venerdì 27 dicembre 2013

La Befana - Epiphany

by Louisa Loring

The last day of Christmas, known as the Epiphany is not only a celebration of the three kings who brought gifts to baby Jesus on January 6th but also, a final day of celebration for Italian children. Children go to bed, their shoes laid out, empty but awaiting to be filled with a surprise in the morning. It is a tradition that goes back to the XIII century and is still to this day a favorite amongst children.

According to Italian story, the Befana, a women flies around on a broomstick, coming to each child to deliver a final gift to end the holiday season. She wears a cape and is covered in soot because she enters through the chimney like Santa Claus. Tradition has it that she leaves candy and small gifts in the shoes of those children who have been good and a lump of coal for those who have been naughty.
To celebrate the arrival of the Befana, Italians generally celebrate with fresh Cenci, meaning rags, which are a traditional Carnival pastry from Venice which is a kind of crunchy friend dough covered in powdered sugar. For the Epiphany Feast, Tuscans celebrate with plates of local cheeses and meats. To follow, broccoli is served with crostini and chicken liver pate. The primo might be as simple as pasta dressed with good olive oil or ravioli with ragu. For the main dish, pork sausages or lamb is prepared and for something sweet, a spice cake is served which is usually baked with a small bean or prize hidden inside which is meant to name the king of the feast for he who finds it in his slice. It is also custom to hide two, one for the king and one for the queen.
Cenci or frappe
To end festivities, Florence celebrates with a performance parade comprised of 800 people that runs from Palazzo Pitti to the Piazza del Duomo starting at 14.00. It is truly a sight to be seen for both children and adults with a pit stop in Piazza Signoria for a flag throwing show. The parade is full of falcons, flag throwers, women and men dressed in traditional costume, and of course, the Three Wise Men who deliver gifts to the baby Jesus in the Nativity scene in Piazza del Duomo.

martedì 17 dicembre 2013

New Years in Florence

by Louisa Loring

Florence’s size has always been one of the reasons it has made the city a favorite for tourists who can’t stay away for too long.  You can practically see the entire city on foot and never feel like you have exhausted your options because every corner you turn around brings a new surprise.  Florence is a wonderful city to celebrate the New Year or Capodanno in Italian for just this reason.  It is small enough that you can make it to many different events and parties yet big enough to be packed with an array of options to fit anyone’s likings.  There is music of every type, bars and clubs open late into the night, restaurants serving up their finest dishes and of course, the star event of the night, the big countdown followed by a brindisi (toast) with a glass of prosecco and good wishes to friends and family.

Cotechino e lenticchie
To start the evening off, many of Florence’s finest restaurants will be open to celebrate the New Year.  It is tradition to serve what is called Cotechino e Lenticchie, which is a savory pork sausage served in a bed of lentils.  The sausage is meant to symbolize abundance while the lentils are said to bring good luck and prosperity.  The meal is then followed with dried fruits and grapes because it is said that grapes will ensure that those at the table will be wise spenders of their money in the year to come.  Thus, it is only appropriate to do as the Italians do and take part in this culinary tradition, whether you are dining out or having your own New Year’s party with friends.  If you want to try your hand at this dish, try this recipe, which proves to be simply with few ingredients but full of flavor. 

Although there are no official fireworks on New Years Eve, many venues and hotels will set off their own at midnight to make for a brilliantly lit sky. Best places to see these fireworks are any place Lungarno, Piazza del Duomo, Ponte Vecchio or any of the other bridges.  If you are feeling adventuresome, gaining some height always helps so make the trek up to Piazzale Michelangelo.  Perhaps one of the arguably best views in Florence is from the rooftop of the bar and restaurant SE.STO atop Westin Excelsoir hotel.  Totally extravagant but with a fixed New Year’s Menu and view that will not have you leaving disappointed.

Before you put your dancing shoes on and head out to one of Florence’s many music venues and dance clubs, you can ease into the night by stopping by to hear music from one of the many performers in various piazzas throughout the city center such as Piazza della Signoria or Piazza della Repubblica before the clock chimes midnight.  Piazza della Stazione is probably the most popular of all; there have always been great musical performers in the past and thus, it draws crowds of people so be sure to get there early.

