A Florence Diary by Diana AthillIn August 1947, Diana Athill travelled to Florence by the Golden Arrow train for a two-week holiday with her cousin Pen. In this playful diary of that trip, delightfully illustrated with photographs of the period, Athill recorded her observations and adventures — eating with (and paid for by) the hopeful men they meet on their travels, admiring architectural sights, sampling delicious pastries, eking out their budget, and getting into scrapes.
Written with an arresting immediacy and infused with an exhilarating joie de vivre, A Florence Diary is a bright, colourful evocation of a time long lost and a vibrant portrait of a city that will be deliciously familiar to any contemporary traveller.
A Florence Diary by Diana Athill review – the quiet after the storm
This delightful book is a diary that British novelist and literary editor Diana Athill kept during a two-week visit to Florence in August and early September In the introduction, Athill, who is still alive at 99, writes about how she has always loved to travel, because she enjoys "the thrill of being elsewhere. Athill and her cousin Pen traveled to Florence on the Golden Arrow train. They were among the first British travelers to visit Florence after World War II, and one thing I noticed immediately while reading this book was how much more leisurely the pace of travel was in those days, compared to the way it is now. There was no hassle with airports, and Athill and Pen had comfortable seats on the train--and they weren't even traveling first class. On the journey, Athill met an Italian nobleman, Alfonso, who paid for her dinners and sent her flowers as soon as she arrived at her hotel in Florence. He invited her to visit him in Rome, but she declined the offer.
Her lively introduction shows that her mind remains undiminished from 70 years ago. Athill set off for Florence from Victoria Station with her cousin Pen. While Athill is well organised, her cases registered all the way through and her hand luggage consisting mainly of a hatbox and a shopping bag of food, her cousin comes loaded with many small items tied together with string, a straw hat and an easel that falls apart and gets in the way of everybody. Yet they are clearly a cheerful and attractive pair and well looked after on the journey south. Athill is cossetted by an Italian prince by the name of Alfonso, who even arranges flowers to be delivered to their pensione in Florence while he sweeps on to Rome, imploring the travellers to come after him.
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Please refresh the page and retry. D iana Athill only kept a diary once, on her trip to Florence. Her precise observations delight Gillian Reynolds. In , Diana Athill , not quite 30, went to Florence for the first time with her cousin Pen. So I did, the only one I ever wrote, and she preserved it. Here it is, rescued from the tattered little copybook in which I wrote it, and the sometimes near illegibility of my scrawl. In the introduction, Athill explains why being abroad would show her who she was and, nearing 99, still is.
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