Vasari Corridor with Alexandra

The boys and I had a wonderful opportunity very few people get to experience in Florence on Friday, we got to cruise the halls of the Vasari Corridor with the lovely Alexandra and E,  and what a combination they are!

E (Italian Art history guru/prof.) and Alexandra (Florentine tour guide extradonair)

E (Italian Art history guru/prof.) and Alexandra (Florentine tour-guide extraordinaire)

Firstly I have to point out Ross had his family over for a beautiful Italian vacation where they toured the streets of Rome and Venice. However, when they settled in Florence for a few days we got to meet the gang and spend a few hours with them hanging out at the Vasari Corridor and eating cake in a very beautiful Airbnb apartment where we celebrated Miss P turning 4. What a day!

E was in the Uffizi bright and early with Ross’s family showing them the highlights of the collection while the boys and I were busy at home scoffing hot cross buns on Good Friday morning (as you do!). We were to meet Ross and our tour guide, Alexandra, at the doors of the Uffizi gallery so we could then embark on our tour of the corridor.

Part of the Vasari corridor situated on top of the Ponte Vecchio

Part of the Vasari Corridor situated on top of the Ponte Vecchio

For those of you who don’t know, the Vasari Corridor is an elevated passageway that stretches over 1 km, joining the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti (across the river Arno) via the Uffizi. It was designed by Giorgio Vasari in the 16th century for Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. The corridor was used by the ruling family as a means to walk safely through the city, above and removed from the citizens of Florence. Alexandra also went on to explain that the corridor was pushed to be finished in time for the wedding of Cosimo’s eldest son (the future Grand Duke Francesco I) to Giovanna d’Austria of the imperial Habsburg family, which made the art of discretion and walking above the streets of Florence an absolute necessity in the eyes of the Medici.

Looking through one of the many windows of the corridor...views to-die-for

Looking through one of the many windows of the Corridor…views to-die-for

The boys and I greeted Alexandra with a million questions about living and working in Florence while we waited for Ross and Miss P to join us. In this short window of time I had the great pleasure of being ‘cursed’ by an old gypsy lady. She was annoyed I wouldn’t empty my purse into her cup and proceeded to accuse me of being a part of the worlds oldest profession-nice! Good to see she was not sparing the kids of her foul thoughts. With that out-of-the-way and my life apparently hanging by a thread Ross and Miss P arrived and we went on to meet the rest of the gang at an entrance to the Corridor which is situated in the Uffizi.

Entering the Corridor was like entering into another world, a world of quietness. As soon as we closed the door on the rest of the tourists it felt like we were separated from the rest of the city. I could see how this would of been appealing to the Medici family. As soon as the tour started Alexandra’s enthusiasm took us all off to another part of Florence, back to the beginning of the 16th century when she was telling the tales of the Corridor’s wicked past. There is something enchanting listening to a person who loves their job and is passionate about the art and history that hang on the walls of the corridor. We couldn’t help but be swept up. Of course E had her favourite paintings to talk about too and we all listened with hunger, the kids asking questions feeding their knowledge just that little bit more. I now know more about the Greco-Roman gods than I ever thought possible!

One of the many beautiful views from the corridor

One of the many beautiful views from the corridor

The tour takes about an hour and you can’t help but be in awe of the power the Medici family must have had as they walked these corridors secretly listening to the voices on the streets all those centuries ago. The walls are lined with fantastic art works from Florence and abroad; you are but a hair’s breadth away from paintings that were painted some 300 years ago.

The last 100m of the corridor leading into the Pitti Palace

The last 100m of the corridor leading into the Pitti Palace

The end of our tour came with the last 100-meters of the corridor  leading into the Pitti Palace out-of-bounds, instead you are lead out another doorway into the Boboli Gardens (situated at the back of the Palace).

