Well, I had intended to write long before now! I had a post all queued up about shopping for and preparing our first Thanksgiving dinner in Italy - but then that post became a combined “Holiday” post (Thanksgiving and Christmas) - which didn’t get written. So, I thought I’d write a combined Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s screed - and somehow it didn’t materialize, either, alas. And here we are, in the middle of January, in a new year. Where DOES the time go??
But, let me back up. We’ve been living in Florence for 18 months now. How did THAT arrive so quickly?! It’s been an amazing, frustrating, nail-biting, nerve-wracking, wonderful, exhilarating experience. Above all, very edifying. And a great opportunity to practice what I preach: Acceptance & Allowing.
Our first year was hectic and sort of crazy. After moving from our large Seattle home - with Samantha the Samoyed - into a furnished Florentine apartment in “tourist central” Piazza Santa Croce, in March of 2018 we moved into our current home, where we intend to spend many years. We had lots of crazy experiences that first year you can read about here. And the adventure has continued…
So, from June through Christmas, a wrap up:
We remembered, from the previous summer, how important it is to get out of the house early and then scurry back into the A/C before completely wilting from the heat. It starts getting really hot about mid July and stays that way for something like 6-8 weeks.
The day before our 32nd Anniversary, I went to my local hair stylist and, because of a language misunderstanding, (I guess) I emerged blonde! haha! Oh, well. At least it was summer.
August in Florence is almost unbearably hot and humid. We (including Samantha) had a short stay at Borgo i Vicelli, a gem of a tiny resort in Bagno a Ripoli and only a 20 minute taxi ride away. Important, since we don’t have a car!
Borgo i Vicelli is family-run, the setting is absolutely divine, the food is amazing, the wine is sourced from nearby, the olive oil is made on-site, and it has a lovely pool and spa. Also, dogs are accepted (see photo above). Highly recommended.
My cherished friend/client/chiropractor, Dr. Vivian Ledesma, had 4 days open between her trip to Romania and before she joined a biking group in The Lakes district - I was overjoyed that she chose to spend it in Florence! She stayed a half block from us in Hotel Liana, so we were neighbors for a few days.
….and we cooked zucchini flowers!
In September I had yet another Permesso di Soggiorno complication, but it was resolved and I enrolled in more Italian classes.
We had visitors and good news!
I rejoined the Italian class I had been unable to finish the prior April (due to a severely sprained ankle) and, this time, was a stellar student! Our son, Nick, arrived to pursue his Italian dual citizenship through Bob…
…AND Bob received his Italian citizenship recognition! It was a big, big month!!
The weather became colder, though not bitterly cold, yet. I decided to make Ringraziamento (Thanksgiving) dinner and we were delighted to have guests from Seattle, Susan and her daughter Jen, and our new friends from Scotland, Ellen and her daughter Frances, join us.
Finding cranberries was another story. Eventually, I rehydrated dried mirtilli rossi (cranberries) to make my favorite Silver Palette cranberry sauce recipe.
It was quite an undertaking, sourcing the ingredients for a semi-traditional American feast, while not being in America. The menu:
Olive, nocce, crema di tartufo e croccantini (olives, nuts, truffle spread & toasts)
Confettura di mirtilli rossi (Cranberry sauce)
Risotto con zucca e pistacchio (Pumpkin risotto with toasted pistacchios)
Cavoletti di Bruxelles con cipolla rossa e avocado (Brussels sprouts w/ red onion & avocado - from Heather Christo)
Verdure grigliate (roasted veggies from Ellen)
Torta di cioccolata e nocce di pecan (Chocolate pecan pie - David Liebovitz’ recipe)
An absolutely stunning Pavlova - brought by our Scottish neighbors
Prosecco, vino rosato e vino rosso (Sparking, rosé, and red wines)
Ok, by now the weather was quite bitterly cold in the mornings. Sometimes it remains that way throughout the day but every so often it’s quite pleasant.
As I unpacked the Christmas decorations I had shipped over in our container the prior spring, I was surprised how I misremembered the small amount I had packed and had to be inventive. We didn’t have a traditional tree….or a mantle over which to hang the stockings.
But we did enjoy the beautiful seasonal clutter!
And here we are in 2019. My New Year’s Resolution this year is to post more from Italy in the coming months. More about the culture, shopping, art & architecture, and gardens, of course. Ci vediamo presto! (See you soon!)
