Cavalcata dei Magi – Epiphany in Florence

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.

… [Read More]

Visiting Lands Unknown – Romania & Serbia

And this is the drop-off on the other side

I think most people have an idea of what traveling to Italy, France, or Spain looks like.  There are thousands of guides on the internet, Rick Steeves books, and friends/family members/colleagues that will give you advice on what to see or do.  On the other side of the spectrum, there are countries like Romania and Serbia in which most people know little about.  This is not to say that they are less special or culturally-rich countries; the countries are just a little off the beaten path.  After spending Christmas in Budapest, we drove to Timisoara, Romania, where we visited (yet) another Christmas market and then headed on to Belgrade, Serbia, where we toured the town and met up with another Olmsted Scholar and his wife.

… [Read More]

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]

Boldog Karácsonyt (from Budapest!)

Shoes on the Danube - Holocaust Memorial

Last year, we were invited by some Olmsted Scholars from the class of 2012 to celebrate Christmas in the High Tatras Mountains of Slovakia.  We had such a good time that we decided to continue the tradition and organize a Christmas trip for 2013.  This year, Bobby and I traveled to Budapest, Hungary to meet up with five other scholars and their families.  We spent four nights in the gorgeous capital city, taking in the Christmas market, seeing the Chain Bridge and Holocaust Memorial, visiting the famous Szechenyi thermal baths, hiking up Gellért Hill, and gathering for nightly meals with our Olmsted friends.  Although we are always slightly bummed we can’t spend the holidays with our families (….until next year!), it was really nice to share Christmas with a fantastic group of people from our military family.

… [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]

Trentino – Alto Adige Christmas Markets

Christmas market under clear skies

Sometimes I find it hard to “get in the Christmas spirit” here in Italy.  Christmas isn’t overly commercialized like it is in the States, which is a good thing, but without the constant television ads, Christmas music in all the shops and on the radio, and pressure to buy everyone and their neighbor a gift, sometimes it’s hard to get in the spirit.  I know, it’s strange.  Also, in Firenze, the weather is really mild – in the 50s everyday so far this December – so when I remind myself that Christmas is only nine days away, I have a hard time comprehending the situation.  To prepare our warm-natured bodies for our upcoming holiday trip to Budapest, and to prepare ourselves mentally for Christmas, we decided to travel to Northern Italy last weekend to the Trentio-Alto Adige region for some Christmas market fun.  … [Read More]

Naples, the Second Time Around

Cloister of Santa Chiara

I have to admit, the first time Bobby and I visited Naples, we did not fall in love with the city.  We thought it was dirty (well, it is) and the people were aggressive (read: mafia).  Although these prejudices still exist, we decided to give the city a second chance and travel there last weekend.  We chose Ferrari’s high-speed train called “Italo” from Firenze SMN station to Napoli Centrale.  The trip, on the world’s fastest train, took a little under two and a half hours.  Not bad!  We met Bobby’s sister Eva and her husband Geremia, who is a sort of Napoli-guru, on Saturday morning.  Geremia lived in Napoli for years and travels there often for work, so he was a fantastic tour guide, showing us the best museums, churches, and restaurants the town has to offer.

… [Read More]

Memorial Day Weekend – Wining in Chianti and Dining in Pisa

Beautiful

After a pretty horrible weather day last Saturday (down pouring rain, lightning, etc.), we pushed back our Chianti trip until Memorial Day.  Two weeks ago, we went to an event called “WineTown” here in Florence and tasted several Chianti Classico, Ruffino, and Super Tuscan wines.  From that, we built a list of wines that we’d like to buy, so what better way than to visit the wineries themselves?  We are incredibly lucky to live in Florence, as the drive to the Chianti region is only thirty minutes and the views are stunning on the way.  We visited the Marchesi Antinori’s new cantina, which is an architectural masterpiece, and the Vicchiomaggio castle, both of which create amazing wines.  The day before, on Sunday, we also traveled to Pisa, where we had a wonderful dinner celebrating Eva (Bobby’s sister) and her fiance Geremia’s engagement.  Geremia’s parents live in Pisa and we were treated to a real Tuscan feast.

… [Read More]