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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Viareggio Carnevale 2014

Confetti

This is our third year heading to Viareggio’s Carnevale celebration and each time, the floats and costumes never cease to amaze us.  The parade of Carnevale 2014 presented 15 floats, with some reaching heights as tall as 20 meters (over 65 feet)!  Over 1,000 people in 25 different artisan firms worked an entire year to create these giant floats made from paper mâché and their work definitely paid off.  At 15 Euro per ticket, the Viareggio Carnevale was able to bring in roughly 3 million dollars over the course of 5 different parade days.

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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]

Trekking in Chianti

These would have come in handy in some of the muddy spots...if only they were in my size!

In the last several months, I have been searching high and low for winery maps of the Chianti Classico region.  I finally found the perfect ones online, created by wine enthusiast Alessandro Masnaghetti.  After contacting Mr. Masnaghetti himself, as well as his English and American distributors, I finally found the regional maps I wanted to purchase – Gaiole in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, and Panzano in Chianti.  Although all of these are major wine towns in the Chianti region, I was a little embarrassed that we were buying these maps and we’d never actually been there to see the cities or taste their wines.  This weekend, we decided to change that!  We found Gaiole in Chianti’s tourist office online and they provided some wonderful information about hiking in the region, so we set off to take in the sites.  Unfortunately, 11 miles and some 5 hours later, our legs were exhausted and we were too tired to go wine tasting.  The Chianti trekking experience wasn’t difficult, but it was long and hot.  Really hot.  Nevertheless, we’ve tested the waters and will definitely return…. [Read More]

Biennale d’Arte 2013 (and more Family Travels!)

Spice art by artist Sonia Falcone

We continued our week of family site-seeing with a walking tour of our “hometown” Florence and then a drive to the tiny town of Agello, Italy, where Terri once lived with the kids.  The weather didn’t really cooperate, so we decided to seek refuge in Montalcino, where we enjoyed some Brunello wine tasting.  We capped off the week by heading to the Venice Biennale once again (see here for last year’s Biennale for architecture), but this time we took in the art exhibition.  We had a wonderful time seeing Italy together.  It was Terri and Daisy’s first time back to Italy in over 30 years, and Ruby’s first time ever!

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