After we moved into our Piazza Santa Croce apartment on June 27th, we went to our local Mailboxes, etc right around the corner and requested that the Italian Consulate in Los Angeles send our citizenship file originals to us in Florence, where we would pursue Italian citizenship for my husband. We received the file July 4th, then we spent several weeks trying to connect with an attorney we had met on our last trip to Florence. (We took a wonderful cooking class from his sister, who owns Cooking in Florence, and she introduced us to him) We finally made contact with him mid-July, and he told us things were crazy busy getting work done in preparation for the August holidays. (Pretty much all of Italy, except for tourist-dependent businesses, shuts down most, if not all, of August!!)
We scrambled to get our documents submitted, then spent a few weeks waiting for the police visit to verify our residence. Then, suddenly, the cittadinanza application was halted - the woman reviewing it had found several discrepancies (Bob's grandfather's name was spelled differently in a few places). Our attorney wrote a lengthy "act" in which he explained everything, and the application started again, which meant waiting for the police to visit, again - not leaving all day! On a whim, Monday morning I checked our mailbox and found a document that stated the police had been to our residence on the prior Friday and not found us here, even though we'd been dutifully sitting and waiting for them ALL DAY!!!! We faxed the document back to the police, giving our hours of availability, and they showed up the next day! One down.....
Permesso di Soggiorno
With the cittadinanza restarted, and the residency verified, it was now time to submit the Permesso di Soggiorno kit. We went to the Ufficio Postale on via Porta Rossa (a beautiful building, by the way) and they would NOT accept Bob's application (!) because he didn't have a visa, which you don't need if you are here and applying for citizenship. So, Bob and our attorney met the next day at a different post office and the application was accepted! On August 29th, Bob's last day to legally remain in Italy without the citizenship/residency/permesso di soggiorno applications being accepted! 2 down in the 11th hour craziness.....
A visa application of some kind....
Meanwhile, because of the 90 day Schengen tourist restriction, I had to leave Italy and return to the US to get a visa from the Italian Consulate in order to return to Italy!
I flew to San Francisco August 30th, intent upon imploring the consulate to give me a visa. But, they would not! They said, since my husband's citizenship application was in process, granting me a visa would "confuse things". What??!! (They are telling me this as I beg them, standing on tiptoe, talking to Giorgia, the visa employee, via microphone, behind thick glass)
In the meantime, our attorney had come up with a plan: I would enroll in an Italian language course and apply for a Student Visa. I mentioned it to Giorgia, she was adamant that, no, it wasn't possible. I teared up, she softened, and then - surprise! - she suggested I enroll in classes and apply for a Student Visa. (I wish we'd thought of that!) So, Bob enrolled me in the Lorenzo de Medici Institute, with classes beginning September 4th. I flew to Seattle September 1st and set about getting all my ducks in a row.
I met with the Honorary Consulate in Seattle on September 12th. My file was ironclad, complete, each section was clipped together, with a cover sheet that summarized the pages, and the entire file was in the exact order of the checklist on the Consulate website. After Mr Tesorieri reviewed the file and handed it to me, I was told to send it to San Francisco for processing. And write them a nice note about my impending departure, September 20th.
I overnighted the package to San Francisco, it arrived Thursday, September 14th, delayed a day because of the hurricanes and other disruptions (none on the west coast, but oh well). I called and emailed the SF consulate about my application and ticketed flight back to Florence September 20th but was answered with a terse note admonishing me "not to pressure them about my airline ticket". Well!
The day of my flight arrived and my passport and visa hadn't. So, I proceeded to change my flight (had paid extra for a changeable ticket) - but to what day?? I intuitively chose Sunday, September 24th as my new departure date. And hoped my passport/visa would arrive the 21st, 22nd or 23rd.
On Friday, September 22, I sent another email to the San Francisco Consulate requesting "Visa Status - Flight in 3 days" per directions on their website. I got an answer at 1:12 pm: "Hello. Your passport has been mailed." I opened up the USPS website I had been obsessively checking daily and..... nothing. I refreshed the page over and over and - suddenly! - there was info!! My passport was picked up in SF at 11:20 am and in transit! But would it arrive to me by Saturday, so I could make my Sunday flight??
YES! ...... at the 11th hour....... IT DID!!!!
It was a ton of consternation, hard work, planning, organizing, frustration, and incredible stress - but it was fabulous to see friends and family in Seattle - and I even made a new friend in San Francisco - while I waited for my visa....
And pretty nice to get back to my Florence neighborhood....
We made it! It took a teeny bit longer than we had hoped or wished, but we're here now (yay!) and busily exploring our new environment.
One of the reasons we chose Florence (apart from the art, history, architecture, shopping, food, and walkable-ness!) was for the pace of life. It is Italy, after all. After spending a fair amount of time in France and Italy, I've been struck by how the French and Italians really savor life: food and wine are eagerly tasted, stores are small, thereby encouraging frequent trips (the better to get to know the proprietors) and even a trip to empty the garbage/recycle/yard waste is an excursion.
