The world is amazing place. Without getting to philosophic around here, the mere fact that we even get to experience what we do on a daily basis is a miracle in itself, beats being plankton 60,000 leagues under the sea, doesn’t it? This week has been tough in Florence. The tragic news of the death of a community member in Florence, Ashley Olsen that many of you heard about (and contacted me about) has sent shock waves through the community. As I mentioned over on my facebook page, I met her and her adorable dog Scout a few times in the piazza and she was a gracious and kind person.
Newspapers (especially Italian ones) have been brutal in their opinions, using haphazard information found on social media to come to their own ominous conclusions about what had happened. It’s upsetting to anyone who’s ever met her and goes to show you that the online world can be a scary, frustrating and uncompassionate place – in fact, please read this, written by Amy Gulick on the matter, or this great piece in Italiano.
Coupled with bombings and deaths of cultural icons the world over. I’ve shared a few tears and it’s not exactly the way you want 2016 to start.
The thing is, despite the tragedy and fear we see propagated on a daily basis on news channels, there are things worth celebrating, inspiring tales that people miss among the ‘hot button’ stories that get more clicks online. In fact, my friend Jenna Francisco, blogger of ‘This Is My Happiness’ does a great job of sharing positive news on a weekly basis.
On a personal note, Nico and I have just returned, a little over a week ago from our honeymoon and trip back home. It has been an incredible month discovering Thailand, the food, the culture and connecting with my family in Texas for plenty of breakfast tacos while sharing stories. I also got the chance to tackle quite the list of books (and I would love to know your 2016 suggestions).
After reading this NY Times article on 52 places to visit in 2016, I’m thrilled to see places like Turin, Italy and Marfa, Texas on the list, both spots I definitely want to visit soon.
While it can be hard to get back into the swings of your normal routine, I also welcome it — plus there is a certain beagle who was overjoyed to see our return.
My post this Friday, wrote written completely on a whim, is about what is awesome around the world this week. People worth celebrating, innovation across this world. I’m sure I missed something so please, leave a comment and share something positive or inspirational that you heard about lately, I’d love to hear it.
1. This Week In Italy
While I work on my own list on new places/exhibits/restaurants around the country that I adore. Rick Steves has completed his yearly article on ‘what’s new in Italy’ including city by city museum openings, including two important ones in Florence, and a new trend in travelers. A truly useful starting point for those planning their 2016 trips.
With only seventeen days in this new year, I have already gotten 15+ emails with questions about wedding planning in Italy. Which is great! Inspired by those emails, I wrote this guide offering tips on planning a wedding in a country that loves, well..love!
Basilicata is one of those hidden areas of south Italy that will take your breath away, without having to be stifled in touristy, crowded places. We went to the majestic town of Matera last year and fell in love, which is why I think this article on five reasons to visit the region is spot on.
My friend Sara wrote this beautiful story about a trip to the town of Casperia, in the hills of Sabina near Rome which she found by googling ‘charming town near Rome.’ It seems we need to get to know Lazio on a deeper level this year.
I had a laugh at ’14 Signs You Are Becoming Culturally Italian’ by Matador Network, mainly because I recognize a lot of them in myself “You never say cheers or clink glasses with just water” while others aren’t really that true anymore, like getting a cappuccino after 10am (at least in Florence).
Lovers of Sicily must check out this post exploring the town of Catania by BrowsingItaly (who also recently one ‘best travel blog’ in the recent ITALYMagazine blogger awards. She poignantly points out “Catania is far from the perfect. Her imperfections are clearly visible yet she holds her head up high. She is unashamed of her grungy appearance, partly attributed to the black lava stone from which its buildings are made of – the same element that has played a role in her destruction many times over.”
Ps. This video of the typical ‘market noise’ of Catania is fantastic, I feel like I’m right there with her!
Last but not least are ’10 Experiences Every Traveler Should Have in Italy’ including my own ‘wish list’ points like skiing in the Dolomites, It does suggest strolling through the Boboli gardens in Florence, but if you really want an insider’s tip, visit the Bardini gardens and Torrigiani instead.
I too, was shocked and saddened by the death of cultural icon and the guy in really tight pants in the movie, Labyrinth, David Bowie. After seeing an incredible amount of homages to him during these days. What stood out was this poignant piece by Steven Kurutz of The New York Times who described David as a regular New Yorker. A simple, brilliant man who didn’t seek the celebrity spotlight and referred nights at home with his wife.
