Sunday, September 21, 2014

You Lookin' At Me? (Mirror Shots 2014)

  Here's the thing.
  I think I've nailed pretty much every mirror shot possible, within a 20km area of Panicale. What am I going to do now? Between the Gnomes and the Mirrors, it's a dilemma. I believe I have captured them all….
  I'll admit, some of these mirror shots I'll take every year. There are a few mirrors around town that I have to revisit over and over. Luckily for me, we take lots of day trips to new places, so I can stay somewhat fresh. Sort of. As fresh as one can, considering the subject matter.
Me, Johnny, an old round road mirror….

  Still, what the hell else am I going to do on all the walks we take, right?

  So, my dear readers, I give you this year's big old batch of silliness known as:


  Most of the time, we come across these round mirrors walking the streets of whatever town we're in. The corners can be really dicey to drive around, so they come in handy. Tiny roads, tinier corners, cars that are way too big…add this to the mix, and you get the idea. That's why these things are everywhere.
  It just makes it too fun not to do. Johnny was game for it this year, too. Sometimes he gets tired of me constantly pestering him to do this with me. 
  I can't imagine why.

A walk in the countryside…not sure exactly where.
I just noticed the ghosty "Saturn" in the mirror….hmmm...

Traffic was stopped in Terantola because of a major bike race going through town.
It was fun. Then it ended, and we were back on our way.
I like how long my legs look….sigh….

This is in Cortona.

I love how this turned out.
I didn't expect to get Johnny in the shot, until I climbed the hill.

It's always a trip to see just what comes out in the background.
I'm just focused on the mirror.

Johnny and his, ahem, "signature" pose.

 Early morning walk to nearby Paciano.
This must have been super early in the trip.
We're both so f-ing thin! (just wait, you two…..)

Another morning walk…I always take a photo in this mirror.

  The four shots below are all in one small area, over near Gioiella, a town not far from Panicale. We go over there often…there's a great little local bar we like a lot. 
  Sometimes, on a sunny day, we'll go sit outside on the benches across from the bar, and hang out with the old timers. They always make room for us. I wish my language skills were better. I can get by, and the folks there are always so nice…it's just frustrating not being able to communicate better.
  Well, it's no ones fault but mine…lazy girl.
  Anyhow, right near this lovely monument, there are three or four good mirrors….

One shot...

…two shot….

….three shot…..

Really, there must be some mighty wrecks on this corner,
because there are so many mirrors here.
In reality, people drive way fast on these tiny roads, so these babies come in handy.

Looking at this one now, I just really like it.
The new pink paint with the white line, and that old building behind us…two mirrors….
This one turned out great!

A quicky shot as I take my morning stroll back from Paciano.

Must be Panicale, because we hardly ever go anywhere far,
once the sun goes down. Vampires, and all that….
I fact, we look kind of spooked here.

  Sometimes I'll come across mirrors that have nothing to do with traffic. They draw me all the same. I can't help myself. No reflective surface is safe, when I have my little camera. And I have my camera all the time, so….

At GIROMAGI, the awesome succulent place on
the way to Cortona.

An art piece along one of our morning walks.
Just hanging there, on a tree. It has a gold chair in front, too.

The tiny hotel elevators always seem to have big mirrored walls.
This is in Bologna.

A super shiny door knob in Bologna.
Hey, why not?

An odd shiny something in a gallery we like in Orvieto.

  It's amazing how many of these shots I get. I don't realize it until I get them all together like this…and several don't make "the cut". 
  Poor things…it's not any fault of their own. I just look terrible in the shot, so I don't want you to see these rejects. 
  Yes, I am the boss of me.

Just down the way from Panicale. Another mirror we walk by all the time.
I  liked the blue flowers on the rosemary shrub.

Walking and biking trail sign. Near Paciano.
I've taken this shot many times...

Johnny taking a shot of me while I'm taking a shot of us.

I am thinking that this was in Pietrafitta, a town nearby.
I love it when there are two mirrors like this.

In Orvieto.
Love the painted building here.