If you are looking to have a late night out full of dancing, clubs and dance bars such as Tenax, which is the biggest of them all with multiple floors, Tabasco Disco Bar, and Montecarla, are the places to check out but be sure to get tickets in advance because they fill up quickly.  On your way home after a long evening, stop by one of the secret bakeries where you can get a slice of freshly baked pizza or a steaming pastry to re-energize and get you home to write that New Year’s resolution list. 

lunedì 16 dicembre 2013

Gyumri and Nardò, sister cities

Marcello Rizzi and Samvel Balasanyan
by Gayane Simonyan

Samvel Balasanyan, the mayor of the second largest city in Armenia, Gyumri, hosted several officials from the Italian city Nardò (Puglia) on Wednesday.

The Italian delegation from Nardò city is headed by Mayor Marcello Rizzi. Mr. Balasanyan greeted the delegation and shortly discussed the Armenian-Italian cooperation, relations and issues concerning the two cities. He expressed his great hope that the bilateral visits and a memorandum to be signed later would contribute to the reinforcement of economic and cultural ties between the two sister cities.

In his turn, the Nardò mayor pointed the importance of the bilateral spiritual relationships stressing that Gregory the Illuminator, a religious leader confided to converting Armenia from Paganism to Christianity in 301, is the angel-guard of their city, and this appends to the warmth and fever of the bilateral relationships.

Mr. Rizzi expressed his great excitement and admire over Armenia as well as towards his Armenian colleagues’ self-determination of developing and improving the future cooperation.

At the end of the meeting the memorandum was signed between Armenia’s second largest city and Nardò. This memorandum consists of 6 points that cover cooperation in architecture, tourism, urban development, restoration construction, IT sector and some other fields of cooperation.
Exchange of experience and possibilities of investments are the key points in all these spheres.

Gyumri and Nardò were proclaimed as sister cities.
After the signing ceremony, the two mayors held a joint news conference. 
During his speech Samvel Balasanyan mentioned that according to the co-mayor of Gyumri, Ruben Sanoyan, Italian city Nardò is very similar to Armenian city Gyumri: Nardò is also a historical city with nearly the same number of population as Gyumri has.
Mr. Balasanyan also stressed that Nardò has a rather big Armenian community there and Armenians play quite an important role in the development of that city. As for Gregory the Illuminator, these people have a very interesting story which creates spiritual connections between Gyumri and Nardò cities.

“I have been in Italy for several times and I can say that Italians are similar to Armenians with their character, the way of speaking and the energy we both have”, Mr. Balasanyan said.

According to him, tourism will surely develop between these two cities as Gyumri airport has been restored, the roads reconstructed, so the direct connection between these two cities are becoming quite realistic.

“We can organize youth events, youth forums concerning art, painting and so on. And if they consider that they can produce paints for stones here, we can provide some place in our city. This is my idea and I will try to implement it”, Mr. Balasanyan said.

In contrast, Mr. Rizzi mentioned that after the proclamation of Gyumri and Nardò as sister cities, their expectations are really high, though he was sorry to say that he had got to know this city only during the disastrous earthquake of 1988.
According to Mr. Rizzi Armenia is the country that is worth supporting.  He can see cooperation opportunities in such fields as tourism and agriculture although entrepreneurial activities can also be developed.

Etimologie e modi di dire italiani: il panettone ed il torrone

Il panettone
di Ilaria Gelichi

Il Natale si avvicina a grandi passi, mancano solo 9 giorni! Anche questa settimana quindi vi proponiamo un paio di curiosità etimologiche a tema natalizio, che i più golosi apprezzeranno sicuramente: il panettone ed il torrone.

Per quanto riguarda il panettone, l’etimologia è molto semplice: si tratta di un adattamento del milanese panattón, derivato a sua volta dal latino pāne(m) (nomin. pānis). Ma chi ha inventato il dolce natalizio per antonomasia? Si sa per certo che il panettone è nato in Lombardia, più precisamente a Milano, ma sulle sue origini ci sono più leggende che certezze. La più accreditata narra del cuoco al servizio di Ludovico il Moro che, incaricato di preparare un sontuoso pranzo di Natale, bruciò il dolce dimenticandolo nel forno. Si fece quindi avanti un giovane sguattero, Toni, il quale inventò sul momento una nuova ricetta a base di farina, uova, zucchero, uvetta e canditi. Il nuovo dolce riscosse un grandissimo successo e quando al cuoco venne chiesto qual era il suo nome, questi rispose: l’è il pan del Toni!
In realtà, l’origine più probabile del panettone va cercata nell’usanza medievale di preparare per Natale un pane più ricco rispetto a quello consumato tutti i giorni.