“Iman once described Mr. Bowie as a “homebody”; The Onion imagined him as a “pansexual alien” staying in to “do lasagna for dinner.” He led a pretty normal-seeming life. He shopped for groceries once a week at Dean & DeLuca. He loved the chicken sandwich with watercress and tomatoes at Olive’s on Prince Street. He liked to rise at 6 a.m. and get his “buzz” by walking the still-empty streets of Chinatown.
He read a lot. He collected art. He painted. He and Iman socialized with the parents of their daughter’s friends at school. He spent his remaining time meaningfully and productively, and largely here.”
There is just something special about giant Pandas. Perhaps it’s the awe of something so large that resembles an enormous, cuddly teddy bear. Or the fact that they are so rare. Their natural habitat lies in the mountain ranges in central China, and can reach up to 250 pounds. Currently there are only about 1,600 left in the wild, with a little over 300 pandas in zoos and breeding centers (mostly in China).
Bei Bei, a male giant panda, is already making waves on the internet after being born on August 22, 2015. His current home is at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park where like most pandas, he enjoys eating bamboo and rolling around on the ground between naps. His name means ‘precious treasure’ and his every move causes “pandamonium” among fans who watch this ball of fluff on the ‘panda cam‘ where Bei Bei’s favorite activity to me so far is just sleeping.
And since I am a sucker for cute animals, you have to see these hilarious photos of traveler Allan Dixon from Ireland who perfects the art of taking a ‘selfie’ with animals he meets on his travels.
Lately it has seemed like fear has taken over headlines. Every single newspaper is guilty of catchy, frightening headlines that normal people seem to eat up, I suppose it is somewhat of a reflection of what society wants. To be in the ‘know’ rather than oblivious and happy. I especially see this when it comes to immigrants, who for centuries have been societies punching bags in various ways.
I caught this article from the BBC talking about Germany’s other migrant population that people don’t talk about quite as much. The migration of other Europeans to seek better jobs and economic property in cities like Berlin. According to this article “One in 10, or some 8.2 million people in Germany, are non-German. Many of them are young, educated graduates from crisis-rocked Southern Europe.”
On the Italian front, I know so many people who have moved to Germany after struggling to find a job in the seemingly-permanently-stagnant Italy.
According to BBC “There was no work available in Italy (2009), the country was doing really badly economically and there was an uncertain political climate. It was a chaotic moment,” explained Luigi Serenelli, a 33-year-old Italian with two masters degrees, who moved to Berlin in 2012 with aspirations to become a journalist.
“Germany represented stability and an opportunity to find work and really do something with your life,” he says.”
When I visited Berlin a few years ago, I ate at incredible restaurants opened by foreigners from all over the world. Apartments were cheap, you could get a damn good breakfast for less than four euros, public parks were plenty as were fun, free things to do. It is incredible to see how far so many people have gotten, just by giving another country a chance. It is refreshing to read an article about people’s positive experience emigrating and assimilating. I am very curious to see what the next five or ten years brings for Europe.
5. Obsessed With Food? So am I…
See a delicious photo of something you want to eat on social media while your own lunch consists of wilted leftovers? I feel ya on that one. While January typical means vows of healthier diets, week-long juices, the winter weather just makes us want to dig into steaming hot lasagna and I might even try making this at home. Sshh. Don’t tell anyone.
Since I often make the same five recipes on any given week, this year I am dedicating to trying out new dishes from cookbooks that I really respect. The biggest inspiration I typically get from Italian food guru, Pellegrino Artusi. His is the great-grandfather of all Italian cookbooks, ‘The Art Of Eating Well‘ , and is on everyone’s bookshelf in Italy. I also plan on ordering Rachel Roddy’s recipes from a Roman Kitchen and this book with traditional Tuscan recipes by the lovely Giulia Scarpaleggia who should be coming out with a new edition in 2016. My friend Emiko Davies has just completed her book Florentine, The True Cuisine of Florence that I really cannot wait to order. Basically this year I hope to try these recipes and put up on the non-failures on the blog.
On a social media front, my friend Annie sent me this great article (not from last week yet still relevant) on the success Food52 has had on instagram. While so many look for a sort of brilliant formula to success, what they did is simply intuitive and smart, essentially embrace the fact that the network is actually a community, and not just a marketing tool for businesses. This means producing great content consistently, give credit and share other’s photos, and more importantly — respond to comments and encourage feedback.
Have any more I should know about? Please share them! I am on a ‘let’s start 2016 on a positive note’ mission and that includes anything and everything. I’m currently working on my Thailand travel articles with the first one on Bangkok set to come out this week so stay tuned for more updates, and follow along on instagram for a daily dose of Florence.