When staying in a hotel, most of us prefer a room with a view. And Lily Forster was no different.
She and her son, the soon-to-be famous writer, Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970), pitched up in Florence in the autumn of 1901. The pair first stayed at the Albergo Bonciani (Via de’ Panzani) before moving to the Pensione Simi (Lungarno delle Grazie). The Simi overlooked the river and Mrs Forster wanted a room with a view.
As Forster wrote to a friend on October 30th: "We go tomorrow to the Pension Simi, 2 Lungarno delle Grazie. We have been here three days, and very comfortable, but my mother hankers after an Arno view and a South aspect, so we are not stopping....Everything about the Pension Simi seems nice except the lady who keeps it, who scatters Hs like morsels and calls me 'the young gentleman'. But perhaps this is fastidious....Jennings Riccioli, alas! was full as regards South rooms..."
Mother and son took up residence at the Pensione Simi for six weeks. Seven years later the Simi would become the model for the Pension Bertolini in Forster’s novel A Room with a View (1908), which is partly set in Florence.
Neither the Pensione Simi nor the Hotel Jennings Riccioli any longer exist, but the Albergo Bonciani is still in business.