Il torrone
Passiamo invece al torrone, un’altra prelibatezza natalizia. Si tratta di un dolce a base di albume d’uovo, miele e zucchero farcito con mandorle o nocciole leggermente tostate e ricoperto spesso da due ostie. La parola torrone è un prestito da altre lingue della famiglia romanza, in particolare dallo spagnolo turrón, un derivato di turrartostare”, continuatore diretto del latino torrēredisseccare, tostare” (da cui anche l’italiano “torrido”).

Le origini del torrone sono ben più antiche di quelle del panettone. La leggenda narra che sia stato inventato a Cremona nel 1441 per il pranzo di nozze di Francesco Sforza e Bianca Maria Visconti, ma se andiamo a cercare bene scopriamo che questo dolce viene considerato tipico anche in altre regioni italiane e addirittura altri Paesi dell’area mediterranea. Già al tempo dei Romani si preparava il torrone e sembra che questo prodotto sia stato introdotto lungo le coste del Mediterraneo dagli arabi. L’usanza di legare semi con una pasta dolce è infatti molto antica e diffusa dai Paesi Slavi, al Medio Oriente, fino ad arrivare all’India.

Fonte etimologie: L’Etimologico di A. Nocentini, le Monnier Università

venerdì 13 dicembre 2013

A Florentine Victory with Renzi on Top

Matteo Renzi
by Louisa Loring

Maybe you have been following the news behind Berlusconi and his recent expulsion from Parliament but Italian politics is a lot more complicated than that with a lot of important changes happening at the moment.  It seems that the news has been laden with news about Berlusconi but there is something new to report.  This past Sunday, the poles opened to vote for the new head of Italy’s Democratic party or sometimes called the Center-Left party with 2.5 million Italians flocking to cast their vote. 

Matteo Renzi, a young, charismatic 38-year-old Florentine has been very important for Italian politics in recent years, especially for Florence. He has been the mayor of Florence since 2009 and Secretary of the Democratic party since April 2013.  Quickly gaining popularity, Renzi became an image for change not only in Florence but also, for all of Italy.

This past Sunday, he ran for the head position of the Democratic party and took the win with his promise to free up labor markets and reduce the union’s power, amongst other things.  After winning the election, Renzi expressed how this will open a new chapter for Italian government and how this win shows urgency for change.  Renzi remarked, ‘[I have no intention] to make the government fall, but making it work so that it can deliver results’. 

With ambitions and intentions to run for prime minister in the future, the born and raised Florentine is bound to play a stable and important role in Italian politics in these years to come and is a man to be followed closely.

A Florentine Christmas

by Louisa Loring

There is an old saying in Italy ‘Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi’ which means Christmas with family and Easter with whom you like, friends or family.  Christmas is an important time of the year in which everyone comes together from afar ‘a tavola’ or around the table, where Italians tend to spend a lot of their time.  Christmas is not unlike other Italian traditions, that is, long, eventful and full of good food and company.  A typical Florentine Christmas celebration really starts on the 24th with a fish dinner before evening mass at 23.00. Called the Seven Fish Dinner, which comprises of seven courses of different fish dishes from smoked swordfish to steamed mussels to pasta with clams, because traditionally, it is custom to refrain from eating meat before the birth of Christ.  In some regions of Italy as many as twelve courses are served to represent the twelve days of Christmas.   

The next morning, children wake up to stockings, traces of Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) and gifts are exchanged with family, only to be followed by another meal, this one though, full of meat.  Most Italians eat at home but various restaurants are open for Christmas lunch in Florence serving up platters of cured meats and cheeses, piping hot bowls of tortellini in broth and mounds of boiled meats and vegetables.  To top things off, Panettone or Pandoro (bread of gold), a sweet bread from Northern Italy is served with a strong espresso to pull you out of your food coma.

After Christmas lunch, it is most traditional for families to go to the cinema. For those who want to walk off their lunch and get a breath of fresh air, it is also tradition to take a stroll in the countryside or in a beautiful area in Florence, if weather permits.  Other families, however, stay at home and play tombola, an Italian game similar to bingo in which each player aims to cover their number board first and yelling out ‘tombola!’ The evening closes with a light dinner of the broth made from cooking the boiled meats served for lunch.

And that’s not all!  The 26th is the national holiday of Santo Stefano, which is primarily a day of rest.  Most everything is closed in town, except the movie theaters, for those who didn’t make it after Christmas lunch.  Most Florentines take it easy and wake up with no schedule; they sleep in and enjoy it.  After all the hard work and preparation for the previous days, it is surely time for a rest, and that it is: no one does the cooking because leftovers are the star of today’s meal.

