THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
La dolce vita in Florence
Heading home

Wine and song

The final critique session yesterday was a revelation. I have been on many photo workshops but have never seen such progress in a week. Valeria, an Italian lady (and an authentic character who has raised smiles all week) had brought her new DSLR camera – her very first. She began with the kind of work one might expect from a novice but under the guidance of Sensei and the rest of the faculty she submitted assured, intelligent photographs for the final review. Others did just as well and there were many photographs of which I was more than a little envious. The best of the week, in my humble opinion, was by Irene, a Scottish photographer who has been on all three of the courses with Joe McNally that I have attended. Her picture of Suzie the pasta chef's hands was stunning.

I was reasonably happy with my work but the law of diminishing returns applies in artistic as much as economic endeavours. My inability to cope with temperatures between 35ºC and 40ºC also meant that I did not – to be honest – put in a full shift. I will post a link to the final slideshow when our teachers have shared it with us and you can judge the quality of our group's work for yourselves. All the photos in the show are by students. There are none by the distinguished teachers.

Tammie, one of our group, has also been blogging if you'd like to read more. If you are at all interested in photography you should visit the websites of Joe "Sensei" McNally, Liza "the Chief" Politi and Ari - mi amigo - Espay, our faculty for the week. You can also find Joe and Ari on Instagram. You might also check out the Instagram feed of Italian photographer Fiorella Baldisserri who was with us.

Our work done we adjourned to a hostelry on the other side of the river. Bread was broken, wine was quaffed, laughter rang out and, yes, some songs were sung. Your humble blogger's rendition of "That's amore" went down quite well and the Chief surprised all with a moving rendition of a blues song. The group's diplomat Ashley went to apologise to neighbouring diners for our raucousness and ended up making such friends with them that several of us joined them at their table.

After sleeping it off, the last valiant few breakfasted together at our highly-recommended hotel. If you're going to Florence (and you should) it is by far the coolest place to stay. It's an ultra modern, achingly hip hotel staffed by friendly and courteous young Italians. It's comfortable, it's elegant and it's located on the most fashionable shopping street. It's also in the shell of a splendid old palazzo that is itself a part of Florence's history. Equally magnificent in a far more rustic way was our hotel in the Tuscan countryside, the Castello di Gargonza. The staff there really couldn't do enough for us and the food was as great as the historic surroundings. No commercial consideration was given for either of these endorsements.

After breakfast Speranza was retrieved from valet parking, duly washed and valeted. We set off cheerfully to Modena, to visit the Museo Enzo Ferrari, which is located at the great man's birthplace over his father Alfredo's workshop. There's an impressive new building opposite the old family home and a spectacular collection of cars, engines and trophies. It was a little sad to think that Speranza's sister California – or indeed the €1 million Ferrari LaFerrari – on display will never command the open road or the track as they should. So many of these magnificent machines sit unused in private and public collections, when they should be driven often and hard. I like to think that Speranza, if sentient, would be happy to be one of the few Ferraris to fulfil her destiny. I passed 65,000 miles of driving her on this trip and will pass 66,000 before we get home.



Then it was on to Milan for an overnight stay in a rather up itself suburban hotel before heading for France tomorrow.




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Tammie Maloney

Thanks for the shout out. I've enjoyed your blog immensely.


No, it's just one of those places that stands on its dignity too much. The staff at the hotel in Florence were, as they often are in truly great hotels, easy and friendly without being impertinent. The receptionist here was a bit snooty. He didn't offer to help with my bags as he route-marched me to my room in 36 degrees Celsius. Also he resisted my diagnosis of the defective internet in my room for thirty minutes before replacing the failed wifi router, assuming that a man of my age would be digitally incompetent! He walked me condescendingly through all the measures I had already taken before complaining.

A stupid waste of hard-to-win customer goodwill.

james higham

In which way was it 'up itself'? Prices?

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