Category Archives: Travel

Easter decorations in Italy

We just got back from a trip to Italy and stores were at the beginning stages of setting up their Easter displays.   The first stop on our trip was Florence to visit a few artists and we noticed that Gilli, the centuries-old cafe in Piazza della Repubblica, had exquisitely decorated  windows.

Easter at Caffe Gilli, Florence

Here are some photos of several more store windows in Florence.  The reflections are distracting, but hope you can make out the fish-topped chocoate eggs and the chickens hatching from chocoate eggs in the photo below.  Any child would be thrilled to have the Easter Bunny deliver one of these!

Chocoate delights in Florence

"Fried" chocolate eggs - yum!

This fabulous egg with the lamb on top was in Siena.  Little lambs tumble down the side of the egg also.  Sure makes you want to be a kid again. 

Egg decorated with sheep, Siena

Memories of Italy

After spending two weeks in Italy, it is a bit sad to sift through photos since they make one want to be back in those spots instantly.   Lots of fond memories of time spent in Florence, Cortona and Rome,  wandering streets, shopping for food for the apartment (well OK and for shoes, after all this is the land of leather), scoping out restaurants, and tons of people-watching.  

Got a chance to immerse ourselves in a demonstration one Saturday in Rome that seemed to be a workers’ protest (lots of speeches, banner and flag waving and helicopters flying overhead).   It took place at Piazza Giovanni, the home of the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome (in other words the Pope, and where new popes are coronated), and also of the tallest and oldest Egyptian obelisk in the city.  

Demonstration in Rome

Crowd at demonstration

 

We saw some cool signs while walking around various cities:

Restaurant in Trastevere, Rome

 

It's cost-effective to send your child for study abroad

Rome’s contemporary art scene is thriving and we visited the newest museum just opened this spring,  MAXXI, which is the National Museum of 21st century contemporary art.  Designed by architect Zaha Hadid, the building features a fabulous interior curved stairwell.  Greeting you at the front door is this huge sculpture by Gino De Dominicis of one of his signature bird men.    I’ve posted several photos below as it is almost impossible to get this image in one shot.

Bird man skeleton at MAXXI

Head detail of Gino De Dominicis' sculpture at MAXXI

Feet of bird man skeleton

We loved out little penthouse apartment in Rome with 360 degree views of the city and the ancient wall.

View of our penthouse apartment in Rome

My final Italian food blog (I think)

PANINI

I think of panini in three grades:

1) Those made far in advance and waiting for a tourist or non-discriminating person to purchase.  They have little content, taste and the bread is made edible only by toasting it.  Not worthy of a photo here.

2) Those made daily and containing ample portions, tasty fresh bread and not located right next to a tourist hot spot like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.  They may be take-out only, or have a bar where you place your purchase along with a drink.  

on Via Nazionale, Cortona

3) Those freshly-made from a menu or by creating your own.  They are pre-priced or sold by weight and usually run from 2-4.5 euro.  You can find them anywhere from a store selling meat and cheese products to a hole-in-the-wall stand with a line waiting.  

Antico Noe near Sant' Ambrogio market, Florence

And also under the third category I Due Fratellini – a very small stand on Via dei Cimatori near Orsanmichele Church in Florence.  I regretted to pass it by on this trip but it had always had a huge line.  They have almost 30 kinds which are ready in a couple of minutes.  They start at 2.5 euro and are quite good (along with their wine).  Nowhere to sit, but they have a numbered rack for you to rest your beverage.   Run by hard working brothers who probably drive new Lamborghinis.

Pizza Diary

I am now prepared to contain my major eating to salads after two weeks of Italian travel.  Consumption of pizza, pasta, panini, gelato and assorted goodies was mostly offset by many miles of daily walking.  

In the good old USA, I infrequently have a pizza and they are usually easily forgettable experiences.  That would not be true about many of the ones I’ve tried in various parts of Italy.  Neapolitan vs. Roman style is a personal choice, but the latter usually avoids a soppy pool of sauce or oil in the center.  I prefer the crisp, thin cracker-like crust (some burned spots) with a few fresh toppings.  Just throw on any variety of fresh mushrooms (especially porcini), artichokes, rocket, assorted Italian meets and cheeses and I’ll talk to you after the last piece is gone.  

In 2002 I witnessed a young couple in Vallauris France take an order of frites and proceed to roll slices of pizza around them (think cheese fries).  Saw this pizza in Florence which seems to satisfy the need for a carb bomb:  

Pizza in Florence

Would you like fries with that?

Now onto the good stuff.  Pizza makers at a forno in Piazza Navona, Rome producing planks of pizza for take out:

Pizza prep

Pizza prep in Rome

Next door you point out what you want and how much.  They cut it, weigh it and wrap it in paper.  You walk outside and decide how many steps you can take before sinking your teeth into it.  Shown are two pieces of artichoke and cheese (delicious).  Also had a zucchini flower piece.  

Artichoke pizza

Artichoke and cheese just unwrapped

“Dar Poeta” in the Trastevere section of Rome……sitting down to a more leisurely lunch of rocket, cherry tomatoes and lotsa mozzarella.

It's as pretty as it is tasty!

Two cheeses, sausage and assorted funghi……. Mamma Mia!

Pizza at Dar Poeta - you can always diet later.