Versatile Blogger Award

One thing that I love about my new life as a blogger is that I feel like I have acquired a new set of friends . . . cyber friends! It all starts with a “like” at the bottom of a post, then there is a  “tweet”, then a shy comment, and finally comes the “follow”. And there you are, connected through an invisible thread to hundreds of people all over the word. People that you will most likely never meet, yet you share with each other a small part of  your life in this fantastic world where the only requirements are to be polite and respectful of each other.

It is in my blogger’s world that I gained a new friend, Tea & Biscotti,  a blogger from UK, in her own words: “ English by birth, Italian by choice”. I think you can see the connection here!

By  Tea & Biscotti, I have been recently honored with a nomination for an award! Yes, you heard it . . . an award!

Well, let me clarify. It is not actually an award, but rather a recognition from other bloggers.

It sounds pretty amazing to me to think that the delightful Tea & Biscotti finds my blog interesting enough not only to read it herself, but also to be worthy of others’ attention.

Needless to say, I am excited to accept the Versatile Blogger Award.

Few rules to follow when one accepts the award:

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or that you follow regularly. (I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to the VBA site.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

So, first and foremost, MILLE GRAZIE to Tea & Biscotti; not only has she nominated me for this award, she has also been following my blog and my tweets, and she has often shown her support. You should definitely check out her blog. It is full of surprises, it’s joyful and loving when speaking about her “Bambina”, is sensitive when speaking of social issues, and mostly, it makes you feel in a good mood.

Selecting my 15 nominatios has not been an easy task. Not because I couldn’t find enough blogs/bloggers worth of the award, but rather because I could find something interesting in so many.

But a choice must to be made so here they are, in no particular order, My Top 15:

  1. emilyluxton
  2. Zen and Genki
  3. Meg Travels
  4. GREENWORDCHEF’S BLOG
  5. Our Italian Table
  6. Going Dutch
  7. Daniel C. Doolan’s News Updates
  8. Homemade Delish
  9. HeartRome 
  10. Finger, Fork & Knife 
  11. Food Lover’s Odyssey
  12. Manipal’s Photo Blog
  13. napoli unplugged
  14. mondomulia
  15. Juls’ Kitchen 

Lastly, My 7 little things about me:

  1. When dining out I NEVER skip dessert.
  2. I always wear my pearls.
  3. My biggest accomplishment is my two wonderful sons . . . the joy of my life.
  4. My inspiration to become an architect came from the Greeks temples of Paestum and . . . The Jetsons cartoons! (I know you are wondering).
  5. My dream is one day to live in a little house on the beach.
  6. I cannot go to sleep if I don’t have a piece of chocolate.
  7. I love Prosecco!

To all my nominees: you are not bound to accept my nomination and please, accept my apology if you have already received this award.

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April 25th . . . That’s when it all started.

Today, Italy celebrates the 67th anniversary of its liberation from Nazi-Fascist dictatorship.

I could enlighten you about this, indeed important, piece of Italy’s history; however on second thought, I am going to tell you about my own special anniversary.

On April 25th 1991, my family’s journey to the United States started – my husband and I, and our two sons, respectively 2-1/2 years old and 3 months old. A journey that should have lasted 11 months, but guess what . . . it hasn’t ended yet!

Twenty-one years have passed; I consider the States my adopted land and home, yet for some reason, it still feels like an ongoing adventure; that’s why I celebrate. Or, it must be because every time I meet someone new, after my “hello”, the first question I am still asked is: “Where are you from?”. Perhaps I should be offended and at times, depending on my mood, I am; most of the times, however, I just carry the conversation on until my acquaintance feels compelled to say: “Oh, what a lovely accent!” and then: “I LOVE Italy, my favorite place in the world!” or: “Oh, my great-great-grandparents were from Italy!

Anyway, back to my anniversary.

In August 1990, my husband was offered a grant to work in cancer research in United States, for a period of eleven months. At that time, I was 4 months pregnant, we had a 21 months old son, and I was preparing to discuss my thesis to become an architect. Yet, I jumped at the idea and I started making plans. We were going to leave on April 25th 1991. By then, our baby would have been 3 months old, and I would have received my degree and completed my registration to the Board of Architects. It also seemed appropriate to depart on Liberation’s Day to assert our longing for something new.

On April 24th 1991, the night before our flight to United States, we finished packing our six suitcases – thank God there were no luggage charges at that time! –  plus one carrozzina (baby carriage), one passeggino (baby stroller), and three carry-on bags. To avoid the morning rush, we decided to park everything in my parents’ apartment building’s  “sottoscala” – a sort of storage space below the first floor’s  central hall; it was a safe place, or so we thought. . .

On April 25th 1991, at 4:00 am, both my husband’s family and mine drove us to Rome Airport.

The United States, at that time, was engaged in the Gulf War and many precautionary measures were taken at the airport. We were asked if our luggage had always been under our direct surveillance, of course we told the truth and guess what? Yes, all our heavily stuffed luggage needed to be inspected. . . the carillon was playing “Per Elisa”, the stuffed animals went flying on the floor, and so were my bras, books, and everything else.

