Florentine Birthday

Yesterday marked the beginning of my last year of my twenties.  Yikes!  Luckily, I had some pretty great people to celebrate with.  Our friend Eva, who happened to be in town from Belgium, and our Italian friends Tatiana and Francesco joined Bobby and me for dinner at Piazza del Vino here in Firenze.  It was our first time at this (really!) lovely restaurant and we had a great time gorging ourselves on extremely large portion sizes of Italian food and good wine.  This was just the finale of my birthday, however.  Earlier in the day, Bobby treated me to peanut M&Ms (my absolute favorite) for breakfast, I drank my yearly Coca-cola, and we watched the first Formula 1 race of the year.  Bobby also gifted me two new cookbooks, tickets to the Romeo and Juliet musical, and a Kopykake (a projector to create some pretty awesome desserts that I’ve been lusting after), which should come in the mail any day now.  All in all, it was a pretty amazing day, which makes it a little easier to come to grips with the fact that I’m only a year away from being 30.  Double yikes!

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Cavalcata dei Magi – Epiphany in Florence

It was a very festive day

The Feast of Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th.  Epiphany marks the 12th day of Christmas when the three wise men (or magi) arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus and it is traditionally one of the most important holidays in Italy.  In Florence, the day is celebrated with the “Cavalcata dei Magi,” literally meaning the “Ride of the Three Kings.”  The parade starts in Palazzo Pitti, just south of the Arno River, and finishes in Piazza del Duomo, where the three wise men – riding in on horses – deliver their gifts to Jesus in the manger.  The parade is also accompanied by Florentines in medieval costumes, flag throwers, and a band.  This year, it is estimated over 700 people participated in the Cavalcata dei Magi to celebrate Epiphany.

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Happy New Year from Florence!

Crazy wonderful sunset

Even though Bobby and I have visited Piazzale Michelangelo probably ten times since moving to Italy, the view never ceases to amaze us.  Perched on a hill looking over the valley of Florence, the piazza is a place for lovers, musicians, the young and old, and both tourists and Florentines alike to gather throughout the year.  On the first day of 2014, we wanted to take our friends Caroline and Ryan to see this breathtaking place.  The weather was absolutely perfect and we were rewarded with a pretty spectacular sunset. … [Read More]

Christmas in Florence 2013

I liked the laterns from last year more, but this was also quite pretty.

The Christmas season in Florence kicks off every year with street decorations and a small German Christmas market near Santa Croce.  We visited the market both our first and second holiday seasons here in Florence, so we figured we should go 3 for 3.  Although the offerings don’t change much from year to year, it is still nice to have the first glühwein of the year, just steps from our house.  We will certainly miss this next year!  … [Read More]

World Cycling Championships 2013

America!

When we found out that the World Cycling Championships would be taking place in Tuscany this year, we made sure we would be in town.  It’s not every day you can step out your door, walk two blocks, and see some of the world’s best athletes compete (and watch for free!) Bobby and I have been following cycling a lot this year, starting with the Giro d’Italia back in May and then the Tour de France this summer.  We made a mental list of cyclists we wanted to follow, which were mainly Americans and Italians, with the occasional Brit (Bradley Wiggins) and Australian (Cadel Evans).  Vicenzo Nibali, an Italian, was one of the favorites going into the World Cycling Championships after winning the Giro d’Italia.  I had a chance to see him ride through Florence in the Giro and was hopeful of him winning again in front of his home crowd.

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Our 2nd Italian Anniversary

First night on the water

I know I’m a little late, but September 6th marked our 2nd Italian anniversary.  This means we have passed well over the halfway point of Bobby’s Olmsted experience.  Wow!  I’d like to highlight some of our favorite travel spots we were fortunate enough to see this year (see our first year favorites here). First though, we’d like to reiterate to the Olmsted Foundation how incredibly grateful we are for this amazing opportunity.  We never thought we’d get travel like this as a couple, nor have the chance to learn a second language while experiencing the culture first-hand.  We can’t express our gratitude enough – thank you, thank you, thank you!… [Read More]