Another one in Orvieto.
It's the Red Cross building, evidently.

Sigh. We look so happy…..
Oh, wait…we are.

  Have to end with a couple of Panicale hometown pride images, right? 
  Of course!! This is where these mirror shots all began, after all...

Always take this shot…every year.
Early in the morning. Johnny has his walking staff ready to go.
This mirror is right near the little park across from the apartment we stay in.

I gotta say, I can't believe I've haven't gotten this one before.
Our morning walk to Missiano.
The classic Panicale Skyline, with us in the mirror.

  Well, I'm certain I will keep taking these Mirror Shots. They are a wonderful way to get us both in the picture, and also just a good excuse to always have my camera ready.
  What a fun way to document our yearly adventures….

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Food And Fun In Firenze

  Johnny and I love Florence.
  Sure, she can be crowded…especially with packs of screaming teenaged girls from the States... and there are way too many scooters, buses, and stinky diesel engines in general, but I can overlook pretty much anything for this jewel of the Renaissance.
  When planning our yearly trip to Umbria, I will choose to fly in and out of either Florence or Rome. They are equal distance by train to Chiusi, where we pick up our car. It just depends on which flights are the best deal, or where we want to spend our last few nights before flying home.
  This past trip we went for Florence. Year before, it was Rome. Maybe one of these years it will be Paris, and we'll add the South of France to the trip, something we keep talking about doing.

  When we leave Panicale, it's heart wrenching, for sure. We find that a couple of nights in Florence to decompress works well. Something to get us ready for the "real world", sort of. Hey, whatever works. Plus, there is almost always something interesting happening in one or more of the many museums to look forward to. And food. It's always about the food for me. I will gleefully await a visit to an old favorite trattoria as well as research a new spot to try each visit.
  For me, this is at least half the fun of planning the trip. Of course!

  This visit, our fellow Panicale lovers, as well as amazing artists and bloggers, Elizabeth and James, made some great dining suggestions for us to check out. I trust these wonderful friends, as they know we are vegetarians, they know great food, and they get where we are coming from.
  They travel to Panicale each year, around the same time as we do, and we really have enjoyed getting to know them. We tell each other about places that would interest foodies, artists, gardeners….we have much in common.
  That being said….we totally envy that they travel from their home on the East coast, making it a much shorter journey! But mostly we just enjoy sharing all things Panicale with them. (see you guys in only a few short months, eh?)

  So, anyway, Elizabeth & James had told us we really needed to try this little spot in the Oltrarno area…this being the other side of the bridge.


Half way across the Arno, had to stop for this "selfie".
Ponte Vecchio in the background.

  I had actually read about Le Volpi e L'uva before, and just never remembered it was on "The List". A reminder from our pals was the clincher to get us to seek it out. So glad we did! We ended up visiting both days we were in Florence. And I'll tell you right here and now…I will go back and I look forward to it.

  It's small. There are just a few tables outside, on a raised wooden deck, and then some indoor seating, but not much. It's a local favorite, too. We could tell that many of the diners visiting the days we were there were regulars. Good reason…the menu is filled with small plate treats that work well as either a midday snack or a light lunch. The wine list is extensive, and you have lots of options "by the glass". A perfect place to rest a bit during hectic hours running around Florence.

The outdoor deck is perfect for people watching.
Just off a main drag, you feel far away from the mayhem.

  Having only arrived a couple of hours before, we had already checked into our hotel, seen a few sites, and were ready for a bite to eat and a place to chill out. I needed something to eat, and we both were ready for wine. 

The wonderful tables made from wine boxes.
Water and wine by the glass…nice!

  Our first visit, we ordered just one plate to share, along with our wine. This was just a bite, to get us through until dinner. Oh, heaven.

Crostone al Pomodoro.
A large slice of well toasted bread with melted cheese, olives and tomatoes.

  The menu offers several "Crostoni", which are toasted slices of good country style bread, topped with either warm or room temperature toppings. Similar to the French "tartines", these are sort of giant bruschetta. This was a perfect late afternoon treat to share. 

What's not to like, right?