The Grotto at the Bobbli gardens

The Grotto at the Boboli gardens

Here the voices of tourists and clicks of cameras suddenly brought you back to reality of today’s Florence. Once the grey doors closed and the sun was beating down on us the tour was over and we were left with all the wonderful stories and tales that filled our heads. Alexandra was so warm and friendly it just felt like she was a very knowledgable friend who you wanted to keep talking with over  coffee. I can’t recommend Alexandra enough for a tour of Florence and especially the Corridor. If you are coming to Florence and interested in the history of the city then I urge you to contact Alexandra, book a tour and relax in the knowledge your mind will be full of stories from the past. After all it is hard to walk the streets of Florence and not wonder what was going on when the Medici reigned.

Alexandra’s contact details are:


cell +39 333 8689 458


I Tatti Kitchen


I Tatti chefs tour

It’s about this time of year when Villa I Tatti opens up their kitchen to the professors and their wives/husbands/partners (covering all bases) and lets them come into the bowels of the building to see what the chefs get up to every day. I of course put my name down for such a tour and yesterday was my turn to take a look into the I Tatti underworld (a.k.a main kitchen). We were a group of four and managed to get right to the crux of lunch time, snack time and afternoon teatime preparations.

The lovely Anna met us at the heavily secured biblioteca and escorted us through to the main kitchen where our chefs were waiting. Like all chefs I have known they were busy getting on with the daily prep. However, you couldn’t help notice the calm of the kitchen and the relaxed nature of the chefs, especially considering they had about 70 people to feed in a few hours time.


Making semi dried tomato bread rolls

All the bread is made on the premises and we came in just as Chef was stuffing some semi dried tomatoes into dough and cutting them into rolls. I was feeling very much at home with a feverish urge to push in and have a go myself, alas, I restrained myself and stuck to taking photos. The schiacciata is always wonderful to see drizzled in olive oil and salt, because you know how good it will taste when it comes out of the oven!


Proving for the oven

I know, from long experience, that people who aren’t chefs love to get a peek into professional kitchens and to learn a few tricks of the trade, so here are a few things that I picked up. The more I read, ask questions and watch Italian chefs in action the biggest difference I can see between my cooking and Italian cooks is the amount of time they take to cook and develop flavours. I have been taking more time and keeping the burners lower than I normally would to reproduce the deliciously rich flavours I am eating here, and I am loving the difference in flavour.  I noticed the guys cooking a simple porcini and prosciutto cotto pasta sauce, backing up my ‘slow it right down’ theory and seeing it in practice. We were also told a way to increase the flavour of the sauce with your pasta: just before the past is almost ready (cooked in salted water, of course), strain the pasta and finish cooking it in your sauce. That way the pasta has time to absorb the beautiful flavours you have created.

A very simple step but one I am sure many of us miss because we are so used to doing everything quickly. You never stop learning in the kitchen, I think this is one of my favourite aspects about being a chef, cooking doesn’t get boring, you just have to keep learning.


The ‘bible’

I did manage to sneak a peek at the kitchens ‘bible’, it is a book stacked with recipes they have been using for the past 12 years, the tried and true ones. So, I thought I would take my time and translate this recipe and give it a go! I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Once the bread was made and the pasta sauce was simmering away it was time to whip up a batch of cookies for afternoon tea- the fellows are so spoilt! Chef made the cookie mix in a matter of seconds (I’m thinking he could do it with his eyes closed!) and then we got a lesson on piping the dough around the edges of the baking paper first so it holds down the paper while you pipe the remaining and the paper doesn’t ride up- nice!


Cookie time

I didn’t catch all that was spoken but it didn’t seem to matter, I was still learning and enjoying myself as were the other guests, and while chef was popping on the red cherries you know I was gunning to do that job too. I can’t tell you how hard it is to stand in a professional kitchen and not do anything!!


Thankfully the cookies didn’t take very long to bake, and so I joined in and ate as many as I dare…come on, fresh out of the oven how do you resist that?


They were like eating clouds

After eating a few too many pieces of schiacciata and cookies we then went around to the stores to see the workings of the kitchen and I was surprised to see such a small storeroom for their dry goods, along with the fridge space. We were told that the fruit and vegetables get delivered daily, as does the fresh meat. On average they feed about 70 people a day and serve two to three different menus. The I Tatti fellows get morning tea and schiacciata, a two-course lunch and then afternoon tea in the drawing room, so all in all that is a lot of food to be prepared, not to mention feeding the staff of I Tatti, including gardeners, librarians, office workers, farmers and a few others who I have forgotten.


The dry stores and fridges, they were spotless!

I really enjoyed the guided tour and seeing how the kitchen operates but if I ever get the chance to go back again I don’t know if I’ll be able to hold back on doing some cooking! It makes me want to cook for large groups again. So Sydneysiders, Melbournians and Launcestonians, after July pop on over to and book a class or dinner with friends and I will come to your place and cook up your very own Tuscan fare.

Mum and dad in Florence

We were lucky enough to have mum and dad drop in on us while they were holidaying in Bella Italia last week. It is no surprise really, since we are holding the majority of their grand children hostage on the other side of the world. The boys were pretty excited to see them again and to tell them all about life in Italy…whilst eating gelato of course!

Nanny and her oldest grand sons

Nanny and her oldest grand sons

Being February the rain did try to set in for the beginning of their stay, however, with a stroke of luck it didn’t seem to last very long and we were able to stroll through the neighbourhoods and see parts of Florence they did get to last time they were here.

A sunny February afternoon 2014

A sunny February afternoon 2014

You don’t really realise how much your own kids have grown until you see them up against someone you haven’t seen in a while. Max was hoping like mad he had grown (he has) and now he is even more excited to go home and see his auntie because he believes he may be taller than her now (I think he might be).

Streeter's in Tuscany

Streeter’s in Tuscany

Walking with mum and dad through the beautiful hills of Settignano was a real treat, something I never thought possible and yet here we were. Mum and dad instilled the idea of travel into my sister and I at a very young age and here we are standing on the cusp of the Tuscan hills over looking the city of Florence together. An adventure that started for them over 45-years ago was alive and strong, while Nic and I still have so much to see 14-years into our travelling life wondering where the next destination will be (I’m thinking a holiday in Vietnam might be on the cards for 2015).

One thing I know for sure is, no matter where we choose to live, be it Sydney, Chicago, Italy… one thing will never change and that is the pleasure of sharing our home with our friends and family and celebrating the adventures of life…one Spritz at a time.


Spritz on the patio

Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici parade, Firenze


Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici in 1743. She was the last direct descendant of the ruling branch of the Medici family, whose will bequeathed the art collection now housed in the Uffizi to the city and stipulated that it could never be removed from Florence. Having found out this information from my lovely husband, I thought it quite fitting that there was a parade in her honour.

Max did ask me yesterday if he could take the day off school to see it, which I blew off as his attempt at skiving off. However, when I met up with mum and dad in the centre of Florence yesterday and stood amongst the beautifully bright costumes of the paraders I had a pang of guilt. Here I was enjoying the festivities, costumes and atmosphere while my kids were at school ‘learning’. I had to ask myself, wouldn’t this be a learning experience for them as well? After all it isn’t everyday you get to enjoy a Renaissance pageant re-enactment in a city that draws your eye and heart back to the days that had been. I was sorry for my abrupt answer and will actually think about the question next time before being so dismissive.

Thanks to dad’s handy work, I have these beautiful photos to share. Something that stung a little when showing Max.



The streets of tourists and locals alike paused in their pursuits to take in the beautiful colours and arrangement of this 40-strong parade slowly marching down the streets of Florence. It was a sight to behold and even better when you had no idea what was on the horizon, all you could here was the beat of the drums and the slow roll of the march.


Guys with very cool guns in leather…my boys are drooling

It was my guess the participants costumes were handed down among the families for generations and showing enormous pride in the occasion. I also had the feeling that my dad would have loved to be a part of the procession too! (In fact the guy with the moustache in the photo below looks a bit like dad.)

I loved this guy with the moustache

I loved this guy with the moustache

Our New Year

For the first 15 years of my working life I spent NYE in a kitchen somewhere pumping out food with a bunch of other chefs all trying to get the service finished so we could sit around the kitchen benches and bring in the new year with a cold beer. This was always fun. You’d do a great service then a mad clean up and have the next 8 hours ready to party hard or in my case in the last 10 years, go home to my sleeping family, toss my tired body into bed and wake up without a hangover.

