Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day 6: Firenze - Scences from Il Terrazzino

Word of the Day: armadio - large cupboard or wardrobe - originally to house armor.

Picture of the Day:

An armadio in our apartment. Schlepping all that armor up to the 5th floor would have been a lot of work.

We love our apartment here. It is the 4th or 5th time we have stayed here and can't really imagine staying anywhere else. It has that elegant quality of being authentic and enough - nothing we don't need - everything we do (except for a broom.)

This beautiful piece of furniture had to have been built in the room - guessing 16 - 17th Century. I don't know but it is just incredible and beautifully useful. We have our clothing, the bed linens, the ironing board and drying rack, cleaning supplies and even a cupboard for dishes.

Here are some photos from the apartment including a few from dinner the other night which might give you a sense of the experience of being in the place.

It is a long holiday weekend in Florence, a bit cloudy and rainy, but so delicious to be tucked inside this Renaissance relic with bells sounding all around - otherwise, mostly silence.

Renaissance Hallway to our apartment. Building completed in 1520.

View from the Entry

This little window gives us a view of Il Duomo

The reason for the name of the apartment - Il Terrazzino - the little terrace

Our very small kitchen

Tami at dinner - with the lilacs she bought for us.

Tami and Frank on our terrace with views of the city.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 5 Firenze - Lifelong Learning

Word of the Day: Malcontenta - dissatisfied, discontent. There is a Via della Malcontenta just outside the old city walls of Florence where the guilty were taken to be hanged.

Image of the Day:

Dottore Bellini (can you tell who is the Italian in this photo??? :-)
introducing the architecture of the Medici-Riccardi palace 

One of the highest values in our marriage is lifelong learning. This can really be a pain in the .... when your husband says he wants to get a PhD and, oh, by the way, the school (one of 2 in the country that offers this degree) is in California. But, hey, a value is a value, so I rolled with it.

That is all a story for our book, but today is its own story = the photos are below - so don't miss them.

At 9 this morning, Tami, Frank, Lee, and I met Dottore Marcello Bellini, a Florentine historian (both a Florentine by birth AND a historian specializing in Florence) and went to San Marco, the Domenican monastery built by Cosimo di Medici as a kind of absolution for his life. Well, it is one of my favorite places in Florence. The first floor included a "hostel" area - he joked that it was the YMCA of the 15th Century where travelers could sleep, a dining room with a fresco by Ghirlandaio of the last supper. The second floor housed cells for 33 monks including a private cell for Cosimo di Medici, a little weekend getaway = where he might go to write and read and the cell of the nutty Domenican friar, Savonarola, Mr. Bonfire of the Vanities, who brought the Medici to their knees after he was able to convince Florentines they lived a life of vanity and debauchery and greed. After the Medicis left because of his inflammatory sermons in Il Duomo, Florence actually became a theocracy for a couple of years. (Why does this remind me of the Evangelicals in the US??? - mixing morals, religion, politics and government.)

The second floor also housed the FIRST PUBLIC LIBRARY IN EUROPE created by Cosimo di Medici. He LOVED books, had a private book buyer who traveled the world in search of great books for his collection. Of course this was before the printing press, so they were all illustrated and written by hand. Two we saw today were created on vellum - goatskin pounded as thin as paper. Nearby we saw the paints - the ground lapis and gold. Once the collection outgrew this space, he built the Laurentian library across the street with Michelangelo as the architect. Not the public library in your home town, right?

After San Marco, we went to the Medici palace - and saw the incredibly preserved private chapel of the Medici. Jeesh! As Bellini pointed out, the fresco is really an Adoration of the Self, not an Adoration of the Christ child, with Medici family members painted as part of the Visitation of the Magi.

At lunch over hummos at a little out of the way play south of the Arno, Lee asked me what I most remembered from the morning. And, although I have a list of things I learned, I most remembered how much I too love learning. It is just bliss for me to be here and learning new things that, when put altogether, help me make more sense of the world and who we are now - even as Americans. After learning about the psychic shifts from the Gothic period to the Renaissance (the recognition of the individual) to the Mannerist period (the discovery of science and infinity and the new world.) It all kind of blows the top off your head as you start to see the connections.

So, over the best cafe I've had yet in Florence, we toasted to lifelong learning. I wish it for you, as well.

