Archive for May, 2009

Making Homemade Pasta

May 21st, 2009

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Yummo

May 20th, 2009

Had a great cooking class today that lasted 5 hours in a home that was built in the 1500’s by a person that makes her own wine and has her own roaring winery business.  We made homemade pastas, tiramasu, and eggplant.  its 10 hours later now from when we started, and I’m still full.  Obviously when i catch up on my journals, youll see.

Fattoria Resta

May 20th, 2009

May 20

Fattoria RestaWe piled all 6 of us into the tiny volvo convertable.  It was tight.  We closed the roof so that we’d be less visible to the local police, and we drove over to Fattoria Resta where we were scheduled to meet and have a cooking class with Anna Lisaat 10:00 am.    Anna Lisa lives in a former monastery that even houses its very own chapel.  We received a tour of the grounds that has a great view out towards Montalcino.  She showed us her gardens, and of course her vineyards where she grows mostly sangiovese grapes that produces a wine that yields approximately 4, 000 bottles per year.  She took us down to the wine cellar and on the way we passed a stone inscription that basically said that Napoleon stayed there back in the 1805.  Once down in the cellar she told us a wonderful story of how they named their napoleanwine.  In the cellar etched on the stone wall, was an inscription that was chiseled by the builder, Martin del Nero in 1573.  The carving was a humble prayer asking for blessings on the cellar, and hopes that he did a good job tending the land, and that he was sorry if he did not.  Anna Lisa was touched by the humility and tenderness of this prayer that she named her wine after him.  The wine recently scored 87 pts from the Wine Spector.  She described for us the white feather artwork her friend made for the label and how she didn’t want a very pretentious crest label.  It was a great tour, a great property and what was the beginning of a great day.

PinciIt was now time to cook.  On top of caring for the grounds, running a winery, having a family, Anna Lisa has a passion for cooking.  Today we were going to cook a fine Italian meal together.  You may have jumped ahead of yourself and already seen the pictures of our noodles, or read my mom’s site, but we also made focaccia bread, eggplant with tomato and mozzarella, and tiramisu for desert.

We donned our aprons and began with the focaccia bread.  We kneaded it out and seasoned half of it with her special seasoning, and half with some fresh herbs.  We then started on the noodles.  We were making pinci and tagliatelle noodles.  Pinci is made from just water and flour and the ladies took turns mixing the flour and the noodlewater right in a pile on the table.  Once there was a dough, they cut strips and then came the hard part of rolling the noodle.  We all tried.  Most of us failed.  It’s an act of rolling the noodle between your palm and the table so that it becomes perfectly round, shaped like a pencil.  Most of us had the problem of squishing it flat instead of keeping it round.  It was very frustrating, and a lot of work for a pasta noodle.  But I thoroughly enjoyed the attempt, and later the eating.

The next noodle we made was tagliatelle, a long flat noodle that is tagliatelesimilar to a fettuccine noodle.  This dough we took and spread through a pasta machine/roller over and over till it stretched and thinned itself out.  There was more pasta than space on the table so our long strands would sometimes be touching.  We learned the hard way that this was not good, as the noodle dough would stick to each other and we’d have to back track a little.  Steve and Lisa ran the noodles through the machine over and over till we had a really large flat pasta, which we later sliced into noodles.  This was a really fun experience.  I once attempted to make a fettuccini noodle on my own back in high school.  Without the machine to stretch and thin the noodle, I tried it by hand and rolling pin.  I was always proud of myself, but my noodle definetly was thick and not so great back then.