Our first home in Florence - for 30 days! - was the Hotel Villa Carlotta in Porta Romana, the Florentine gate that one passed through to journey south to Rome.
The area around the hotel is full of beautiful villas, parks, wide walkways, and a luxurious hotel, Villa Cora, as well as bed and breakfasts. We discovered some wonderful shops and eateries in our monthlong stay.
It's been very, very hot here in Florence since the beginning of June. One evening, while dining at Podere 39, I saw a woman at a nearby table fanning herself. She didn't speak English but did speak French so I asked her where to find a fan for myself. She tried to explain what sort of market might have one, then suddenly, a few minutes later, she handed her fan to me! And told me it was a gift! What a wonderful experience!
On June 27, we moved into our apartment (for the next 9 months, or so) on Piazza Santa Croce. It's right smack in the middle of the action, so is inundated with tourists from late morning until late evening - but we love the apartment. It's a good temporary home!
From this new venue, I plan to write about the design scene in Florence as well as events, restaurant and accommodation recommendations, nearby places to discover, and some historical perspectives - and everything in between! Please join me!
It was late winter when we started our 5 week Italian exploration in Rome, at our favorite hotel: Campo de' Fiori......
After 3 days, it was on to Florence, where we'd live for a month.....
Shopping in this city is the best!
Venturing beyond the borders of Florence....
Italian travel mistakes....
Sometimes it's best just to put up your feet and relax..... There are some changes on the horizon....Stay tuned for the next adventures!
I clearly remember the first time I visited Florence. It was late September, 1979, and the air had a crispness, foretelling the changing of the seasons. I was astounded by the beauty all around: architecture, monuments, the contrast of terra cotta roof tiles against blue skies, chic people wearing furs and gorgeous leather!
After several trips over the years, we decided to spend a month in between winter and spring (the idea was to avoid heavy tourist times - ha!) soaking in all that is the wonder of this compact city.
We rented an apartment through Italy Perfect and stayed in Palazzo Antellesi on Piazza Santa Croce, a wonderfully central location. According to various sources, the Palazzo was first built in medieval times and enlarged in the late 16th c, then acquired in the early 17th c by Niccolo' dell'Antella (from whom the name originates) and joined with a nearby building to make one large palazzo. He commissioned frescoes to cover the entire facade. The frescoes faded over time but then the Cinelli family bought the building and restored them in the 1920's and again in 1990. Young Federica Cinelli inherited the Palazzo in 1945, then married Count Piccolomini, becoming La Contessa Piccolomini. La Contessa still lives here, as does some of her family. And we so much enjoyed meeting her and her daughter, Francesca!
Our first apartment had amazing Renaissance frescoes and high, high ceilings. After being there about 10 days, we moved to another apartment in the building that we absolutely loved! The colors of the Belvedere suit me perfectly....
Once we unpacked, gathered provisions and settled into our apartment, we began serious exploration. First up, a cooking class and market tour with Laura Franceschetti of Cooking in Florence. We had the most delightful time spending the day (!) with her, starting at the Mercato Sant'Ambrogio and then at her wonderful home, which happened to be a 5 minute walk from our apartment! (Almost everything is.... more on that later)
We met at the Mercato Sant'Ambrogio (which is not as touristy as the larger, newly renovated Mercato Centrale, but feels more "authentic") where we learned about purchasing seasonal foods, pasta, cheese ("there's no such thing as Parmesan cheese - it's Parmigiano"), meat, seafood and generally started to feel like being with a friend.
The cooking lesson was informative and the food tasted incredible, but I was equally enthralled with Laura's home. The floor tile! The ceiling!
After eating like kings, a few days later I convinced my husband, Bob, to make the hike up to San Miniato al Monte, my favorite little Romanesque church, with the most glorious view of Firenze!
Downhill from San Minato al Monte we found the charming San Niccolo' neighborhood and beautiful Piazzale Michelangelo.
....and we stumbled upon the most lovely boutique hotel, Villa Vedetta, where we felt like royalty, as we dined privately near the pool...
And the JK Place hotel, on newly renovated Piazza Santa Maria Novella, was a complete treat for the senses!
I loved the exterior of this little hotel even more when I saw the name: Hotel Botticelli And then I discovered it was built in the latter half of the 16th c. Sort of average for this city - ha! - but still impressive!
So many incredible edifices in one city!
And then there's Florence shopping! The food markets, flea markets and special/holiday markets. The clothing stores, shoe stores and perfumeries - so much to explore!
I could go on and on - and I will, in the next post! - but I'll close with this designer-y cup of espresso machiato I had at JT Caffe, across from the Palazzo Pitti.
Ciao for now!