The tombola
But Christmas is still not over.  Celebration lasts for a full 12 days, hence ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ until the 6th of January, known as ‘La Befana’ or the Epiphany feast, which celebrates the story of the three wise men or kings who come bearing gifts to Jesus.  The story behind the Befana comes from a fairytale about a woman on a broomstick who flies all over Italy bringing presents to children.  Florence is no different in embracing this holiday by organizing a grand parade in the afternoon that runs through the city center.  It is a final time to see Florence all done up, decorated, and beaming with Christmas spirit before the next year to come.     

giovedì 12 dicembre 2013

Interview with the Florentine writer Fabrizio Ulivieri author of "Il Sorriso della Meretrice" ebook on Amazon

Interview by Ilaria Gelichi


The classic question : how did the book start?

It has been bred by the belly. Not by the brain. The stomach is a second brain in all respects . It is able to think independently of the first brain, that of the skull, to be understood.
For this reason, the book has dark tones, this brain - the stomach - works in the darkness and in silence. As the fecal matter the protagonists also  looking for a way out. A lumen beyond the orifice from which they communicate between their inner world and the outer .
It ' s a book born mainly at the end of a love affair, passionate but negative because of a woman who apparently was bad but I thought was good. Instead she was really bad while looking good.
A belly centered woman, of basic feelings : eat, drink, fuck and defecate. And a less more ...

However, in the book there are often references to Love, to the impossibility of Love and yet it seems that there is an intense search for Love

Yes, Love is the lumen characters strive for to get the orifice that illuminates the lives of niche of these negative and belly centered characters. This is the unique feeling that can get them out of the darkness . They live in a borderline world ( sphincteric ) between the darkness of their painless despair (Nothingness), and the love that can possibly redeem them, but it is as if they could see it through a tiny hole through which they fail to pass

Women are often painted in a negative way

it's not true in "Ninfomane", for example, I underline a positive role of women's sexuality. It's not a negative vision of women at all. It's a way to re-establish their roles . The woman's apparent negativity that comes from the book goes as far back as the archetypal role: woman as a mother , woman  as a prey and as an object of exchange, woman as a whore , woman as a temptress , woman as an incomprehensible object more than a sexual object ... archetypes are actually difficult to conciliate with the women modern role advancement. Today there really is too much confusion with roles. The archetypes at least help us to identify the starting point from which we originated and to which we belong and will belong forever. The origin is in us and never abandons us as the etymology of words that century after century expands their meaning but still entails the well rooted initial meaning

It 's a book apparently simple but dense

It 's the book that I wanted  to make people think, first of all . I hope I succeeded

Why microstories (microracconti)?

It 's the lesson of socialmedia : Facebook , Twitter... The contents have to be visualized rather than read. Thus, I forced myself to shorten the reading time. The thing that amazed me is that as I wrote the stories  and as I was posting them on the blog I remained surprised by the fact that most of the clickers/viewers/readers were from the United States , Russia, Ukraine and Japan. I even had confirmation to have readers who never read books or very rarely . Certainly I think this is due to the shortness of the reading time that makes these stories readable to even those who maybe have difficulty reading long texts but they could easily read such texts ...

What do you think of Italian readers and publishers?

About Italian readers I don't know what to say , except that the majority has a globalized and visual taste. They prefer to see instead of thinking . Reading should lead people to think and not to "see". But we live in the era of social media where the image is more important than the content .
Regarding Italian publishers I only have negative things to say. Provincial, myopic , unable to look beyond the neo-realism that still dominates in the choking Italian culture, from literature to cinema to politics. Can you imagine that Elena Ferrante is considered one of the greatest Italian writers!

What are your expectations about your book?

I do not have many expectations . Without a big publisher behind you you don't go far . At any rate the book is built according to my way of thinking , according to beliefs: I write to create , to learn and fight. A book that compels people to think,  a book that will strike you , that will take you up to the heaven but also into the hell ...

