We open in Florence at the Pension Bertolini, a pension for British travelers. Young Lucy Honeychurch and her cousin, Charlotte Bartlett, are bemoaning the poor rooms that they have been given. They were promised rooms with views. The two women sit at dinner in their pension, along with the other guests. Lucy is disappointed because the pension hostess has turned out to be British, and the décor of the pension seems lifted right out of a room in London. While Miss Bartlett and Lucy talk, an old man interrupts them to tell them that his room has a nice view. The man is Mr. Emerson; he introduces his son, George Emerson. Mr. Emerson offers Miss Bartlett and Lucy a room swap. The men will take the rooms over the courtyard, and Lucy and Charlotte will take the more pleasant rooms that have views. Miss Bartlett is horrified by the offer, and refuses to accept; she begins to ignore the Emersons and resolves to switch pensions the next day.
Just then, Mr. Beebe, a clergyman that Lucy and Charlotte know from England, enters. Lucy is delighted to meet someone she knows, and she shows it; now that Mr. Beebe is here, they must stay at the Pension Bertolini. Lucy has heard in letters from her mother that Mr. Beebe has just accepted a position at the parish of Summer Street, the parish of which Lucy is a member. Mr. Beebe and Lucy have a pleasant talk over dinner, in which he gives Lucy advice about the sites of Florence. This vacation is Lucy's first time in Florence. Soon, almost everyone at the table is giving Lucy and Miss. Bartlett advice. The torrent of advice signifies the acceptance of Lucy and Miss Bartlett into the good graces of the pension guests; Lucy notes that the Emersons are outside of this fold. After the meal, some of the guests move to the drawing room. Miss Bartlett discusses the Emersons with Mr. Beebe; Beebe does not have a very high opinion of Mr. Emerson, but he thinks him harmless, and he believes no harm would have come from Miss Bartlett accepting Mr. Emerson's offer. Mr. Emerson is a Socialist, a term that is used by Mr. Beebe and Miss Bartlett with clear disapproval. Miss Bartlett continues to ask Mr. Beebe about what she should have done about the offer, and if she should apologize, until Mr. Beebe becomes annoyed and leaves. An old lady approaches the two women and talks with Miss Bartlett about Mr. Emerson's offer. Lucy asks if perhaps there was something beautiful about the offer, even if it was not delicate. Miss Bartlett is puzzled by the question; to her, beauty and delicacy are the same thing. Mr. Beebe returns: he has arranged with Mr. Emerson to have the women take the room. Miss Bartlett is not quite sure what to do, but she accepts. She takes the larger room, which was occupied by George, because she does not want Lucy to be indebted to a young man. She bids Lucy goodnight and inspect her new quarters, and she finds a piece of paper pinned to the washstand that has an enormous "note of interrogation" scrawled on it. Though she feels threatened by it, she saves it for George between two pieces of blotting paper.
Chapter Two In Santa Croce with No Baedeker:
Lucy looks out her window onto the beautiful scene of a Florence morning. Miss Bartlett interrupts her reverie and encourages Lucy to begin her day; in the dining room, they argue politely about whether or not Miss Bartlett should accompany Lucy on a bit of sightseeing. Lucy is eager to go but does not wish to tire her cousin, and Miss Bartlett, though tired, does not want Lucy to go alone. A "clever lady," whose name is Miss Lavish, intercedes. After some discussion, it is agreed that Miss Lavish and Lucy will go out together to the church of Santa Croce. The two women go out, and have a lively (but not too involved) conversation about politics and people they know in England. Suddenly, they are lost. Lucy tries to consult her Baedeker travel guide, but Miss Lavish will have none of it. She...