This was all happening while my two years old was horsing around at the airport, my baby was screaming for hunger, my husband was arguing with the security, and my relatives were witnessing the whole scene in disbelief. Then . . . it was time to kiss and say ‘arrivederci’.

On April 25th 1991 at 6:30 am, we were on Flight TWA-0841 to JFK, New York.

Our boarding pass stubs

The flight was completely booked; no room for the baby carrier, our beautiful family of four was accommodated in the last row, just before the smoking section . . . no, I am not kidding!

April 25th 1991, Baby's first flight

On April 25th 1991 at 2:30 PM we landed at JFK, our first stop in USA. After, a first horrible experience with the immigration service we were finally on our way to our final destination: Washington, DC.

Immigration stamp

On April 25th 1991 at 7:00 PM we landed at Washington National Airport . . . that’s when it all started.

It has been a long day!

A friend picked us up at the airport; of course he didn’t imagine he should have rented a U-Haul! I remember driving the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the first view of the Potomac River, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Monument . . . how beautiful! I knew then, that it was going to be a wonderful journey.

First view of Washington Monument

Today, April 25th 2012, I woke up to a beautiful Spring day in Frederick, Maryland. I have loved every minute of my last twenty-one years in USA, so pardon mylovely” accent . . . My American journey has yet to end!

Three Days in Florence . . . Day Three

Cloister of Santa Maria NovellaHere we are, our last day in Florence. If you have just joined me for My three days in Florence you might want to follow My path for DAY ONE and DAY TWO.

TRE GIORNI A FIRENZE

DAY THREE:

Today we start from Museo di San Marco. The museum occupies the oldest part of the Dominican convent, rebuilt by Michelozzo between 1436-1446. Friar Giovanni da Fiesole, known as Fra Angelico, lived in the convent first in 1387 and then from 1400 to 1455. During those years he enriched the building with a cycle of paintings. The name “Angelico” came from the grace of the friar’s brushstroke, but also from his goodness: the Church, in fact, declared him Beato (Beatus) in 1982. You can start your visit from the chiostro (cloister) and the loggia. Right at the entrance you are introduced to Fra Angelico’s first fresco: San Domenico adoration of the crucifix. Enter the Ospizio dei Pellegrini ( Pilgrim’s hospice) and admire Fra Angelico’s painted work on wooden panels. The colors are just magnificent and so is the use of the perspective, visible even in the small format’s panels. The Sala Capitolare (Chapter Hall) houses the Crucifixion. These are all beautiful works; nothing, however, could prepare you to the view that expects you at the corner of the first flight of stairs leading to the cells: The Annunciazione (Annunciation), just breathtaking! I was personally in awe . . . I cannot even describe it.

Take your time to admire this fresco and then move to the cells, each of which is adorned with its own fresco. Before you leave, on the first floor, you stop by the book shop which is adorned by a fresco by the Ghirlandaio depicting the Last Supper.

Outside, on the opposite side of the Piazza, is the Galleria dell’ Accademia. I am not, however, heading there today. I am heading instead to Via Cavour, 3: the entrance to Palazzo Medici Riccardi.

The Palace traces four century of Florentine’s art, architecture and collections. The focal point is the fifteenth-century courtyard by Michelozzo. Here, is where Lorenzo the Magnificents’ sumptuous wedding was held.

The palace’s jewel, however, is the Cappella dei Magi (The Chapel of the Magi) on the upper floor. Benozzo Gozzoli was the artist who frescoed the chapel’s wall with the magnificent image of the cavalcade of the Magi.

Time to head to the market! From Palazzo Medici, make a right on Via de’ Ginori and follow the road to the Mercato Centrale. On your way, you will also pass through the Mercato di San Lorenzo. The crowd could be overwhelming, but you can get some good deals on small leather accessories, such as wallets and hand bound journals (I love those). You are now in front of the Mercato Centrale. The construction was completed in 1874 to satisfy the need of  larger market space – compared to the Mercato Nuovo, remember ? Where the Porcellino is. The building, with its light, glass and ghisa (cast iron), structure sitting on top of a stone base, is a perfect synthesis of old and new. Once inside, the light  coming in from the large windows above, makes you feel like you are in an open market. The market is great for tasting some of Florence’s specialties, including trippa (tripe), porchetta, panino with prosciutto or finocchiona. The market has been slowly becoming a tourist attraction, yet it still holds the old fashion feeling and offers good quality products.

From the Mercato, we will take a short walk to Piazza Santa Maria Novella, dominated by the homonymous church, and once serving as the track for the Palio dei Cocchi, chariot races, organized by Cosimo I. The church of Santa Maria Novella is the home of the Dominicans. The lower half of the façade is in Romanesque style and was started in the 1300s. Leon Battista Alberti finished the façade, adding a classically inspired Renaissance top that created a Cartesian plane of perfect geometry.

