetian Glass Chandeliers

Dear Diva Readers,

Venetian glass has long been a highly sought after commodity, adding artistic touches to interiors not only to Italian residences but also all over the world. Perhaps one of the best known and most appreciated products made of Venetian glass is the chandelier. These intricately detailed pieces seem to float when hanging and they create an atmosphere of fantasy, whimsy and grandeur all at once.




Many clients that take an Antiques Diva Buying Tour in Italy will stop and stare when they first see these marvelous creations. They’re mesmerizing! The skill of Venetian craftsmen leaves you speechless when you think about each tiny piece being made by hand!




Sometime around the year 1700, Venetian glassmakers began making chandeliers from Murano glass. Murano glass comes from the island of Murano in Venice and had been used to make lovely items for centuries before this. Being known as the most beautiful and pure glass in the world, Murano glass would be molded and sculpted into flirtatious forms often incorporating flowers, vines and leaves. Glassmakers also used various shades of colored glass to enhance these chandeliers and make them look even more like bouquets of flowers.





Whether transparent or colored, many Venetian glass chandeliers have arms covered with blown glass. This requires tedious attention and many hours to craft each small piece by hand to seamlessly fit together. While these chandeliers are still crafted in Venice, purchasing an antique is most certainly a good investment that not only retains but gains in value. Often these antique chandeliers come with provenance, having previously hung in palazzos, theaters and other important historical buildings. On our Venetian tours we’re able to visit palazzo’s where you can buy chandeliers straight from the palazzo’s frescoed ceiling…. In essence it’s magic. Diva Style.


If you would like more information on our Antiques Diva Buying Tours or Buying Services, email us at We’d love to help you source the perfect antique Venetian glass chandelier!


The Antiques Diva in Venice with Venetian Diva Guide Orseola

Ciao Bella!

The Antiques Diva®

Bringing Antiques into the Present

Venetian Antiques, Italian Antiques, Decorating with Antiques, O&C Antiques

While in Venice researching an article I was writing on O&C Antiques I had the opportunity to spend time in the Venetian home of Orseola Barozzi Rizzo. Visiting her family home tucked away near the San Toma Vaporetto stop I was reminded of how Europeans live everyday with the past a part of their present. In one corner of Orseola’s living room, on the edge of her 13th C courtyard which was once part of the local convent, she assembled a collection of pieces from the past used for the present. The Italian Chair is from the 18th C nestled against a 17th C armoire from Bologna. Positioned behind the chair on the radiator cover an 18th C Venetian Ecclesiastical alter candlestick shares space with a 16th C copper Tuscan Amfora – a jug once used for carrying water. Beside it sits an Indian gilt pedestal and above the setting – crowning it – Fritoer hangs on the wall. This 19th C plate from the Veneto was used originally for serving sweets. I loved how in one corner of the room each item came from the past but was very much a part of the present.

Diva-scovery: G. Benevento – Venice, Italy

This Venetian haberdashery opened in 1883, a family business that for the last 100 years has been handed down from father to son over 4 generations. Very few changes have been made – the store still stands on the Strada Nova (a little larger that in was when it began thanks to renovations by the founder’s son during his reign) and it still sells the same great inventory of fabrics, tassels, trims and bows, using the original counter and antique tools to roll out fabric and trims. Long considered an institution in Venice, it’s been awarded several medals for staying in business throughout WWII and is now one of the longest running family businesses in the province. Best of all, the prices are incredibly reasonable, making G. Benevento a must-shop stop on your Venetian travels!

G. Benevento
Cannaregio, 3991
30121 Venezia, Italy

Phone: +39 (0)41.5220901


Until Next Time, Happy Shopping!

The Antiques Diva™

P.S. Do you have a Diva-scovery you’d like to share? Perhaps a favorite antique shop, an excellent brand or divalicious home decorating store? Whether you’re in Paris, Texas or Paris, France (or anywhere else around the globe) I’d love to hear your Diva-scoveries!! Email me

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Living La Dolce Diva – Part 1

So, I lied. I didn’t mean to, but I did.

