Travelogue: Italy & Amsterdam.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I left New York for Florence on a Friday afternoon. In all, the journey took nearly a full day, starting in a cab on a sun-drenched block in Brooklyn, and ending miles up a winding mountain road, on a hillside in Tuscany covered in olive trees.

This was the first stop on a two-week family vacation to Italy and Amsterdam, a trip that was special for many reasons. Now that we're divided across two coasts— and because our family's been made larger with the addition of a certain hard-partying two-year-old — we're rarely all together at once. And since all of our previous international travel as a family has been to Tokyo — a city we consider a second home — this was our first time exploring regions of the world none of us had ever seen before. When we first started planning the trip, way back in the dead of winter, I remembering feeling charmed at the thought of embarking on a new adventure with my parents, whose curious spirits I've always admired.

We spent our first five days in Tuscany, in a rental house whose far-flung whereabouts gave us little option but to stay where we were. (This was not a problem.)

We did take day trips to Lucca and Cinque Terre, both of which we'd heard we couldn't miss, and for good reason — even in mind-numbing heat, they were dazzling, like paintings come to life. At Cinque Terre, we spent a long time at a lookout above the water, watching swimmers spring wobbly-legged, shrieking, from rocks. "This is a beautiful place," said my dad. "Everyone here is happy."

Our next stop was Florence, where we found last-minute accommodation at Hotel Torre Guelfa, located in a centuries-old building near Ponte Vecchio. We spent two days wandering the city on foot, fueled by reckless quantities of gelato. Each evening, we caught our breath on the tower atop our hotel, which offered a sweeping view of a sea of brick-red rooftops (and trays of Aperol spritzes to order).

On our last night, we followed a friend's recommendation and had dinner at Trattoria 4 Leoni, which we loved. We walked home, last cones of gelato in hand, before the sun went down. Somewhere in the city, an orchestra was playing; over our heads, above the trees, came the sound of applause.

We ended our trip with a four-day visit to Amsterdam, which, unfortunately, was cut short by a storm that rerouted our flight. Apparently, this storm was one of the city's biggest in quite some time — as you'll see in the photo below, it left noticeable damage in its wake. I spent one morning walking the streets of a borough called Noord on assignment for Freunde von Freunden — that's artist Mick Johan posing on a felled street light along the way.

 Since it rained every day, we skipped canal tours and bike rides in favor of more wandering and endless eating. We loved the poffertjes, tiny pancakes served with butter and powdered sugar, at Pancakes Amsterdam; the stroopwafels made to order at the Albert Cuyp Market; and the apple pie, hidden under clouds of whipped cream, at Winkel. We had great coffee at Screaming Beans, Stach, and Lot Sixty One; our most memorable dinners were at Dos, Carter, and Morgan & Mees.

As for shopping: I spent hours (really) at Sukha, a bright, airy space on Haarlemmerstraat stocked with clothing, ceramics, and housewares. (Thank you for the recommendation, Anne D.) Other stand-outs: a vintage clothing store called Indiana Weg 10Rare Bird, a colorful little gift shop close to our Airbnb; and Hutspot, where we commandeered the photo booth.  My mom, on cloud nine in the city's many antique shops, assembled a tiny army of shining silver spoons.

I'm now back in New York, where all this now seems suspiciously like a dream. But I'm so grateful to have had time to spend with family, and the opportunity to explore new worlds in their company. A big thank you to all of you who wrote to me with recommendations and travel advice — it was so very much appreciated. I'm looking forward to future visits so I can fit in everything I missed —and to my upcoming trips to Detroit (this month) and Berlin (next month). Let the adventures continue!

Most photos (all the best ones, anyway) by Max Wanger. Happy summer travels to all.


Kelly said...

Looks beeeeautiful.

Jenny said...

I really love the way you write! You always make every experience sound like a dream. :)

burntfeather said...

wowzers what an adventure and a beautiful family you belong to - looks like a dream to me too! I loved reading this :)

Paw said...

A beautiful observation, I love this: "Somewhere in the city, an orchestra was playing; over our heads, above the trees, came the sound of applause."

Daina Ankrum said...

What an amazing adventure! I would love to travel more with my parents around the world. My mom and I just returned from our second trip to Paris together and it was just as magical as the first.

I loved seeing your photos from Italy. I spent a semester in Florence in college and I still think about that city often. It was one of the most beautiful places to live and explore!

Anonymous said...

Lovely pictures and words!

Anonymous said...

Shoko, I wonder if you could ever write more about Tokyo and Japan and second homes? I am just curious, and you write so well.

Rachel said...

I went to Cinque Terre in February, when there was absolutely no one there except for all of the beautiful elderly locals. Looks like it was a completely different world when you were there! What a lovely trip.

Shoko said...

Thank you all so much for such kind words.

Anon, I would love to — thanks for the idea! And yes, Rachel, it was a zoo! :)


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