Unlike the exterior, the interior appears rather Gothic.

Just past the pulpit, on the left wall, is Masaccio’s Trinità. In this painting, Masaccio was the first ever to use the rule of linear perspective.

Hanging in the nave’s center is Giotto’s Crucifix, which is just beautiful!

Behind the main altar, in the Tornabuoni Chapel,  you can admire a cycle of fresco by Ghirlandaio. The frescos depict the Life of the Virgin and the Life of St. John the Baptist; they, however, also provide a snapshot of the era’s daily life and personages.

From this church’s pulpit, in 1614, Galileo was denounced for his heretical theory that the Earth revolved around the sun.

The complex of Santa Maria Novella also includes three cloisters, open to the public as museum. The Chiostro Verde (Green cloister), is the best known and it is truly picturesque with its cypress-surrounded fountain.  It is named for the greenish tint in the pigment used by Paolo Uccello in his frescoes, of which the most celebrated is the dramatic Diluvio Universale (The Flood) .

Through this cloister you can also enter the Cappellone degli Spagnoli (Spanish Chapel) that assumed this name when it became the private chapel of Eleonora of Toledo.

This summer, after being closed to the public for many years, the more intimate Chiostro dei Morti (Cloister of the deaths) will also reopen.

Before heading to the Uffizzi, we must take a quick stop to the Officina Profumo -Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.

Founded in 1612, this is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. Here you will be inebriated by the smell of the essential oils, soaps, lotions, and perfumes still produced following the old procedures of the Dominican friars. The space itself is lovely and the small museum is very interesting.

Time to head to the Uffizzi.

The Galleria degli Uffizzi was built for Cosimo I by his preferred architect, Vasari, and originally served as the uffici (offices) of the Grand Duchy. Later, Cosimo’s son Francesco transformed the top floor into a gallery for some of his own art collection, giving birth to the first museum in the world! Today, the Uffizzi houses one of the most beautiful art collections in the world. I will not attempt to walk you through the museum’s halls. Walk at your own pace, pause  before the Madonnas by Botticelli and Lippi, or the Birth of Venus and the Primavera (Botticelli), but don’t dismiss works like the Annunciation by Simone Martini, which is not less fascinating. The Uffizzi also houses the only known painting on canvas by Michelangelo: The Holy Family, also known as Tondo Doni, named for its round shape and the Doni family that commissioned it.

In 1565, Cosimo I asked architect Vasari to build a corridor to connect Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, crossing the Uffizzi. This was to be the wedding gift for his son Francesco. The corridor, known as Corridoio Vasariano, is one kilometer long and it crosses right over Ponte Vecchio, where it sits on top of the goldsmiths’ shops.

Ponte Vecchio’s row of square windows dotting the Vasari Corridor

Along the corridor is a collection of self-portraits with more than seven hundred paintings.  You will also enjoy the most unusual views of the city and the Arno river from the tiny windows dotting the exterior wall. The corridor’s walk ends just outside the Giardini di Boboli.

The Boboli Gardens are usually open until 7:30 PM, it’s up to you to take a walk through the gardens or just head to your last dinner in Florence until your next time!

NOTE: You can only visit the Vasari Corridor booking (well in advance) a guided visit directly through Polo Museale Fiorentino or a touring company of your choice (I have my preferences and I will share with you by request).

Of course, My three days in Florence don’t give justice to all there is to see in this beautiful city. It is, however, a snapshot of some of my personal favorites.  My tours can be customized based on your interests and likes and I would love to share with you more of my faves!

MY FAVORITE STOPS TO TICKLE YOUR TASTE BUDS:

These are within today itinerary

GELATO:

Grom, Via delle Oche, 24r

Gelateria dei Neri, Via dei Neri, 20

LUNCH:

Mario, Via Rosina, 2

Focaccine, Via dell’Ariento, 85r

Nerbone, inside the Mercato Centrale

DINNER:

Il Latini, Via dei Palchetti, 6r

Cambi, Via San Onofrio, 1r

Golden View Open Bar, Via dei Bardi 58r (ask for a table by the window or on the tiny balcony, the view is spectacular). Good seafood.

I would love to read your comments! Where would you like to go next?

Three Days in Florence . . . Day Two

Ponte Vecchio

I hope you enjoyed My Day one of our Three days in Florence and I trust you are ready for day two.

Last Spring when I was in Florence I stayed at the Pitti Palace Hotel; My room was not the best, the hotel, however, is located right on Ponte Vecchio and, best of all, it has a roof terrace where you can have breakfast while admiring the beautiful view. Nothing better to start your day! So let’s go!

Tre Giorni a Firenze

DAY TWO:

Today we start our tour from the Cappelle Medicee (Medici’s Chapels) in Piazza degli Aldobrandini (this is also the back entrance of the church of San Lorenzo). The Cappelle Medicee represent, since 1869, both a civic museum of Florence and the burial place of the Medici family. They occupy some areas of the Chiesa  di San Lorenzo. The Medici were the Florentine family that dominated the political scene of the city for more than three centuries, beginning in the early 1400s.

