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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pitti party at the Palace

Today was our last day in Florence so we were feeling low. Decided to go to the Pitti Palace, which is like deciding to go to the Louvre on your last day in Paris. But it was a hard decision; there are still many, many beautiful palaces, churches and museums to see in Florence that will have to wait for another day. Not to mention all the tripe stands we never tried. I'm sure there's a life lesson in that but it eludes me.
As for the the Palace, it was Pittifully over the top. Stuffed with paintings by Rafael,  Botticelli, Rubens, tons of others all crammed together in ornate rooms with humongous chandeliers and ceilings painted with fantastical scenes.
Later, with my keen eye for gourmet cooking, I was drawn to a place with a statue of Pinnochio in front. I had promised to send a photo of said wooden boy to my friend's son. This restaurant,  Osteria Toscanella, had great homemade pasta with wild boar sauce and a dish called Peposa, pieces of beef in wine and peppercorn sauce. We tottered home, pausing only for our last gelato (in Florence). Carmen's was tangy mango and peach and mine was Vin Santo with crumbled biscotti. We should be packing but we are ruminating instead.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

No Tripe

Today we went in search of one of Carmen's tripe stands. This one served 'nervetti', which are beef tendons.  Alas we never found it.  But by accident we came upon Santa Croce,  a great mass of a church with a statue of Dante outside. Who puts a writer like Dante outside of a church? Inside it was chock full of the famously dead. I've combined the tombs of Galileo (on the left) and Michaelangelo (on the right) onto one photo. Machievelli is there, as is Rossini, as well as paintings by Giotto's and Taddeo Gaddi. Good stuff.
After what Carmen called a light lunch: mozzarella and grilled vegetables and salad nicoise, we did manage to find Vivoli, a renowned gelateria, where we indulged in two scoops each. Carmen's chocolate with pepperocino was the best.

Friday, September 26, 2014


To avoid the crowds,  and take a little break from Florence, we took the #7 bus today to Fiesole, a little town outside of Florence. One of its claims to fame is that you can look right back at Florence from a beautiful panoramic viewpoint. 

And it has Roman ruins, including this theater, still used today.  Carmen was more interested in the vomitorium and the ancient WC. To each her own.

Afterwards we had a light lunch of chicken liver pate on crostini,  spaghetti with oil and garlic and spinach  to be virtuous.  And to save room for gelato when we got back to Firenze. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tanti Aguri a Te

Today was Carmen's birthday and we started off by climbing to the top of the Doumo, 463 steps,  her idea I assure you.
Beautiful views of all of Florence,  even the little garden apartment where we are staying. Got her to take this selfie.
Tired and jelly legged we went in search of a restaurant and decided on one in a quiet little street where we could have Ribollito, the Tuscan bread soup. At a back table,  the restaurant staff were having their own meal, and when it was over, I saw a lovely cake with a candle. As luck would have it, it was the owner's birthday too. When I told his wife, they shared their ice cream cake with us. Of course she asked how old Carmen was and she was so impressed with Carmen's age that she loudly told everyone in the restaurant. Carmen gilded the lily by saying she had climbed the Doumo that morning. Shocked Admiration! And laughter when Carmen told them she would be dead by tomorrow from exhaustion.
Enough Carmen worship. Tomorrow I'll be back to dragging her into churches against her will.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tripe, part 2

We went to the Uffizzi today. Yawn.  The big news is we found yet another tripe stand. This time we were more savvy and ordered a bowl instead of a sloppy, spotty sandwich. Lampredotto with artichokes in a spicy tomato sauce. Not for the faint of heart (aka: tourists), this stand was full of regulars, almost all of them getting bowls. Later, on our afternoon walk we found 2 more stands! And one of them sold Nervetti, beef tendons. Carmen was leaping for joy. Thank God we have 5 more days to space all that offal out.

As for the Uffizzi, we took all that fine art very seriously. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Firenze High Points

Carmen met two of her major goals for coming to Italy today. She ate a tripe sandwich from a cart in the street and then had truffle slices over a poached egg in the central market. Let's start with the tripe: messy but delicious,  I got it on my shirt. They call it lampredotto and the bread was soaked in a little extra broth and some salsa verde. The poached egg had an deep orange yolk and the clerk poured olive oil all over it before serving.
Afterwards Carmen was in a delirious state and I gently led her into two churches so I could view the Massacio's and Giotto's. Usually she protests but she was triped out. Here's one of my favorite places in Florence, the Medici Chapel by Michaelangelo. It's Dawn and Dusk, or Day and Night, I can never remember which.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

David was here

Today we visited David at the Accademia. He's over 500 years old but looking good, from every angle. He is something of a super star: some people wanted to see him and others wanted to be seen With him. This resulted in some jostling and demands to move over once you took a picture. But still,  the Accademia must control how many people are allowed in because it wasn't a complete circus; there was time to really look, once the fanatics moved on. And of course time to take the silly selfie, which I had to twist Carmen's arm to do.
Later we wandered across the bridge in search of a suitable restaurant. We found a lovely place under an arcade, where we had asparagus', cannolloni beans, grilled portobello and pasta with wild boar sauce. The cook, a little Italian mamma came out to ask us if we liked the food. No wonder, since everyone else was eating pizza.
It's almost 5PM, time for our gelato run.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