Our next dish was eggplant.  I have had eggplant once or twice in my life and did not enjoy it at all.  Anna Lisa taught us a trick.  We thinly sliced the eggplant and placed it on a rectangle pan.  We drizzled it with sauce and then found something heavy to place on it.  We let it sit for about 30 minutes and the salt and the pressure would leak out the bitter flavors leaving a fine tasting eggplant.  After letting it sit and soak all its horrible juices out, we patted them dry and then topped them with tomatoes and mozzarella and put them in the oven.kitchen

The final dish we prepared was Tiramisu.  Much like eggplant, I have never been a fan of tiramisu.  However, I would later find out that this was the best one I have ever tasted.  It was a simple recipe where we took these Italian cookies, that were these thin wafers.  We dunked them in espresso, but we had to dunk them really fast so that it would merely coat it, but not soak in it.  Then in a dish it was a layer of coated cookie, followed by a layer of mascarpone cheese, then another layer of cookie.  We Tiramasudid this till we reached the top, and then we grated fresh chocolate on top.  We let it set in the refrigerator till desert time.

I loved our cooking kitchen.  It was quaint and we had herbs, olive oil, and flour spread across this table that the 7 of us worked around.  We were all dressed up in our aprons as well.  It was very picturesque.

We made some tomato based sauce and then we sat down on the patio to enjoy the cooking, the wine, and each other’s company.  We drank some white wine with the appetizer of the focaccia (the side with her spices was the best!) and some artichokes and homemade pate.  Then it was the main dish time where we ate both of the pastas, drank some of her Martin del Nero red wine.  I could not get enough.  It was delicious!

And now for desert.  Wow.  I have never tasted tiramisu so tasty.  It was very light in flavor and was a perfect finish to a grand time.  Although, I could have easily gone for more pasta if only I had room.

We took a group picture and said our farewells.  I knew that I would never forget this experience.  It was splendid and perfect.  Anna Lisa was such a gracious, kind, and fun host today. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for blessing my family with your time, your spirit, and your great teachings. We had a delightful day that we will not forget.Resta

We left her place around 3:00 PM and made our way back to Montalcino.  We parked the car and started our 10-40 minute walk back to the apartment (depending on whom I was walking with).  On our walk we stopped at one of the cathederal’s where my mom played the organ.  As we further progressed through the town, my parents told me stories of Montalcino and how they have 4 quadrants that take communal competitive pride with each other.

The rest of our evening went like this:  grocery store, walk through town, ceramic shop, wine, shop, wine, finished with meats, cheeses, and more wine on the patio.

Tuscany has a charm of its own.

Luigi Steve

Yummy

What A Pitti

May 19th, 2009

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Today we are leaving to go to Montalcino.  However, we do not meet up with JeanE and Kathie till 5pm at the train station, so we have the whole day here in Florence.  However, due to my mom’s fall, she can barely move as her whole side is in pain.  So we decide to do very minimal today.  Nope, we will not be hitting the Pitti Palace or the gardens as intended.  I actually didn’t mind as I wasn’t really looking forward to that long hike again up the hill.  If I could have done something tourist this day though, I think I would have hit the Duomo museum (Mary Magdalene statue) or the Borgello museum (Donatello’s David and other sculptures).

After a great night of food and fun, and lots of wine, it was a slow moving morning.  We took our time eating breakfast, and then packed up our rooms and left our baggage with the front desk.  And then we just sat in the bar area.  We discussed things like bidet usage, we did work on the Internet and computer, and we looked at pictures.  My dad ran all over town looking for my moms cross necklace, chain, and angel pin.  He was successful on 2 of the 3, but quite sweaty after literally running around.

We ate lunch down the street at a pizza place, and we were approached by a lady about a charitable organization.

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We head thru the market one last time for shopping.  My mom bought more scarfs, probably, I don’t really remember.  But it was time for last minute shopping in Florence before we headed out.  We got towards the end of the market, and we sat my mom down, left her a couple bags, and my dad’s camera.  Then the 3 of us walked back to the hotel to grab all the luggage.

We got the luggage and then trekked it through the town.  Luggage is heavy when you are carrying multiple pieces for multiple blocks.  We have had to do these long walks usually when we first get to a city, and when we leave the city.  I didn’t want to get any hotels right near the train station, as that tends to be more of the seedy parts of town, as well as a little bit of distance from the city centers.