The museum is structured in two main areas: Sacrestia Nuova and Cappella dei Principi.

The Sacrestia Nuova (New Sacristy), was the first architectural work of Michelangelo and includes the monuments for Giuliano and  Lorenzo dei Medici. The impressive Cappella dei Principi (Princes Chapel), was designed to host the funerary monuments of the Medici family. The monuments are decorated with 4 allegorical statues: the Day, the Night, the Twilight and the Aurora. The space is entirely covered with marbles of different color and origin. Nothing simple in this room that at that time was considered one of the wonders of the world!

After visiting the Chapels you can walk in the church.

San Lorenzo was built on an early church that was consecrated in 393 AD. It was then rebuilt in Romanic style around the 1000s. Giovanni di Bicci, Lorenzo de’ Medici’s grandfather, decided to transform the little medieval church into a family temple, and hired Brunelleschi for the work. Brunelleschi, however, did not finish the work and left the façade unfinished. Michelangelo designed the interior façade, the sacristy and the library. By Donatello are the sculptures in the Sacrestia Vecchia (Old Sacristy). I personally love the Sacrestia Vecchia with its simple geometry, its clean lines, and its white walls bordered with grey pietra serena. The height of the dome makes it for a transcendent space. The sacristy houses the tombs of Cosimo il Vecchio, his parents and his children.

From the left nave of the church you can access the Libreria Laurenziana (Laurentian Library), founded by Cosimo il Vecchio  (de’ Medici) and enlarged by Lorenzo il Magnifico.

From Piazza San Lorenzo take a right on Borgo San Lorenzo and arrive in Piazza del Duomo.

Take in this overwhelming space. So much to look at: Il Battistero di San Giovanni (St. John’s Baptistery), il Campanile di Giotto (Giotto’s Bell Tower), and of course, the immense Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral).

I could probably write one full post for each one of this landmark, plus one just for the Dome, but for the purpose of this tour (remember we only have three days) I am moving along based on my preferences. So, feel free to visit the Baptistery or to climb the Bell Tower – I have done it once . . . I though I was going to die. I did, however, take some beautiful pictures!

So today, I am heading right to the Porta della Mandorla del Duomo (North side) to access the Cupola (Dome). The Cupola of Santa Maria del Fiore is the biggest masonry dome in the world. The dome was designed by Brunelleschi whose tomb is in the Cathedral ‘s crypt. There are 463 steps to the base of the lantern of the dome but you will have a beautiful view of Florence and, more importantly you will be able to see the majestic frescos of the Il Giudizio Universale (The Last Judgment) by Vasari and Zuccari.

With its 3600 square meter this is the largest surface ever frescoed. You will also be able to look, from above, at the geometry of the marble floor below.

After the Cupola you can visit the Cathedral.

The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) with its 153 meter in length is the 5th biggest church in Europe. It was built on the site of the ancient Church of Santa Reparata of the IV-V century. Compared to the exterior, the interior appears as a vast space in faded color.

There is, however, quite a lot of art in here. Take a look at the Orologio (clock), by Paolo Uccello, that is at the left side of the entrance. It looks like a daisy with twenty-four petals, one for each hour of the day. It only has one hand and it moves anticlockwise! This is the only clock in the world (still working) that marks the hora italica. This means that the day starts just after dusk, with the first hour of night. The next day starts the following evening. The hand moves anticlockwise because it follows the movement of the shadow casted by the sun, from East to West.

Before you leave the Duomo walk downstairs for a short but well worth visit to the Crypt. The ruins underground are the remains of Santa Reparata, Florence’s oldest church and first cathedral. Brunelleschi’s tombstone is also housed in this space.

If you are ready for a coffee-break, head to the Biblioteca delle Oblate. From the terrace will have one of the best (and free) view of the Dome. As a bonus, the children’s reading room has an wonderful original fresco of the Annunciation. The Biblioteca, is along Via dell’ Oriuolo, 5 minutes from Piazza del Duomo (behind the Duomo on the right).

After your break, head to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

It displays all the statues, paintings, and tapestries that have been removed from the cathedral. I find especially touching Donatello’s carving of Mary Magdalene. The entire sculptural decoration of Giotto’s Bell Tower are also housed in the museum. The museum also houses wooden models of Brunelleschi’s dome and lantern, and many models and plans of the different design for the Cathedral façade developed over the centuries. This past April 1st, after six years of restoration, the Silver Altar of St. John’s Baptistery has been put back on display at the Museum. Under the glass roofed courtyard you will admire the original version of the Porta del Paradiso (Door of the Paradise), designed by Ghilberti for the Baptistery.

Is it time for lunch yet? Head to Piazza de’ Cimatori and to the food cart at the corner.