It was pouring rain and cold in Bologna when we left. But Florence is sunny, hot and so crowded. Our apartment, in the same building as the Leonardo Scuola, is in a back courtyard with the the most amazing view of the Duomo. We hurried out, too tired to really focus on where to eat. But we lucked out at a quiet restaurant around the corner. Pictured here is just the antipasta course. Later we had an almond gelato and almond granita at Caribe,  a Scicilian gelato place.
Now we are waiting for our laundry to finish steaming. 2 hours to wash, 2 hours to "sort of" steam dry.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


We left beautiful, serene Venice and arrived in Bologna yesterday afternoon. Traffic, noise, students on bikes. Our studio is lovely and faces a little garden where we could sit except it's gonna rain. The twin towers were built in the 1200's by rival families. The city is full of arcades. And people Really eat late here, no catering to tired Americans.
Took the other shot in a huge unfinished Basilica,  San Petronious. The wages of sin.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Secret Passage

Imagine living on the lower east side in NY and working in the Times Square area which is midtown on the west side. You would have to take a bus or a train across town and then the subway all the way up to 42nd Street. But one day as you are leaving your apartment,  you decide to go right instead of left, which you've never done. And as you turn a few corners and go thru some dark passageways, suddenly you find yourself in Times Square! It was right there all along.
Well, that's what happened to Carmen and I last evening. We walked down the street in a different direction than we usually walked and as we passed thru this dark passage, over some small bridges, we found ourselves on the other side of the Rialto bridge on the way to St Mark's. On the Vaporrati it took us 3/4 hour; but just walking down our street we were less then 20 minutes away.
That's just one of the weird things about Venice, the twisting, turning in on itself. You get lost but you always find something, even if it's just the place you started from. We never found Carmen's nervetti (beef tendons) or  Casanova's balls, but tomorrow we have to move on to Bologna. Baloney not balls.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I tricked Carmen into taking one of those frowned upon selfies. Here we are in a cafe near our apartment having a Venetian drink, a Spritz. I think it's an acceptable alternative to beer, wine or prosecco. Even the waiter said he drank it.
We didn't see near enough Tintoretto's but we did cruise slowly down the entire Grand Canal today and visited the Jewish quarter where, surprise, orthodox Jews still live. Tomorrow is our last day in Venice.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I suppose I should hope that few people see this post. Today Carmen and I ate horsemeat. When in Venice, do as. .. Etc. Chewy and very red, with mushrooms.
I also finally was able to get Carmen into a museum, the Accademia: Titian, Veronese, and Bellini. Tons of fun.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Venice Food Tour

Cicchetti: that's the name of Venetian style small plates. I could say tapas but then I'd be mixing up countries. Today we went on a fabulous, fascinating, and fattening tour of the Rialto market in Venice, all through Walks of Italy
Mosè, our guide explained something of the history of Venice while we ate, and drank our way from place to place, tasting ham, cheese, salami....that was just the first stop. There were two more and a coffee shop.
A great day, followed by Carmen and I "accidentally" getting ahead of the very long line to get into the Basilica. The Basilica was ethereal,  or maybe it was all that wine we had drunk.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Vaporetti

Today began our commute on the #1 line, making all local stops along the Grand Canal. Before that, Carmen and I were catching the traghetti, which is not related to spaghetti. It's a gondola that just takes you back and forth across the Canal, full of customers and rocking madly. The locals ride standing up but Carmen and I wisely sat on the sides of the boat.
The Vaporetti at end of day was like the L line in NY. but with much better views, as you can see.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Flooding in the Square

We arrived in Piazza San Marco today to this scene: tourist waiting in line to enter the church, standing on ramps because of some flooding in the Square. But by early afternoon the waters had spread to the point where Carmen and I had to rush to the very end of the Square to beat the ever rising waters. We found a sliver of dry pavement and made our escape. No cappuccinos in the Square today!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Our First Walk in Venice

The first thing we did was get lost, not hard to do when two oldsters are jet lagged. Watery streets and rich colors. Too tired to write or even think except to say that Venice, on our evening passiagiato was not crowded or so touristy at all. Actually sort of tranquil!

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Close Up
My traveling companion for this up-coming trip is my sister Carmen. When I was in San Francisco a few years ago, we went to see a very artistic photography show that featured these kind of black and white close ups. So I decided to try and do one when we left the show. This is a close up of Carmen's eye. If you look carefully, you can figure out what San Francisco street we are on!
Just kidding. All wrinkles have been digitally added.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

There Will Always Be Paree

Apartment on the Rue des Pyramides

A trip I took a couple of years ago. Everyone has to go to Paris, right? This was the place  I stayed on the Rue Des Pyramides. I'm looking out from the elevator at the courtyard. So cute. SO SMALL. So small that the toilet was in the hallway. But at least it was mine alone. With the Louvre right around the corner.

And of course the famous Patisseries. And other 'good stuff'' to eat. What I didn't understand was why people looked so gloomy. Hey, I'm from New York, I get looking sophisticated. But, was it me, or did everyone seem ever so depressed?
  What cheered Me up was taking a culinary tour of Montmatre with Jean Paul