Friday, May 30, 2008

Heavenly Experiences--Siena, Italy

The second to last day of our Italian adventure, after a whirlwind tour of Florence, we decided to go somewhere a little smaller, the famous town of Siena. We took the first hotel shuttle to the train station and then waited at the bus station for the first bus to Siena. An hour after riding (or sleeping in my case) through the Tuscan countryside, we arrived. It was drizzling slightly but nothing you couldn't just brush off. Since travel guides are amazingly heavy and Doug was already lugging his camera we decided to wander hoping to find the important sites by chance or depending on my recollection, though I'd only been to Siena in '95 and '98. Luckily, or unfortunately there were plenty of tour groups to follow to the main cathedral complex or the central piazza.

As you can see in the photos, the cathedral in Siena is an exceptional one. It is one of the largest in Italy, and hence the world. But not only is its shear size impressive but the amount to art and craftsmanship that went in to creating it is simply astounding. It was built with black and white marble and the entire ceilings are magnificently painted. Not to mention the marble inlay floors, stained glass windows, and individual altars. The baptistry, crypt, and towers are all worth a visit. If you climb to the top, this is your view:

As far as the eye can see it is rolling Tuscan hills and pastures. Or you can look down and see this:

Note that there are three distinct tour groups listening to their guides. They travel in packs, and our favorites are the German retirees or the Asians, because they have the biggest cameras.

It's Friday afternoon, I'm off to take the kids to the park before it gets too late.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Piazza della Repubblica, Firenze

Here are the first of the photos that Doug took in Florence. I wanted to begin my trip telling with these instead of the usual Ponte Vecchio ones because I think they convey a feeling - an air which is quite different from Miami, Florida or any town USA I might add. Once you are in Italy for a few days you absorb this different air and begin to feel how you are really in another world.

Piazza della Repubblica was created when Florence (for about 5 years) became the capital of Italy upon its unification in 1865. It has a grand arch and arcade on one side and the other three have chic cafes and hotels. We sat at Gilli, which has been in Piazza della Repubblica since its inception. It is great fun for people watching. It was Saturday evening and people were finishing their shopping and rushing off to dinner. The waiters were anxiously waiting for the cocktail hour loungers to be off so that the real diners would arrive.

My favorite caffe is a similar one in Piazza della Signoria called Rivoire. You may pay $10. for a beer there but who can match the atmosphere. You are facing the Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia dei Lanzi, and (reproduction of) Michelangelo's David. You really have Florence in the palm of your hand. Sometimes when traveling I forget to just sit down and take in the atmosphere, the aromas, the sensations. I want to see lots of things and not miss anything. Doug is much better about trying to take it slow and remembering that we are on vacation. I didn't mean to do too much but we did most of the big sites in Florence. Museums: Pitti Palace (my favorite because I always prefer museums that were functioning homes so you can see how people actually lived), the Uffizi, the Accademia, San Marco Convent, the Medici Chapels. Churches: Santa Maria Novella, Santa Maria dei Fiori aka the Duomo, San Lorenzo, Santa Croce, San Miniato al Monte, and Sant' Ambrogio. I think that is about all we covered. Then we spent a day in Siena with its fantastic cathedral and one day in Milano (also has a fantastic cathedral), where we stayed for one night at a five star hotel (on points of course). As my husband put it, at a five star hotel they treat you like a human. They had Hermes soaps and lotions in the bathroom and a very fluffy king-size bed.

I really enjoyed Milan. We ate at a great restaurant on Via Fiori Chiari called Nabucco, like the opera. The walls were decorated in old opera posters from La Scala. The food and service were superb. I had some fresh gnocchi followed by a salt baked sea bass. Doug had a minestrone without tomato that he is still raving about. Then he had the sea bass as well, it was a whole fish for two. Lastly we shared a warm pear and chocolate tart-- buonissimo! I highly recommend this place.

In Florence we ate at a few good eateries. My favorite is a haunt I'd discovered with some visiting friends back when I was living there. It is called Osteria Belle Donne on the via delle Belle Donne, between the train station and Piazza della Repubblica. I had the most deliciously fresh mozarella di bufala with prosciutto followed my some homemade pasta. Doug had a chicken salad which doesn't sound very Italian but it had a wonderful combination of avocado, spinach, corn, soy beans, etc. We also ate a two other places which we were recommended to us by two different sources each: Trattoria Cammillo on Borgo San Jacopo just off the Ponte Santa Trinita, and Cibreo, across from Piazza Sant' Ambrogio. Our hotel was a little outside the city and near it we ate at a great little spot called Osteria di Giogo where we shared a sumptuous Florentine steak. I cannot leave out that Doug had gelato everyday.

