Wednesday, September 23, 2015

More Street Art

     It turns out today was a cloudy, rainy day, so I am resting, catching up on world news (yuck) and doing some sketching.  

    The rain has subsided, so I opened my window and I can hear the sounds of a banjo in the piazza.  Of course, what is he playing?  "Summertime!"  The tourists seem to love it.

    In reviewing my photos, I realized I had taken more street art photos that I haven't shared with you yet. .....
I thought this was so cute...."Support your local street heroes!"


This one is actually a character in a popular children's book, "Il Giornolino de Gian Burrasca". (The little journal of Gian Burrasca).  Benedetta gave me a copy as a gift and I am slowly working my way through it.


     "Audio Surveillance Zone!"



Clever!  I don't know what the message is, if any, but very clever!

You know I can't close out today's thoughts without something just a little decadent......

     This is a "Marrochino Speciale!" that I had the other day.   Those are hazelnuts on top of melted chocolate!  Inside the cup is an espresso coffee with chocolate and cream!

(Oh my gosh, now he's playing "Yankee Doodle Dandy!!)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The importance of lines!


     You know when you see long lines, especially at a restaurant, there has to be a good reason.   The restaurant is l'Antico Vinaio on the Via Neri.    A few blogs ago, I showed you the photo of a half eaten Porchetta sandwich that I waited in a short line for and ate sitting on a stoop with a couple of Australian girls.  Well. Sunday as I was walking by there (just walking by...I had already eaten) this is what I saw....
You may not realize it from this photo, but  l'Antico Vinaio has two locations across the street from each other, so what you are looking at is the lines at BOTH locations.  (The last little red sign on the right is l'Antico Vinaio on the right side of the street, just to give you an idea of how long the lines are).  So, where do all these people eat their panini???.....
 

(At least I didn't have to sit on the curb to enjoy mine)

They came, they saw, they ate!!   Not only are the sandwiches full of your choice of Porchetta, salami, prosciutto, capacola, but they include mixtures of cooked porcini, eggplant, zucchini. (Especially for the vegetarians out there). They spread each split focaccia with your choice of a picante spread or a parsley type pesto, etc.  Then they top each sandwich off with a handful of fresh arugula.  All for 5Euro (a little less $6.00).  As I mentioned in my previous post, they have self service wine for 2Euro a glass.  It's a win/win lunch!

Speaking of lunch....I'm beginning to think I should have called this blog Angela's Food Blog!!  Today, I was in the mood for comfort food, so I stopped by one of my favorite restaurants..San Michele all'Arco on Via Dell'Oriuolo.  And, lucky me, they had homemade lentil soup with crostini....
     It was yummy and just what I needed.  As an aside, the waitress there is Linda (pronounced Leanda) and the waiter is Lorenzo.  Linda is a young attractive Italian girl, who just happens to be fluent in English, Fench, Italian, of course as she laughingly says Sicilian because they have a dialect all their own.  She is teaching herself German and hopes to pick up Chinese soon (there are no people left in China, they are all here in Florence....hmmmm, have I said that before).  Anyway, in addition to waitressing she also teaches at a state mandated school for 3 to 6 year olds where she has as many as 28 students in each class.  I admire her for her hard work.

    Since I have been averaging 4 to 5 miles a day(according to my Fitbit), and, oh yes, 66 stairs up to the 4th floor, I felt I deserved a dolci with my afternoon espresso.....

Ok, ok, so "due dolci".....one is a small cannolo that I couldn't resist because of the pistachio nuts and the other is a Millefoglia (a Napoleon of sorts)!   At least, I gave up my bombolone for breakfast.  I can't have it all......

I will be going to an art exhibit at the Palazzo Strozzi on Thursday, called "Divine Beauty" featuring Van Gogh to Chagall and Fontana.  I never heard of Fontana, so I am anxious to see his works also.  More photos to follow I hope......



Friday, September 18, 2015

It goes on and on!



     Last night, there was a nice breeze, so I thought I'd take a walk to the Piazza Della Signoria (where the Palazzo Vecchio is and the fake statue of David).  As I entered the piazza, there were several Carabinieri (police) trucks with a bunch of policemen, putting on, what looked like riot gear.  Ok, I say to myself, am I missing something.  I looked around the piazza and everything looked normal except for these guys suiting up....


I asked a local if she knew what was going on (yes, Tony, I used my Italian) and she didn't have a clue either.  So, I thought, they must be expecting something to happen.  Within minutes I heard loud singing and shouting coming from one of the side streets.  Remembering my experience of living overseas, and expecting the unexpected, I decided to walk in the other direction.  As I glanced back, I saw a ragtag bunch of young men, obviously with an agenda.  Fortunately, it appeared peaceful.  I never did find out what it was about though.

But, the best part of all of this was that because I went in a different direction, I found a restaurant Maria and I ate at last year. ....Francesco Vini.....the risotto with carmelized pears and truffles was incredible....

I enjoyed every mouthful and finished it off with a cup of decaf espresso macchiato (literally means stained with milk).

I decided to walk back to the Piazza because it looked liked most of the carabinieri had gone except for a few, including this guy.....
I might add that they are very particular about their uniforms.  A lot of "primping" was going on!