This is not a tourist attraction. This is where the Florentines stand in line to grab Lampredotto. I was introduced to this delicacy few years ago by one of my Florentine friends. Was I thrilled when she told me what it was? No! But, I tried, I liked, and I think you should try it too. Lampredotto is a street food at its best, it belongs to the popular Tuscan food tradition and yet, it is today considered a connoisseur food. I guess you would like to know what Lapredotto is. The main ingredient is the abomasus (also known as fourth stomach or the rennet stomach) of the veal. The stomach is cooked in a vegetable broth with onion, celery, tomatoes, and parsley. The low heat, slow cooking process ensures tender meat. The lampredotto is then cut into thin strips and served as sandwich with Tuscan bread. To further look like a local, when the person preparing the sandwich asks you if you want it ‘bagnato’ (wet) you should answer SI! The top portion of the sandwich will be dunk in the sauce where the lampredotto was cooked and it will be served dripping with sauce.

After lunch, spend some time at Palazzo Davanzati. Often overlooked, this old building is the museum of the Ancient Florentine Home. This is where you can see how rich families lived in the 1300s and 1400s.

Time to cross Ponte Vecchio and head to Oltrarno.

Ponte Vecchio is the only bridge that was not destroyed by the Germans during World War II. It also miraculously withstood the 1966 flood. Ponte Vecchio is lined with goldsmiths and jewelers (just look but do not buy!).

Across the Bridge, follow Via de` Gucciardini to Piazza de’ Pitti.

Palazzo Pitti will be in front of you. This has been the residence of famous people, the Medici, the Lorena and the King of Italy (Florence was Italy’s Capital from 1861 to 1875). You can visit Palazzo Pitti if you feel inclined to do so but, I rather take a stroll in this area of Florence known as Oltrarno (beyond the Arno). In this area many art & crafts, and antiques shops can be found. You can visit workshops where wood-carvers, goldsmiths, marble and ceramics restorers, and cabinet-makers live and work. There are also lovely small trattoria, café, gelateria and pizzeria.

Walk to Piazza Santo Spirito and enjoy this beautiful square and Brunelleschi’s homonymous church. Piazza Santo Spirito is the only square in Oltrarno where a food and clothes market is held each day. Here, I had a lovely lunch at Osteria Santo Spirito.

From Piazza Santo Spirito walk to the church of Santa Maria del Carmine to visit the Cappella Brancacci and be mesmerized by Masolino and Masaccio’s frescos.

From The church head back toward Ponte  Santa Trinita.

Cross the bridge and follow Via de’ Tornabuoni. This is the fashion street of Firenze. The first palace on Via Tornabuoni (on the right) is the Ferragamo shoes boutique and Museum. I am a shoe’s lover so, definitely a stop here for me!

My next must stop place is Arte del Cioccolato on Via Porta Rossa (corner of Via Tornabuoni). This is Roberto Catinari’s chocolate shop. This is chocolate lovers’ heaven. You can sit and indulge in a selection of chocolates paired with wine, you can sip specialty caffe` (always enhanced by chocolate) with literary names such as Virgilio, Beatrice . . . or you can simply take home a box of wonderful cioccolatini.

Along Via de’ Tornabuoni you will walk in front of Palazzo Strozzi (on your right).

Palazzo Strozzi represents a perfect example of the ideal mansion of the Renaissance and the whole looks like a small fortress in the hearth of the city. The palace is today considered the main space in Florence to host temporary exhibits. The current exhibit is: American in Florence – Sargent and the American Impressionists ( March 3- July 15).

It has been a long day and you should reward yourself with a juicy Bistecca di Chianina DOP (Steak from Chainina beef ‘Protected designation origin’ certified). Right here, at the corner of Via Tornabuoni, in Via del Trebbio, there is one of my favorite restaurants and one of the best Bistecca in town, Buca Lapi.

Take a night stroll at your leisure, stop at Cafe Gilli in Piazza della Repubblica for people watching, and have a good night sleep before your last day in Florence.

Have you been to Florence? What did you enjoy the most? Leave a comment to share your experience!

MY FAVORITE STOPS TO TICKLE YOUR TASTE BUDS:

These are within today itinerary

GELATO:

Gelateria della Passera, Via Toscanella, 15r

Gelateria La Carraia, Piazza N. Sauro, 25r

LUNCH:

Borgovino, Via Borgo S. Lorenzo, 21r

Gustapizza, Via Maggio, 46r

Osteria Santo Spirito, Piazza Santo Spirito, 16r

Procacci, Via de’ Tornabuoni, 64r (sandwich with truffle sauce)

DINNER:

Buca Lapi, Via del Trebbio, 1

Diladdarno, Via dei Serragli, 108r

RELATED POSTS:

Three Days is Florence . . . Day One

Three Days in Florence . . . Day Three

Inspiring Workshops in Florence!

We always come across advertisements for cooking workshops in Italy, but how many times we have come across a workshop on Commedia dell’Arte or Baroque and Renaissance Dance or Inside Design: Concept of Italian Interiors?

Well, these are exactly some of the exciting workshops offered by GO INSPIRED and you could be attending one on them in Florence this summer.

