Thursday, June 30, 2016

What I've Learned

What I've learned, in no particular order, from my month living in Florence, Italy.

Pitti Palace Collection
Many of the same problems that beset us today have been around for hundreds of years. Here's a mother combing her son's hair looking for lice. Her son is an angel, of course.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Kindness of (Italian) Strangers

Gusta Pizza's Oven
The customary line out the door and around the corner was missing at Gusta Pizza late this afternoon, but there was not an empty table in sight. The place was packed, as usual. I told the clerk it looked as if I'd have to carry out my pizza, but he assured me a table would open up soon. Ten seconds later, a man approached and invited me to join him and his son at their table. 
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Monday, June 27, 2016

How the Other Half Lived

This bed in the private quarters of the Pitti Palace is gorgeous, but tiny.
Since the Pitti Palace is just around the corner from my flat, I've taken to dropping in several times a week. It feels like visiting an old friend.

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Always Two Sides

Yesterday morning the amount of screeching and banging in my flat indicated my upstairs neighbor was once more honing her career skill set. She was moving the furniture this way and that, again and again, trying to place every item in some imaginary van. I knew enough to wait patiently for her to finish before trying to work, but then I heard men's voices and the sound of steel striking steel. Perhaps the noise wasn't being made by my neighbor after all.

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One Bust Says to Another....

Museum curators obviously have a sense of humor. These two lovely ladies are in the Contemporary Art Gallery of the Pitti Palace.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Leaving My Roommates Behind

I'm not ready to leave Florence yet, but I am quite prepared to say goodbye to my roommates. Yes, I know what you're thinking. It's true that my name is the only name on the lease, but here in Florence, as in any large Italian city, no one is ever truly living alone.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

My Feast on St John the Baptist Feast Day

This feast day, similar to the saint day held in each Mexican city, is only celebrated in Florence. Banks and schools were closed so there were no classes at the British Institute. Tonight, fireworks will mark this special day for St. John the Baptist.

From my perspective, it was a great day to rest, try to absorb the world-changing news of the Brexit passage, and finally eat a delicious lunch of porchetta. If you're unfamiliar with this Tuscan bit of culinary ingenuity, here's a New York Times article that will explain it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Washday in Florence

                No one can accuse Italian sheets of being boring.

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Handbag Heaven

A good friend requested photos of the new handbag I bought in the leather market, the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, so here it is!
I've been told, and hope it's true, that handbag hardware is a good indicator of quality. The hardware on this bag looked particularly sturdy.
Don't forget to bargain. While credit cards are accepted here, you will get a lower price for cash. The price of my bag dropped €13 because I paid cash. Had I been a bit more aggressive, as I would have been in Mexico, I'm sure the price would have dropped even more.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fashion Forward in Florence

Artist Jenny Bush is in the foreground.
While I was still dazzled by the Karl Lagerfeld presentation in the Pitti Palace--the thirty-foot long photo penants of fashion models interspersed among the equally impressive chandeliers in The White Room fluttered in my memory--I decided to do a bit of shopping on my own.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

In the Cucina

In Tavola cooking school divided us into groups of five per kitchen station while two chefs instructed and monitored our progress--or lack thereof. My group consisted of a Brit, an Australian, and a mother and daughter from Minnesota. Here we are using the pasta machine to compress and stretch the dough we made by hand.

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

I Can See! Tightwad Travel Tip

In Europe, where electricity prices are astronomical and there never seems to be enough light in any accommodation--hotel or apartment--this little led light is invaluable.

The adjustable light slips into one of your laptop ports and provides just enough illumination for your keyboard. I bought this one at Ikea for less than $5. I will never leave home without it!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Would You Rather....

...enjoy a day starting with a delicious breakfast omelette at your hotel, followed by an afternoon repast in a cafe sipping wine and sampling exotic cheeses, before a late dinner at an osterio recommended by guidebook expert Arthur Frommer? Or would you rather eat in your own apartment?

Yes, I'd prefer the first scenario, too. But I'd also like to win the lottery, have naturally curly hair, and wake up at least twenty pounds thinner. I'm afraid the first dining scenario is no more likely for me than the others (Although I'm still holding out hope for the lottery.), but I have found a way to compromise so I still get the best of a city's cuisine while remaining on a budget.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Room with a View

The only problem with views is that you must climb a steep hill to see them.

Florence as seen from Fiesole.
But such is the power of a view that a number of famous folks have made the trip to Fiesole, a town roughly five miles northeast of Florence. At one time or another, Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas,  Frank Lloyd Wright, and even Debi Mazar, cooking channel star, lived here. Robert Browning, whose former home is just around the corner from my flat here in Florence, mentioned Fiesole in his poem "Andrea Del Sarto."

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Happy 535th Birthday!

Today is Mona Lisa's birthday and Florence is celebrating!

Via Squazza, the street where Mona Lisa was born.

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Sharing Bathrooms in Italy

Open Letter to North Carolina and Tennessee Lawmakers:

I thought you might like to know that Italians have been sharing public bathroom facilities for almost a hundred years.