     Did your whole body ever get so tired you couldn't move?  Today was one of those marathon days for me.  Benedetta had personal business to attend to, so I was free all day.  I decided to go to the Museo Danvanzati which is an old Middle Ages home (well, not really), how about a palace!  I must have climbed a hundred and one stairs because each floor had a huge salon and bedroom with bath.  No toilets, but accommodations for bathing......

All the rooms had decorative painting like this, really pleasant soft colors.

The bedrooms were very large and had a lot of windows for cross ventilation.  

Not much of a tub, but at least it was a small private space off the bedroom.  

They had devised a pulley system for getting the bathing water to all the floors....there were four floors, all with the same room configurations with beautiful tapestries and paintings throughout.  And the entrance fee was only 2 euros!  

     I knew I couldn't be in Florence without going to Farmacia Santa Maria Novella.  This is an ancient establishment which started out as a pharmacy and over the years has added the most incredibly well done soaps, perfumes, powders, etc., etc.,   The walls still have the ancient murals and the wood cases, etc.  The chandelier is a newer addition....
It is bright, airy and smells oh, so beautiful!  The salespeople wear a sort of "uniform" of navy skirts and jackets and the ladies have navy and white polka dot blouses and are very well trained in the art of making you feel special. They have it down to a science now, because you tell a clerk what you would like, they put it on a digital card and when you are done, you go a cashier area, where your products are waiting for you, once you pay for them, of course.  

By this time, I was getting hungry and thirsty, so I decided to head to the Mercato Centrale.  Usually, I get there after the lower level Farmer's Market is closed, but I got there early today so I got to witness the hubbub!  

Can you imagine a deli like this in St. Augustine?  Heaven!  And this was one of many throughout.  

The crowds at the famous Nerbone's where everyone says you should eat were too much for me, so I went upstairs to the newer fancier food stands.  I found out it was even more crowded up there.  The tourists love this place.  Anyway, I made my way over to my favorite focaccia stand and had a piece of this...

It is focaccia with broccoli rape and asiago cheese on top.  The best part of these focacci, are the crusty bottoms.  Yum?  The little piece of bread you see sticking out of the wrapper is a small cheese bread I bought to bring back to the apartment.

But, the best part of this adventure was something that happened that even as I write this, I find hard to believe.  As I was walking past some of the food stands, I looked up and saw what looked like a familiar face, "wait, I know those eyes!"  Oh my gosh, it was Kathleen from my exercise class in Fredericksburg, who I haven't seen in 14 years!!  Amazing!!!  What are the odds?  You talk about a "place in time!"  It really makes you wonder.  Her husband took a photo of us, but in the excitement, I forgot to ask him to send it to me.  I gave her my card, I hope she thinks of it.  

I made a few more stops on my way back to the apartment and of course, had to stop at Vivoli, a gelato/pastry shop...
This is a little cup of tiramisu!  Finito!!





Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Magnificent

   
   How do you describe something that evokes emotions you wish you could feel everyday?  I didn't know what to expect when I went to the Palazzo Vecchio to see The Magnificent. (I included a description in my previous post).  It was only a 30 minute digital exhibit, but it presented a short history of Firenze, music, and images from many Renaissance masterpieces which combined to make for an incredible show narrated by Andrea Bocelli.  



     Imagine seeing images like this displayed on a 40 foot high wall that surrounds you on three sides.  And, somehow, they have managed to get the images to move!  The arches you see in the photos are part of the building.   I don't think I can do the whole production justice here, but I know I will remember this experience for a long time.

    Since we are talking about "magnificent" things....  Earlier today, I posted a breakfast I had the other day on Facebook and I got a lot of comments, so for those of you not on my Facebook page, here it is....

Starbucks eat your heart out!  

     So, if that is how to start the day in Italy, this is how to end it......

     I was fortunate to attend a dinner that Benedetta and Giovanni had this evening, not what you might consider your typical Italian fare in the U.S.  We had an antipasti of bruschetta with pate, prosciutto, salami of wild boar and green olives.  Benedetta made a dish called Pappa alla Pomodoro, which is a simple dish made from bread, onions, garlic, tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Simple, but oh, so good.  The other dish was a sort of ratatouille of eggplant, onions, olives, tomatoes and capers.  It was fresh, light and easy to go back to for seconds.  

     Now on to the end of the evening, of course a Vin Santo with Biscottini.....

Keep in mind, you must dunk your Biscottini in the Vin Santo.  E' Buonissimo!  A dopo....(later)



Friday, September 11, 2015

Surprises!

     .
     "So, how is it you speak such good English."   Uh, because I'm American!  This was my response to a couple, who it turned out are from Vermont and winter on Ava Maria Island off the west coast of Florida every year.  They stopped me on my way out of the restaurant last night because when they were looking over the menu the wife didn't know what "chard" was, so since they were sitting at a table near me, I smiled and asked, "are you familiar with Swiss Chard, a leafy green vegetable?" Of course.....and there were smiles all around and thank you, etc.  When I was leaving, as I passed their table, they asked the above question, sure that I was Italian!!  A surprise for all of us!

