Italy| What I Brought Home

Sunday, July 05, 2015

When I'm traveling I love to bring home things that are special to the area, particularly food.  I would have left my clothes and shoes in Italy to get some of these things home! I also pack bubble wrap, ziplock bags, and heat protectant bags, to make sure everything gets home in one piece.  It would be a nightmare to retrieve your luggage from the baggage claim and find it dripping with olive oil or wine!

From Cinque Terre: 
(all the items are handmade in that region)
Cinque Terre White Wine Sassarni
Olive Oil
Trofie Artigianali- Pasta unique to that region
Olive Wood Pestle 
I so wanted to bring home a beautiful marble mortar too but it would of been too heavy to carry.
Cantucinni Alle Mandorle (Biscotti)
I'm now on the hunt to find an online source for this biscotti which is so much better than the Italian imitations sold here.

From Florence:
Vin Santo
Olives (a gift from my mom)
Sugar from the Gucci Cafe
Leather Boots and Shoes
Marvis Toothpaste

This toothpaste has a cult following and who can resist the cool vintage packaging and flavors like jasmin, licorice, and ginger. 

From Rome:
A Rosary (a gift from my mom)

Part of the fun of traveling is bringing your treasures back home. I'm enjoying putting together little vignettes all over the house.  This travel wall in our master bedroom is one example of that.  Another is a tray in the kitchen with things like mustard, sel grey, pesto, and olive oil from Paris & Italy.  I have my candle from Notre Dame next to my Bible and a painting from our favorite place in Oregon over the fireplace. 

Also in Rome we shopped at Zara.  We do have Zara's here in the U.S. but I've found that I prefer the European line- it's less boho and more tailored and it fits really well. Probably one advantage to being  average height in Europe. Most Europeans are smaller than Americans so their clothes seem to fit me well.
 I also shopped at Zara in Paris and I tried to purchase something online from the U.S. site that I 'd seen there... only to discover they are different.  So, I basically just bought everything I knew I really loved while in Rome.  

And finally, a 17 year anniversary gift from my husband.  On our last day, he said he really wanted to buy me something special, that I would have for a lifetime. I'd looked at Louis Vuitton in Paris (it's a Parisian brand) and I didn't have the courage to spend the money.  Back in Italy, you see women riding bikes with Louis' in their front baskets.  To me it's iconic European and it reminds me of our time there.  

So, from the Louis Vuitton Florence and my very generous husband, I now have a beautiful handbag  and memories that I will carry for the rest of my life.

Italy| Day 9 Florence (Last Day)

Friday, July 03, 2015

There is hardly a more stunning example of Michelangelo's work or of the Renaissance than the David.  There are replicas all over the city, but they are nothing compared to the real deal David. He stands over 14ft tall in beautiful marble.  Two things stands out to me after seeing him.  One| How incredibly life like he is. You almost expect to see his ribs move as he takes in a breath. At any minute it feels like he could actually throw the stone.  Two| How absolutely impressive it is that Michelangelo carved this out of a piece of marble other artists rejected and he did so working completely by free hand, no plaster molds, no models, just a chisel. It's said he worked in tune with God's will and whenever the spirit came upon him, he would work for days (Rick Steves). 

But, back to the beginning of our last day.  After coffee, based on a recommendation from a friend who has just been in Florence we went to the roof top of the The Westin Excelsior.  It has 360 views of the city of Florence and it's breathtaking. 

Here is a good view of the Duomo with the Campanile (Giotto's Tower)

Ponte Vecchio

After our cheap 5 Euro lunch the day before we couldn't resist and came back a second time for another incredible sandwich.  This one doesn't look all that pretty but it was delicious.

We pre bought our Accademia tickets online before coming to Italy. Again, if you are ever traveling abroad buy everything you can before you go.  Standing in long lines is definitely not the way I want to spend my vacation. 

This is the line for those that pre bought their tickets!

The Academia is the museum that houses the David along with some other minor works of Michelangelo and a collection of paintings by other Italian artists.

Michelangelo by Volterra

Back to the David.  It is argued whether he is depicted moments before he throws the stone or the moments right after.  The current museum director believes it's right before and I'd like to agree. 

Originally the David was supposed to stand on the roofline of the Duomo but it was placed in Palazzo Vecchio and then moved permanently to the Accademia. 

Along with the David there is a collection of sculptures by Academy arts students from the art school attached to the museum. 

After the Accademia we had some gifts to shop for and we did our best to negotiate with the vendors.  
At one point we got a hand bag down to 20 Euros and I asked the vendor if it was really leather. At that point he said- Why would you care? It's 20 Euros!

After an afternoon of shopping and making some memories that will last a lifetime we settled into one of the prettiest piazzas in Florence the Piazza della Repubblica for an aperitivo. I didn't get a good picture of the piazza so I "borrowed" this one from a random IG account. 