The author's relationship with the city of Florence. You often cite Florence in your books

Yes, I often quote the city . I often quote its libraries , its cafes, its cinemas , its restaurants ... Florence, although sometimes suffocates me , is an international city, charming, seductive, sexy ... Some evenings in the winter when it is dark and cold, walking along the streets, observing the colors, and smelling makes you feel as if you are walking through a fairytale world. My loves, my lovers , the characters in my books are born here and they die here, in this city .
In "The Smile of the Whore " there is a microracconto entirely dedicated to Caffè Strozzi, one of my favorite places in Florence

Plans for the future

I'm working on a novel, the title at this moment is " Un cattivo soggetto" but at the same time I continue writing stories, and miniracconti miniriflessioni ... as well as the rewriting of texts already published by other authors that lead me to explore new territories and to do style and plotting exercises which I find very interesting.
I speak only through stories . If I have criticisms to make of society, politics, culture, I do it through my stories ... I believe that the time has come to stop complaining . We live in a country of lamentoni (people who always complain) unable to give solutions because they are not even looking for them. Complaining is easy, it is difficult to find solutions . We have this political : the worst political class ever (maybe). Therefore there are only two paths to follow: either take the guns and knock it down or make the most of it by trying to do your job in the best way you can conscious, that the political class does not give us any help and will never give us any help .

mercoledì 11 dicembre 2013

Christmas recipes: Polenta with creamed mushrooms and cookies with jam

Jam cookies
by Louisa Loring

What makes Italian cooking so wonderful is its simplicity.  Italian food prizes itself on freshness and simplicity, which makes cooking a snap for anyone after learning a few tricks.  During Christmas, it is hard to stay away from the luring smells of freshly baked cookies that waft from bakery windows and cafes so here is a recipe that is sure to satisfy.  Whether it is your first time in the kitchen or you have been baking your whole life, these cookies will have you experimenting by changing the jam or substituting Nutella.  Try adding cocoa powder or flavoring like almond or lemon for a twist. The sky is the limit!



180 grams of flour
A pinch of salt
140 grams of butter, softened
2 egg yolks
1 small bag of vanilla
70 grams of sugar
Powdered sugar

In a bowl, mix the flour and salt until well combined.  In another bowl, beat the butter, egg yolks, vanilla and sugar until smooth and pale yellow, either by hand or with a mixer.  Add the flour mixture in three batches, stirring well in between each addition.  Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour. 

When you are reading to bake, preheat oven to 200° and remove the dough.  Roll into a log about 3 cm wide and cut into pieces 1 1/2-2 cm thick, working quickly as to not warm the dough too much.  Place on a baking sheet leaving 3-4 cm between each cookie.  With your thumb, lightly press in the center of each cookie to create a small indent, being careful not to break through the dough to the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown and the edges are crisp.  Transfer to a cooling wrack and let cool.  Once cool, fill with jam of your choice and lightly dust with powdered sugar.

Polenta with creamed mushrooms

For something to soak up all the sweets and keep you warm, try this simple recipe of polenta with creamed mushrooms.  Polenta traditionally comes from Northern Italy but is eaten all over the country today.  Like most Italian recipes, this can be adapted to your likings.  If you prefer a ragu, top with that or even a hearty tomato sauce



Peanut oil or any oil without flavor
200 grams of frozen mushroom (or dehydrated, reconstituted)
Pinch of salt
Polenta flour
500 grams of prepared polenta
100 ml of whole milk
Juice of half a lemon
1 egg white

In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms in olive oil with salt until golden.  Meanwhile, cut the polenta into slices about 1 cm thick and coat in the polenta flour.  When the mushrooms are cooked, remove from heat and chop finely.  Cover the bottom of another skillet with peanut oil and over medium heat pan-fry the polenta slices until crisp, being careful not to burn them.  When cooked, transfer to a paper-lined plate to rest.

While the polenta is browning, mix milk with the lemon juice to form a thick cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste, the chives and the chopped mushrooms.  Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the cream being careful not to deflate them too much.  Top each slice of polenta with a bit of the cream or transfer to a bowl and serve alongside the polenta crisps. 

lunedì 9 dicembre 2013

Etimologie e modi di dire italiani: il Presepe

di Ilaria Gelichi

Inauguriamo oggi una nuova rubrica dedicata a tutti gli appassionati della bella lingua italiana: Etimologie e modi di dire italiani. Vi siete mai chiesti qual è l’origine di una parola o siete curiosi di sapere che storia c’è dietro a un modo di dire? Allora seguiteci, questa rubrica fa per voi!

Dato che il Natale è alle porte, iniziamo con un’etimologia a tema natalizio: il Presepe. Il Presepe (o Presepio) è la rappresentazione della nascita di Gesù e dell’adorazione dei Magi e le sue origini risalgono all’epoca medievale. Si tratta di una tradizione prevalentemente italiana iniziata nel 1223 da San Francesco d’Assisi, che realizzò la prima rappresentazione vivente della nascita di Gesù a Greccio, un piccolo paese del Lazio. Con il passare del tempo, la tradizione di fare il Presepe per Natale si è diffusa in tutta Italia e poi nel resto del mondo.

