Archive for category Out and about in Florence
it is not a “ball” but a icosahedral geodesic sphere which means it has triangular faces meeting at each vertex to form a sphere
is 12 feet in diameter
is illuminated by 32,256 Philips LEDS
is a permanent feature in Times Square
is covered with Waterford Crystal 2.688 triangles
And did you know that in Florence Italy, it wasn’t until 1749 that the people of Firenze began to celebrate the New Year on 1° of January? According to the Catholic Church the 1° of the year was 25 Marcdh until the Grand Duke Franceeco III of Lorena made a law changing the civil year.
Happy New Year’s Celebration to one and all!
Wherever you are this holiday season we are sending you lots of joy. I know we’ll be in Florence heating up by the fireplace for Christmas with our friends and families. Some of us here at Pierotucci celebrate from other corners of the world, myself, for example, will be in what I’m hoping is sunny California desperately trying to escape any part of winter I can. What can I say, I’m a sunshine girl. At any rate, have a lovely day full of presents and cheer.
Santa Barbara, my home. A lovely place on the southern coast (although typically referred to as the central coast) of sunny California. This is where the sleigh bells will ring for me this Christmas. In less than 48 hours I will be California bound, driving down the famous highway 101 with the ocean breeze caressing my face, throwing me into a fit of pure joy.
It’s the best of both worlds really, splitting time between Florence, Italy and Santa Barbara. Florence with its old world charm, the romantic streets of cobble stone surrounded by rustic colors of terracotta and traditional green shutters lining every stone building. The family owned shops, trattorias, and cafes with their handmade leather goods, traditional local dishes, and their perfected cappucinos. And don’t forget the wine bars whose walls are lined with endless bottles of some of the best wine in the world.
Then, of course, there is Santa Barbara. A little corner of the world unlike any other. With its red tiled rooftops and beach town vibe, this city is as charming and mediterranean as they come. One of my favorite places for an absolutely one-of-a-kind and spectacular view of the city is from Stern’s wharf. It’s a view that’s breathtaking. Imagine sitting over the ocean, on the pier, eating a bowl of freshly made clam chowder soup with the salty breeze running through your hair. Out in one direction you see the vast, blue Pacific Ocean with boats, fishman, and very often the sight of dolphins and humpback whales. You take a glance in the opposite direction and you have the sandy coastline decorated in an endless abundance of palm trees that follow the boulevard, one right after the next. Beyond the immediate coast, the city is picturesquely set against a mountain range, ever so perfectly tucked away between the mountains and the water. Sounds great right?
Like Florence, Santa Barbara is a striking little town, much of which can be reached by bicycle. If you’re staying downtown having a bicycle is the perfect way to get around. There you’ll find the lively and picture perfect State Street, the main avenue for shopping, filled with boutiques, cafes, department stores, and a number of restaurants boasting all types of cuisine. I can’t resist a day of shopping with my coffee in hand strutting down State Street, especially with all the unique and lovely boutique shops there are to take advantage of. It also turns into the main area where all the night life can be found. Everything from your back door pub to your nightclub for dancing is either on or right around this street. And for those who like something a little more low key, you can always have a cocktail on one of Santa Barbara’s most scenic rooftop terraces.
I consider myself to be a very lucky girl! Now if only I could take these two worlds of mine and collide them into one, it would be in my idea of paradise. But for now, I’ll settle with one at a time. If you’re in Italy looking for a winter escape, Santa Barbara is the place for you. And I suppose, if perhaps you’re simply reading this from the East Coast or somewhere else with frosty winters, Santa Barbara is a wonderful, not to mention warm, winter escape. Otherwise, to all my Santa Barbarians, come venture to Florence and see what I mean about experiencing the very best of both worlds.
To everyone, warm wishes this holiday season from sunny Santa Barbara!
I like to think of myself as an American representitive capable of bringing new traditions to Italy. And as you may or may not know, the “ugly sweater” party has become a vital part of American culture. It’s become even more popularized during the holiday season when “lovely” Christmas sweaters (jumpers) can be seen in every department store and on at least one person in your office (you know who I’m talking about, they look a something like this).
This year I still received an invitation to one of these specially themed evenings back in my hometown despite the fact I’m thousands of miles away. While I waited around for some kind of fun Christmas, holiday party invitation in Italy, it never came. My theory is, the U.S. knows fun like Italy knows pasta and if you’ve been to Italy, you know, that they know their pasta, meaning we (the U.S.) know how to have fun. Have I lost you in my banter?
