Postcard: Within seconds, two nuns burst through the door and that was the end of that sort of thing

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Dear All

From my bedroom window in Fiesole I can see Florence. At least I could last night. But an American couple insisted that they were offered our view. This hotel has an unconventional booking policy. Accept everybody and sort it out on the day. Hence our problem on the first night.

Frankly, the choice between sharing a four-poster in the basement and moving to a different hotel was easily made. Even our bachelor digs in Hull had separate beds. Funny that the two of us never went on holiday together in the Fifties. I suppose it would have been all girls and drink. Now, at least, the girls have been replaced with galleries and cathedrals.

The hotel that took us in for the first night was a Medici palace that became a convent. Now an Irish order is in residence and they make a bit on the side each summer with B and B, or L e P as I suppose they call it here.

I was surprised to be given a suite - three rooms, each complete with crucifix. But my knowledge of convent architecture has never been very great.

Preparing for bed, I pulled a cord which I assumed switched off the light. The system was impressively efficient. The siren started at once and two nuns burst through the door before the alarm bell had rung for more than 30 seconds. An Englishman who (despite the evidence of his shirt) claimed to 'teach aesthetics at Cambridge' told me that long before the convent became a home for wealthy geriatrics, Boccaccio had written the Decameron more or less on the site of my humiliation. Which headline would you have preferred - 'Middle-Aged MP In Double Bed Row' or 'Nude MP Shocks Orgy Villa Nuns'? Our real hotel has two signs over the reception desk. One boasts that the Fiesole Lions Club lunches here every month. The second mentions that D'Annunzio slept there in 1934.

Hoping that we had poets in common, I asked the manager if he knew where Robert Browning had lived. He told me that he had never heard of Robert but that 'Elizabeth's house had been pulled down in 1966'. He added, to confirm his cultural interests, that the Roman amphitheatre was closed while the sound system for the weekend rock concert was installed.

So we caught the bus to Florence - the Bargello first stop. As always the most wonderful statue in the world clearly used a girl as his model for the young David.'

Instead of hitting him, I went downstairs to buy postand the Swan for Tony Blair. Then I realised that what they were up to was inconsistent with his view on family policy. I guess Michelangelo's Mark Antony would be safer.

By the way, we're having a wonderful time.

Roy Hattersley

(Photograph omitted)

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