A Savory Ciao to Florence

A Savory Ciao to Florence

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Thursday, 2 January 2015
Florence, Italy

On the road again – back to Florence, where we dropped the car, checked into welcoming Hotel Rivoli once again, then headed out for lunch. After checking out the offerings at the Mercato Centrale, we suggested an old favorite nearby, Da Mario. At slightly before noon we should be able to get in line for a table. Unlike on previous visits, though, they’re already open and going strong, every table filled. Recognizing us, the waiter asked if we’d mind sitting downstairs. Downstairs? Didn’t even know they served downstairs! 01031501 da marioWell, since demand has only gotten stronger for Mario’s simple but delicious Cucina Povera (poor folk’s cooking – the essence of Tuscan cuisine) they’ve cleared out space in the basement storage area for a few tables. So here we are, among the hams and wine, enjoying a great lunch.
After our tastings at Conti in the Mercato at the beginning of the tour, we all had a list of items to purchase now that we’re ready to pack our bags for returning home. Stefano’s smile will go with us until we come back – he makes shopping such a pleasure!01031501 back to conti before packing casesAnd one more before-packing stop, the ever- glorious Farmacia Santa Maria Novella, where Lorri stocks up on fragrant gifts for her lucky friends and family. 01031501 back to smn before packingLorri and I stayed at the hotel, packing up for our departures tomorrow, and the gents went exploring, Kirk sharing tales of Florence as they walked. They found what Kirk described as a “men’s Santa Maria Novella”  – but came home without any treasures of their own. 01031501 du guys exploreWith enough packing done, we sought out some more Florentine favorites to share, such as Ghirlandaio’s intimate Nativity, in a side chapel of Santa Trinita.01031501 ghirlandaioOutside, the streets glow in the evening light, making it hard to say goodbye to this beautiful city.01031501 evening stroll and ghirlandaioOne more delicious meal, which we began with an unusual appetizer, artichokes draped in lardo. 01031501 dinner artichokes with lardoYes, that’s lard, but not like any lard you’ll taste in the States. Delicate and tasting of superior bacon, every bite was superb. And of course we included everyone’s favorite 4 Leoni pasta, “purses” filled with pear blanketed in creamy taleggio, walnut and asparagus sauce.01031501 dinner everyones fave at 4 leoni

None of the desserts tempted us that much, so we stopped for gelato, 01031501 gelato for dessertand finished up with a Ponte Vecchio photo-op.01031501 on ponte v It’s been a pleasure to share this jazzy, tasty and beautiful week with Russ and Lorri. Ciao til next time, Italia.

Off to Jazzy Orvieto

Off to Jazzy Orvieto

December 29, 2012
Florence & Orvieto, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Next on the itinerary: Our spring tours in Barcelona, Venice or Prague

Leonardo’s Last Supper in Milan may be the most famous, but scattered around Florence are several stunning renditions of that final meal, and one  of our favorites is this jewel by Ghirlandaio, in the refectory of Ognissanti church. The garden setting is so inviting, and the colors so beautiful.
Why are there so many depictions of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples? Because they were the traditional decoration for the refectory, where the monks ate, and there are dozens of ancient monasteries around the city.
As the monks quietly ate a simple meal, one of the brothers would read scripture from the pulpit built into the side wall.
And now we’re off to Orvieto, where the jazz begins! We arrive around two, drop off our luggage and look for a place for a quick lunch before our first concert.

How about some porchetta, stuffed and roasted pork that’s a traditional central Italian savory delight? Handwritten signs ” Oggi Porchetta”   (porchetta today) are tacked onto the stone walls of several shops, but the advertisement here is more eye- catching, wouldn’t you say?
Inside, a butcher has set up a table and slices the moist meat – the pig has been deboned, arranged carefully with layers of garlic, herb (LOTS of rosemary) stuffing, meat, fat, and skin, then rolled, spitted, and roasted, traditionally over wood. Oh is it delicious layered in a crusty roll for lunch!

