Friday, April 24, 2009

Photos from Florence

I attended the monthly meeting of my rug hooking guild, the Peconic Ruggers, on Tuesday night. My friends were laughing about my blog posts from Italy. . . a short description about art, a long description about food . . . Yes, I am a foodie, and the food in Italy is amazing, but I did do other things! To prove it, here are some snapshots from our many walks around the fabulous city of Florence.

The Duomo

An orange tree in the courtyard of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, the Medici family's parish church

The flea market at the piazza dei Ciompi

An archway looking towarda the Oltrarno

A private garden on the Oltrarno

A door near Santo Spirito

A close up of the wall the door is set into. I love the textures . . .

A toy store near Santa Croce. These are little handmade puppets and theaters. They reminded me of the Wizard of Oz.

Another toy store window. Clara loves this wooden motorcycle. You can see the ubiquitous Pinocchio in the background.

A streetscape outside the Accademia

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Flowering Quince

It's been 39 years since the first Earth Day . . . I find it hard to believe that - especially since I remember the first one . . . I am definitely getting old . . . but not so old that I don't remember how I celebrated the 5th Earth Day in 1975, my senior year of high school!

I attended Richard C. Lee High School in New Haven, Connecticut. It was an award-winning structure when it was built. There were no windows in the classrooms, and no color, either. Everything was white -- the carpet and the walls -- except for the fire-engine red lockers located in the hallways under large windows that encircled each of the four quadrants, or "houses." The building was sunk into the ground and surrounded by a parking lot that looked like a moat. The sloping sides of the moat were planted with grass, but no trees.

(I'm sad to say this is the only photo of Lee I could find . . . )

My friend Seth was an avid environmentalist (I wonder if he still is? For that matter, I wonder where he is?) He had seen a construction site where men were digging up trees and getting rid of them. He wanted to plant one in the moat at Lee for Earth Day, but how to get it from place to another? Enter my friend Mary (I don't know where she is now, either), who was lucky enough to own a 1965 Chevy Malibu convertible. We somehow managed to get the tree (with a root ball about 5 feet wide) into the back seat, with the canopy hanging off the back end of the car. We drove the streets of New Haven without getting stopped, people honking their horns and waving at us as we passed . . . We got the tree back to school, dug a hole, planted it, and realized there was no way to water it . . . Needless to say, it died not long after.

The tree is dead and Lee High School no longer exists, but Earth Day is here to stay. Celebrate by recycling, or using a cloth grocery bag, or refusing to buy water in plastic bottles. Better yet -- plant a tree! Just be sure you can water it when you're through . . .

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Room with a View

This is the view from our room at the Hotel Globus in Florence -- the dome of the Medici Chapel at the Basilica di San Lorenzo. It is, I believe, the oldest church in Florence, consecrated in 393. It was a joy to wake each day and open the shutters to let in the sun. At seven am we would hear the bells begin to ring in the campanile at the Duomo, just a few blocks away. We had breakfast at the hotel every day -- a delicious buffet of fresh fruit, cereal, croissants, toast, ham and cheese, tomatoes, coffee cake and fabulous cappuccino made by the efficient and attentive Roberto.

I found the Hotel Globus back in January, when Clara arrived in Florence a day too early to move into her apartment. A woman at SACI (Studio Art Centers International) recommended it to me. They took great care of Clara then and they took great care of us this past week. (Mille grazia, Nick!) Housed in an old building but completely renovated inside, it is on Via Sant'Antonino, a few blocks from the train station and right in the middle of the market district. Clara's apartment was only a block away on the Piazza del Mercato Centrale. This is the view from her kitchen window.

The Mercato Centrale, or Central Market (on the left in the picture above), was fabulous! It is only open til 2 pm on week days, but it is filled with the most fabulous food imaginable. We bought prosciutto de Parma, buffalo mozzerella, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, foccacia and a perfectly ripe melon and had a feast at Clara's apartment. We also ate lunch in the market twice -- the first time Pete and I shared an asparagus risotto and pasta Bolognese. The second time Clara accompanied us and we all had porchetta sandwiches -- roasted pork with garlic and fennel on crusty rolls. Absolutely yummy.

The streets around the Mercato Centrale are lined with stalls selling everything imaginable -- the ever-present wooden Pinnochios, cashmere scarves, and lots and lots of leather goods. I found one dealer who had fun felted purses for sale.

