In the wee small hours of this morning I was rudely awakened by sobs of deep sadness. These were followed by words spoken with light compassion, soothing and caring. I’d like to think that the quiet voice was in some way helping me get back to sleep by stopping the sobbing.
Outside our window is a light well. At the bottom of the well is a small courtyard. The early morning conversation was taking place in the well. Naturally, our window was open and the walls echoed the wailing, making it sound even worse than it probably was, though it sounded like the poor woman had lost something (or someone) very, very dear to her.
It also woke Mirinda up who went to the window. Then the sound stopped. Perhaps the consolation worked, perhaps she just stopped, perhaps the sudden appearance of Mirinda at the window had forced the woman inside. I don’t know, but she was absolutely and painfully distressed. It was a most disconcerting way to wake up.
Still…then I went back to sleep. Then I slept in. Today we didn’t have to get up for anything because it was Christmas Day lunch.
Back in the early stirrings of this year I heard about the special Christmas lunch served at the Hotel Brunelleschi. I tried to book for this year but was promptly informed that the chef had yet to decide what the menu would be. I waited.
Then, in September I received an email from the hotel announcing the menu for 2017. I booked for four people straight away.
And given it was Christmas Day today, we went to that lunch. It has been something I’ve looked forward to ever since first hearing about it. Still, regardless of the rumoured delights, I was wary. There have been years when the promise of epicurean pleasure has been dashed – carp being the worst that springs to mind.
So, after a long sleep in we set off, via St Croce and a rather odd little cafe in order to get lost without our Baedeker.
Mirinda then took us on a roundabout journey, looking at the backstreets and where the people live. Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know that Mirinda loves doing this as she feels it gives her an insight into how people live. She timed the journey perfectly to find us reaching the Hotel Brunelleschi ready to check in for our eating slot.
All would have been well had there been some sort of logical system but the format for gaining access was not the most efficient. There were two people behind the counter (there was originally three but one ran off when he couldn’t help someone properly) who handled not just lunch bookings but also hotel guests who wanted to either check in or check out or simply get a newspaper.
There was a lot of people waiting to get into lunch so the crush of guests in the small reception area was gradually getting worse. Then the King of Italy sauntered up to the desk and demanded to be taken care of. I was tempted to take care of him in a decidedly uncharitable way but common sense led me down a more pleasant road.
Anyway, eventually we were served and then sent to our table upstairs. And then the unpleasant interlude finished.
Our meal was spectacular. From the amuse bouche to the double dessert, it was all delicious. And with each and every course (and there were a few) we had wine. Different wines. Lovely wines. Okay, not nearly as good as the ones we’ve been having but lovely nonetheless.
It was everything the reports I’d heard promised it would be. I can’t speak for the others but I’d gladly go again.
Interestingly, one of our fellow diners brought along her own rabbit (the first meat course was rolled rabbit) which I thought was a bit cruel, still she wasn’t very old.
The little girl is Eleanor and the man is her father. I think the woman is his sister. She didn’t really act like Eleanor’s mother and she didn’t take Eleanor to the toilet when she wanted to go, leaving it up to the man. I thought that Eleanor was actually Italian after overhearing her speak to the woman (who was apparently Australian). The father was definitely American because he spoke to me and Denise while we were queuing.
Here is my explanation and for the purposes of clarity, the father is Ted and the sister is Alice.
Ted had a whirlwind romance with an Italian woman during a holiday in Florence. He went back to the states finding out later that she had become pregnant with Eleanor. He was too young to be tied down and, besides, the Italian woman did not want to marry an American. And who can blame her.
Meanwhile, Ted’s sister Alice, who had moved to Australia when their parents split up back in the 1990’s, expressed a desire to meet little Eleanor. Ted organised for them both to visit Florence and have Christmas lunch with her (and not the Italian mother because they don’t speak any more) and there they were.
It looked like they were all having a good time. Which is more than can be said for the woman in the ballet costume and her poor companion. We never found out what the problem was but she stood on a raised platform for a course or two silently fuming until a buzzing of waiting staff finally assuaged her. If I had to make a guess it would be that someone stole her dress for the day and she was stuck having to wear her taupe net curtains.
The room we ate in was a 6th century Byzantine Tower which was incorporated into the fabric of the hotel when it was built. Inside the decor mixes modern with old including an incredibly hard to walk on glass staircase and black toilets.
Having eaten ourselves silly, we took a very long and circuitous route back to the apartment. We went over the river via the only bridge we’d not yet crossed and back across the Ponte Vecchio.
The rest of the day was spent in the apartment not doing very much. Tomorrow we’re off to see David and a show about the Medici family. We all had early nights in preparation.