Anyway, this year I want to loosen up those suits and ties that the Italians are so keen on wearing so everyone can let their hair down. And how to do that, you ask? Well, I’m thinking it’s time to give someone the gift of an oh-so-unlovely sweater. You know the ones I’m talking about with tinsel somehow weaved into the material or certain parts that actually light up. Or it’s just the shock of seeing a grown man in a red Christmas sweater with fluffly Christmas kittens all over it.
Either way, hold your head up high and look damn good in your ugly sweater. So Italy, if you’re reading this, next party’s theme is and must be an Ugly Sweater party.
Every year I get more and more excited as Christmas approaches. It’s just that feeling you get as people whisk through the street in the crisp air with their shopping bags and smiles on their faces. It’s really the build up to Christmas that I love. The gorgeous decorations that fill your city’s streets and the insides of your home, the Christmas music playing that can be heard from restaurants and bars as you pass by, and all the chocolate and christmas treats you wait all year for that are very specific to the season.
I’m all about tradition and since living in Italy, it seems as though I could be loaded with them. With a tradition for just about everything. there is definitely one tradition that I feel particularly lucky to be a part of. Every year in Florence for Christmas the well-known German Christmas Market in Piazza Santa Croce, also known as the Heidelberg Market, comes to the city and dresses up the square brilliantly. The wooden stands are set up with their red and white striped covers displaying all the wonderful goods they’re selling. This German market brings brings loads of German Christmas confectionaries, wurstel, strudel, and my favortie, vin brulee (hot mulled wine). Beyond the stands with traditional German food, there are handmade toys, traditional ceramics, and articles of clothing and accessories to make the winter weather a little easier to enjoy.
I spent part of my day at the picturesque market and enjoyed all it had to offer. I set off from home bundled up to the brim and headed out towards Santa Croce. Within 15 minutes I was in the midst of the market shopping and searching for goodies to buy. My first stop obviously being the vin brulee, I mean a girls got to stay warm in this weather afterall. So while I delightfully sipped (or guzzled depending on your interpretation) my hot spiced wine, I browsed the stands, one by one. I ate the traditional wurstel with sauerkraut and bought a pretzel for later in the day. After I was properly stuffed with delicious food I bought a few Christmas gifts, most of which were handmade.
The Christmas market is always something to look forward and feels even more whimsical by night, lit up to the tee. So if you’re in town, come celebrate, stroll by the market and find me hanging close to the mulled wine.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go. I absolutely love Christmas! I think it’s all the decorations and lights that really get me in the spirit. I adore walking down decorated streets while doing my Christmas shopping, sipping hot mulled wine in the cold winter air. Lucky for me, Florence is particularly amazing at making you feel like it’s the season to be jolly. As a matter of fact, it’s almost like being in a Christmas movie. Not only are beautiful lights strategically strung all over the city but there are also speakers put up on the cities busiest streets that play Christmas carols. So as you stroll down the street in the crisp winter air, the lights sparkle and the music brings you nothing but pure joy and the spirit of Christmas. I think it may even give me a little pep in my step as I start to rythmically walk down the Street, happily humming to the songs. Just picture yourself stepping out of your 400 year old apartment in the historic city center of Florence and as you turn the corner onto a busy street that has existed longer than you can imagine, there are glittering Christmas lights illuminating the Street as Frank Sinatra sings Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Now tell me, what isn’t absolutely magical about that.
Because it tends to be a bit more difficult to decorate the outside of your home here since everyone is living in an old stone apartment, one next to the other, there are certain things, I’d like to think, that make up for this. Like the fact that everyone is so involved with festive decor. Just look at the brilliant sparkles coming from the department store, Rinascente. They lace their building every year in long strings of lighst that make the old Italian stone come to life. It looks as if it’s sparkling with thousdands of brilliant diamonds.
The lights too, are even that much more amazing in the evening time. The way they stand out in the night really does them justice. Just look at the how this small street gleams with the shimmering lights that lead to the magnificent Duomo in the center of the city. The bright lights zig-zag their way to the very end of the street making night feel a little less dark and that much more beautiful.
While tourists are always making their way to Florence from all over the world, the mass majority of travelers comes in hotter weather. But why not come when there are virtually no tourists during the holiday season? You have the city practically to yourself and the wonderful decorations last the whole of December until the end of the first week of January.
These lights can be seen all over the city center; from the popular well known streets to those smaller and from restaurants to cafes, everyone takes pride in a little decoration. So, what do you think? Are you booking or at least looking at tickets to one of the most beautiful cities in the world yet?