This is the "necessities room" at the British Institute of Florence. The women's toilet and the men's toilet are steps away from each other in the same  bathroom.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I Wanted to Be Cinderella

What I call the Cinderella Complex sometimes overcomes my better judgment. When the Complex strikes, I am certain the miraculous will triumph over the inevitable.

Such was the case when I decided to have the full Italian experience and get my hair cut. My lank, blonde hair that held a curl in Tucson, Arizona, where the humidity is 10% didn't stand a chance in Florence, Italy, where it threatens to rain at any moment. I set off last Friday with limp hair on my head and hope in my heart.
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Monday, June 13, 2016

Clean Streets in Florence

The street cleaner comes through my narrow, one-way street at least twice a day. First cleaning one side...

                                  and then the other.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Afternoon Tea--Italian Style

One of the aspects I particularly like about the British Institute's program is that the social side of learning is not ignored. On Thursday afternoon, we students were treated to afternoon tea with several kinds of tea, small sandwiches, a cheese custard that resembled Mexican flan, cookies and cupcakes. The stunning centerpiece was a cake to celebrate a little girl's birthday. (Yes, we got a piece!)

Say It Isn't So!

The Bargello Courtyard
Michelangelo cheated? Used deceptive selling practices? Completely misrepresented a Roman mythological figure? Jason Arkles, a well-respected Florentine sculptor, led our Renaissance art class through the Bargello Museum to explain these unsettling facts about the great artist.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Weddings and Gelato

Wondering where to get a little refreshment after your wedding in Florence, Italy? Head straight to your favorite gelato shop, of course!

Know how to identify the best gelato? The answer might surprise you.

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Living Like a Local

A restaurant near my apartment.
I have wanted to live in Europe for as long as I can remember, so on this five-week trip, it was important to find a place that would make me feel as though I belonged. I wanted to slip into the shoes of a Florentine and shuffle around in them. I wanted to know what day-to-day life is like for someone who is not a guest, for someone who has to do laundry and take out the garbage just like everyone else who lives in this fascinating city. And, of course, being a tightwad, the place had to be inexpensive.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Like College --With Drinks This Time!

One of the reading rooms in the beautiful Lanfredini Villa. The room where my classes will be held is next door.
I love the way Brits do things. This morning's orientation for the art history course on the High Rennaisance included a welcome packet of helpful information, a student discount card (Can't wait to use this on the woman who scoffed when I told her I was a student.), a map, and several invitations to events with complimentary drinks.

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Looking Back: May

My favorite month of the year is over! I always like May, as it is springlike and jolly, plus it includes Mother's Day and my birthday! It also is the real kickoff of trail racing season, although here in the Bay Area things don't really slow down too much, even in the winter months.

Running: In May my totals were 215.6 miles running / 40,000 ft climbing, 6.6 miles hiking, and 5.36 miles cycling. So far, I am on track for my running mileage and climbing goals but I need to step up my cycling goal. The month of May involved two races, a 100k and a 50 mile race, which makes it easier to keep the mileage numbers up. However, soon I will need to ramp up even more in order to conquer the dreaded 100 mile race in August.

Silverstate 50M -- bit o' snow this year.

Reading: In May I read 6 books, which are listed below. None of them really wowed me, but my favorite of all of them was Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed, which was a bunch of different people's takes on why they decided not to have children. I think I would have read a lot more, but The Terror was almost 800 pages long! I also knocked 3 books off for the RHC and read two books from my own library (books I own in bold, star next to the ones that satisfy the Read Harder Challenge). So far my totals are 11/24 for RHC and 2/12 for reading my own books.

Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed (4/5)
How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others (3/5)
The Measure of a Lady (3/5)
Cleaving: A Story of Meat, Marriage and Obsession* (3/5)
Tender Points* (3/5)
The Terror* (3/5)

Travel: This month involved a few local trips. I went to Reno for a race, which ended up being a 9 hour drive due to snow conditions (on May 21!!). I also had a great time in Tahoe with friends, doing some snow running/hiking, swimming in Donner lake and eating our weight in hamburgers. Other than that, the only other travel has been near the Bay Area for race spectating and participating.

My friend KH -- snow running near Castle Peak.

Do you have a reading or running goal this year? What is your favorite place for a weekend getaway near you?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Loving Lufthansa

With the armrests pushed back, I could rest completely on this lovely row of seats.
After I discovered I had an entire row of seats (four, count 'em!) to myself and after I'd been brought a warm towel to wash my hands before being served an appetizer and a cocktail before dinner, I asked the flight attendant if I'd somehow gotten into first class by mistake. She laughed but I was serious.

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My Florence Neighborhood

Come on a tour with me to see my neighborhood. I took this photo standing in front of my apartment. Note the corner just up the street.

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I'M FAMOUS....maybe

I came so close. I've been waiting to be discovered all my life, but so far fame seems to be passing me by. Until today.

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