We made it back to my mom, and then trekked through the city some more until we arrived at the train station.  We were scheduled to meet our new travelers here, as they were coming in from Venice.

We waited about 20 minutes, protecting our bags from pick-pockets and crowds, and eventually JeanE and Kathie met up with us at the McDonald’s there.  We then walked to binari 2 and waited about 45 minutes for our train.

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We took the train, and the first stop was about 5 minutes away, it was a secondary Florence stop.  Then it seemed that everyone got on the train.  Meanwhile, my dad is asking my mom for the camera and she has no idea where she put it, or if she even had it.  I have visions right now of when my dad emptied the entire suitcase of clothing once, in the paris airport, looking for something that K.C had misplaced.  We have stacks of luggage now, all over the seats on top of each other, and there is no way he could possibly do that now.  Though, I am sure he wants to.  He is frustrated and agitated, as travelling with many people is not easy.  We try to calm him down by letting him know that at this point, its either in the bags, or its not, and there is nothing he can do.  But more than likely, it is somewhere in the bags and we will find it when we reach our destination.

It’s really crowded on the train right now, and we have our luggage taking up seats and people are irritated with us. This Italian guy sat down across from Lisa and  is breathing his bad breath in sighs of frustration on us.  I’m having a hard time concentrating on typing and its really hot and uncomfortable.  I think it must be train rush hour time.  Meanwhile, my dad is irritated because he thinks that he may have lost the camera or misplaced it somewhere in Florence.  Meanwhile, we have met up with 2 new travelers and so there is always transition time of getting used to people and group dynamics.  I am curious to see how this will all work out.

We sit on the train for about 20 minutes without it moving, when over the speaker in Italian, they announce that the train is having problems and we would need to exit and find a new train.  Brilliant.

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Downtown Buonconvento

We hop off the train, high-tail it to a different track, only to see the train that we really wanted, was just leaving a different track.  We hop on a new train.  Lisa runs down the track to ask the conductor if it is the train we want, and he says no.  We all quickly jump off the train with our luggage before it takes us to an unknown destination.  We eventually find the right track, after lugging the luggage up and down stairs.  At one point, I thought there was a nice citizen.  I was carrying multiple bags (mine, Lisa’s, Jeane’s…I don’t remember anymore), and taking my time up the stairs.  Someone came by and grabbed the side of one of the bags, and helped me carry it to the top.  How nice!  How kind and caring these Italians are.

Five minutes later, he came by begging for change.  I was set up.  The “norm of reciprocity” strikes again.  Eventually our train arrived, and it was the nicest train we had been on yet.  We enjoyed a 2 hour train ride through the country side.  We were covered with green hills.  It was beautiful.

We arrived at the Buonconvento train station and saw for the first time my parents new car.  While my dad was walking the couple blocks to pick it up, we rummaged through our bags and found his missing camera.  He will be so happy.  Because they have a convertible, we couldn’t fit everyone (this time) and our luggage so Lisa and I stayed behind to wait for trip #2.

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We walked thru the streets of Buonconvento, used the restroom, checked out the 7-11 type convenient store, and eventually sat outside the tiny train station at a little restaurant and ate a snack of pasta with bolognese sauce.

Dad came back and picked us up, and we drove the 10 minutes to Montalcino, with the stars above us, the top down, and my dad blasting Michael W. Smithmusic because its the song on his ipod that gets the most bass and he wanted me to experience the woofer in the back.  Very funny when a 1980’s Christian pop/worship music singer is your idea of heavy bass.  It was a beautiful drive.  One that I wish we could do again, over and over.  It was a very pleasant evening and it was nice with the wind in our hair.

We arrived in town, walked our bags up and down hills and made it to the cute little apartment with a fabulous view of the green country side.  There was pizza waiting, and jugs, yes, jugs of wine waiting.  We ate, we drank, we looked out through the peaceful valley, and we enjoyed catching up with everyone.