And now to begin the JAZZ – with grammy- nominated New Yorker Gregory Parker and his band in the ancient frescoed hall of Palazzo del Popolo. A great start to our jazzy New Year celebration.

The sky’s tinged with a rosy sunset as we exit,

and below, even the parking lot is decorated!

A special dinner awaits us at elegant Sette Consoli, beginning with a warming potato and cod first course, followed by tagliolini with trout, artichokes, and roasted tomatoes.

Then a flavorful bean soup, a main of roasted partridge and prunes, a cheese course of pecorino and honey, and a finale of trifle. All in tasting portions so we can enjoy each one – superb!

Are we happy? Oh yeah!

A stroll past Orvieto’s glorious mosaic fronted cathedral, shimmering in the moonlight, and we say goodnight.

Florence Friends New and Old

Florence Friends New and Old

December 28, 2012
Florence, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Next on the itinerary: Our spring tours in Barcelona, Venice or Prague

What’s a good flight? One on which you arrive safely… even better if your luggage arrives too! So our latest flights were good, but we certainly didn’t arrive when expected, at 9 am yesterday. And it took an extra leg to actually get us to our destination, since our long flight across the Atlantic was delayed, but we made it around 5 in the afternoon. We’re glad to settle in to welcoming Rivoli Suites hotel, and appreciate the warm welcome from familiar faces at the front desk.

About 18 months ago we reconnected with old friends, who actually live just a few miles from us in Virginia, via Facebook, and since we’re both in Florence, meet for dinner tonight. This is the the first time we’ve seen each other in around twenty years, and we all agreed that it’s much more fun to meet in Florence than in Virginia. They had introduced us, also via Facebook, to Rachel, seated between Anne and Bruce, who lives in Florence and rents several lovely apartments, one of which we stayed in last year. We enjoyed catching up in person with Bruce and Gloria – perhaps we’ll bump into them again in Italy before we leave.

Our New Year’s Jazz tour begins this afternoon, but first a bit of shopping – some pretty suede flats for me – so many colors to choose from! And a few wines to take home for Kirk (well, I’ll enjoy them too!), followed by a delicious lunch at a tiny rustic spot that Rachel recommended   – love those insider local tips!

Caffé degli Artigiani (Artisans) is on Piazza della Passera, surrounded by the Oltrarno’s narrow lanes filled with craftsman’s workshops. Our plates of delicious pasta were the perfect lunch.

Autumn, one of the Four Seasons gracing the corners of Ponte Santa Trinita, gleams against the deep blue sky as we cross back over the river.

Remember how we loved those Paris Christmas decorations? Well I’ve found my favorite Florence holiday windows – Tiffany’s are so lovely

that I’d like to step right inside the miniature settings.
This is NOT one of our shopping stops today 😉

We meet our Music and Markets guests in the lobby and head out for an introductory walk around beautiful Florence… sidetracked just slightly by the Farmacia Santa Maria Novella across the street from our hotel,

and as we stop in front of the imposing facade of Santa Maria Novella church, we catch a glimpse of the golden lantern topping Florence’s Duomo.

Up close, the red, green and white façade, the colors of the Italian flag,

has us all pulling out our cameras!

Kirk tells the tale of Brunelleschi’s masterwork, the tiled dome, as the creator ponders its beauty in the background.

We say hi to Michelangelo’s David (a replica, the original is in the Accademia museum) in front of the Palazzo Vecchio,

gaze across the Arno from the Uffizi,


and stop to enjoy the view of Florence’s signature bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, before crossing the river.

Our loop takes us back across the Trinita bridge, which we crossed earlier today, and we stop at Santa Trinita for a peek at Ghirlandaio’s vivid Nativity – just one of the thousands of glorious gems in this city.

The symbol of Florence twinkles above us as we return to the hotel.

Di Giovanni’s the perfect place to enjoy our first Tuscan meal together, beginning with a Prosecco toast.

Several of us choose the fork-tender Suckling Pig for dinner,

and we finish together with a typical Tuscan dessert, biscotti dipped into Vin Santo,

then walk home under the shimmer of holiday lights.