Friday, September 10, 2010

my favorite reading spot

This spot is one of my favorite places in Siena. It is just outside Porta San Marco on the south side of the city. There is a little playground that kids are always running around and benches that nonnas are sitting on, watching the kids play and chatting. Surrounding this area is a beautiful view of the Tuscan countryside. The valleys and hills around this area are filled with silvery olive trees that seem to almost shine in the sunlight. It is such a relaxing place to sit and do some thinking or to sit and read a book.
I have been coming here lately in the afternoons to do either of those things. I usually go with the intention of reading, but easily get distracted by the olive trees and the laughter of bambini.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lots of fun things to look forward to

For the last while, we have been trying to figure out what exactly our plan is for the upcoming few months. While this plan is still being worked on, we have come to the conclusion that we will probably, most definitely be in Siena until the end of October. After that, we are hoping to spend some time in Germany before moving back to the states in December, sometime before Christmas.
So, being here through October gives us an extra month to do lots of fun things in Italy. Tonight we did some internet searching for events that might interest us, and found a lot to keep us busy!
Here's what we have coming up: (0r at least all of the things we found that we would like to do)
Alghero, Sardegna- September 17-20
Impruneta grape festival - September 26
Barcolana Regatta, Trieste - October 9-10
EuroChocolate festival, Perugia - October 16-17
Fiera Nazionale del Tartufo Bianco d'Alba - October 23-24

This next month and a half is going to go by way too quickly. I really can't believe that our time here is almost over!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Figs are delicious!

Figs are one of my favorite fruits. This is something that I have discovered only in the last few years. When I was working at Gratzi in Ann Arbor, we had a pizza one week on the menu that had fresh figs, ricotta, walnuts and honey. After having that pizza, I have been hooked on figs.

Lately, we have been seeing fresh figs at the fruit stands and in the markets. We bought some last week that were absolutely perfect. They were almost bursting out of their skins; they were so juicy and ripe. We ate some of them just plain, but for a few others I dressed up a little bit. The resulting dressing up was pretty high up there with some of the best things I have ever eaten.

I quartered the figs, placed them in a baking dish, put a tiny piece of gorgonzola on top, then a piece of prosciutto over the cheese. Then, it all got drizzled with balsamic and a little bit of honey. It all went into our little toaster oven to warm up, melt the cheese, and crisp up the prosciutto. It was pretty much anything you could ask for in a food. Sweet, juicy, salty, cheesy, and delicious!

We were going to make this again tonight, but by the time we decided to, all of the fruit stands were closed for the night and the grocery store was out of figs. I have all of the other ingredients here waiting for the perfect figs to be found again.

Friday, September 3, 2010

One year later and we are still here!

So I really meant to write this post yesterday because on September 2, 2009, we arrived in Siena on our year long (plus!) italian adventure. In some ways, it seems like the year went by at an incredible speed, but other ways, it seems like we have been here for quite awhile. Either way, this past year has been amazing in so many ways.
The first thing is, I am so proud of myself for actually doing this. Moving to Italy has been a dream of mine for the past 7 years. There were many times when I thought it would always remain a dream and never actually be more than that. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful husband who will support me and push me to follow my dreams, and be willing to move across an ocean with me. This year abroad has not always been easy. In the beginning, actually, it was pretty hard for me. I am so glad I stuck it out through the hard times and have come to a point where I really enjoy my life here.
So, now, this is where I am. I really like living here, and can't imagine leaving soon. I can't imagine not being able to go across the street for a gelato on my way home from work, or stopping at my favorite bar in the morning for an espresso and pastry, or laying in the piazza on a sunny day, or taking an evening passegiata.

la vita e' bella in italia, sempre.

These pictures are from our first night here a year ago.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A day at the beach

I have been wanting to go to the beach for quite awhile. I have been talking about it and planning on going, but just hadn't actually gone yet. Today, I set my alarm to get up early, got on an early train to Viareggio, and spent the day at the beach.
Viareggio happens to be the same seaside town that Justin and I went to back in February for Carnevale. It is completely different in the summer. Also, while Nadine and Simon were visiting in May, we spent a day at the beach here.
I had such a nice relaxing day at the beach today. I should have done this much sooner. Now the summer is winding down, and I don't know how many more chances I will have for beach days as the weather cools down.
Going to the beach in Viareggio is much different than going to an American beach. Here, almost all of the beaches are private. You can't just lay down your towel where ever you feel like it. You have to rent a beach chair for the day from one of the many private beach clubs. In Viareggio, there is a tiny area sectioned off for a public beach, but it is literally only about 20 feet wide, and people are packed in. It is a much nicer beach experience to pay 5 euros for a chair and umbrella and a little bit of personal space.
So, I spent the day sitting in my beach lounger, reading a book, listening to music, and watching the waves. I took a few breaks to go swimming in the sea, which was just the right temperature to be refreshing and cool you off, but not too cold that you don't want to jump right in. I also had the perfect lunch at one of the beach clubs of spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams, one of my favorite pasta dishes) with a nice glass of white wine followed by an ice cream sandwich back on the beach. (It's kind of funny, whenever I go to the beach in California, I ALWAYS want a hot dog, but here, I always want fresh seafood with garlicky, spicy pasta. Italy wins, sorry hot dogs.) After lunch, more swimming, reading, and relaxing.
Another thing about the beach going experience here, there are always people walking around trying to sell things. There are guys selling sunglasses (reasonable at the beach) but I also saw another guy selling puffy, down winter jackets (and a few ladies interested in buying them. I guess they were a good deal?) At the beach you can buy knock-off designer bags, clothing, shoes, food, jewelry, beach toys, and even massages. Yep, a nice Asian lady was walking around offering her masseuse services, so I thought why not? So for 15 Euro, I got a full body 30 minute massage right on my beach chair in front of the Mediterranean Sea.
Life is good here. :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010


This morning, we did a cooking lesson off-site. This particular place was a villa/agri-tourismo/winery right in the middle of the Chianti area of Tuscany. It is called Stomennano. It was beautiful. I wanted to spend the entire day just sitting in the garden enjoying the beautiful surrounding views. The entire estate looked like something that you would see on a postcard or in a romantic movie. There were little tables and chairs set up in their own private gardens, overlooking olive groves or vines of grapes. There were rows of lemon trees, fountains, statues, rose framed windows, and views of Monteriggioni. It was SO nice. I just keep thinking of this lovely place and how I would love to spend much more time there.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

market day in Siena

Every Wednesday morning, there is a huge market in Siena. Before today, I had never been to it. Usually if I don't have to get up for work, I am sleeping in. But Lella and Livia are always talking about how nice of a market it is, so I figured I should get myself out of bed early one of these days and check it out. Today was the day.

There was a little bit of everything at this market, from clothes, to shoes, to tablecloths, to plants, to food, to knives, mixed in with a lot of junk. It was huge! Justin and I wandered around for at least a couple of hours, looking at everything. We didn't really buy anything (like I said, a lot of it was junk), but it was still fun to walk around and see everything that there was.

Really pretty plums!

Sausages and cured meats.

Baccala and sardines.


I'm not sure what kind of plant these are, but I thought they looked really neat.