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Ciao Firenze

May 19th, 2009

I know that I owe write ups on the Cinque Terre still, and then Florence.  Hopefully I can accomplish that on the train today.  Its our last day in Florence.  We catch the 5pm train to Montalcino tonight.  Last night we had a great dinner that Mom commented would be one of the half dozen meals that she remembers for the rest of her life.

Golden View, Open Bar

May 18th, 2009

May 18th

pharm_smWe did email for awhile this morning after breakfast and then left around 10:00 am to head to the market where my parents bought lots of scarfs.  We did some more shopping in the market, I love that place!  We made our way towards Santa Maria Novella train station as my Mom wanted to visit one of the oldest Pharmacies that is nearby it.  It took us some time to finally find that place, and along the way shopped some stores inside the train station, where my mom bought a cd of organ music as a souvenir, and I bought a live Radiohead cd as well as an Eels cd.  We finally found the pharmacy and it was room after room of history of herbs and remedies and even some fresco’s.  It is one of the oldest businesses to still exist with the same name, having started around the 1600’s.

We ate lunch next door at a curbside cafe and had a pizza.

3seg_smWe went back to have our 3 hour tour, via segway, of Florence.  I was really excited about this.  I have heard so much about them, and how much fun segways can be, plus I am a fan of Gob and his segway riding ways.  I thought this was going to be an awesome way to travel around from site to site and see the city.  Plus, with a tour guide, I was happy to perhaps be learning something new.

I love traveling to places I went back in 1997, because I learned so much before, and it is nice to share the little tidbits that I have learned, with those that I travel with now.  I really feel that the history, the cities, the architecture, and the overall travel experience comes to life when you know just a little bit more about a church, about a work of art, about a time of life.  When it isn’t just a painting anymore, but about a cultural struggle to find relevance and to survive harsh times.  And although I learn a little bit more on these trips, most times its just a rehashing, or a remembering of things I have already learned.  So I was really looking forward to the time with the tour guide.

debbiesegway_smThe segway tour did not start well though.  My Dad was the first one to get the little training session, and he was very shaky and hesitant at first.  He would push and tug on the segway and move really herky jerky like around in a little circle.  The tour guide stood next to him to make sure he didn’t get out of control at all.

So now that my Dad got it down, it was my Mom’s turn to step onto the segway.  She had noticed my dad’s hesitations, and decided to go balls out in learning.  She was much more convicted in her pursuit, and went for it.  However, the trainer did not stay near, and did not give her proper verbal instruction, and before we knew it, she was bailing off the back, twisting her body, falling on the hard cobblestone with a segway almost falling on top of her.  It was a very awkward fall with a twisting knee and body, and a painful thud on the stones that were laid in the street thousands of years earlier.

We lifted her and her bloody cut open knee of the cement, and my Dad walked her back to the hotel while the rest of us did our training.  My dad came back and we then took off for our tour.  There was another couple, then myself, Dad, and Lisa.  We started at the Duomo and the bapitstry doors.  The square was filled with people, and I thought to myself “I’ve had a hard enough time walking on two legs in this square, how am I supposed to control a segway.”  But I managed.  It’s really like Lisa told me.  She said that you just stand there and merely think about which direction you want to head, and the segway magically takes you in that direction.  We hit major stops, learning new things along the way.  Every new stop, my Dad would ask our tour guide a question.  Even though she corrected him every time, every time he would mis-pronounce her name.  And his question at every stop, was about jewelry stores, angel pins, and cross necklaces.

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We went by church’s, the river Arno, the ponte vecchio, the uffizi.  We were showed the flood lines when the city has flooded in the past.  Ironically, the last two major floods in the city, both occurred in November.  So don’t travel there in that month.

clowndebbie_smWe were shown the fashionable district, we passed the ferrari store where I took a picture for Juan (though, I don’t think I ever sent it to him).  I learned about the Strozzi family, and the opposition they had with the Medici’s.  Our tour guide showed us these “wine windows” that were about a foot or two off the ground, on some of these palaces.  Apparently, when the palace owners had had enough wine for themselves, they would stick the bottle out these little wine windows, where the peasant waiting there, the citizen waiting there, could then have some wine of their own.

