go out into the world

“Go out into the world where your heart calls you. The blessings will come, I promise you that. I wish for you the insight to recognize the blessings as such, and sometimes it’s hard. But you’ll know it’s a blessing if you are enriched and transformed by the experience.”

(Sy Montgomery)

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la ribollita

Being out of Italy, I love figuring out how I can bring its essence into D-Town. The “cappuccino” I had this morning out of the instant machine at the BMW dealer while I was waiting for my car didn’t quite cut it so I decided to try a more full-on approach: la ribollita.

Ribollita is a traditional soup from Tuscany that was recommended to me by the owner of an “American” bar and cafe one day while I was staying in Florence.  He noticed that I was tearing up my bread and putting it into a bowl of tomato soup and told me that I had to try this famous Tuscan stew that involves lots of day-old bread to thicken the consistency.

On his recommendation, I scouted out a nice-looking restaurant and sat down for a glass of vino and a bowl of this hearty soup. I had a a pretty nasty cold that night, but I can tell you that this was without question one of the best meals I have eaten in Italy. I don’t even know if it should be called a soup or even a stew for that matter; it’s so thick it could be eaten with a fork and every bite seems to encompass the Florentine culture and Tuscan countryside. One bowl of this stuff inspired me to go back to my hotel room and start a food diary, dating all the way back to 2009 (I have a great memory for food). I then scoured the internet for recipes and swore that I would make it as soon as I returned home to Denver.

One month later I am here and the days of 80 degree temperatures have finally disappeared and I am sitting in my kitchen while it is 40 degrees and raining out. So the day couldn’t be more perfect to try out my culinary skills. Embarrassingly enough, this is actually the first time in my life I am opening a cookbook and preparing dinner for multiple people. Usually I just throw whatever I have into a pan and and turn it into either a) a stir fry or b) a pasta, so this is a big day for me. After following the recipe of Mario Batali and making various adjustments with the help of a few Italian websites, I think I may have actually come close to bringing Italy home with me.

The ingredients are simple and cheap: potatoes, celery, carrots, leeks, cabbage, kale, onions, garlic, tomato paste, cannellini beans, Italian bread, olive oil, salt, pepper; but when it’s all thrown together it’s pretty delicious. Being back in the States, I am glad I can still capture the heart of Italy in an afternoon, because there really is no better way to celebrate it than through the food.

PS. I debated not inserting a picture because it probably could look more appetizing, but just trust me on this and next time you need a cold-weather meal go for it.

florentine photo blog

one word: impressive

just walking home one night and stumbled into this… no big deal.

I love this sky.

old school liquor store. I love history.

if you went to Florence and didn’t eat una bistecca fiorentina then there is no point in saying you went to Florence.

highlight of the hostel: the view of the Duomo from the terrace bar

along the Arno

seriously, this is just beautiful.

“my object was to walk it into my head and, this time, keep it there”

After weeks spent under that lucky old sun in Alghero, falling in love with yet another Italian city, I have made my way to Florence and, despite the tourism chaos, I was immediately reminded why I love this place so much. I spent four months studying in Perugia, in Umbria, which is literally called the heart of Italy, for it is located in the middle of the country. But when I am in Florence I feel like this is truly Italy’s heart. There is something about this city that has a certain draw to it, something almost magnetic, that keeps a person always wanting to return. I feel like it is offensive to tear my eyes away from any part of this city because there is so much to take in. The beauty doesn’t necessarily lie in the infinite number of museums and Renaissance Art that help make this city what it is, but in the people and the architecture and the atmosphere. There is something that is comforting and warm about Florence that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s definitely not tangible, but it is very real.

And so I have taken to walking another city into my head. I did this with Rome a year ago and I found that it is the only way to experience a big city. Before I walked Rome, I didn’t love it in the way that I love other cities in this country. However, after taking the time to get to know it on a more intimate scale, outside of its tourist wonders, I realized that there is something special about it. I have always loved Florence in a different way, but being back now that I have truly seen every magnificent sight it has to offer, I finally have the time to walk the city and get to know it as if it were actually mine.

I wrote a paper on this in a class my final year of college, about how running through a city in a matter of hours is no way to get to know it. And while I can see the lure of Euro Tours and other trips that take you to many places in a small amount of time, I know they aren’t for me. I need more time in a place. There is nothing I love more than frequenting a specific bar or restaurant and getting to know the people who work there; receiving a smile of recognition every morning.

As far as the history goes, even in 2011 it lives on, and it is all I can do as I wander the streets to keep from imagining in my head what went on here hundreds of years ago. Take away the brightly colored tourist kitsch and the little Fiats zipping around, and you may have just stepped into 1600. My love for history runs wild when I walk the streets here, making it even more fun to slowly imprint everything into my mind. So, knowing that I most likely only have a couple of weeks left in the country, I am going to do my best to walk Florence into my head. For me, there is something a little bit magical about this place and I want to know it as best as I can because in a place this old, you never know what it could be hiding a little bit off the beaten path.