At San Marco in the museum with the entertaining Bellini

One of the beautifully simple cells. Many of the images were painted by Fra Beato Anglico.
Exquisite in their simplicity.

The tools and paints for creating manuscripts and books. 
Climbing the stairs to the cells at San Marco. Pure Renaissance  architecture.
Makes my heart sing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 3 in Florence

Italian Word of the Day: giorno festivo - "Holiday".

And here is the picture of the day:

Eat your heart out, Sartorialist! 

Day 2 was kind of a bust - I don't remember much - jet lagged.

Bu today I remember and Florence is as lovely as ever now that the clouds, wind and rain have departed. The doors of our apartment Il Terrazzino (meaning "little terrace") are wide open and the early evening sun begins to drop in the Tuscan sky. The swallows are having dinner, swooping about the tile rooftops. They missed a mosquito or two last night as they landed in our apartment, buzzing around my head during the night.

We slept until 11 - finally catching the lost sleep from the night across the ocean. We met Tami and Frank to go to the Accademia at 1:00 to see the David. THE David. The David. David. How do you even address it? It is just so overwhelming. It takes your breath away every time.

So, that was fun. Then, a quick lunch and we parted ways which, we have learned, is really best. Four people never want to do the same thing at the same time for the same amount of time! So Tami and I took off to shop the clothing stores - not to shop, but to look - as Tami and I met in about 1979 because we both worked at the same clothing store in Charleston, so beautiful clothing and fabrics are a shared love.

And although we did all the fancy stores along Tornabuoni, like Armani and Prada and Ferragamo, one private shop was really the one that captured us.

We did the Ferragamo museum - the perfect event without husbands in tow! Then, walked across the Arno to see the antique shops. But, alas, they were closed for the holiday (giorno festivo - don't you LOVE that word????)

Well...I should warn you now, this next matter may just be too much information, but as I had to relieve myself at about this point, we walked to a great little bar (which in Italy is a place that serves both coffee and drinks - all the while standing at a Carrara marble bar - or taking a seat for an extra price) to grab a cafe and use the bagno. It was very small and very crowded with an uber-cool, 30-something crowd. I waited my turn for the bathroom, while Tami took the drinks outside. Much to my surprise, when I entered said bagno, there was no toilet! Only a hole in the floor surrounded by ceramic - with a "trough" for your feet. Now, I grew up on a farm, I knew how to squat. But I was only 8-9 years old then. Really? They want me to squat? Lee had told me about these places - but in Rome.

Well, thank god for all those years of yoga,  because I could do my squat and when I once again met Tami outside, I told her all about it and she laughed so hard she almost choked on her cafe.

Back across the Arno, to the apartment for wine on il terrazzino with Lee. The sun is streaming onto my face while I sit 4 feet from the door. Festivo or no festivo, life is good. And here is the evidence:

The butcher cutting my proscuitto. We noticed how pristine his tools were.

From our terrace. The Cappelle di Medici. The bells are so beautiful

Tami and Lee

Audrey Hepburn's last at the Ferragamo Museum

A very cute store.

From the Uffizzi

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day I

Arrived in Florence - easy breezy flight!

We started the day by dropping our car at 510 Groveland where it would, after 7 years of street parking, actually be in a heated parking garage! Then we wandered through our new apartment, mostly in awe. It is done for now except for a few details - punchlist items. However, we aren't finishing the kitchen walls at this time. Already over budget, so it will have to wait. But we did remove the remotely Mexican-style tile that was there because we had to get into the walls to handle some electric work. So here are a couple photos of our groovy new appliances - I selected them for their size. They were the only 30" range and refirigerator that are also only 24" deep. Both are European so made for that market where people just have smaller spaces. Loving them - even on the old torn up plaster.

Our Bertazzoni range. So darn cute.
The floor is black marble hex that looks about 500 years old.
From Tile Shop!

The Liebherr refrig -sort of daunting.

But here is the very best part of my discovery at 510. The church bells! We were there around noon and you can't believe the sound of St. Mark's bells. Since I left Charleston in 1985 where the bells tolled every hour, I have had a hollow spot in some corner of my heart.  Well, the bells are back!

Here is a view of the beautiful Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church out our Living Room window. I'm going to feel very holy living between two churches!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Hi, All!
FYI - we are off to Firenze today until May 15.  Boy, do I need it. Do we need it!