I want a wine window.

We also learned, that the Piazza Republica began as the Jewish ghetto, and a flower and food market.  That it is the exact center of town.  And that the Arch building and the saying on it, is hated by most Florentines.

We learned that in the Piazza Signoria, that most of the statues are still, in fact, the originals.  Even though yesterday at the Accademia, we saw “the rape of the sabine woman,” that that one, inside the museum, was actually the copy.  The original still stood in the square.

We learned that at the top of the Santa Croce church, there is a star of david, and that the architect was jewish.

We also went by the little studio where Michelangelo carved his david statue.  By the way, on this trip I read the wikipedia entry on David, and learned a whole lot about it.  For instance, did you know that the 26 year old Michelangelo beat out Leonardo Da Vinci, to carve the statue?

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After our great tour (surprisingly, dad’s and my legs were rather sore), we went back to the hotel.  Our hotel was one of the stops along the tour.  Apparently they had renovated it and found that it used to be a look out tower, it used to be a roman bath, and it used to be a prison.  Part of it was now a museum and you could climb down the stairs to see it.  It was rather cool.  I liked this hotel a lot.   It was perfect location and had great service.  You can read my review of it…if I ever finish these journal entries and write my reviews.

openbarnight2_smWe changed and cleaned up for our dinner reservations.  We had made reservations for the open bar, golden view restaurant again, even though Lisa and I had eaten there 2 nights earlier.  The view was unbeatable, and the food was delicious, so we thought it would be a grand evening.  With live music starting at 9pm, we made reservations for 8pm.

We took our time walking there, taking pictures on the ponte vecchio, looking at jewelry stores for my mom, and enjoying each others company and the beauty around us.

We arrived at our reservation, and they had a window seat prepared for us, and glasses of champagne.  The windows were open and we were basically in a little open terrace, with the river and the bridge right next to us.  It was breathtaking.  We took many pictures, and got started on the first of what became three bottles of the vino della casa rossa.  Yum.

The meal and our time was very precious.  My mom would remark the next day that it would be one of the half dozen meals that she remembers for the rest of her life.  We laughed, we told stories, lisa told some great jokes (who tells jokes about organ musicians, and funnier yet that my mom would know it), and we drank and ate till we could eat and drink no more.

Black truffles were in season, and our waiter told us how they train dogs to retrieve truffles.  We decided to give them a try in our appetizers on top of crostini.  We also had a cheese plate with different melon, a pear and honey spreads.  Had a great and weird pasta noodle with bits of octopus.   I’m getting hungry again thinking about it.  I think I better wait to show the food till I do my food picture review post soon.

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We enjoyed all of our foods, including the steak florentine that my Dad had longed for.  We lingered.  We finished 3 bottles of wine, had desert, enjoyed the live jazz music.  It was a gorgeous night.  We lingered over 3 hours there, telling stories, getting to know our waiter, enjoying the food, the fun, and the company.

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Just Her Type

Afterwards, around 11:30 pm or so, we walked back to the area of our hotel.  We laughed.  We stumbled.  We fed a pig a coin.  We looked at the chalk drawings on the ground.

Lisa went back to bed (after our gelato stop), but Debbie, Steve and I found ourselves in a street, where a street performer was trying his trade.  However, the best part of his act was when a garbage man came down the street he was working.  Obscenities ensued.

We grabbed walked back to our hotel.  It was a beautiful night.