We saw churches galore -- San Lorenzo, Santo Spirito, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novello, Santa Maria del Carmine, Orsanmichele -- all filled with art by Michelangelo, Giotto, Massacio, Raffaelo, Donatello, da Vinci . . . it is amazing and overwhelming to see so much art in one place. We walked everywhere -- Florence is made for walking, although the cobblestoned streets are hard on the feet. We criss-crossed the Arno many times over the Ponte Vecchio lined with jewelry shops and lots of tourists. We did make it to the Uffizi, though we had to wait an hour and a half. My advice: make reservations to get in as soon as you decide to go. Bottecelli's Birth of Venus is well worth seeing, as is Titian's Venus of Urbino and Carravagio's Bacchus.

This is a view of Santo Spirito on the Oltrarno, the part of Florence south of the Arno.

On our last night in Florence, Clara took us to a little restaurant called Olio et Convivum on via Santo Spirito, for a spectacular meal. Olio is more than a restaurant -- it is also a gourmet grocery store and gives cooking classes. It carries the most extensive collection of olive oils in all of Italy. They have tastings -- just like for wine. We shared a plate of meats -- prosciuttos and salamis -- and a salad with warm goat cheese and frais de bois. My main course was ravioli with duck -- such tender pasta! Pete had a steak with artichokes and parmesan cheese, and Clara had roast duck with polenta. For dessert we shared a molten chocolate cake with gelato. We had a great wine -- a Brunhello -- recommended by a friend of ours. It was a memorable meal with impeccable service. I was in heaven.

It was wonderful to see Florence again, especially through our daughter's eyes. We are back to living in our construction zone, and I have a wicked cold, but the daffodils and flowering quince are blooming here. They lift my spirits, keeping me from missing the Tuscan sun and my lovely daughter too much.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Buon Giorno!

Pete and I are in Florence. We decided we had to come and visit Clara before she moves out of her apartment on Monday, so here we are, walking the sunny streets of Italy. It is a wonder to me that she has been living here since January, with some of the most famous art and architecture in the world right out her front door. She very smartly took a Renaissance art history class, so she is just about the best tour guide available. I am very happy that we were able to give her this opportunity.

Pete and I were here 24 years ago on our honeymoon. We flew to Milan and drove through the Dolomites and into Slovenja to visit his relatives, then continued on to Florence. We had allotted one day here. We parked our little rental car on a bridge crossing the Arno and walked to the Accademia to see Michelangelo's David. The museum was closed and Pete started feeling sick to his stomach. We returned to the car, only to find that it had been broken into and someone had stolen Pete's suitcase and the wedding gifts we received from the Slovenjan cousins. We drove south and found a pensione so Pete could sleep and recover. I sat and read all evening and listened to a robust fellow tell jokes in German to an audience of older women who tittered endlessly. And we never got to see the David.

Clara tried to reserve tickets for the Accademie so we would be sure to get in this time, but no tickets were available. I thought it was funny that here we were in Florence again, and we would not get to see David. But Pete insisted we walk to the Accademie to see how long the line was. We were inside within 20 minutes!

Pete and I are avid museum goers and we have travelled a fair amount. I wouldn't have thought a work of art could affect me the way the David did this morning. We turned the corner and there he was, towering over the mass of upturned faces gazing at him. I cried. I waited 24 years to get back here to see this and it was worth every minute of that wait. He's magnificent. There is a quote posted nearby, which, paraphrased, says that once you have seen the David, you don't really need to see another piece of art, because he is perfect. And he is. Just perfect.

I've been taking pictures and visiting lots of churches and museums and eating lots of good food, so there's more to tell when we get back to the States. Right now I have to go visit my daughter, who makes me even happier than the David. . .

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Good Show!

Barb and I had a successful show on Saturday. There were more visitors this year, and fewer vendors -- the perfect combination for us. We were in a new room, which had been Fraser's space for many years (they went to the Virginia Rugfest instead).

Next year is Fairfield's 50th Anniversary! They are planning many new things -- a class, a hook in -- as well as their special lecture and fabulous door prizes. (A friend of ours won a cutter last year!) So mark your calendar for Saturday, March 27, 2010.

In other news -- the Newtown Rug Show, scheduled for Saturday, October 3, 2009, has been canceled. At least that's the rumor. Although we paid for this year's booth last year, we have not yet been notified, nor have we received a refund. Apparently several vendors did not send in early registration, which meant that there was a smaller budget for publicity. The talk among the vendors at Fairfield who usually do Newtown, too, was that if they had been notified they would have sent in their registration and fees. Personally, I think Newtown has, in its short life, built up a great reputation and following, and doesn't need a lot of expensive publicity.

Our next rug show is in June: The Quiet Corner Biennial Rug Show in Woodstock, CT. I love this show -- the Quiet Corner Guild always makes us feel so welcome -- and they have big strapping men to help us unload our wares bright and early in the morning. So mark your calender! We love to meet our readers.