Let’s agree on this, that this wonderful art called “cinema” can change our lives.
make us dream, set goals, travel mentally, and most importantly claim a life we have never imagined.
Who hasn’t seen James Ivory’s 1985 film A Room with a View?
I personally have seen it six or seven times and could watch it so many more.
Helena Bonham Carter, in the leading role, escapes from the strict social rules of early 20th century Edwardian London and is fascinated, as all visitors are, by the dazzling Tuscan capital.
The unique Florence.
I remember saying to myself how much I would love to find my own room with a view of this city.
[Of course one can still stay in the same room as the heroine of the story, in the “Pensione Bertolini”, which is actually room 414 of the Hotel Degli Orafi, enjoying the wonderful view of the Arno River. But be warned it will cost you a little more & I am not sure about the quality]
Some time ago in my research to find the right place to stay I realized that staying in the center of Florence is definitely a good move to feel the pulse of the city, but the mass tourism from America and the rest of Europe and the old unrenovated small hotels that are expensive anyway can turn the “room with a view” into a “cape of fear”.
When I finally concluded that I want a solution that combines the charming nature of Tuscany and direct access to the city then there was only one choice.
A lovely family villa of 1850 built on the hills of Lastra a Signa only a few kilometers from the center of Florence.
Irene and Paolo are the people you want to meet when you get there.
I will not be at all objective in my presentation because after so many times I visited them (as a fanatic client at first, as a friend later on) we have built a relationship so envious that it is impossible for me anymore to describe them without filters of love and admiration.
Paolo Moretti & Irene Berni
I could talk to you for hours about them and the wonderful service they offer to travelers arriving in the valley of the rose flowers.
But I think I will choose a more personal way to tell you the truth about this place.
I have chosen to report four unique moments from my scattered stays there.
At the huge old wooden table in the breakfast room, Irene serves lemon cakes (homemade by the hands of Irene’s mum Graciella) on old glass trays. The aroma is intoxicating since the lemons have come from Sicily. Fresh Homemade granola is distributed in the ceramic bowls. Paolo in the back of the kitchen roasts his delicious coffee in the two large Bialetti pots. The awake guests leave the beds with the linen sheets, descend the stone stairs hypnotized by the smells. Otto the white cute dog runs around the olive trees and shows his joy in a special way. The fresh strawberries and cherries together with the porcelain flowerpots full of wildflowers turn the table into a celebration of spring.
We photograph non-stop. Me on the upper terrace overlooking the Tuscan landscape. The sun is falling on the cypress trees. A hurried cyclist with his dog somewhere in the background. Paolo and Irene are in one of the rooms on the ground floor, nailing on the wall, painting, and preparing for the new season. It’s nearing one o’clock in the afternoon and we are hungry. In a split second Irene puts some amazing homemade casarets in the pot and Paolo makes a sauce that blows my mind. I put the camera down and walk down the stairs like a little kid. Two by two my steps. I’m tempted to fall, but I don’t care. The smell is driving me crazy and I remember my grandmother in Greece in August when I visited her she was making my favorite food and calling me to come down to the garden to eat in the sun.
Yes. Everything in Valdirose is a choreography that evokes memories.
We share the food. My plate has more food. Irene never forgets to be a mother, even to her friends. My beloved Giovani and Irene’s father. He brings a bottle of red wine and buys us a glass. The conversation over this amazingly delicious food is personal. It’s a sharing. The emotions are soaring. The eyes are moist. Embraces of love and affection. I feel happy.
Paolo has built a small studio on the northeast side of the olive garden. He shows me around. Treasures of small old interiors. Woodcarving tools. Mending machines. Paintbrushes. Without his hands, the little boarding house would be unworthy because of the ravages of time. He shows me the little olive wood spoons he has made. We’re talking about his great love, ceramics. I imagine him on a wheel, making pots for serving breakfast. Irene smiles at us outside the window of this little wooden house. She’s picking flowers. I tell them about my sister in Greece and our holidays around the olive trees my grandfather planted many years ago. I have a nice thought. Irene and Paolo are my brothers. We grew up together, almost in the same families. With the same dreams.
Mother’s been cooking for three days. The grandchildren are already there. Their companions are also with them. They show me around and translate it into English. Plates land on the table. Paolo’s mother is a sweet gentle smiling woman who stands at the head of the table and gazes at her people enjoying the dishes she has prepared. She is worried that I don’t have enough food and scolds Paolo for not having filled my plate to the ceiling. Paolo’s father, a stylish gentleman sits on the other side of the table and tries to explain to me the process of making brandy that was set up on the terrace of his house by his father many many years ago. He shows me the bottles. One of them is labeled 1950. We all taste it together and toast it before we drink …. . The birthday cakes land on the table. Of course, it’s not just one. I’m impressed by a cake called mimosa. It tastes like tiramisu but without the espresso and has the appearance of a flower mimosa since the yellow cookies are placed on top. The candles are placed. The birthday song in Italian. .. “Tanti Auguri a te….”
….. Of course, I sing it with the whole family. My Italian is borderline but I have fun. I remember my grandmother again who turned 100 last year. I wish Paolo’s mother the same. The candles are going out. And then I see something unique. I’ve never seen it in any Mediterranean family and in no case, up north.
Irene runs and embraces her mother-in-law with longing. They stay there cuddled for a long time. It’s a living, real relationship. No formalities. The theme: mother-in-law – son’s wife is a worldwide phenomenon that has occupied literature, cinema, psychotherapy, and even politics, especially during the years of the Roman Empire. It is a volcanic relationship. Even when it is superficially calm, something will always be boiling underneath. Patriarchy has so much controlled this kind of relationship with women as its victim once again.
But in the case of my friends from Tuscany, I can tell you with certainty that I saw two women truly loving and accepting each other with real concern. Irene told me later in the car that sometimes she felt better with her than with her own mother. I can understand why. I can feel the love.
I don’t think I could describe you in any other way than that because I am so connected to this place.
Some people go on vacation to relax, some to discover, some to enjoy or taste a special experience.
There is a small portion of people in this world who choose destinations, places, houses, rooms with a view, hotels, and restaurants, just because they want to get in touch with their emotions.
Just to touch a linen towel and remember a caress.
To smell a sprig of lilac and bring to mind loved ones.
To reconnect with a taste…
or finally being able to tenderly embrace the little aching teenager hidden inside his body.
I am one of them.
And it feels wonderful to be able to say
Hug me Valdirose