After COVID tests and many seemingly endless hours of related online protocols, we arrived at Dulles International Airport to find the only things we needed were proof of negative COVID tests and our vaccine cards (documents that eventually proved as valuable as our passports). Late the second night after our flights, we check in at the Hotel Albani Firenze which is located right in the middle of the historic section in Florence.

The next morning we met Francine (our wonderful Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) leader) in the hotel garden and were introduced to the rest of the group. No time for jet lag — off we went for a walking tour of Florence lead by our local guide, Guido. We saw the Santa Maria Novella Church and the Duomo with the bell tower of 414 steps that Ellen and Jorge decided not to climb. The outside decor consisted of dark green and white stripes. We then walked to the Palazzo Vecchio near a replica of Michelangelo’s David. We also visited the Piazza de Porcelino where Ellen insisting on rubbing the nose of a pig statue to show she would return to Florence.  

While waiting for the group, we we saw a man dressed in a white costume. Looking across the piazza, we saw him pose as a familiar statue. There were several other statues that would occasionally move. Of course, they all wanted you to take their pictures for a contribution.

A wonderful eggplant parmigiana swimming in a delicious cheese sauce and two beers in an outside restaurant topped off the morning. Later in the afternoon we met Francine for a tour of the Santa Maria Novella Church with its now defunct cloister and a pharmacy (reputed to be the oldest operating pharmacy in the world).

We had a wonderful introductory outdoor dinner. The owner was a friend of Francine’s and two had concocted a many course dinner of Tuscan specialties.