 

 

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With A Stroke Of Gelato

May 17th, 2009

May 17th

My parents were set to arrive this morning by train, and we were scheduled to meet them at the doors of the baptistry.  We set a meeting place for the right doors, if facing the Duomo at 10:00 am.  This went off mostly without a hitch and we were reunited and all speaking Italian.  Ok, we threw in a couple Italian words, and said our hello’s and hugs.  But who are we kidding, our Italian is very minimal.  Every time my Dad tries to speak or say an Italian word, he starts saying words in Spanish.  My mom says “his Spanish has never been better.”  My mom will say “figlio” over and over, and her other one is “we’re andiamo-ing.”  Myself?  I have had impeccable Italian (tho, I may not be able to spell it).  Due adulti biglietie per favore.

Let me back track for a moment.  This will go down as one of my favorite memories, and something I will always smile and laugh at. Lisa has had some Italian experiences, being from an Italian family, and having lived in Italy for language school once.  So I had requested of her to write a paragraph of italian sentences for me, to greet my parents with to impress them with how much Italian I knew.  She kept asking me what I wanted to say, and I really didn’t care, mainly a salutation.

So last night, after we had been back from dinner for a little bit, and we were half asleep, she starts chattering.  She starts telling me “I know what you should say to your parents when they arrive:  Welcome to Firenze, with a stroke of gelato.”  It made zero sense, but cracked me up.  I think she was thinking “stroke of genius,” but said gelato instead.  I think she was either part asleep, or tipsy from wine,  or exhausted from all the walking we have been doing.  I know it doesn’t make much sense but it made me crack up so much, and will always make me smile.

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One of my dad’s desires was to get an Italian leather jacket.  For the price and quality, I knew that Florence would be the place for him to do this.  So after they arrived, we decided to go shop at the Florence central market.  I described the market briefly yesterday, and today it was time for more shopping.

Even though this market stretches for many many square blocks, my parents wanted to buy the first stand they came across.  I had to remind them that every 3rd stand was a wallet, or shirt, or knick-knack, or leather stand.  I also reminded them that this was a place that, you didn’t have to, but you could barter and haggle for a better price.  We shopped for scarves, wallets, belts, soccer jerseys, t-shirts, and of course my dad’s leather jacket.

We came across a stand, and he pointed out to me the style he wanted.  It was a two tone between dark brown and light brown.  I asked “are you a woman?”

We started browsing, and of course, the salesman calls him into the store directly behind his stand.  Now he is trying on jackets left and right, and getting himself sold.  He is already in too deep with this sales rep.  Once you give them an inch, they will take a yard.

My dad explained the style of jacket (two tone) that he wanted, and the sales person said “no, that is a ladies style.”  We ended up hearing many different sales lines as they started bartering for the jacket that he decided he wanted.

“This is the last one we have.”

“You won’t find a better deal.”

“This is the sort of deal I would only give my brother.”

And as soon as my dad said “no, I’ll think about it and come back,” the salesman started offering the jacket to the next person in the store and started saying “shame on you for not taking this deal, it is the best you will find.  Its the equivalent to two pizza’s and a bottle of wine.”

I felt that my dad had gone too deep into the bartering game, and had gotten too good of a price, to walk away now.  It was the jacket that he wanted, and a darn good price.  Eventually we convinced him that he should do it, instead of searching for 5 euros cheaper.  But this process will be one that I cherish and remember and laugh at about the trip.

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We made  our way over near the Accademia to find a place that Rick Steeve’s recommended in his book, for lunch.  On our walk there, we ran into a lady and her daughter, that were currently living in Montalcino, that my parents had befriended.  We ate lunch, and then made our way over to the Accademia for our appointed time to see Michelangelo’s David, as well as some of his pieta’s and other pieces.

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My Dad's Illegal Picture Of David

There is one statue of David, and many many replica’s around the world.  Even here in Florence, there is a replica in the Piazza della Signoria–the original location of the statue.  Mark my words:  The replica’s are good an all, but they do not possess the grandeur of the original.  The original is far more powerful, angelic, graceful, and humble than any other of the many replicas.  My parents had previously taken a day trip to Florence and looked at the David replica and said:  “The copy of the statue of “David” by Michelangelo in the public square was good enough, rather than face more lines to see the original.”  I believe she would now say, after seeing the original, that she was very mistaken.

