Santa Maria Novella, Firenze: fruits and vegetables

If you’ve ever been to Florence and walked around the city enjoying architectural masterpieces, you have no doubt spent time appreciating the gorgeous green and white marble exterior of the church of Santa Maria Novella.


I was meeting a friend recently and we agreed to rendezvous in front of the center door of the church. I got there early and had time to study the high-quality marble carving of the panels to either side of the main door.


These white marble panels were clearly carved by a master sculptor, for the quality of the carving is very high.  A variety of leaf types are depicted in the stone, as well as many recognizable fruits and even some vegetables. The background of each grouping of edible plant parts is a grouping of fasces, tied with a ribbon to create the bundle of rods, a symbol utilized in the Roman empire and reused ever since.


In the grouping above you can clearly see oak leaves, plums, and apples.


The relief above looks like laurel leaves are depicted as well as what look like potatoes.  Potatoes?  I’m not sure.


I think the fruits above might be peaches?



In this picture, I think I see acorns, oak leaves, and apples. Perhaps those are poppy heads at the top?


This picture seems to include grapes.


I hope you will tell me what you see.  I’m sure I’ve missed many things!

Yoga, finalmente!

I finally feel like I have my yoga arranged here in Florence.  It took me over a year to get this figured out; usually I was in language school during the daytime yoga lessons in Florence, and typically I am not motivated to leave my warm, cosy home to go to a class at 8 p.m.  Italians think nothing of having yoga lessons at 8 p.m. on an average weekday evening.  That just doesn’t work for me.

So, here is one of the 2 studios I now frequent on an almost daily basis.  This studio is 10 minutes from home and is so lovely!  Just look at it!


I’ll post of photo of my other favorite studio soon.

Five ways to drive an Italian waiter crazy, plus 1

The following post was written by my new friend, Susan, and is so fresh and honest that I just want to reblog it. I would only add one other thing at the end, so it is now 6 easy things you can do to quickly offend your server!

From Susan’s blog: Americans in Umbria:

Monday, September 26, 2011

5 things to do to drive an Italian waiter crazy

Rule number 1 to make the waitress crazy.
1.  Talk to your waitress in English in a loud voice even though she has addressed you in Italian.  Here’s the thing.  If someone speaks Italian to you it is because they don’t know English!  They know you are not Italian.  Trust me, they know.  If the waitress is young and doesn’t know English she will be embarrassed because she thinks she ought to know English.  If the waitress is older, she may be defensive and rude because she thinks you should know Italian. Speaking to them loudly in pidgin English won’t help either.  The waitress will just look shell shocked and not know what to do.

What you should do is ask, “Parla Inglese?”  If the waitress does not, she is more likely to find you someone who can.

2.  Order items out of order.  Italians may look like there is no order or system in their lives, but it isn’t true.  It is just different from Americans.  Italians are very ordered around food.  They are very serious about food.  To them, eating is not just putting calories in your system that will later be burned off.  So, there is an order in giving your order.  You will first be asked about water.  Do you want water with gas or natural.  This question needs to be answered first and then the waitress disappears while you look at the menu.  If someone shouts out beer, and someone else shouts out spaghetti, the waitress will get the same shell shocked look and god knows what you will get.  Probably the owner.  So allow the waitress to take your order in her manner.  People should go one at a time and stay on the same course.

3.  The next things that will drive her crazy.  At a table of 4 have one person order an antipasta, one person order a primi, the other person order a secondi and the last person orders a salad, which oh by the way is not on the menu.  So the American asks, “Do you have a mixed salad?” to the owner.  (The waitress has now high tailed it to the kitchen.) The owner says, “Yes, of course.”  The American says, “Where is it on the menu?”  The owner says, “It isn’t on the menu.”  The American says,”What’s in it?”  The owner says, “We make it for you what do you want in it?” The American says how many Euros?  The owner says 3.  The American says, ok my husband and I will split it.”  Now everything is out of order.  The salad, which usually comes last, is expected first.  The antipasti which should arrive first is now matched up with the primi and the secondi.  There is confusion everywhere, and everyone seems unhappy.

4.  Walk into a ristorante that offers “Typical Umbrian food” and expect a full menu of things you would eat in the states.  Oh by the way, Umbrians do not think their food is Italian.  It is Umbrian. It is different from the food in Tuscany, way different from the food in Rome and Naples.  It is generally grilled meat and meat sauce with pasta.  Very little tomatoes and very little butter.  Cheese is big.  It is usually made in house.  It is good, but unless you are at a large city, like Perugia, you are going to see pretty much the same thing on the menus because Umbrian food is pretty much the same thing, if you get my drift.

5.  The final thing to do to make your waitress crazy is to order a pizza at lunch.  Italians eat their pizza for dinner and it isn’t available at lunch.  Why is this? The wood pizza ovens are too hot to heat up during the day. There are some places that sell pizza by the slice at lunch, like in the grocery mall.  Need I say more?  One last thing once if you order pizza for dinner, ask for your left over pizza to go home with you.  The Italians are horrified by this.  Why?  Because they think warmed over pizza is disgusting and why would you do that to a food you can go and get fresh.

How do I know all of these things?  I have done everyone of them.

Thanks, Susan.  You are soooooo right!

And now, for my additional thing:

6.  The best way that I know of to convince your Italian server or manager/owner that you are a heathen from another country is to order a cappuccino after a meal.  Unless it is breakfast, or a mid-morning merenda, do not order any coffee drink with any milk in it after 12:00 p.m.  You may order a cappuccino and they will begrudgingly serve it to you, but just know that deep down inside they think you are uncivilized and know nothing about  how to enjoy food and drink.  You may order un caffe’ without a problem–in fact Italians think that an espresso after a meal helps with digestion–but never, never order a cappuccino. If you absolutely, positively must have milk in your coffee and it is after noon, you can order a macchiato with approbation, but I’m willing to bet that if what you really want is a cappuccino, you will not be satisfied with a macchiato.  Just sayin  My recommendation to you is to simply wait for morning!

A security gaggle.

I am always entertained by the groups of Italian security police who gather at whatever place they need to protect.  If there is more than one of them, they get together to talk, with their machine guns pointed at the floor.

I don’t know how these guards would act if a crime was being committed, but I do think that they are probably missing out on a lot of petty thievery.  This picture was taken yesterday at the Florence train station, and I would bet anything that someone was having their pocket picked while these officers chatted about….who knows what?

I hope Italy and Florence never have a serious event where serious security is needed.


For the men: Pitti Uomo – Pitti Immagine

Are your sore eyes in need a handsome sight?  If so, you should high-tail it to Florence in mid-January.

Pitti Uomo – Pitti Immagine is the world’s most important (so they say) platform for men’s clothing and accessory collections and for launching new projects in men’s fashion. Created in 1972 Pitti Uomo is held in Florence twice a year. If you missed the show this month, you can catch the next iteration in June.

Walking home from yoga the other day, I saw this handsome man wearing a full-length fur coat.  I was pretty sure it was faux, and he confirmed that it was.


You can read all about the show here: