Spring Break Part II: Learning the age of Michelangelo

We’ve just finished out first day in Florence after a lovely last day in Venice yesterday. The weather god’s answered our prayers and we were blessed with lovely blue skies and sun as we made our way through the island and continued with a blue skied day here in Florence.

Yesterday was a day of wandering, wrong turns and seeing what we could discover down random little alley ways. We walked through the Jewish Ghetto, which was of the more beautiful palazzos we had walked through in all of Venice. I still continue to be amazed by the whole concept of using boats for all transport but I guess it works for them. 20120415-214433.jpg

After another pizza for lunch, we found a gelato place that had celery ice cream. It was so delicious! You might think it would have no taste given that celery doesn’t really taste like anything, but I kid you not,it taste just how celery should taste if frozen form – deliciouso!

As for museum stops, we went to Ca d’Oro, which was a former palace right on the Grand Canal full of lots of renaissance artwork and sculptures. The marble architecture of the building was so beautiful. We also went to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection which is a lovely little modern art collection that Peggy collected throughout her life. She lived in Venice until her death and donated the house as a gallery in her will. As expected, she was quite the socialite and was said to have had affairs with Samuel Becketti and Max Ernst. Like the Ca d’Oro, the house had an amazing view onto the Grand Canal. 20120415-214714.jpg

I would have to say that Venice was a wonderful and memorable way to start our trip. I loved getting to the north of the island, away from all the tourists and seeing what residential life is actually like on the island. I can’t really imagine living on the island full time, but I guess someone has to cater to all the tourists 😉

After only 8 hours in Florence, I feel like we’ve more than we will see this entire trip. Honestly, anything after the David seems almost sad in comparison. I think that the David has been one of the most impressive things I have seen since being in Europe. You see the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, etc… yet somehow the almost always manage to underwhelm. Not so with the David. It lived up to every expectation that I had and beyond. Truly a highlight. In addition, we learned that Michelangelo was a mere 26 years old when he carved this master piece – feel inadequate much? 20120415-220721.jpg

In addition to the David, we passed the Duomo, but didn’t go in yet as it was about to close. We also went inside the Basilica di Santa Croce, where Michelangelo and Galileo to name a few are buried. I’m still constantly impressed by the basilicas here which are so beautiful and so different from the cathedrals in France. 20120415-220714.jpg

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The day ended with some more strolling around and scoring some free wine at a restaurant that caters to students. It was really a wonderful first day in Florence and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.20120415-214748.jpg

Starting Spring Break: Venezia

Spring break time!!

Yes, I know, it’s the end of April already but for some reason NYU Paris seems to think that this is the perfect time for a two week break so that we can come back and have 10 days of school until the end of the semester. It’s pretty crazy in my opinion but I don’t have any say in the schedule making.

Anyway…it has been a long awaited spring break and at last this morning, my friend Jess and I touched down into rainy Italy. I have never been to Italy (unless you count one run down a ski slope on the border of Switzerland) so I’m really excited to be here officially for the first time. I figured I’d try to update the blog as we go along every few days or so instead of writing up some big posts at the end. Unfortunately the pictures will only be iPhone quality, but don’t you worry, I’ll have some better camera shots upon our return. 20120413-222909.jpg

Getting into Venice was easy as pie (or should I say pizza pie?) from the airport. Venice is composed of many islands with the main one beings famous for its snaking canals and gondola boats. We are staying right off the main island on Guidecci in an adorable little guest house. All we had to do was jump into the water ferry and we were here! Unfortunately it’s been pouring rain all day and there doesn’t appear to be any let up in the forecast, but we’re trying not to let that keep us down. 20120413-222701.jpg

Everything is Venice is accessible by boats, which is amazing!!! You just pop on and off the boats like you would a bus or metro. There are no cars allowed on the main island, so boats are really your only option in addition to walking. As cliche would have it, the gondolas are everywhere, with men standing on every street corner trying to get you to buy a ride. Somehow I don’t think we’re going to pony up the 50 euro, but they are fun to look at. I still don’t quite get how they move with such a tiny little oar. 20120413-222138.jpg

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We went to Basilica San Marco this afternoon, probably one of the most famous destinations in Venice. I’m still amazed by how different the architecture of cathedrals varies from country to country. From the gothic cathedrals in France to the grande churches in London, the Basilicas here are much more colorful, decorated with millions of tiles depicting different biblical scenes with lots and lots of gold! The marble used out front is just stunning. Standing in front of the Basilica San Marco, even with all the tourists milling about was amazing.

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Of course what post would be complete without a food update. Keeping it light for lunch, we just had some sandwiches, but I had the most amazing gelato in the afternoon. It’s no joke the the Italians know what they are doing in that department. After an afternoon nap (we were up at 5 this morning) we did some more wandering before getting, yes, you guessed it some pizza!!!! And then even more gelato. I think I can say that Italian GROM puts my beloved upper west side GROM to shame.20120413-221917.jpg

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First impressions of Venice – beautiful and colorful, although PACKED with tourists! I heard French, German, Chinese, etc… I guess this is only to be expected in all european destinations, so I’m trying not to let it mar my experience and rather am accepting that I to am a raincoat wearing, camera toting, guidebook reading tourist myself.

Focaccia with Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese and Pear

It’s back to school tomorrow! I think right now my biggest fear about going back is that the high temperature for tomorrow is 18 degrees!! That’s insane! It’s cold and snowy now, but that’s just freezing. I’m going to have to put on some major layers to make the 25 minutes trek to my morning class. I don’t have high hopes for the rest of the month for it to get any warmer. The forecast doesn’t seem to want to get much above 30 for the rest of the week. Oh well. I guess I’ll just be doing some more warm baking 🙂

I really wish that I made bread more often. It really is not that difficult if you spend even just a few minutes figuring out what you’re going to be doing. I think I’ll be tacking onto my New Year’s Resolution of baking/posting more to start making more bread. This focaccia pizza seemed like the perfect plunge into bread making territory atsthe focaccia dough was very easy to make and with the added toppings, it was the perfect dinner. I’ve made bread in the past, but never really by myself, so after making this, I think I have given myself a boost of confidence to try and make some more bread in the future.

FOCACCIA WITH CARAMELIZED ONION, BLUE CHEESE AND PEAR

(Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1 large Bosc pear, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

DIRECTIONS:

1) In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast and honey and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the oil; let stand for 5 minutes.

2) Stir in the remaining flour and the salt and knead until smooth. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let stand for 1 hour.

3) Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 10 minutes.

4) Preheat the oven to 450°. Oil a 9-by-13 inch rimmed baking sheet. Transfer the dough to the sheet and press it down to fit. Dimple the dough all over with your fingers and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let the dough rise until puffed, about 20 minutes.

5) Scatter the onions over the dough. Arrange the pear over the onions and sprinkle with the blue cheese. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the focaccia and bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve.

6) Enjoy 🙂