La parola presepe e la sua variante presepio derivano dal latino praesēpe o praesaepe e dal latino tardo praesēpĭu(m) o praesaepĭu(m), che significano “greppia, mangiatoia”, il luogo dove viene adagiato Gesù dopo la sua nascita. Si tratta di derivati di saepes -is “recinto” (da cui deriva anche “siepe”) con l’aggiunta del prefisso prae-, che ha il significato di “davanti, prima”.

Terminiamo l’articolo con un proverbio natalizio: Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi, cioè a Natale si sta con la propria famiglia (i tuoi = abbreviazione di “i tuoi parenti/i tuoi genitori”) ma a Pasqua si può stare con chi si vuole!

Fonte etimologia: L’Etimologico di A. Nocentini, le Monnier Università

Contattaci! -

venerdì 6 dicembre 2013

Christmas Time in Florence

by Louisa Loring

Is it the sound of music, the sweet smells or the bright, colorful lights that let you know Christmas has arrived in Florence? It’s not only these things but much more as Florence opens its city walls to the twelve days of Christmas by welcoming sweet treats and German markets to accompany the twelve meter high center piece, the Christmas tree in Piazza del Duomo. 

It is always exciting to be in a city around Christmas time and watch the masses pass through crowded streets, arms overloaded with shopping bags, filled with music and store front decorations but especially in Florence as it is chalk full of activities and beauty around every corner. Whether it is the smell of freshly roasted chestnuts, which you can buy from street vendors or the brisk breeze nipping at your nose, it is clear the season has come.  What makes Florence so wonderful in this season is how well the city adapts.

To kick off the Christmas season, Florence lights up on Sunday, December 8th after sunset.  It is a magical evening in which all the Christmas decorations and lights are finally illuminated and the city is filled with color and bright lights.  Piazza del Duomo is the ideal spot to see the illumination because it is really the Christmas tree, which is lit for the first time that you want to see.  From there, you can walk down to Piazza della Signoria or Piazza della Repubblica, all avenues glittering with blue and white lights. 

Follow the lights and smells down to Santa Croce where the piazza is magnificently transformed into a German Christmas market (Mercatino Tedesco di Natale) with vendors selling various crafts, gifts and traditional seasonal food.  Sip on a cup of mulled wine or enjoy a slice of traditional strudel while you shop around and soak it all in.

This is not the only market in Florence around Christmas to keep you busy.  You can find all kinds of artisans selling their hand made crafts at le Murate until the 24th of December.  If you are looking for something a little bigger, check out Florence Noel at Parterre, near Piazza della Libertà where you can go ice skating and continue shopping.  Take advantage of the seasonal opening weekend by visiting Santa Clause at Palazzo Corsini from the 6th to the 8th.  Artisans will be selling their goods and donating a part of their profits to the Fondazione Italiana di Leniterapia Onlus.  In case you didn’t get all your shopping done or get your fill of markets, there is always the Fierucola dell’Immacolata on Saturday the 7th and Sunday the 8th at Piazza S.S. Annunziata.  To get out of the city and indulged in a stunning city view, Fiesole is the perfect spot.  With fewer crowds and a breath of fresh air, Piazza Mino hosts the Merry Christmas Market on the 15th.

To warm up after all this shopping, stop off at the Caffe Rivoire in Piazza della Signoria or Caffè Gilli in Piazza della Ruppublica for a piping cup of hot chocolate (cioccolato caldo).  It’s more than just a warm cup but rather, a thick, almost pudding like beverage made from pure melted chocolate. There is no better place to splurge!  Be sure to take home a panettone, a traditional Christmas bread from Milan, which is wonderful as an afternoon ‘Merenda’ as the Italians say for snack or for breakfast with a strong coffee or cappuccino.  This brioche bread (egg based) with sweet morals baked inside can be brought from various cafes and specialty shops around town. 

For something a little different, visit Palazzo Strozzi on either December 8th or 12th where you can trim the palace tree and take part in various activities.  For a change of pace, there will be folk music on the 12th and nothing says Christmas like the sound of music.  To hear more traditional holiday tunes, there are a variety of free concerts in churches during the later afternoons and evenings.  It only takes an open ear to track down the many places from which the hymns sound.  St. Mark’s English Church in Via Maggio offers concerts in English by the Orpheus Ensemble on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays each week.   While in the churches, check out the various Nativity scenes that each church displays.  And don’t miss the largest of all in Piazza del Duomo. For those who want to get the full experience and practice their Italian and Latin, take part in the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at the Duomo.  Entrance is based on a first-come, first-served basis so be sure to get there early! For English services, St. Mark’s and St. James both hold masses at 11.00 p.m.