Friday, May 23, 2008

My return from Italy

I've been having a rather hard time readjusting to life/work since my return from Italy on Tuesday. The fact that summer has basically begun here in Miami, i.e. 95 degree weather and super quiet days at the shop don't help. During my trip I thought of all sorts of things to blog about, all of which have seemed to vanish into thin air upon my flight's very late descent.
One of the conclusions that Doug and I have come to is that while we have enjoyed our trips to Spain and Italy, we are undoubtedly helpless francophiles. The art in Italy is unrivaled but there is something in the air--and the food in France which just makes us feel at ease. So while we'd love to see a few more places such as Eastern Europe and South America, we've conceded that when in doubt--go to France!
I've been feeling a lot more pregnant the past few days. If only I could take a few naps a day...
I thought I would return from my trip with new inspiration but instead I feel a little lost. Not quite sure in what direction I should be moving. As mentioned in my first post I'm ready to do something new, I just need a new opportunity, I need to create something new for myself. I need to find some purpose to my work. I don't want to feel like I just come to work to pay the bills, and lately I've been feeling a little of that.
I promise to post a summary of my trip to Italy shortly.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Announcing the Birth of Sofia Isabel!

This is a bit off subject but I have to announce the birth of my godchild and niece, Sofia Isabel Trabazo. She was born on May 8th, weighed 6lbs, 5oz and measured 19". She is the daughter of my older sister, Maria and her husband Jose aka Pep, who live in Suwanee, Georgia. They almost had her in the car because they didn't move fast enough! Aren't babies wonderful?!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day. I, for one, feel particularly blessed on this day with my two beautiful, healthy children (+ one on the way) and an awesome husband who spent all morning slaving in the kitchen to make my mother, grandmother, and myself a delicious brunch. We (Doug and I) leave on Tuesday for our 5th Anniversary trip to Italy and I feel really fortunate to be where I am in my life right now. I feel that I am right where I am suppose to be. That doesn't mean I want to stay in this place for long, I'm ready for something new, a new adventure. Perhaps this trip will inspire me, show me the way. To love and inspiration and to living life with no regrets.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mercury's Wings

This Carrara marble Mercury was one of my favorite purchases from our last trip. He's already flown away to a new home on La Gorce Island in Miami Beach. The shadows in this photo showoff how well sculpted he was. I should have kept him. Alas, we antique dealers can't keep everything we love, though I would have liked to have had him for more than one day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Herbs and Silver

I've always wanted to have an herb garden. That may seem strange considering that I don't know how to cook--at all. So its not in the Martha Stewart sort of way. I don't think I could maintain a Bunny Williams or Martha-style Conneticut garden. I have my mini-version herb garden on my kitchen window sill and in my dining room (see previous post of dining room.) These two on the sill are a type of lavender, unfortunately not the French kind which does not grow here, but they still smell good. They are in some old glass pots which used to be for jam or maybe foie gras! Then I have a small collection of antique silver. I hope to have a complete set of antique silver one day. I just love the weight of it in your hand. I think it makes food taste better. I know I'm a snob but I just can't eat with a plastic fork. In fact I'm rather adverse to anything disposable in general. Everyone keeps talking about "being green" and "ecofriendly" but then suggest they use cloth napkins and towels instead of paper and they all look at you like your from mars. I love Michael Bruno's quote "Do the planet a favor, buy antiques and vintage design." Exactly. We have everything we need already we don't need more stuff. I believe in the human need to create but its creative to work with what you already have too.

My other "green" thing or otherwise old fashioned thing is that I love cloth diapers. Now you're really going to think I'm crazy. But there is just something about putting cotton on your baby's bum instead of plastic and chemically processed padding that makes me feel much better about myself. Not to mention the tons of landfill space that disposable diapers take. My favorites are called fuzzi bunz. I once considered selling them here in Miami since there is not ONE local store which carries them, but then I reasoned that I better stick to antiques. They are not harder to use and while you do have to do a little more laundry its not so bad. Plus, then they potty train sooner and you are free from diapering all together. I do realize this was a little off topic but hey I can't talk about antiques ALL the time, right?

Lastly, I want to thank House of Beauty and Culture for mentioning me on her blog. It's nice to be welcomed to the blogosphere by other bloggers. Can we come up with a more attractive sounding name than blogger?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cecilia and Her Rosary

Container week was so busy that I really haven't had a chance to write but I will try to make up for it this week before my trip to Italy. On a completely different note, we went to a friend's First Communion on Saturday and Doug was the official photographer. Cecilia picked out this beautiful fuschia dress at our favorite Spanish children's boutique, Peter Pan. I loved it too because it is so different from the usual little girls' dresses. She refused to let her father photograph her so he got this shot from the back. We all loved how it came out. Just something special about it.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

My Television Debut

There we are, Doug and me, waiting for our five minutes in the limelight on South Florida Today. We took a pair of bergeres, a Louis Philippe tilt-top table, a jeweled crown, a garden urn turned lamp, a Biot jar with decoy ducks, and a spectacular Genoa chandelier. Bob Mayer interviewed me for a little over five minutes and although he didn't seem to "get" the cache of antiques, I think it went rather well. I'll have the video clip next week. HGTV here I come!
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