Art: Gallery in the Dungeon, visit Cortona, Italy

3E1B71C3-2F09-4709-A95E-4E32D4B1B9F5When you see a sign that says, “Gallery in the Dungeon,” you’ve got to check it out! Going in the doorway was a bit dark, so I admit I was tip toeing in, wondering if this was a good idea, but I kept going.

I found this staircase and started my decent, looking at the artist’s paintings on the way down. The artist, Daniela Piegai, is an Italian woman living in Cortona now.

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She paints in a very interesting 3D type of style. There is movement in her paintings, you can see this in this painting of the buildings as if the wind is swaying the houses. She uses bright bold colors. While her paintings seem childlike, they are interesting even for an adult audience, because they are unique.

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Once you are down in the dungeon, you’ll see a room that looks like THIS photo below with the sofas. If you zoom into the photo, you can see she does some interesting paintings with people, children, cats, funny looking owls, and more.

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I was hoping to meet the artist, while I was there, but she was not in. I would have liked to better understand how she developed her style and painting technique.

So… never pass up a chance to visit a dungeon, never know what you might find!

 

 

Do you choose a University or a Trade School?

8A21DF0B-3D5A-4BDF-A8EF-9201CBDCB320University v.s. Trade School – that is a dilemma facing American youth right now. High School students used to choose between going to College or picking a trade (electrician, plumber, carpenter, aircraft technician, auto mechanic, dental hygienist, video editor, fashion designer, tailor, etc.). As you can see, there are interesting and lucrative jobs out there that do not need an expensive College education. However, somewhere along the line, we were ALL made to feel that unless we had a College education we would not find a job.

525A7F73-5A1F-42DF-AE63-F7D5A3CA3A35Walking down a street in Florence, I came across this leather school. I went to take a look and saw people working on different projects. You can sign up for a 1 month, 3 month or 6 month course. It is a bit on the expensive side, but the artisans / students working on their projects looked quite intense and dedicated. Out of respect for the students, I did not snap a photo of them “live” in the class, but this advertisement shows you how their work tables look.

Recently, there was an article “Trade Schools Could Be The Solution To Saving America’s Infrastructure,” in StudyBreaks.com. This article talked about how we have to find a way to bring vocational training back to High Schools. This is important, not only for our infrastructure, but it would allow students who do not want to go to College the option of exploring vocational training. I know when I was in High School, they offered shop, home economics and typing classes. We enjoyed those classes, because they were “hands on.” In fact, my current typing skills are thanks to mandatory typing classes in High School! We had to memorize the keyboard, type a short story without looking at the keyboard, 50 words per minute with less than 5 mistakes. I practiced a lot to get a good grade!

Let’s bring back vocational training. As for my typing, if you see a typo, it means I need to re-take Typing 101, I’m obviously a little “rusty!”

 

Hide your cashmere, there is a gigantic moth on the loose!

04EAEDFE-C78D-437B-B78E-52D6946D262EI was out walking today and happened to see this gigantic moth!  It’s really beautiful. I’ve never seen a moth this size. My first thought was to hide the cashmere sweaters!

This moth was close to a door handle. I was worried that someone would open the door and the poor moth would be crushed. What’s interesting is that this moth was very s-l-o-w moving. I wasn’t sure if it was dead or in some sort of hibernation, but I was determined to move the darn thing. So, I used a twig from a branch and got her/him to move away from the door. It was tough though, like I said, this moth appeared like it was dying, but I don’t think it was. Once moved it stayed where it was, it did not move at all.

Google to the rescue! Turns out this moth is called a “Giant Emperor Moth or a Great Peacock Moth.” It’s the largest moth in Europe. In North America there are 11,000 different species of moths. In Africa they eat moths, which they say are high in protein. The article did not say if they cook the moths or eat them raw. I tried to imagine what that would be like. Maybe I need to watch the TV show, “Amazing Race,” they eat weird bugs, don’t they?

Apparently, moths are important as they are a source of food for other animals. Bats eat them and Mama Birds feed the caterpillars to their baby birds. Moths are also good pollinators. They have hairy bodies that pick up pollen from any flowers they land on.

Well, I’ve got to say I am amazed! My walk turned into an exciting adventure. Now, I can brag that I’ve seen a “Giant Emperor Moth!”

Florence – The Walking City… explore Piazza Michelangelo by foot

3C529AF7-46FB-4CF9-A311-DF3A3983D9DBI’ve been to Florence many times, especially when my Florentine grandmother was alive.  When I would visit Florence, I was not a tourist. I was staying with my grandmother. I did do some touring, but mainly I lived the life of a Florentine. Go early to the market to buy your groceries, come home set the table for lunch, always put down a table cloth, grate the parmesan cheese, cut the bread, make the salad – this was routine. With my grandmother gone, I realized I needed to find a new way to fall in love with Florence.