Last month, I wrote a blog telling about our upcoming trip to Italy. I waxed on about how for once in my life I was going to slow down and smell the roses. That rather than attempting to crunch a Grand Tour of Italy into a week and a half of vacation, that my husband and I had decided to visit just one location – taking it easy, lingering over the sights of Florence, absorbing the culture and romancing the moment. But this intention towards slow travel – towards only studying one site – was a fallacy in my mind before we’d walked out the door, rolling our luggage behind. You see, what I forgot to mention in that particular post was that before we even arrived in Italy, we were taking another trip to visit friends for 4 days and that we allowed an extra 3 days worth of time for taking detours on the 11 ½ hour drive each way from Berlin, Germany to Florence, Italy.The plan was quite simple, really, and though we saw lots more than just Florence as I proclaimed, we really did take time to linger as long as possible at each site visited. The vacation started one day after work, driving late into the evening, arriving at our friend’s front door in Stuttgart Germany as the coo-coo tweeted twelve times and the station wagon turned into a pumpkin. Herr and Frau Stuttgart were waiting “chez them”, dressed in PJ’s and we kissed hello, laughing over a glass of wine before slipping under the covers and awoke to the smell of freshly baked bread the next morning.

For the next two days we lingered at “The Stuttgart Family” house, sitting in their garden, admiring their view, their vineyard and 10,000 rose bushes. On a lazy afternoon we went into town, meandering the Stuttgart Flea Market stalls and visiting antique shops and then spent the evening at a nearby Schloss, listening to music at the regional music festival.

The next day we drove our black Benz to the Mercedes Benz Museum – a tour that while very interesting to me later came back to haunt WG when I asked him to join me in Florence at the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. Then the next afternoon the 4 of us hopped in our car and drove to the border where Austria, Germany and Switzerland meet at Lake Constance, taking the funicular to the top of the mountain enjoying the wonderful, panoramic view.

Perhaps it was that very view that inspired our detour for the next day as WG & I departed on our drive towards Italy. As we crossed into Switzerland, I pulled the Europe atlas from the pocket behind my seat to look up the route our GPS was guiding us on, and realized that with a slight detour we could visit St Moritz, a place I’d never been but always wanted to see. As it was June, the roads were clear from snow and ice for the season and the great glacier pass was open for traffic, though around us as we crested the mountains snow still rested on the ground. From St Moritz, we continued our journey south crossing into Italy and arrived just in time for dinner at Bellagio, on Lake Como.

The next day we arrived in Florence, just as planned, checking into our “oh so humble” hotel, marveling over it’s great location and noting that a mention in 1,000 Places To See Before You Die doesn’t guarantee the hotel won’t have mildew in the shower. Perhaps it was because the room was less than inviting that we found ourselves meandering the streets of Florence, leaving early in the day and returning late at night.

Mornings were started with a jolt of liquid personality, saddling up to the bar at cafes dotted on the Ponte Vecchio, ordering half-priced cappuccino or espresso (discounted because you drink whilst standing). Sufficiently caffeinated, we dashed to and thro across one of the most amazing cities in Europe. Florence – the birth place of the Renaissance – seeped into my soul, causing a rebirth of my artistic sensibility. We visited the Uffizi, the Galleria Dell’Accademia, Il Duomo, and the Medici Chapels, not to mention the Palazzo Vecchio and Mercato Nuovo and Mercato San Lorenzo and Church of Santa Croce alongside its famous leather school.

We took a walking tour with Art Vivia that was the best walking tour I’ve ever taken and we ate copious quantities of gelato, shopped relentlessly for Italian silk ties and purses made by Florentine leather designers.

In a fit of channeling Fitzgerald, WG purchased a silk ascot for those crisp, fall days we lunch at Lutter & Wegner on the Gendarmenmarkt back home in Berlin. And I worshiped at the altar of Ferragamo, visiting Salvatore’s’ namesake museum dragging WG along in a tit-for-tat moment as he drug me through the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart a few days prior. Naturally, I can’t visit a city without checking out the antique scene so we strolled through the antiques district and spent an afternoon shopping the Piazza dei Ciompi Flea market.

And we reconnected, my husband of 13 years and I, on this trip celebrating our anniversary. We held hands and made public displays of affection, kissing on street corners and snuggling on park benches, rubbing one another’s feet at the end of the day when we’d walked too much. As we took our car from the valet to start our return drive to Berlin, we were delighted in knowing that we’d be back to Florence next summer when we take my niece Tessa on a Grand Tour for her 16th birthday. When asked what she wanted to see while abroad, Italy topped her list, much to our delight, and we’re already planning next summer’s odyssey to Venice, Florence, Milan and Cinque Terre.

In the meantime, with Venice on our mind, we detoured there on our drive home, spending an afternoon in Venice and taking in an early dinner before hitting the road yet again, cutting through the Alps and Austria before returning home to Berlin.

We may not have stopped and smelled the roses, but it was indeed a sensational vacation. One you’ll be reading about for weeks on end these coming months as I post hints, tips and addresses from our trip, telling tales and sharing divalicious photos of Living La Dolce Diva!


The Antiques Diva™

(Seen Right rubbing the brass porcellino which legend says will ensure a rapid return to Florence)

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