Book Review: Big Miracles by Joanna Garzilli… jewelry in Florence, Italy

78369de7-95b5-49a6-b8e6-ddbc79271ef3A few days ago I was at the bookstore. It’s my favorite place to be besides browsing jewelry shop windows in Italy. When my children were young, if we were in Florence, of course, I would have to look at the jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio. My younger daughter would tell me, “Mama, promise, no looking in the windows, we are going for gelato.”

This is funny, because if any of you have been to Florence and have walked across the Ponte Vecchio, you KNOW it is IMPOSSIBLE to walk across the bridge and not look at jewelry. All the shops sell jewelry. The bridge is glittering in white, yellow and rose gold!

I would kid her that she was half Italian, jewelry was in her DNA. One day, I might be telling her not to look in the windows. As she gave me a scowl, I would give a grin and say, “I promise, I will do my BEST to walk in the middle of the road.” See photo, I did a zig zagging walk across the bridge. Can you picture it?  Look in one window to the right, have her pull me to the center, then go to the left, look in one window, have her pull me to the center! It was most amusing.

43a807e3-0894-4785-9fce-bc9248d95e75Guess what – NOW, she is at the age where she sends me photos of jewelry she likes. I KNEW this would happen!

Back to the bookstore. As it is a new year, there was a table full of motivational / spiritual types of books. Browsing through them, I found this book about “Big Miracles,” by Joanna Garzilli.

It’s a book about connecting with your Spirit. One thing she brought up, which I had never heard of, was experiencing the “dark night of the soul.” She talks about when she experienced this period and soon after met her husband. She explains that “the dark night of the soul,” is when we are going through a period of hopelessness/despair, it’s not depression, we are low, but somehow we know we must rid ourselves of negativity, so we can move toward happiness. She spoke about uncontrollable crying and illness that wouldn’t go away. She realized later that her soul was releasing the part of her that felt unlovable, because shortly after this she met her future husband.

She has some interesting insights. I think with each book we read, we gain a little more knowledge that helps us in self discovery, focusing on our vision and destiny in life. Some years we are right on target, other years it is slow moving and then suddenly it seems our hard work pays off and we are catapulted into the happiness and success we have been focusing on.

Life, it’s not easy, but if we focus on the goal — WE GET THERE!

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!”

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!!

French artist Clet Abraham gives traffic signs in Florence, Italy a “new look.”

street-signs-florence

While I was walking in Florence recently, I “did” notice the traffic signs had art on them and thought it was graffiti. Then a friend told me it was actually a French-born artist, Clet Abraham, who had been going around town placing stickers on traffic signs.

Clet has lived in Florence over 20 years now and started this street sign art about five years ago. He has had a little trouble from the police, but it seems that has been sorted out and now he is famous for his art. He created the art as stickers, so they can easily be removed and he has expanded to other cities in Italy. If you are visiting Florence, he has a studio close to Piazza Michelangelo and he sells some of his stickers there. So, you could pay him a visit, see his art and speak to him in person.

You can follow Clet on Facebook. I just visited his site and was amused at other stickers he has come up with. He had visited New York, so he has one of the Statue of Liberty. There was a funny post there where Clet went to buy a pizza and they surprised him with a pizza that had a traffic sign on it. Be warned, if you don’t speak Italian, you will need your Italian dictionary to understand some of the conversations; however, you don’t need to speak Italian to enjoy the pictures he has posted. Good news – some of the discussions are in English.

Enjoy looking at street signs in a whole new way!

An Italian Cemetery in Florence – Love captured…

img_3974I was just in Florence and I went up to The Abbey of San Miniato al Monte, which is above Piazza Michelangelo. My intention was to look at the church and see the breath taking views of Florence. I had arrived at the church early in the afternoon and they were closed for lunch. I had about an hour wait, so I started walking the grounds of the church expecting to see a beautiful garden, but instead they had a very interesting cemetery. I was captivated right away. I find old grave yards / cemeteries full of history.img_3961

A little trivia from my friend. She was told in Ireland that when a burial ground is in conjunction with the church it is a grave yard, when it is a standalone it is a cemetery. I had not thought about that. Good to know.

As I was walking through the grave yard I saw many beautiful mausoleums, sculptures, and tomb stones. Long ago, families really invested money in tomb stones that would convey a message of the love they had for a family member and/or also in honoring a family member’s accomplishments.

I came across a statue of a man and woman (see photo above) having a very romantic moment together. I thought it was beautiful, I had not seen something like this before. Normally, we think of grave yards/cemeteries as being spooky and scary, broken tomb stones, etc. This was different.

img_3977The statue made me smile. Secretly, from a distance, I was sharing in their special moment. I was curious as to “who” had commissioned this statue. The husband/wife before they died or maybe their children, because they knew how much the parents had loved each other. A treasured memory from the past, but also a way to keep their love alive. I felt it and I did think, “Thank you for sharing that moment with us!” It’s so sweet and innocent. A reminder that love does exist.

As I continued on, I saw this beautiful mausoleum and a sculpture of a military man, very handsome with all of his medals. There was more…

By the way, remember the story of “Pinocchio?” Well, the author Carlo Lorenzini (Collodi) is buried in this grave yard. I learned this after my visit. Next time, I will look for him and leave a little Pinocchio by his grave site.

So, it was a good thing that the church was closed for lunch. I experienced Florence and had a feeling of its history in a whole new way!  They say things happen for a reason.

Grazie!