  We sat and had a nice bite, relaxed with our crisp white wine and toasted each other on living the good life. Then we were off.

 Next day, though…we couldn't help ourselves. There had been so many great choices on the menu, we had to go back for a proper lunch. This time, we had to wait a spell for a table outside. We didn't mind…it was a good reason to sit inside at the bar and watch the chefs in action. We ordered a bottle of something white… a Vernaccia, I think.... They kept the bottle cold for us while we enjoyed a first glass at the bar and watched the "kitchen" in action.
   Ok, the kitchen here is basically two toaster ovens, a few cutting boards and some very sharp knives. All the cooking happens behind the bar. It blew my mind…two guys just taking the orders one at a time. The bread gets toasted, the salads prepared, the salumi sliced, the little sandwiches made. It was astounding. Such quality food made in such a simple way. It can't be said enough…it's all about the product being used.

  Our second visit was just as tasty as the day before. We split a mixed green salad, which included lots of olives, very ripe tomatoes and shaved fennel….and also a mixed platter of vegetarian crostini. These were so good…pesto, mushroom, artichoke, and roasted pepper. Just perfect. 
  We'll go back, I promise.

Lunch, day two. Mmmmmm.

  I love to just walk around Florence, taking pictures as we go along…Usually we are heading somewhere…to see art, most of the time. To me, the whole city is just there, being "art"...

There were some nice clouds the days we were there.
I love these old street lamps. This is near the Palazzo Pitti.

I wanted this photo because of the little vehicle parked there.
Then I noticed the building at the end.

Wow….what a facade!
Palazzo di Bianco Cappello, decorated by Bernardo Buontalenti.
This is on the Via Maggio, also in th Otrarno area.

  We like the Oltrarno…there are still lots of the old artisan shops to peek into. Many don't exist any longer, but those that do give an idea of what this area must have been like a few hundred years ago...

Well, sans the florescent lights, of course…
This is a furniture restoration shop. These working studios are
almost always just this tiny. I love the floor and ceiling here.

Spring clouds over the river Arno and it's
Ponte Vecchio.

   Back over the river, we stroll through the heart of Florence. I think I could visit this city a hundred times, and never get tired of it. I could sit every day from here on out in Piazza della Signoria, enjoying an espresso or glass of wine, watching people wander by. The sounds of bells, birds, and a dozen different languages bouncing off the centuries old buildings…. It brings me this close to tears, just thinking about it. Honestly.

The extremely popular Piazza della Signoria.

  We then head over to Palazzo Strozzi. I have to say, I have seen some really great exhibits here. This  museum often has very contemporary shows, and is known for this. On this occasion, it was all about the works of Pontormo and Rossi, dating back to the 16th century and the Mannerism movement.
  Pontermo holds a very special place in Johnny's heart, and we were really fortunate that this show was up during our brief stay in Florence.

   Every time we are in this magic city, we stop into the Church of Santa Felicita, which by the way, is so close to Le Volpi e L'uva (restaurant I wrote about above), that I can not believe we hadn't eaten there before…

  oops…back to art….

  So, we stop into this lovely church, Santa Felicita, so Mr. J can once again be overwhelmed by the works of Pontormo in the chapel here. It's a must. 
  This exhibition was a dream show for Johnny, and I enjoyed it, as well. Lovely imagery done in the most unexpected colors….. You can get a very good idea here.

Here you see one very content artist.

  Later that evening, we pop back over the river Arno for dinner in our favorite teeny piazza ever, Piazza della Passera, home of Cinque, a teeny trattoria that specializes in vegetarian meals. We had a late afternoon snack here a couple of years ago, and I had always wanted to try it again.

  This little piazza packs a punch. It's also the home of Trattoria 4 Leoni, Caffe degli Artigiani, Osteria Tripperia il Magazzino, and the sublime Gelateria Piazza della Passera. Whew.
  And this weensy little square is about the size of our living room.

  The last time here, as I said, we just had a light munchie…I never forgot it. It was a simple slice of their cecina… a chickpea flour, oil and salt "crepe" sort of. These are very popular in parts of Italy, as well as the south of France. I wanted more.