Will be blogging and writing and feasting and toasting.

An aside...when we leave today, we also leave our apartment at 5050 Russell Avenue  - and feel so much gratitude for this beautiful place, for the fireplace, for the elegant Duncan McNab and his garden and his art and his beautiful furniture. This was truly home for the last seven years through changes so massive for us that I should write a book about them. It has been a place to grow.

Thank you, Duncan.

When we return, it will be to our new home at 510 Groveland.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Am I too old for this? This is not a trick question!

Just had my daily Sartorialist fix and saw this cute outfit and as I am packing for Florence, I thought about these boots. I own them, but packed them away as in the NOT GOING TO FLORENCE BOX. But, now that I see them here - and I happen to know that Angela Missoni who is about my age has pronounced them as her favorite boots! Am I crazy? Should I take them? This is pretty cute, but on a 58-year old??????

From Sartoialist 4/16/12

Saturday, April 14, 2012

There's No Place Like Home, There's No Place.....

I have an ambivalent relationship to moving. I am so fundamentally in awe of the fact that we own and will be moving into an apartment in 510 Groveland, a building I've had a crush on for 20 years, that I am kind of dopey and disoriented. Really? I have to pick a floor color for MOI????? Not for a client - easy breezy. For MOI?

I have made some bad decisions. This is probably not encouraging if you are a client. But, trust me, I make much more solid decisions for clients than I do for myself. So, today, after having a MAJOR meltdown about the floors which included throwing the nearest object at walls (twice, btw!) and screeching so loud I almost lost my voice, I just called my sister, Holly, who now lives here in MSP around the corner and is an interior designer by trade and by instinct. As well, she knows me. :-)

The floor issue has gone on for 2 months, and I am so tired of it that I have handed it off to Lee. That I, the control freak, has asked Lee to step in like a negotiator in a United Nations dispute means that I have really hit the wall. But he did such a great job today with the floor guy - and then you add Holly to the mix and I have this team of cheerleaders to help me make a decision which I am mostly incapable of doing.

Granted, this all occurs because we are to move on Wed, April 18. This is 20 days later than originally scheduled. And I think , still, it will not happen.

What is unique is that we are going to Italy on April 22 come hell or high water. We are hosting dear, dear friends who have never been there and, as I HAVE NOT TAKEN A VACATION IN ONE YEAR, and, in that year, experienced the 9-month death of my father, which was kind of intense, I am about ready to pop open and start babbling. This vacation means more to me than anything right now.

Yes, even 510. Even my children's success in life. Even anything.

Okay, back to 510. After my savvy sister met me at 510 with 8 finish samples and walked me through them one by one, we came up with the final two! So by Monday, we will know the winner. I can't thank her enough because I feel incompetent and incapable of making such a decision right now. The place, otherwise, takes my breath away. The mature flowering crabapple trees on the back lawn, out our library and bedroom windows is god incarnate. In the end, I just am so excited to get there - to get home, to make it ours, to be the steward we are called to be at 510 Groveland. We are so grateful for the opportunity to play that role.

Here's a bit of what I am facing this weekend and, see, I can't even focus the camera!

My office. 
My desk!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Coming back to life, like Spring - oh, yes and the Natalie Page lights from NY

After a deep slumber both Saturday and Sunday nights, I feel more rested! I feel like this:
And I do have to honestly ask the question - why is there something so beautiful? It doesn't need to be beautiful for procreation. I guess it needs to have a certain fragrance for that, but not beauty. I can only think that there is a god and it is a benevolent god - one who knew that beauty would matter to the human being. Why else beauty?

Magnolia in Minneapolis

Azaleas in Charleston.

Wanted to share a line of light fixtures I saw last week at BDDW. I think they will shortly find their way into one of my projects and maybe our own apartment!

They are just so beautifully hand-made:

Natalie Page clay light fixtures. From $400 - 900.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Morgan Ashard Rugs

I am so fried from working 3 days in NY, then home to pack our apartment to move while also getting ready to go to Italy for 3 weeks for our first Conversations in Florence that I can do nothing more than post these uber cool rugs by Morgan Ashard. I have never seen them in person, but they seem so beautiful and artistic. The bottom one is called "To Have and to Hold." I'd want it in my bedroom. :)

Morgan Ashard. Rugs. Gorgeous. Art.

And again...