Here is our complimentary little bites of crostini.

We didn't have any reservations for dinner so wandered the streets till we came upon what looked like a good restaurant. It took about two blocks before we walked by Konnubio. 

The lighting and decor were really pretty and the food was good too! 

My last pictures don't do the food justice but we really enjoyed our meal.  Of course it came with complimentary prosecco, house made lemoncello, and little bites of dessert. I should of taken more pictures! 

Our plane left Florence the next morning as the sun was rising.  We thoroughly enjoyed every minute in Italy and we so look forward to more travels and returning again some day soon.

Arrivederci Italy!

Italy| Day 8 Florence

Friday, June 26, 2015

Le ore del mattino hanno l'oro in bocca
The hours of the morning have gold in their mouth

After a some leisurely time spent enjoying our sun-filled terrace, we walked a few blocks from our apartment and found the neighborhood Cafe.  Cafes like this are everywhere and I've yet to find a "bad" one in Italy. They are usually small and intimate with their own unique personality. You can stand at the bar and read a paper while drinking your tiny cup of espresso, like the Italians do. Or, you can grab a small little bistro table and sit and savor your cappuccino and cornetto. 
Each morning we saw some of the same people and it's common for these places to have regulars who enjoy a coffee in the morning, a shot of espresso after lunch, and maybe a small bite and appertivo in the afternoon.  

After our coffees we walked through the outdoor San Lorenzo market.  Stall after stall is packed with leather and "leather" goods like- belts, handbags, scarfs, and every kind of souvenir you can think of.  It's a crowded chaotic scene with tourists and vendors aggressively negotiating and seeking bargain deals. 

From the flea markets to high end luxury brands Florence is a shopping mecca.  


Or maybe this one?

When we left GUCCI the security guard gave us a handled bag for some groceries we had bought earlier. Even if it was only a paper bag and not a handbag, it was fun to pretend we were walking out with something! 

After our morning of browsing we hit the one of the highest rated food destinations in Florence  All'Antico Vinaio.  

All'antico Vinaio is a tiny, crowded sandwich shop that shows how even Italian "fast food" is just awesome.

A handwritten wood board menu is passed from person to person as you wait in a line that goes down the block. Having not a clue what some of it was (it's all in Italian) we just asked the guys at the counter to make us something good. 

For 5 Euros you get an enormous sandwich stuffed with cured meats, artichoke, eggplant, arugula, tomatoes, basil, olives, fennel, cheese, and/or truffle cream served on freshly baked ciabatta bread.  They are almost impossible to finish and oh so good. 

  Just around the corner from All'Antico Vinaio is Piazza della Signoria, probably our most visited and one of my most favorite piazzas in Florence.  Piazza della Signoria is an L shaped piazza in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. Also surrounding the square is the Loggia dei Lanzi, and the Uffizi Gallery.

 What makes this piazza so special is the incredible sculptures.  In most places in the world these would be in a museum, but here they are all out in the open for everyones enjoyment. 

My personal favorite Giambologna's The Rape of the Sabine Women depicts the legend of the Romans stealing women to propagate their empire.  The Roman is in the act of stealing this man's wife.  Their powerful last glance is full of drama and anguish. 

The piazza also has the GUCCI Museum and cafe. 

Even the sugars in the cafe are little GUCCI monograms. 

After the sandwiches and art we were ready to finally do some leather shopping. 

 Leonardo Shoes are handmade in Florence.  We were well taken care of and walked out with a few pairs each. 

After shoe shopping we enjoyed sitting in a cafe on Piazza della Signoria and enjoying my favorite drink in Italy, the Spritz.  

Perfect for warm weather the Spritz is low in alcohol and equally refreshing. 
3 parts Prosecco 
2 parts Aperol 
1 part soda water

Walking the streets the Gelato displays were works of art themselves. Not looking at the price I made the mistake of ordering a small dish that ended up costing me 5 Euros.  

Hands down any day I would take a leg of cured meat over gelato. 

At home a pound of this goodness can run upwards of $20.  In Italy you can take the entire cut home for 39 Euros. 

Although they are disappearing in Italy you can still do your grocery shopping at small individual shops skilled and dedicated to their individual craft.  Purchase your vegetables at the open air market, then stop in at Panetteria for bread, and another store for your cheese and meat. 

One of my favorite parts of Florence is walking along the Arno River.  We never made it to Piazza Michelangelo (the hill in the background).  It's suppose to be one of the top things to do in Florence and sadly we just ran out of time.   

We ate dinner at a highly rated crazy art filled restaurant called La Cucina del Garga

You are encouraged to draw on the table and the best customer art is displayed in another part of the restaurant.

I'm missing the artistic gene but Brian's was pretty good!

Tomorrow, our last full day in Italy we finally get to see the incredible David by Michelangelo.

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