Almost a hole in the wall, only with smashingly good food for us vegetarians.
Sitting outside is fun, but the tables are small for dinner.

A typical Cinque menu, which changes daily.
I took this from online, we were not there in February...

The small dining room inside.
It's quite perfect.

My cecina. Just plain, just wonderful.
We shared this as we decided on what else we wanted.
It was a tough decision.

  We each wanted something that wasn't pasta. We'd been in Italy now over two months, and we'd eaten lots of pasta. It was time for a different flavor profile, man.

 I liked the sound of the Tortino di Cipolli, an onion tart. Here, served with roasted potatoes and beets, with some fresh greens to dress on the side. 

I can't believe I didn't take a photo of the inside of this…it was all caramelized and yummy.
The pastry was flakey… I'm getting hungry.

  Johnny ordered the Crocchette di Ceci, a kind of falafel, but not really…it was served with a savory yogurt and an asian inspired slaw. Again, flavors we hadn't had in many weeks. 
  They were both very good, and we switched halfway through, as we usually do.

  I know we had wine, but don't remember what. We even went for dessert this time. We had done a whole bunch of walking, and were going to do a whole bunch more the next day. So, yes, dessert.

It was apple and cinnamon and flakey and not bad at all.
This was Johnny, of course.

It was chocolate and gooey and chocolate and chocolate.
This was me, of course.

  I will go back to Cinque. I read that they have gone all vegetarian, no meat on the menu. This place just has so many dishes I want to try, and get inspired by. I want to try to make some cecina at home, soon. I have chickpea flour, I just need to find an easy recipe.
  Ok, found one.

  Next day, we just walked all over the place, stopping here and there to have an espresso, or a glass of wine. I needed to get loads of dried porcini at the big fruit and veg market, so we did that in the morning. Then we just sort of wandered..more random acts of picture taking ensued...

A peek behind the fence of a grand Palazzo.

I love men who aren't afraid to wear color.

  We did go back to Le Volpi e Luva, as I mentioned above…nice lunch..then a couple of hours were spent apart. Johnny into the Palazzo Pitti, and me, well, I wandered off to the Boboli Gardens…which will be it's own post here, soon, I promise.

  We returned to our hotel for a little nap, and then went for dinner, the last supper, so to speak, this trip….

  On a walk earlier that day, I spied this restaurant, super close to our hotel, and the decor was what drew me in. Then I peeked at the menu, and we made a reservation for that night. That last night….


The placemat of Enoteca Coquinarius.

  The decor is comfortable, but modern. The tables are waxed, distressed wood, there are elements of  "industrial" in the design…the music is cool, the place was packed, with a good vibe going on. Seemed like lots of regulars were there. It felt just right.
  The menu is not super vegetarian forward, but that's fine. We never expect this. There are some great salads, though, and I will always order crostini or bruschetta….Here, we had a nice big plate, with lots of different toppings. They were nice to do a non-meat version for us.

Plenty to share, and some different flavors here, too.
The cheeses were all really good, with mostarda, fig jam and slivered almonds on top.
The others were mushroom, artichoke and peppers.

  We each ordered something that seemed good to share… Johnny went for this fantastic grilled vegetable and melted fontina "salad"…Man, it was tasty.

What a great combo…the charred sweetness of the veggies, with the creamy cheese and
peppery arugula. I would eat this again.

  My choice was pear and ricotta ravioli with a pistachio cream sauce…What!!??! Yes, it was all that.
 Light, too, believe it or not… Let's go back, ok?

  We had bought some extremely good looking cookies earlier in the day, so we went searching for  a gelato, then took our time strolling through the streets of Florence…we strung out that last evening as long as we could. It was a beautiful night. 
  We cried big baby tears while eating our cookies in the hotel bed that night.

  I'll leave you with this shot of the Duomo, from the Boboli gardens….a post coming your way soon!

Isn't she pretty?

  Go. Eat!
  Here are some sites to check out:

Le Volpi e L'uva