It’s true I do write about all the wonders of Italian food, I love to cook, and I am enjoying sharing My recipes with you . . .  I am, however, still an architect. I love all forms of arts; interior design is one of my passions.

When Margo Kopek, one of the co-founder of GO INSPIRED, recently contacted me to ask if I would support her organization through my blog, I was skeptical at first. I do not usually endorse anything that I have not personally tried, experienced first hand, and enjoyed.

I decided, however, to do a little research to review GO INSPIRED’s credentials and offerings and I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

This is what the About Go Inspired page says:

“A way to combine adventure, travel, education, and cultural exploration, Go Inspired took form. Refusal to give up what we deem as the “good things in life” in order to enter the work force, Go Inspired was a way to combine our zest for life with our passion for working towards a healthy global community.
We believe that peace in action can come in many forms but that self-exploration and cultural exchange sit at the heart of it. When we challenge ourselves to go beyond our comfort zone positive change takes place. In the spirit of adventure, we invite you to join us in whichever program resonates with you and hope that you find it as passion-invoking as we have. After all, it’s about going inspired and then going on to inspire others.”

The Objective is not less inspiring:

“Go Inspired is a cultural exchange company that looks for unique, creative opportunities to explore the world. We offer an array of courses, workshops, volunteer placements, and trips abroad as a way to complement classroom learning, build language confidence, enhance professional development, provide humanitarian aid, and to facilitate self-growth.”

If this was not enough to win me over, I was sold when I discovered that Go Inspired also leads a summer Volunteer Program in Italy (Florence and Rome), which includes working with HIV and AIDS patients, elderly homeless persons, childhood education and more. . .

GO INSPIRED will run three different workshops in Florence this Summer:

“Commedia dell’arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked “types”. Commedia dell’arte (“Comedy of Art” or “Comedy of the profession”), means unwritten or improvised drama, and implies rather to the manner of performance than to the subject matter of the play. It was a popular form of entertainment in Italy during the Renaissance although it began in the 14th Century and continued until the 18th Century. Commedia gained popularity in other European countries, especially France. The actors performed in public in town squares and no scripts were used; only scenarios were written allowing the actors to improvise the dialogue to the delight of the audience. Commedia Dell’Arte is still alive around the world. . . The course focuses on reading, understanding, and interpreting scenes, characters and stories contained in major classical texts, reviving them from an environment some 500 years ago. This course allows students to see the many emotions connected to time, space, love, fame, war, power, justice, friendship, violence and jealousy that remain in our world today. Theater as an intellectual exercise and as a strongly emotional experience will be explored in this course.”

“Historical dance, or early dance, embraces social dancing of the courts and ballrooms of Europe, and choreographies from theatre and court entertainments. The periods covered range from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth. Within this span, periods are often identified by titles, such as:

  • Renaissance dance (in England, Elizabethan dance and Tudor dance)
  • Baroque dance

Some typical dance forms, in approximate chronological order, are:

  • Basse danse, Bassa danza, Ballo, Tordion, Pavan (or pavanne), Almain (or almayne), Galliard, Canario, Passomezzo (or Passo e mezo)
  • Country dance, Gigue, Sarabande, Rigaudon, Minuet (or Menuet)

Cotillion, Quadrille, Mazurka, Waltz.

“Inside Design is an opportunity to take a tour of the world of Italian design; to study design precedents and develop an interior design project. Students will be guided to investigate a famous Florentine fashion griffe, starting from the analysis of its products, and to translate its philosophy and features into a space reflecting its particular atmosphere. The course will include lectures, visits, critiques and studio time to work on a project. Visiting museums, design show rooms and architectural offices as well as hosting specific guests will introduce students to the complexities of developing interior spaces as well as an introduction to Italian design culture. Working on their projects, participants will express their own creativity through sketches, drawings and maquettes, focusing on materials, surfaces, volumes, light and colors. The aim of the course is to define a universal method to face a design project in a personal way.”

These workshops are truly exciting and I wish I could attend one myself. I would probably choose the Baroque-Renaissance Dance. I can definitely see myself in a Lady’s gown dancing to the tune of the Minuet!

I encourage you to visit Go Inspired on the web  www.goinspired.com and . . . Let’s be inspired!

 FTC Disclosure

I have not received any compensation for posting this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein. My opinions are 100% my own.

Three Days in Florence . . . Day One

Other than spending many hours thinking about my blog, writing it, checking my stats, Twittering, Pinteresting, cooking, traveling, (still) following my grown up children’s activities, loving my husband, brushing my wonderful dogs, reading, listening to Adele, doing some interior design work for friends, and daydreaming, I also teach Italian language, give Italian cooking demonstrations, and design customized tours of Italy!

Today I am sharing with you My three days in Florence.

I have an architectural degree so, naturally, when I prepare a tour package more detailed information on art and architecture are included. I also like to include maps with highlighted walking paths to help reaching each destination. Art and musical events are always part of my planning and, of course, also my favorite places to eat and shop.