When I read there was a Roman tub in the middle of the square I was intrigued. I was planning my itinerary for the day in southern Tuscany where I already had an early morning appointment at the vineyard Fattoria del Cerro and an evening tour of Montalcino. This meant that I had an hour or two to explore a little on my own. It was only a one line description of this Tuscan hillside town but it captured my imagination and I was hooked. Bagno Vignoni here I come. I had pictured a large marble monument in an ornate Victorian bathtub shape, perhaps with a little garden surrounding it and lots of carved Roman letters commemorating yet another Roman triumph. I knew this area was particularly well known for Etruscan and Roman ruins so I had earmarked this tiny little town located between Montepulciano and Montalcino as a must see.
I am the type of tourist that enjoys inserting themselves into the scenery, learn a little of the language, shop with the “natives” and stumble upon the unique and truly authentic corners of the landscape. When I can, I always arrange to stay with family or friends, looking to them for guidance and fun pieces of information. However, my first time traveling abroad in Tuscany Italy tested me just a bit. I had, as the Italians would say, no “punto di appoggio” so I had to search out my own place. Of course, for many, the idea of being on your own in a strange country can be a little daunting, but if you have a trusted adviser then finding a place to hang your coat and unload your suitcase can be a lot less worrying. When looking to put down some roots, I search out something that can give me a 360° tour of the area. I am curious so, I want to see lots of photos, detailed descriptions of the house and even videos like the one I found at Tenuta di Gracciano, a villa rental in southern Tuscany.
I grabbed my new Italian leather jacket and started off on my adventure and the first stop was divine! I said good bye to the lovely person who showed me around the vinyard and mentioned that I was headed to visit Bagno Vignoni. They were enthusiastic and mentioned the quaint little restaurants and charming town scenery. Then they asked if I had brought my bathing suit. I felt encouraged by their comments and baffled by the bathing suit remark. So I just laughed with them and climbed back into my car. Onward I went to the town I had found in a little guide book left for me at the Tuscan villa rental. I arrived at the foot of the hill, following the signs to the parking area. The scenery was beautiful, on one side rolling fields of grain and in front of me was a tree covered hill with Bagno Vignoni on top. I gathered my camera, intent on capturing the little alley ways with its stone buildings – and of course a photo of the Roman tub. The town is small – in fact tiny describes it more appropriately. And the guide was right, very quaint and very picturesque. I enjoyed walking around the near deserted streets, read the information on the thermal springs that abound in the area and bought a postcard or two. But the tub? I thought a monument this important would have sequestered a large place of prominence…search and search and search, but to no avail.
Then it dawned on me. The same consideration I gave to my guide for his English skills – I should have given to the guide book as well! All the streets in Bagno Vignoni face a large man made pool … translated TUB! This was once a Roman spa (and still is a lovely spa today! Which is why he asked if I had brought my bathing suit!) Not that you can go swimming in this unique landmark, but there are several areas nearby. You can admire this large pool on all four sides and in the one corner you can actually see the water bubbling to the surface.
It still produces a sincere smile when I think about my expectations on that trip of seeing a great white marble monument, how I walked around and around looking for this statue … only to have it sitting under my nose the whole time. And Bagno Vignoni is definitely one of the places I encourage all my visiting friends to visit and explore . . . without telling them about the pool, I let them think its really a tub. All said and done this is just one of these special moments that Tuscany has given me in all my travels. A surprise out of a surprise and I have to say this probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been living my dream in one of those beautifully restored Tuscan villas.
Four nights ago I stepped out of my fabulously antique Italian apartment in the city center of Florence to find Vogue Fashion Night Out 2012 in full swing. So, I did the only thing I could and let the spirit and love of fashion take me over. It was a truly whimsical evening lit by Vogue fashion bags that lined the street. The city bustling with people, live music that filled the streets even more so than the passers-by, and all the stores open until midnight and full of ambitious, late night shoppers.
With many people dressed in their best or most wild threads and the extreme handful dressed in vintage fashion from as early as the Renaissance, I chose to go a bit dated myself. I wore a classic black dress, a faux fur, leopard print bolero jacket, ruby red wedges and killer red lips to match, looking very 1950′s inspired. Something more or less along the lines of the look below.
I couldn’t help but indulge in all the city was offering that night and took a stroll to see what exactly was going on. With stores open til late, I stumbled upon Nomination and their promoters for this great jewelry that Pierotucci offers as well. That was just one of the many things going on around the city. Stores were offering free cocktails and samples of products, demonstrations and showing vintage fashion related products like antique sewing machines, and there was fashion inspired art set up all over the city.