Calcio Storico, MMA style

Gloomy skies over the arena

Each year, four neighborhoods battle it out in a single-elimination tournament of calcio storico (historical soccer).  The Rossi (red) team represents Santa Maria Novella, the Verdi (green) team hails from the quartiere of San Giovanni, the Azzuri (blue) team comes from Santa Croce, and the Bianchi (white) team sports the colors of Santo Spirito.  Bobby and I missed the matches last year because we were out of town and missed all but the championship game this year as well.  The final game is generally played on June 24th, the holiday of San Giovanni (Firenze’s patron saint).  Luckily, we arrived back in Firenze on the 22nd and were pretty excited to see the game.  We waited outside the gates for over an hour before we were let into the “stadium,” which is really just dirt laid in Piazza Santa Croce surrounded by metal stands.  Not more than fifteen minutes after we were let in, the skies darkened and the clouds opened up.  There was a torrential downpour.  The calcio storico game starts with a large procession; there are medieval costumes, drummers, flag throwers, horses, etc.  The parade of people took over two hours.  Did I mention it was pouring rain?  We were absolutely soaked, but we really wanted to wait it out to see the game.  Needless to say, the spectators were getting pretty rowdy because everyone just wanted to get the show on the road.  There were definitely lots of curse words/chants directed at the directors pleading to forgo all the pomp and circumstance and just let us watch the championship.  The players finally came on the field and five minutes later, the announcer came on the loud speaker and said they were canceling the game due to inclement weather.  WHAT?  They couldn’t have told us this before the two hour parade?  So this brings me to today.  The game was rescheduled for today and of course, we had complete opposite weather.  It was sunny with 85+ degree temperatures.  Add the heat to the drunken crazy Florentines, we had the perfect recipe for a very “special” (second) experience.  As Bobby stated after the game: “una volta basta e avanza.”… [Read More]

Giro d’Italia 2013

The first main group of finishers

Today, the 9th stage of the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) cycling race finished in Firenze.  After walking thirty minutes down the Arno River in the rain, I got to see the race just three kilometers from the finish line, which was held at Piazzale Michelangelo.  So what is the Giro, you ask?  I think the BBC explains it well:  “If the Tour de France is the best known and most glamorous cycling race in the world, the Giro d’Italia is its grittier and rather more brutal brother lurking in the shadows.”  Arguably the second most popular professional bike race, Italy’s tour is generally used for training for the Tour de France later in the summer.  Going into the 9th stage, Italian Vincenzo Nibali was the owner of the “maglia rosa,” or pink shirt, (like the Tour de France’s yellow shirt) and the overall leader of the tour.  The winner of today’s stage was Maxim Belkov, a 27 year old Russian born cyclist competing for the Katusha team. … [Read More]

Christmas Cookie Collection

The finished products!

How’s that for an alliteration?!  For Christmas, I wanted to bake some of my favorite holiday treats and box them up for friends as gifts.  The hard part is deciding what sweets to pick, as there are a LOT of good recipes out there.  For this year’s Christmas cookie gifts, I narrowed it down to 4 – a collection of frosted sugar cookies, mint chocolate thumbprint cookies, peanut butter balls, and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.  Having tested all of these before, I can attest that these recipes are delicious!  (Note: I am a little worried, however, that the thumbprints may dry out after 3 days – the standard advice given online.  Mine need to last 4.5 days until delivery.  We shall see!)  Without further ado, here is the 4-part cookie collection!

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Nuts, Crackers, Salami, and Wine

Sugar Plum fairy!

‘Tis the season, right?  Last week, Bobby and I attended “Lo Schiaccianoci” (The Nutcracker), the famous Christmas ballet.  The ballet was performed by The Ballet of Moscow, La Classique at the Teatro Verdi in Florence.

**(For those of you that know the story, you can skip my synopsis and head on to the photos :)!)

Adapted from E.T.A Hoffmann’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” the ballet first premiered in 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia.  (I really had no idea it was that old!)  As many of you know, the story centers around a family at Christmastime.  Shortly after putting up the Christmas tree and handing out presents to the children, a local councilman/magician named Herr Drosselmeyer enters the scene.  Drosselmeyer gives the children life-like dolls that dance as well as a wooden nutcracker.  All of the children ignore the nutcracker (I mean, what child would favor a piece of wood over a dancing doll?!) except for Clara.  Clara goes to check on her nutcracker after everyone has gone to sleep and Drosselmeyer is perched on the family clock.  At the stroke of midnight, mice begin to fill the room and the Christmas tree begins to grow in size. The Nutcracker also grows to life-size. A battle between an army of Gingerbread man soldiers and the mice ensues, led by the Mouse King. The mice begin to eat the gingerbread soldiers.  (Yikes!) The Nutcracker is wounded, but Clara comes to the rescue and they are able to defeat the great Mouse King.  Shortly after the defeat, the nutcracker transforms into a handsome prince.  Together, Clara and the Prince travel to the Land of Sweets, which is ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy.  The Prince recounts how Clara “saved” him from the Mouse King and in honor of the heroine, the fairy throws a large party with chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, tea from China, and candy canes from Russia (all of which dance for the couple).  Clara and the Prince are crowed Queen and King of Sweets.  However, the people of the land of the sweets begin to disappear one by one, until the Nutcracker Prince himself disappears, and Clara is found sleeping in the parlor. The Nutcracker Doll is under the Christmas tree. Clara awakes and finds her crown sitting beside her, but she wonders if it was all a dream. Clara falls back to sleep, believing that if it was indeed simply a dream, she wants to keep dreaming.

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