Back in those days, there were hardly any tourists. Some, but you walked the streets comfortably. Now, you walk elbow to elbow with tourists and foreign students. It is so packed you cannot enjoy the city unless you wake up at the crack of dawn BEFORE the tourists have started their day.

The Central Market used to have lovely leather purses, cashmere sweaters, silk scarves, belts and more. Now, the vendors, year after year, sell the same products and it’s hard to know what is real leather and what is not. The designs are not special anymore. It’s sad to see this. Gold is so expensive that the Ponte Vecchio does not sell unique jewelry anymore either. BUT for the first timers to Florence, where the leather goods, etc. are all new to them, they think it is fantastic!

It’s amusing to hear conversations among tourists, there is a competition to know Florence better than the next person, to have been to Florence more times than another person, to be the best Florentine blogger, know the best restaurant  — you get the idea.

So, with my heart feeling a bit sad and nostalgic for the old days, I decided I needed to re-discover Florence in a different way.  I was curious to explore the hills above the Piazzale Michelangelo.

64F1C219-CF8E-4EFA-8BD4-F54CB65CD8F3I got lucky and as I was walking up a long road, I found “The Walking City” map. See the photo of the map. I want to see if they have other maps for walking the city like this. What a great adventure for people who have been to Florence many times, want to get away from the crowds and get some exercise. The views and the villas up there, as you can imagine, are fantastic.

If you make the walk all the way around, you’ll have this view of the Duomo from Piazzale Michelangelo!  Stop and treat yourself to a gelato, you deserve it!

Yes, you can see Florence with “fresh eyes!”

Porch swings… Are they a Southern thing?

DBE1BA3D-1D86-454C-BEA6-EA574BA1143AI have always liked the idea of a porch swing. Growing up near Lake Michigan, we would string up a hammock between two trees OR bring a lawn chair down to the beach to watch the sunset. A porch swing with lemonade was what we saw in the movies.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Felder Rushing’s Blog post, “Put a Bounce in Your Swing.” His story is wonderfully written about his father’s love for the porch swing and fine tuning the springs, so that it would be a perfect ride. The swing was also a place where his father’s creative ideas were imagined!

Reading Felder’s post reinforced why I have always found the idea of a porch swing relaxing. There is something traditional about taking time for ourselves to sit, swing, let our minds wander and enjoy nature.

Oh, and if you believe in saints, Felder has you covered. GET THIS, St. Proculus of Verona is known as the swinging saint. I would never have known this! You can read about him here…  “Swinging Garden Saints.

That brings me back to my question, “Why do porch swings seem to be a Southern thing?”

Florence – YES, I found a 99 cent store…

DC6A821E-F171-4F8F-93CE-85290D3A99F4The Family Dollar stores are all over America, but I didn’t expect to find one in Florence. I thought you might enjoy seeing this, so if you travel to Italy you can save money by buying water and other small items here! They really have quite a bit, it’s amazing how the store looks small on the outside, but upon entering it’s quite big.

If you save on water, etc….  you can enjoy a gelato!

 

 

Firenze – Bartolini kitchen store

2AB82753-8768-4542-AB5A-F9EC1B009E18Yesterday, I was walking in Florence and I got lost. I was trying to catch the bus. I knew where I was, but I thought I would be “smart” and take a “short cut” down a small street to get to the bus stop faster, but that led me in a different direction from the bus stop. In Italy, the streets can twist and turn, it feels like being in a maze.

The good news with getting lost is that we explore a new area. I sure got LUCKY on this street. I came upon a store called, “Bartolini.” I was drawn to the beautiful window display of kitchen items. It is fun to explore kitchen stores when traveling.  For example, look at the window display, it’s amusing to see the variety of espresso machines you could buy all lined up! BEAUTIFUL, isn’t it!

Personally, I use my little Bialetti espresso machine daily! Works perfectly, even after years of use. In fact, I was looking at the smallest Bialetti, which would be for one espresso. Trying to find the BEST deal, I have been checking every store to see what the cost of the smallest Bialetti is. I’ve noticed the price for the machine varies from 14 to 17 euros. I’m curious to see what the price is in the country. Hoping to get this down to 12 or 13 euros if possible!

Inside, the store reminded me of  Williams Sonoma in America. Same quality of kitchen items. Everything from pots, pans, Le Creuset, china, appliances, coffee machines, etc… Oh, but with lots of espresso cups and oil and vinegar containers!!