I remember back in 1997 (and I wrote about it recently), being literally blown away at the first site of the David.  I walked into this room, more like a long hallway, and my eyes were drawn to these half finished statues that Michelangelo had done, that lined the sides of the hall.  As soon as I took my eyes off the floor and the side statues, and looked up and down the hallway, I saw it, in its white brilliance, and fell backwards (not fall as in hit the floor, but fall as in had to take a few steps back to keep my balance).

I didn’t feel the same magnitude of awe, respect, and strength this time as I did my first, but I was still amazed and taken by its beauty and its determination.  Last time I was here, they allowed pictures, and you could walk right up to the David.  This time, no pictures were allowed, and they had a perimeter around the statue.  I was also reading on this time, of the statue being attacked by a man with a hammer back in 1991.  The pieces that broke off, eventually were studied, and the marble was found to be porous, which caused them to worry about cleaning with water that it undertook in 2003.

We sat and stared at his ass, his slingshot draping down his back, and the veins in his arms and legs for awhile, in sheer amazement.

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We then headed towards the Santa Croce Church, and the Pazzi Chapel.  Santa Croce is a large church that has a cool temperature inside, many naves lined with fresco art, and many tombs of famous Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, Rossini, and Marconi.  Our tickets were designed with pictures of small snippets of the art inside the church.  We played a game of “try and find your snippet” that was a fun treasure hunt.

Connected to the Santa Croce, is the Pazzi Chapel.  I think this is a really beautiful chapel.  It is simple.  It is elegant.  It is small.  It has elegant simplicity.  It was designed by Brunelleschi and is a pattern of arches, circles and squares.  The walls are mostly bare except for a few areas of art.  I think I could sit in the chapel, alone, and meditate for hours.

We grabbed a gelato from the “famous” gelato shop that my dad had to try and then started our long walk to the Piazza Michelangelo.  Down the river, cross the bridge, up the hill, up the steep many stairs; this was a lot to ask of my mom and the status of her knees.  We finally reached the top and soaked in the view (with a trillion pictures) of the city of Florence and the river arno.  It was beautiful.  Then, my Mom decided she wanted to go further up.

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We hiked further up the road to San Miniato al Monte church.  There was a vespers going on and so we wandered the cold sanctuary while monks were chanting.  There is a great view up here as well, and afterwards we took a funny picture of Steve, Debbie, and Lisa all pretending to be statues.  Each of them had no idea what pose the other was going to do, yet they all ended up with a very similar pose.

It had been a long day of walking, and now my favorite part of the day:  dinner!  We went to one of the restaurants that Rick Steeve’s recommended and I must say, this one was a dud.  Although I enjoyed the family style atmosphere, the service and the food were very lacking.

Nothing a gelato couldn’t solve on the way home.  We stopped for a bit to enjoy the statues in Piazza Signoria.  What a day!  It was great to be here with family, and to experience so many awe inspiring things.

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Quest For The Perfect Pizza

May 16th, 2009

May 16th 

mercato_smIt was kind of odd, being in a big city again.  It kind of felt like I was in civilization again.  That isn’t a good or a bad thing, it just felt like there was a large town now, and lots of people.

I really wanted to get some items posted to my site, so we spent a good chunk of time this morning on the Internet in our hotel’s bar.

After that we started heading out into the streets, walking around, enjoying sunny Florence.  Two days ago on our hike in the Cinque Terre, Lisa lost her sunglasses.  And today, when we left the hotel, I had forgotten mine.  So we hit up a sunglass store and shopped around.  We now both have some european shades to add flair to our trip.

We continued across the duomo piazza, past the rustic building, to the central mercato.  In Florence, they have 4 or 5 blocks that are just street vendor after street vendor.  Often times, the vendor’s push cart is merely in front of their store that is in the building behind them.  Some pushcarts are selling leather wallets, others are selling leather purses or belts.  Some sell souvenir tshirts, while others sell glass or necklaces.