I take pride in the fact that My suggestions are solely based on My personal experiences and preferences. So, when you follow My Tour you will walk the same path I walked, you will possibly enjoy the same view I did, and you will eat some of My favorite gelato!

Today’s post will only include day 1, look for day 2 and day 3 next week (even better register you email to follow my blog)!

Tre Giorni a Firenze

DAY ONE:

If this is your first time in Florence you should always start your tour from Piazzale Michelangelo and from there enjoy your first magnificent view of Florence! Start to pinpoint all the landmarks below you and admire the landscape . . . across from you, on two hillsides, is the town of Fiesole.

From Piazzale Michelangelo walk up to the church of San Miniato al Monte. This is one of the best-preserved medieval buildings in Florence. Bishop Hildebrand had the present Basilica built in 1018 on the site of a fourth century chapel. The façade is inlaid with white marble from the Apuan Alps and green marble from Prato.

Giuseppe Poggi, the architect of Piazzale Michelangelo, in 1865 also designed the Giardino delle Rose (Rose Garden) which is located below Piazzale Michelangelo to the West, along Viale Giuseppe Poggi. I have discovered this garden last spring and I spent a lovely afternoon walking through the paths. The giardino is of course most beautiful in May when the roses are in full bloom. It features around 370 variety of roses, some of which go back to the 1500! There are also a Japanese garden and sculptures by the Belgian artist Folon.

If you enjoy gardens, in this area of Oltrarno, beside the well known Giardini di Boboli, you will find the Giardino Bardini (Bardini Garden)

Within the garden, there are the homonymous Villa, which houses an art museum, and a café, from whose porch, I have enjoyed sipping wine while admiring the view. You should do the same!

Walk to the Lungarno and cross the Ponte delle Grazie. From this bridge you will have a great view of Ponte Vecchio.

Continue on Via de’ Benci and arrive to the immense Piazza Santa Croce. The Piazza is a thirteenth-fourteenth century Mediaeval urban project. Because of its large size, the Piazza has been traditionally used for religious and civic events, including the famous jousts and the game of Calcio Fiorentino (Florentine soccer) in period costume; this tradition started in the fifteenth century.

The focal point of the Piazza is the Basilica di Santa Croce, the biggest Franciscan church in the world!

While the façade dates from the nineteen century, the church was built between 1295 and 1443. It is a great example of Gothic architecture. The church’s wooden roof, however, gives the space a more welcoming feeling.

Along the walls are the altars and funeral monuments of illustrious Italian personages: Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and many more. The tomb of Michelangelo is guarded by three sculptures representing Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Past Michelangelo is Dante’s cenotaph-but not his remains. Interesting is the tomb of play-writer Giovan Battista Niccolini. This tomb struck  me with its resemblance to the Statue of Liberty in New York. Even the name is a reminder of the New York landmark, Statue of Liberty of Poetry. The sculpture in Santa Croce however, was completed by the Italian artist Pio Fedi in 1877, while the  Statue of Liberty in New York was inaugurated only in 1886.

Statua della Liberta di Poesia

Photo courtesy of Saralee’s World

Beautiful are the chapels with fresco by Giotto depicting the History of Saint Francis. Walk to the beautiful Chiostro di Brunelleschi (cloister), enter Cappella Pazzi and Santa Croce Museum where you can admire the Crucifix by Cimabue. The Crucifix shows the signs of the damages of the 1966 flood.

From Piazza Santa Croce take a six minute walk along Borgo de’ Greci and Via de’ Gondi and arrive to Piazza della Signoria, dominated by Palazzo della Signoria, better known as Palazzo Vecchio.

The Piazza, along with its Loggia dei Lanzi  – on the South end – today serves as an open-air museum teeming with tourists, postcard stands, horses and buggies, and outdoor cafes.

The statuary on the piazza is particularly beautiful: Giambologna’s Equestrian Statue of Grand Duke Cosimo I (1594), a copy (original is in the Bargello) of Donatello’s Marzocco, another Donatello’s replica, Judith Beheading Holofernes.

Farther down, on either side of the Palazzo’s entrance, are Michelangelo’s David, a 19th-century copy of the original now at the Galleria dell’Accademia and -ugly in comparison – Baccio Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus.

Under the Loggia, at the front left corner stands Benvenuto Cellini‘s bronze masterpiece, Perseus (1545), holding up the severed Medusa’s head. On the far right of the loggia, stands the copy of  Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines, the original statue has been moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia.

Loggia dei Lanzi

Take time to visit Palazzo della Signoria. The Palace stands out for its fourteenth-century architectural shape that makes it resemble a real castle.

Today it is still the seat of the Municipality of Florence. The visit to the museum starts in the Cortile (courtyard) by Michelozzo, which is adorned with frescos and stuccos. From here you will be directed into the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the five hundred). The Salone was built in 1495 for wanting of the Dominican friar Girolamo Savanarola, to accommodate the representatives of the Great Council – 500 members – which was the organ of government of the city. On this floor, remarkable is the Studiolo (little study room), of Cosimo’s son, Francesco. A tiny room rich of paintings. Some of the paintings conceal cabinets where Francesco kept his many collections.