After making a nice little cirlce of the city I stopped for a glass of red wine at Caffe Giacosa where a fantastic band played live baltic music. It was the perfect place to stop. I grabbed a table on the outside terrace where the band was, the temperature outside just right, and I could people watch and browse my favorite designer threads as the city stylishly moved past me in slow motion. At one point I even had models approch my table to take pictures. They were wildly dressed in a strange combination of leather with a style inspired by the seventeen hundreds, almost Marie Antoinette like.
It was one of those evenings where the city comes alive and is lit up with fashion from every which way. Vogue Fashion Night Out in Florence was a fashion fairytale!
Some days the universe just continues to serve up one wonderful surprise after another, and I must say today I was just drinking it all up in Florence, Italy. I had (HAD makes it sound like I was suffering) to go into the beautiful historical center of Florence for work today to pick-up a document to export one of our handcrafted mosaic artworks to its new owner.
Italian law requires that all artwork which leaves Italy must have a document which certifies that it is what it says it is . . . in this case contemporary art. It is one of their attempt to stop the illegal outflow of priceless antiques and works of art. All of our stone and glass mosaic artwork pieces are made here in Florence and are considered contemporary pieces of artwork because of the time frame which they were made – even if they are inspired by pieces like the Sistine Chapel!
Like most goverment offices all over Italy, the department I needed to visit was located in a historical building. In this case, it was in a small building on the Palazzo Pitti grounds. The core part of the Pitti Palace dates from 1458 and was originally the town residence of Luca Pitti, an ambitious Florentine banker.
And like most offices in Italy (even though I made an appointment for 9 AM) I had to wait an hour to get my authorized docs. BUT. In this case, there was a wonderful quirk. Since I was already on the grounds of this vast, mainly Renaissance palazzo, I was invited to spend my time waiting in the equally famous Boboli gardens, which were enlarged in the 17th century to their present extent of 45,000 meters² (11 acres). Now it would be pretty impractical to think I could visit the entire garden (without making my boss a little suspious of my tardiness) but I did jump at the possibility to spend an hour roaming as far as I could.
It was a miracle of all miracles that I actually had my camera with me (because I never seem to have when its the right moment) and was able to capture some of these beautiful sights. The day was splendid with a clear blue sky, relaxing temps and just the hint of a breeze. Of course taking these photos was like documenting the fact that I was goofing off during work hours . . . but I guess I could insist that it was all for research… In any case, I will worry about that only if they read my blog.
As I walked along the pebbled paths, I have to admit, I was impressed. Not only by the luscious garden and the fact that it was so well maintained (especailly with the well noted drought that we have been experiencing here in Tuscany) but by the awesome complexity yet simplicty of the garden . . . it is . . . IMMENSE. I also couldn’t help but notice that many of our mosaic art pieces seemed to be inspired by this very same garden.
The mid-16th century garden style, as it was developed here, incorporated longer axial developments, wide gravel avenues, a considerable “built” element of stone, the lavish employment of statuary and fountains, and a proliferation of detail, coordinated in semi-private and public spaces that were informed by classical accents: grottos, mympheums, garden temples and the like. The openness of the garden, with an expansive view of the city, was unconventional for its time. And if fact, you can see several stunning views of the Florence skyline from the just the small corner of the garden that I was visiting. If you are going to be visiting Florence, and want to escape a bit of the hectic streets then definitely check out Boboli gardens - bring a good panino and find yourself a secluded corner to just absorb the sounds of the city (like the church bells) that filter into this green oasis. Or you could simply check out some of our stone moasics, and get a piece of Florence to have home with you all the time.
With the weekend here it’s the perfect time for a bike ride. The weather in Florence is hot and humid but there’s nothing like an early evening stroll on the bicycle to cool you down, especially if you make the ever so important gelato stop.
One of my favorite places to bike ride is Cascine Park. It’s a park well-known to the locals of Florence but often missed by tourists as it lies right outside of the immediate city center. Having been owned by members of the Medici family (just like evrything else in Florence) it was once used as a gaming reserve and wasn’t until the late 1700′s that the park was restored for public use. Having gone through several changes and remodels, today Cascine Park has everything from a public swimming pool, race track, amphitheater, sports center, horseback riding, bicycle rentals, food stands, a seasonal fair for children, dancing at “Le Meccano”, a weekly open market, and so much more. There is something for everyone.
With nearly 400 acres of space and greenery Cascine Park is the perfect filler for your free afternoon. Sometimes it’s just nice to get away from the cobblestone and city madness. Indulging oneself by going to Cascine and setting up a picnic after an ever so perfect bike ride is what Italian life is truly all about. So the nest time you’re there look for me! I’ll be the girl on the bicycle with a smile on her face and a slice of water melon in hand.