I love this part of Florence.  It is kind of like a giant flea market or swap meet if you will.  11 years ago when I was here, we’d have to walk through this market every day to get to the park where our group would eat our lunch of nutella, bananas and cold cuts.  I have very fond memories of walking through here.  Plus, I love shopping here cause you can barter and find cool items.  Today I bought some soccer jerseys, a belt and a wallet.

I had some friends going to Florence 10 years ago and they bought me a wallet.  It is a wallet I have used since then.  Of course it has been falling apart for a few years, but I said I needed to replace it with one from Florence.  Today I did.

pizzabargello_smWe followed this up with lunch near Piazza Della Signoria.  This piazza is near an old fortress/palace which is now a governmental building and a museum.  In this piazza are replica statues of David and many others.    We had a pizza and it was one of the best yet.

This is a good time to talk about my pizza quest (if I haven’t already).  Once again, 11 years ago, I ate pizza in Italy, mainly in southern Italy (Brindisi, Rome…) and it was amazing.  I will never forget it.  It was not like pizza at all.  I would cut into the dough, which was soggy with its toppings.  As soon as I would cut into it, the pizza would practically drain off.  It was like a big doughy, tomato-y, cheesy soup.  Since then I have always held, that pizza in italy is so entirely different than we have come to know it in the states.  

During this trip, the pizza has been delicious, and different from the states, but nowhere near what I remember.  I am on a search for the perfect, soupy pizza.

Today’s pizza was much soupier, but still not the same.  Though, I have developed a theory on this trip.  The pizza has gotten better, the further south in Italy we have travelled.  I think it might be a regional thing.  Much like their sauces are regional (creamy base to tomato base), maybe their pizza is too.  Do I really have to travel back to Brindisi to experience this again?

obarwine_smWe were still sore from our hike a couple of days ago, and still interested in finding a massage to work those kinks out.  We asked our concierge and the best they had to offer was having the masseuses come to our room.  I’ve never done that before, and it was a little weird having it in our own room, but of course once I slipped off into relax mode, I forgot all about that.

After our massages, we were in our room, and we heard a lot of clatter from the street below us.  We looked out our window and the street was packed with people, in orderly lines and groups, like a giant marching band.  It was like a parade, but it was a protest.  It was a giant protest march.  The signs they were carrying spoke of communism, of schools, of 1972.  They were singing, chanting, clapping, playing drums and instruments.  It stretched from the Duomo, all the way to Piazza Signoria.

obarview_smFor dinner tonight, we went to the Golden View, Open Bar restaurant which is just on the other side of the Arno.  It was spectacular.  Great views, great food, lovely company.  The restaurant was all white and had a really bright and cheery atmosphere.  We started our meal with some mixed Crostini.  Our second course was some Gnocchi for Lisa, and some Penne for me.  Then, Lisa had some Chicken I believe that she loved, and I had a giant steak Florentina.  I figured, when in Florence…

All were extremely delicious, and the wine and service were great too.  It was unbeatable.

We walked home happy and satisfied, taking pictures of the river, the bridge, and all the crazy town folk.

 

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The Bridge Of Lame

May 16th, 2009

It is bad enough when they put scaffolding up on ancient buildings, but when they do and then they plaster it with advertisement wallpaper, that just sucks.  The famous bridge of sighs was not only wallpapered on both sides, but also above.  Below is the picture I took, and beneath that is what it is supposed to normally look like.

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Firenze

May 16th, 2009

Just uploaded two new posts from my time in Venice.  Did not get a chance to do the spell check though, sorry.  I was also able to get the youtube inserted into the san siro milan game post.   We are in Florence right now.  I have not had a chance to write about Cinque Terre yet, or our travel problems, but soon enough.  My parents arrive here tomorrow and we will go see David, as well as the next day we will take a segway tour.

Ran into Josh Wold yesterday near the Ponte Vecchio.  Crazy.

This Week I'm Thinking About: Greg Crisci