Subject: Italy notes
Dear Friendz,

Ever since I took to flying into Florence on my way to Cortona and other Tuscan delights, I have searched for just the right hotel. Sometime ago Felice reported her favorite hotel to be The Hermitage. I finally took her advice and now it is my favorite, too, I have stayed at the Hotel de la Ville but I always get spider bites! The single rooms feature handsomely upholstered beds built up against the wall that must harbor the critters. Solution: get a double. Hotel Giglio is nice, Hotel Cavour has good staff and location but its cavernous rooms can be quite dark and airless, especially when the air conditioning is turned off for the season in a warm October. Hotel Albani is too insulated, might as well be in a Four Seasons in the U.S. I have not been able to stay at Hotel Casci, because they are always booked.

The first chapter in this hotel saga begins with my unwary choice of La Scaletta for three nights in late April. It is a Rick Steve's recommendation. When I reached the reception desk I said, "I cannot stay here." I immediately left for The Hermitage who mercifully had a choice of two rooms on the upper floors.

Walking later through the Oltrarno, I chanced upon Anna's leather shop across from the Pitti Palace. I had a good feeling about it, so went in to find Antonio who helped me select the perfect black leather blazer for my eldest son. I had been looking for years but always scared off by "Would-it-fit"? Antonio assessed my description of Mike's tall, long-lined spare frame and even longer arms. He produced the perfect size and style. Shipping is free, though a customs bill follows payable to DSL. Anna herself is calm and gracious older lady with lovely white hair.

And now my thanks to Ann in Northern Virginia who led me to Via della Spada. As she said, the street is foodie-heaven. The Rosticceria la Spada 10 is a wondrous place. As one who is "disgestively challenged" I need to know the ingredients in everything. I can trust this rosticceria not to sabotage me. Those who serve it know exactly what's in the fabulous dishes in the cases, and know about their reasonable wines.

I have a sad report to make on the rosticceria of Paolo and Patrizia in Cortona. By 2004 it had become a pizza/focaccia stop but continued to offer some main course that were Patrizia's recipes. Now in May 2005, it is under construction for a new restaurant. I suppose all good things must come to and end--but in Cortona?

Soon I travel to the-next-best-thing to Europe in the U.S. The Geneva Inn on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where friends and family from Houston, Cape Cod, Squam Lake, and Hamburg will gather to surprise a son on his fiftieth birthday six months after the fact.

Jane in Tulsa