But it doesn’t end here.  In Italy, Christmas lasts until the 6th of January, through Epiphany.  To bring the holiday season to a close, make your way to the city center to see the Parade of the Three Kings of the Orient at 2:30 p.m. that runs from Piazza Pitti all the way to the Duomo.  

Etica e bellezza nei ristoranti fiorentini – Il nostro suggerimento di oggi: MOYE' FIRENZE

Lo Chef Marco Terranova
di Ilaria Gelichi

1. Marco, sei lo chef del Moyé di Firenze. Raccontaci qualcosa del tuo percorso. Come hai iniziato, come sei arrivato al Moyé?

Mi chiamo Marco Terranova, sono siciliano ed ho 37 anni. Ho cominciato a lavorare all’età di 14 anni nel negozio di mio padre, pasticcere, dove ho imparato molto nell’ambito della pasticceria. Dopo aver terminato gli studi alla scuola alberghiera ho svolto dei periodi di lavoro all’estero (Londra, Stati Uniti, Caraibi) e successivamente sono tornato in Italia, a Milano, dove 5 anni fa mi sono fermato ed ho lavorato presso il famoso ristorante Dal Bolognese. Dato che sono una persona che ama cambiare, dopo questa esperienza ho iniziato a lavorare presso questo franchising, Moyé: ci sono quattro locali a Milano, uno a Chieti ed uno a Firenze.

2. Mi sembra di aver capito che la tua costante è il cambiamento. Questa attitudine si ripercuote anche nella cucina, cioè ti piace cambiare, sperimentare?

Sì, amo il cambiamento perché non mi piace soffermarmi troppo sulle stesse cose. Se si comincia questo mestiere da ragazzi, l’importante è fare molte esperienze. L’esperienza ti porta a cambiare luoghi, stili, tecniche. Al momento mi sono un po’ fermato; non mi ritengo assolutamente uno chef di grande fama, però sono completo nelle mie esperienze.

3. In questi anni, come hai visto cambiare il mondo della ristorazione?

Questo mondo è sempre in fase di cambiamento. Anche quelle che sono le ricette tradizionali vengono sempre variate ed aggiornate. Penso che in cucina ci voglia passione: prendiamo per esempio una banale pasta al pomodoro, basta aggiungerci qualche foglia di rosmarino per darle un sapore e un tocco diverso.

4. Cambiare qualche volta può essere un rischio: ti piace rischiare?

Sì, mi piace. Se cambio, lo faccio con ingredienti di cui conosco le proprietà e la qualità, quindi non mi crea grandi problemi.

5. Secondo te, quali sono le caratteristiche necessarie per essere un bravo chef?

Bisogna avere tanta umiltà e rispetto della persona che hai davanti. Ma anche confrontarsi con altre realtà, altre persone: se sono lo chef, non significa che so fare tutto. Anche una persona che non è chef di professione può insegnarti qualcosa… L’umiltà è sicuramente una delle qualità principali di un bravo chef.

6. Cucini seguendo le tendenze o cerchi di imporre tu nuove tendenze?

Per quanto mi riguarda, si può dire che seguo abbastanza le tendenze. Dipende dal cliente che ho davanti: se è una persona che vuol provare cose nuove, posso anche provare a proporre qualcosa di diverso.

7. Lo chef Marco Terranova ed il Moyé: quando hai dovuto cambiare della tua visione culinaria per adattarti allo stile del Moyé?

In questo ristorante si offre cucina tipica pugliese e c’è già uno chef che si occupa dei menu. Arrivano delle schede tecniche delle ricette e bisogna attenersi ad esse. Essendo un franchising, bisogna seguire il loro standard; posso prendermi più libertà, ad esempio, inventando io il piatto del giorno, ma per il resto dobbiamo attenerci alle ricette che ci vengono date.

8. Secondo te, perché un cliente dovrebbe venire al Moyé?

Sicuramente uno dei motivi per cui consiglio di venire a mangiare al Moyé, è che qui usiamo tutti prodotti di nostra produzione: le mozzarelle, la pasta, il pomodoro, l’olio, ecc. sono tutti prodotti freschi e di ottima scelta.

9. Abbiamo chiamato questa rubrica “etica e bellezza nei ristoranti fiorentini” per tanti motivi, sia perché Firenze è ovviamente sinonimo di bellezza, sia perché è la città dov’è nato il senso etico della politica . Quanto sono importanti nel tuo lavoro queste due parole, etica e bellezza?