A steep stairway leads to the gallery that crosses the Hall of the Five Hundred. From there you reach Eleonora’s Apartments. Beautiful is Eleonora’s private chapel adorned with frescos. The second floor houses other apartments and halls. I particularly enjoy the Hall of geographical maps. The cabinets in this room are decorated with 53 maps, oil paintings, which give you an idea of the geographical knowledge in the sixteenth century.

The visit continues on the mezzanine where you will enjoy a collection of paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages and Renaissance left to the city of Florence by Charles Loeser.

NOTE: The Studiolo is not always open to the public and often can only be visited by booking the Palazzo Vecchio Secret Passage Tour. I highly recommend this tour which will also takes you to the Stairway of the Duke of Athens – escape route – the Tesoretto – Cosimo’s study room – and the trusses of the ceiling of the Salone dei Cinquecento.

From Piazza della Signoria you can walk one block on Via Calimaruzza and arrive to Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, a street market where you can manage to find some good deals on leather goods. Don’t forget to rub the nose of the Porcellino (Piglet – to me it really looks more like a wild boar). It’s a copy of a seventeenth century’s work by Pietro Tacca. He had copied it from an ancient Roman statue housed in the Uffizi Gallery. The Romans had copied it from a Greek statue in bronze. Anyway, it is said that if you rub the Porcellino’s nose, you will return to Florence one day . . . you don’t want to miss the chance!

Walk to Via Porta Rossa and turn left on Via dell’Arte della Lana and you will be at the church of Orsanmichele.

Orsanmichele is a very distinctive church. It actually doesn’t even look like a church, doesn’t even have a bell tower! Before the arcades were walled up, this was an open portico: the loggia of the old grain market; the space above was used as granary. Orsanmichele is the only monument that served both religious and civic life.

The statues of the patron Saints of the guilds, standing in the outside’s niches, are copies; the original works are exhibited in the museum upstairs. The museum can be accessed through a masonry spiral staircase built into the corner pillar of the church. However, it can also be accessed through the enclosed masonry catwalk connecting to the turreted Palazzo dell’Arte della Lana (guildhall of the Wool Guild).

Between April and September, you can enjoy classical music performances in the inspiring settings of Orsanmichele. You can check this year schedule at Orchestra da camera Fiorentina.

Well, that’s it for today. I know what you are thinking: ‘A lot to see in one day!’  Yes, but how couldn’t you? You only have three days!

My favorite stops to tickle your taste buds:

These are within today itinerary

GELATO:

Cantina del gelato, Via De’ Bardi, 31

Vivoli, Via Isola delle Stinche, 7r

Perchè no! Via dei Tavolini, 19r

WINE BAR (and food pairing):

Le Volpi e l’Uva, Piazza dei Rossi, 1

LUNCH or DINNER:

Cantinetta dei Verrazzano, Via dei Tavolini, 18-r

DINNER:

Osteria De’ Benci, Via de’ Benci, 13

RELATED POSTS :

Three days in Florence Day Two

Three days in Florence Day Three

Buona Pasqua. . . Happy Easter!

Espresso and mini Pastiere. . .
Buon giorno!

Good morning World . . . Happy Easter!

On this sunny Easter Sunday I want to thank all of you that have been following my blog.

Today it is April 8th, 2012; I published my first blog exactly four months ago, on December 8th 2011.

This has been a completely new experience for me, very involving I must say, yet very enriching and rewarding.

I have enjoyed the comments that some of you have been kind enough to leave. Please, don’t stop sharing your thoughts and if you enjoy my posts, don’t be shy, hit the LIKE icon!

For many experienced bloggers, out there in cyberspace, keeping track of the number of hits received, might be of little significance.

I am still a novice and I admit that I am almost addicted to checking my stats. I study the “most read” and the google search to understand what people have enjoyed the most. Basically anything involving food is a big hit. . . but I have so much more than food that I want to share: pictures for my trip in Italy, my favorite destinations, history and more. Can I allow myself to just relax and write for the pure satisfaction of Sharing My Italy and everything I love about it? I am sure I can and I will. Am I ready? Not quite! For a little longer I will question myself about the appropriate topics and for a little longer I will be anxiously waiting for the stats!

Few days ago I reached the 2000 mark, I was ecstatic! Last night, for the first time, I received 100 hits in one day and . . . I could not stop smiling.

What I love the most is looking at the map, how amazing that at least one person from 50 different countries, and counting, has been reading my blog! No races, no genders, no religion or believes, no riches or poor, no politics, no borders . . .there will always be someone, somewhere in the world, with whom to share all about My beautiful Country. How great is that!

Well, it’s breakfast time so, once again, GRAZIE and BUONA PASQUA! 

Uova di Pasqua . . .
Italian Chocolate Easter Eggs