Florence, Italy… I miss you!

I was taking to my Italian mother the other day. She said was one of her cousins was in Florence and it felt so strange. There aren’t many tourists, so to be able to walk and “see” the city was an eery feeling. We are used to so many tourists that we are elbow to elbow with them. Instead, my mother’s cousin arrived in Piazza Della Signoria with open eyes, as if seeing the Piazza for the first time. BEAUTIFUL!

I remember that feeling years ago. I was in Florence in June, it was so packed with people that I could not enjoy the city and I wanted to leave. I thought, I am DONE, I do not need to visit Florence for a long time.

THEN, one year, I visited in late November. I was walking the streets, hardly any people. Like my mother’s cousin, I had this strange feeling that something was wrong. Where were the people? My next thought was… ah, it’s late November – no tourists – this is GLORIOUS!

Fast forward to COVID 2021. My friend is in Florence right now. She said that August is SO HOT, over 100 degrees, she can see why the Italians go to the seaside the whole month of August. She remembers going around town with me, but couldn’t remember where restaurants and shops were.

So, I marked up this quick map for her. Once I did that, she had her bearings. She said there are not that many tourists. When outside you don’t need a mask, but inside you must have it. Also, because of COVID there were no new things to see in the market place or the shops. Everything seemed as it was from 2 years ago. Oh… this was funny. She was looking forward to a good dish of pasta. The pasta came, but it was SUPER AL DENTE. Not good.

My Italian girlfriend said her husband did that sometimes. I mean, there is AL DENTE, and there is ULTRA AL DENTE. She would tell her husband, “You must have been REALLY HUNGRY to serve pasta like this! YUK!”

Anyhow…

Traveling right now is challenging and different, because COVID rules / regulations keep changing.

If you are traveling… BE SAFE!

Florence… I miss you. I’ll be back.

Disney Plus… NEVER too old! LUCA – yahoo!

My daughter called me the other day.

She said, “Mama, do you watch Disney Plus?”

Me… WHAT?

I laughed and said… NO, I’m a little old for that, right?!

WELL, that’s going to change! You’re going to LOVE this new movie, LUCA, set in Italy.

So… We watched it.

I have to say, it was a cute film. My ONLY critique is that the main characters should have had Italian accents. I mean, if these are Italian characters, they should speak English with Italian accents. Like the bad guy (Ercole Visconti), he was GREAT, he had an Italian accent along with the typical Italian expressions and hand movements. Super funny!

If life has you down and you need a laugh, a cute film to lighten the mood — TAKE A CHANCE ON LUCA!

Like me, you’ll be booking your next trip to Italy!

Italy – eccomi! (Italy – here I come!)

Virtual walks… Italy – it’s FUN!

When COVID hit last year, we were finding new ways to exercise. Suddenly, virtual walks became really popular. I just did a virtual walk in Ireland with Fleet Feet. I liked it, it motivated me to log my miles every day, not fall behind.

When that walk ended, I took a break for a month. I noticed that without the challenge, I lacked the same motivation for walking. I walked, but not with the determination. It does HELP to have a challenge. Add friends for accountability – perfect!

My friend told me about The Conqueror website. Being Italian, I had to sign up for the St Francis Way challenge. I’m enjoying the walk and looking up new cities on the way from Florence to the Vatican in Rome. Some of the towns are really small, not many people.

In case you are wondering, I am not affiliated with The Conqueror website. Just sharing. The Ireland Fleet Feet challenge was nice, but not easy to log the miles. So, helpful to share with each other. If we are going to spend $$, good to find the BEST virtual site out there.

Now, putting gym shoes on, heading to CONSUMA, ITALY. Looked it up, many things to see/do: wineries, vineyards, castles, zip line, religious sites, art galleries and more.

Of course, a GELATO at the end of the walk!

Italy – The Uffizi Gallery prepares for overtourism in Florence…

Yesterday, I read an article in CNN’s Travel section, Italy has a new way to combat overtourism, by Julia Buckley. My mother was born and raised in Florence, so I immediately stopped what I was doing to read the latest news. This article is specific to Florence and The Uffizi Gallery.

Before COVID, anyone who had traveled to Italy experienced first hand overtourism. In Florence, it was impossible to walk on the streets. So many tourists, we were elbow to elbow with them. It was not an enjoyable, add to that making sure you were not pick pocketed, due to the crowds.

