Dateline Milford on Sea England I want to talk about timing


Chef Enzo Pette, putting finishing touches on his Steak Fiorentino, surrounded by his cheerful staff in the pristine kitchen of the Hotel Helvetia & Bristol.

When this column hits the stands, I’ll be happily at home (unless the volcanic ash cloud looms). Due to deadlines, I’m writing in advance, overlooking the beautiful Bay of Christchurch. This is the finale of our trip, a blessed peaceful time to just do the laundry, cook, enjoy the magical Chewton Glen Spa, and be un-pressed by schedules of trains and packing. By now, we’ve traveled through four countries, visited amazing places, all to be shared in your Tolucan’s Lawrence and Lawrence column. As a preview, let me call attention to a stand- out location we visited in Florence …

Hotel Helvetia & Bristol: Looking out the window, from our glorious suite in Firenze’s most beautiful hotel, we see Cartier right across the street. (David bought me a gorgeous scarf!) It’s like living in the midst of Rodeo Drive, except down the corner is Lorenzo’s, our favorite gelato stand in Italy (so far). My must-go boutique is over the Ponte Vecchio in the Florentine old town on Via San Spirito, where the much-honored Angela Caputi creates her inimitable Bijoux. I’m not a big jewelry person, but for over ten years, I’ve been collecting (not really costly) necklaces from Angela. This time, I actually met her. I got to hug this mythical artist and tell her how much I love her. And, this too was walkable from the hospitable Helvetia.

Luckily, we did not have to walk far to dine. The Hostaria Bibendum, the famous bar and restaurant of the hotel is right off the art-filled and comfortable lobby. Stefano Venturi, the very dashing general manager, made us feel very welcome and he showed us through the warm and decorative restaurant and then, to the kitchen!

Chef Enzo Petti: Rightfully proud of his pristine kitchen, Chef Petti is also proud of his three poodles. My kind of chef. Besides being a master in his kitchen, he has dimples and smiles often. Very pleasing in all ways. I suggest his Risotto with cod and the gargantuan Fiorentino steak for two. It was so delicious and big, our engaging server Marco vacuum-sealed our leftovers and kept it in their fridge for the morning when we checked out. (This accounted for two dinners in Verona, where we had our own kitchen in the Residence Hotel Castelvecchio.)

If you want an up-close and personal time with Chef Pette, you can take a cooking class with him at the Helvetia & Bristol kitchen. The recipes are simple and sensational. The lessons are individual and hands on so one can gain expertise in Tuscan, and other regions, cooking.

A part of the select Royal Demeure hotel group, and affiliated with Leading Small Hotels of The World, the Helvetia & Bristol is a magnificent urban palazzo in the centre of Florence, a short walk from the Duomo. Famous for its charm, service and unrivalled location, it became a haunt of artists such as D’Annunzio, Pirandello, and Eleonora Duse. The Helvetia has hosted monarchs, aristocrats and Nobel Prize winners over the years. And now, David and Jackie, ambassadors for Tolucan Times …

Verona: Did I whisper Residence Hotel Castelvecchio? I should be loud and clear, this was the perfect time to have our own kitchen after too many fine restaurant meals. And the beautiful, outstanding Receptionists, Estela Blanca Ayala and Antonella Gabrielli, the stars of our stay, made sure we had what was needed, and arranged that we made it to our next train with ease. Estela called for us to see a grand tour of gorgeous antique cars parading by the residence on Corso Cavour, which was an unexpected highlight of our stay.

Our huge, domed ceiling and frescoed room was located in the Palazzo Canossa, which is connected to the residence. Located in the heart of the historic center of Verona, next to Castelvecchio bridge over the Adige River. The famous Arena, only a few minutes away, once featured gladiators. Now it hosts Grand Opera and Rod Stewart as a premiere concert venue in Italy.

A man’s home may be his castle; Residence Hotel Castelvecchio really is one. We’ll travel …

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