      Tonight during my evening passagiata (walk),  I stopped at the Palazzo Vecchio to inquire about tickets for a digital showing of The Magnificent....."Magnificent is neither a movie, nor a documentary, nor an exhibition:  it is an emotional experience through images and sounds.  The Arm Room's  walls have been covered with big screens in order to host the digital work, turning the audio-visual performance into an emotional, immersive and all-encompassing experience!"  It is narrated by Andrea Bocelli.

     So, of course, as I entered the huge hall, there was this image of Bocelli.....

It looks like it is carved from Carrera marble and as the sign says..."it is a homage to Andrea Bocelli". Design by Marble Man and installed by Robot City.  If it's not marble you could have fooled me, but if it is, what a remarkable sculpture.  I will ask more about it tomorrow when I go to the exhibit.  

     All the guide books will tell you that, if you are not a vegetarian, you should have a Porchetta Panini while in Tuscany.  Porchetta is a "fresh ham" roasted with incredible spices.  It is thinly sliced and "sandwiched" between a split focaccia.  But, the best part, as I was to discover this evening, is that it can be prepared many different ways.  Imagine, if you will, freshly baked focaccia, spread with a mildly hot sauce, then filled with thinly sliced porchetta, with roasted zucchini, eggplant and fresh arugula.  I might add that the Porchetta is sliced fresh for each sandwich and all for 5 euro.  And to wash it all down a glass of Tuscan wine for 2 euro.  

Dare I post an image of a half eaten panini......

Of course, you realize the place had lines out the door, so there was no seating inside, but no problem..... there was room on a bench outside next to two young Australian girls, so we "dined" together.  Finding the Osteria, learning  how to order the panini and meeting an talking with the two Australian girls.....priceless.

A Few Observations!





     One of the things I love about getting away (especially to Italy) is that I take the time to pay attention to the details of the life around me.

     This is rather obvious, but nonetheless curious.  It is painted on the back of the door in the ladies room at the Mercato Centrale....




There are all kinds of graffiti around the city, these little gems stand out to me because they appear to be done by the same artist and they always have a whimsical message......



I have been looking for a new bike that I feel more secure riding and I think I found just the one.....




Or maybe this one...

designed by Leonardo....


   On Monday, September 7, considered to be the eve of the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the church of the Santissima Annunziata celebrates with a Festival called the Festa of the Rificolona (lanterns).  There is procession with thousands of people along with many, many young children carrying lanterns lit by candles, that were either store bought or made by hand.  It was such a pleasure to watch the faces of the little ones as they displayed their lanterns. 


They don't do anything in a small way here.....


The music, the priests (behind the trumpeters), the city dignitaries and on and on.....

And then finally... The Danza Pizzicata....lovely young women dancing "The Tarantella"...

I wish you could hear the music.....








Saturday, September 5, 2015

This and That!

The last couple of days have been about getting adjusted to the new routine......the food, the air, the smells and on and on.

First of all, I have to apologize for the text of the last post.  I'm not sure what happened, but the white shadow around the letters made it very hard to read.

As expected, I am walking a lot!!!  Yesterday I walked back to Santo Spirito in the Oltrarno (across the Arno) again in search of several artisan shops I heard about.   My trek took me into what I can only describe as a neighborhood because there were NO tourists.  I'll post more about what I found later.

So, for those Augustinians out there, does this guy look familiar.  These lions were the inspiration for our beloved lions that were donated so many years ago!



Ok, so now it is Saturday, September 5...I have no idea where the time is going, except that I have been exploring the city and the language....  

Each morning I have an intensive lesson with Benedetta (2 hours) and Giovanni (2 hours)...., I have lunch, rest a bit, then leave to explore the city to hopefully practice Italian.  I told you about my trip to Oltrarno the other day.  I was in pursuit of a tiny shop called Ratafia' Firenze.  They are two sisters..Laura and Valentina, who paint fabric, then make purses, etc. from it.  Unfortunately, when I 
arrived, they weren't there, but I got to meet their brother, who in the adjoining space runs a school for marketing for students from University of South  Florida!!!    But, coincidentally, as I was    walking back to the Santa Croce area, I saw two ladies at the bus stop and yes, one was Valentina and the other was her mother.  Surprisingly, she recognized me.  They were on their way back to the mini mall where I first met them.  I really practiced my Italian that day.  It is so encouraging that the 
Italians here truly appreciate the effort made to speak their language by foreigners. Their patience is amazing to me.

What I loved, too, about the Oltrarno was all the little artisan shops on the back streets.  Artists, potters, small shops selling art supplies, papers, etc., tailors (I mean, real tailors, who make custom suits, dresses, etc.).  I don't know why I didn't take a photo of a suit in progress in the window?  I  guess I'll have to go back!  Of course, I had to buy some of the gorgeous notepaper.  It gave me the opportunity to practice Italian again.  The signorina (young woman) commented that my accent was Spanish! And was I from Spain?  Go figure, at least she didn't say I was speaking Spanish.  


'


Last year I mentioned in one of my blogs, these curious road signs that  I've come to realize are more   art then indicators of direction.   As I said then and will say now, so happy they allow them!!