This article talks about a new project, Uffizi Diffusi, which means “scattered Uffizi.” Eike Schmidt, Director of the Uffizi, came up with the idea of multiple (100) exhibition spaces for art from the Uffizi to be displayed all over Tuscany. This does two things, it shares the tourism burden and also allows locals to visit exhibits in their area.

COVID has allowed Florence to take a breath from the fast paced tourism. To think, plan and re-invent tourism for the future. My mother’s relatives are out in the country, it’s nice, no tourists. Selfishly, I hope it stays that way.

If you have been to Florence or have planned to go, you can read the article for more details.

Why won’t my bus pass work?

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Yesterday, I was rushing to catch the train as usual.

I scanned my train card and tried to go through the turn style. Negative, the turn style was not moving. Once again, I scanned my train card, and tried to quickly pass through the turn style. AGAIN, it was not working. The night before I had added money to my card, so WHY wasn’t it working. I scanned the card “one more time,” and the turn style would not budge.

At this point, I had to move away from the turn style. It was embarrassing, all of the busy commuters looking irritated that I was “holding up the line.”

WHAT was the PROBLEM!

I looked at my train card…  It was NOT my train card. It was my devotional card for Saint Leopoldo of Padua. I visited his shrine in Italy a few years ago. He is known as the Saint who could heal you of your illness. At his shrine, there was a room full of photos that family members had sent of loved ones that they asked Saint Leopoldo to pray and heal them. He had a small room where he would hear people’s confessions. I bought this devotional card and always carry it with me.

So, I did have to SMILE!

This was Saint Leopoldo’s CLEVER way of telling me to slow down. Time for a trip to Padua and Abano Terme. For those of you who do not know, Abano Terme has hot springs and mud baths. People go here to rest and rejuvenate.

Sometimes in life, we need a SIGN to take care of ourselves!

Thank you, Saint Leopoldo. We have a three day holiday coming up, I will rest!

Italy – My thoughts brought me the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” – no joke

Leaning Tower of PisaI learned this weekend that the mind is very powerful.

For months, I have been thinking, “When will I have time to go to Florence?” Every day, I take a quick look to see what flight prices are to Italy. Usually, I try to fly into Florence.

This weekend I was focused on getting new tires for my car. I shopped around and found a place with a good price. As I was parking my car, I looked up and I could not believe it. Right in front of me was the “Leaning Tower of Pisa.” NO JOKE, see photo!

Now, I ask you… What would you think if you saw this? I chuckled to myself, maybe it was “a sign” to look for flights into Pisa’s airport.

Italy, I’m coming, soon – VERY SOON!

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!

Baci – Want some KISSES anyone?

55DBB27E-DAB9-4901-806A-435CE3CD096AIf you are in Italy and someone asks you if you want a “Baci,” at first you might think they are being fresh! That is until you see they are starting to hand you a chocolate. For those of you who don’t know Italian, the word “baci,” means “kisses.”

If you like chocolate and you like hazelnuts, you’ll fall in love with Baci chocolates. As you see in the photo, each chocolate has a full size hazelnut inside. It’s a treat to eat one, they are delicious. Now, they are a bit expensive, so receiving one as a gift means the person wanted to surprise you with a decadent gift. Oh, and they are similar to fortune cookies, in that they ALWAYS have a love note inside written in four different languages (Italian, English, German, Spanish, French, or Chinese).

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Baci’s are made by Perugina (1907), an Italian chocolate company, located in Umbria, the town of Perugia. Nestlé company purchased Perugina in 1988. This past trip I did not have a chance to visit Perugia, but that is for next time.

On the Perugina website, they offer chocolate cooking classes. The classes are 3-4 hours long, which would allow for site seeing in Perugia. I know, some of you might be thinking… I cannot make it to Italy, how will I ever take their master chocolate class. Well, if you are in or traveling to America, you have the option of going to New York or Chicago for master chocolate classes.

While I am not an expert cook or baker in any way, I do find the idea of being surrounded by Italian chocolate exciting! Something to add to the “Bucket List.”

When I was staying with the relatives in Florence, I gave them Baci’s right after dinner, because I wanted it to be a surprise. It’s amazing how one box of chocolate created such excitement! Baci’s can do that!

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!”