Sono molto importanti. Un piatto deve invogliarti ad essere mangiato; non deve essere solamente buono ma anche essere presentato in un certo modo, perché il primo impatto il cliente lo ha con la vista. Il rispetto dell’etica è inteso invece riguardo alla preparazione che uno chef deve avere anche in fatto di chimica e di origini dei prodotti; avere queste conoscenze è molto importante.

10. Quali sono i tuoi progetti? Pensi di fermarti al Moyé o continuerai con le tue peregrinazioni?

Vorrei fermarmi perché si tratta di un franchising che si sta espandendo anche all’estero e dato che io avrò il compito di curare gli start up dei nuovi ristoranti, avrò la possibilità di muovermi e fare nuove esperienze. Per l’anno prossimo è prevista l’apertura di nuovi ristoranti a Londra, Parigi e Miami. E’ una professione davvero coinvolgente.

11. Qual è il tuo rapporto con la città di Firenze?

Ho abitato a Firenze per sei anni dieci anni fa, lavoravo al ristorante Il Caminetto, vicino al Duomo. Ho molti amici qui in Toscana e la città di Firenze mi è sempre piaciuta in modo particolare. Poi mi sono trasferito in America e in seguito a Milano. Quando mi hanno chiesto di spostarmi a Firenze ho accettato volentieri e sono stato molto contento di aver avuto la possibilità di tornare qui. Firenze è molto bella, piena d’arte, si mangia bene e si vive bene.

12. Puoi darci qualche consiglio per un giovane che vuole iniziare la professione di chef?

Questo lavoro porta via tantissimo tempo e se si sceglie di farlo deve essere perché alla base c’è tanta passione. E’ molto importante anche fare tante esperienze, perché aiutano a formare e a costruirsi qualcosa per il futuro.

lunedì 2 dicembre 2013

The Temple of Garni a Greco-Roman temple in Armenia

Written by Gayane Simonyan
The Temple of Garni (latin “Gorneas) is a first century Hellenic temple near Garni district and the only pagan temple in Armenia that survived the adoption of Christianity as its official religion in 301AD.
The fortress of Garni became the last refuge of Armenian king Mithridates where he and his family were killed by his son in law and his nephew Rhadamitus.
Several buildings and constructions have been identified within the appended space.

The earliest traces of habitation date back to the Neolithic time. A Bronze Age and a Classical layer followed by 3 distinct medieval layers complete the occupation history of the site. The fortification circuit is built of huge basalt blocks with the weight of up to 6 tonnes. The curtain wall has been cleared to a 314 meters length revealing a series of rectangular towers, two of which border the ancient gate of entrance.
The peristyle temple is located at the edge of the cliff. It was dug in 1909–1910 but the full recognition of its architecture appeared merely in 1933. It was assumed to be constructed in the first century AD by the Armenian King Tirdates I, presumably funded by the money the king received from emperor Nero when he visited Rome.
In 1945 there was found on the territory of local graveyard by Martiros Saryan, a Hellenic inscription about the construction of the temple. The superscription named Armenian king Tiridates who built this temple. Probably the inscription meant Tiridates I of Armenia, despite the fact that some historians assumed that the inscription indicated Armenian King Tirdates III.
The actual building is a peripteros temple- a special name given to a type of ancient Greek or Roman temple surrounded by a portico with columns- resting on an elevated podium and was most persumably dedicated to the god Mihr. The entablement is supported by 24 columns resting on Attic bases.
Unlike other Greco-Roman temples, this one is made of basalt. Due to a different interpretation of the existing literary testimonial and the witness provided by composure, “montage” of the temple started in AD 115. The pretext for its construction could be the declaration of Armenia as a Roman province and the temple would have housed the imperial effigy of Trajan. 
Recently another theory has been launched. According to it, the building must actually be recognized as the grave of an Armeno-Roman governor Gaius Sohaemus, a famous person in the Roman Empire in the 2nd century from the Syrian Roman Client Emesene Dynasty. If it is so, then the temple’s construction would be dated to AD 175.
The temple of Garni was ultimately sacked in 1386 by Lenk Temur. In 1679 it was destroyed by an earthquake. A vast majority of the original architectural members and building blocks stayed at the site until 20th century, letting the building to be reconstructed in 1969 - 1975.
After the adoption of Christianity, several churches and Catholicos’ palace were also constructed at the fortification site, but they are now ruined like most of the other constructions except the temple of Garni.