First stop. Florence.

Waking up under the Tuscan sun.  Florence Hotel Desirée.

Waking up under the Tuscan sun. Breakfast room at the Florence Hotel Desirée.

Two weeks of traveling, five flights, three cities (Florence, London, and Brighton), plus stops in Paris and Pisa… was quite the adventure with six pieces of luggage, three iPhones, two laptops and little baby in tow. My teaching trip to Unwind Brighton could have been really short and compact, but I decided it was close enough to Italy both location- and time-wise, so I tacked on a side trip to Florence for the Pitti Filati show.

Entrance to the Fortezza da Basso, Firenze

Entrance to the Fortezza da Basso, Firenze

Pitti Filati is a trade show all about knitting yarn and fashion. Exhibitors include spinning and wool mills from all over Italy and Europe, as well as Japan. A few years ago, when I did some collaborating with a really fabulous Vancouver-based fashion company, they turned me on to the idea of traveling to Florence for this annual show. At the time it seemed like pie-in-the-sky thinking to imagine ever going to this show, but somehow the stars aligned and we decided to make it happen. I was eager to meet new suppliers and see if there was anything new I could bring to SweetGeorgia.

Waiting for an opportunity to enter the booth

Waiting for an opportunity to enter the booth

I’d been to other design-type shows before but Pitti Filati was unlike any other I had encountered before. These super posh booths were all built with hard walls to look like complete retail showrooms with private meeting rooms, café areas as well as back storage areas. Entry to booths was headed off by a couple statuesque receptionists (bouncers?) at the front desk of each booth. These cool and collected gatekeepers would check your business card before penning you a spot in the master schedule of appointments. So there I was, standing behind the buyers from Calvin Klein, waiting my chance to pet the luscious cashmere yarns. And there were SO MANY beautiful cashmere and wool yarns.

Highlights included meeting the president of Noro, Takuo Noro, and seeing their innovative carding and spinning style. They have yarns (Shinkiro and Kasumi) that have fibre transitions as well as colour transitions so that when knit up, there are stripes of just angora-wool blend and other stripes of silk-wool blend and still others of camel-wool. And it’s interesting to see how they have a business working with commercial knitwear designers in addition to supplying yarn to hand knitters.

The majority of the exhibiting mills produced yarn for the commercial machine knitting industry and their yarns are much too fine for us to use in hand knitting (gossamer weight and sewing thread, anyone?), so there were really just a handful of booths that we could really potentially work with. But hopefully in the coming months we will be able to bring out some new yarns that will be a great fit for SweetGeorgia.

We visited the show all three days, of course to be at the show… but also to escape the 34 degree weather and indulge in the air conditioning inside the building. When we did venture outside later to visit the Uffizi and roam the streets of Florence, we just turned sticky and sweaty — the only antidote being a daily dose of gelato, usually taken 30 minutes before we could find a place for dinner.

Speaking of dinner, I thought I might tire of eating pasta every day… but I never did. The food was delicious!

Via di Parione, Florence, Italy

Via di Parione, Florence, Italy

While being IN Italy was fun, getting OUT of Italy was a bit of a nightmare.

Apparently the runway at the Florence airport is quite short and so if it’s just a little bit too windy, the planes can’t land. So the plane that was supposed to come into Florence to pick us up to go back through Paris and then London couldn’t land and had to be diverted to Bologna. Air France put all the passengers on our flight on a bus and trotted them off to Bologna where they would pick up the flight. But for us, since we would have completely missed our connecting flight, the ticketing agent found us a new direct flight to London Gatwick, but from Pisa. So we strapped the baby into the carrier and I held him for an hour in the backseat of an un-airconditioned taxi as we drove through the Italian countryside from Florence to Pisa. By North American standards I think the situation of being without a car seat on an Italian highway could be quite stressful.

Driving from Florence to Pisa

Driving from Florence to Pisa

We are pretty lucky that Russell is so easy-going and he was great to travel with. So, taking the detour to Pisa was fine with him. As was flying into Gatwick at something crazy like 2 am. And then waiting 45 minutes for a taxi to come get us from Gatwick (since there were very few trains running in the dead of the night)… and finally driving an hour from Gatwick airport to our hotel in London, only for our taxi driver to get lost and take us to the wrong neighbourhood.

It’s only a 1 hour and 40 minute flight from Italy to London, but we spent 14 hours traveling and over $400 on taxis (to be reimbursed by Air France) and finally got to the hotel at 4 am where I then (in a seriously delirious state) opened the mini-bar fridge and a full bottle of vodka slid out and broke on the hotel room carpet. Yes. But the baby thankfully slept through nearly all of it. Thank God for blackout curtains.

Next up, London!