I think I have forgotten how to celebrate the new year with clubs, parties and copious amounts of alcohol because I haven’t done it for years. This year Nic and I were thinking of kicking up our heels with our friends but to be honest, we were a bit tired from all the touring around we had done that week in Turin, Milan and Genova so instead I suggested to E and Ross that I make a big pot of chilli and we kick in the new year with comfort food, prosecco (Ross lashed out and purchased a magnum which we had no trouble polishing off) and watching Florence’s firework display from our favourite spot over-looking this beautiful city. The boys were ecstatic to be staying up until midnight and I was ecstatic I wasn’t down in the crowded streets of Florence. 

Living in Sydney for the past 4-5 years and watching the very controlled firework display from the bridge didn’t quite prepare us for the sporadic lightening shows we were viewing at 12am on the 1st. It was like little parts of Florence were on fire and showing which part of town could out do all others and who had the longest display. As we were standing on the lookout a group of young Italian and German folk were starting their own light show which threw me for a minute because it had been a long time since I had a firecracker go off a few meters from where I was standing. The kids freaked out (see this is what happens when you live in countries that want to ‘protect’ you from everything fun!) though soon got into the spirit of fireworks and ash getting into their eyes. After about 20 minutes we had wished all a Happy New Year and proceeded to make our way down the hill, hoping to not get a firecracker up the butt (seriously the kids near us were pretty drunk!).

We woke up the next morning roaring to go (a holiday roar that started around 9.30am), Nic decided he needed to go into the office (a week off was more than enough) so the boys and I decided we would head over to the ice skating rink with E and Isabel to put a positive spin on 2014. The weather was cold but fabulous and the kids were busting to get on the ice. This makes me laugh because Max and Alex have only ever been ice skating once before and it was on a hot summer’s day in Sydney where Alex proceed to skate and fall on a regular occurrence (seriously the kid was up and down like a yo-yo) while Max stared at the ice with maximum concentration moving at a snail’s pace. With these thoughts in my mind I was not under any allusions that they were going to go pro unlike our American friends who grow up learning to skate in the womb.


E and Isabel carving up the ice

As you can see it was a stunner of a day on January 1st, 2014 and a great day to skate outdoors! This was my first time skating outdoors so I was pretty stoked. Ok, so the ice wasn’t the best (I’d never known ice to have bumps in it) and there was no Zamboni coming round to remove the excess ice shavings, but that was just fine. The boys did an awesome job, Alex managed to stay upright more often than not and Max even found another gear and skated looking up every once and a while.


Alex the normal bat-out-of-hell skater, keeping an eye on the railing

Isabel was showing the boys how it was done, however, she was a little annoyed these Japanese guys could skate better than her (it wasn’t until then that E had to remind her they get snow in Japan too). I do love her form, instead of getting all worked up about it, Isabel marched right up to them and asked for pointers on how to skate better-Love it!! (and who would of thought they told her exactly the same thing as her mum, E rocked the ice!)


Isabel showing Max how it is done

Of course, the kids didn’t want to leave and we were having a lot of fun but collisions were happening and at one stage there were more people on the ice than actual ice itself (the sun was so beautiful that the corners of the dinky rink were starting to turn into slush). We marked the occasion with photos and then took ourselves off to the bar around the corner for a yummy pastry.

I am not sure how the rest of this year will pan out and I am a little sad that we are at our half-way mark for our year in Italy, however, one thing I do know and that is we have started off on the right foot. I can’t wait to see what we will squeeze into the next six months!


Ice skating in Florence on New Years Day 2014



Gelateria No. 2 Vivoli

I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t eaten gelato since my last blog entry regarding the gelaterie but sometimes you have to put the camera down and just enjoy the gelato if you know what I am saying.


Vivoli is a Florentine favourite and it was the last stop on my birthday afternoon to complete a wonderful day. I had never been here before and yet it is said by many Florentines to be the BEST gelato in the city! A big call and so I was glad Nic had this in mind for our dessert destination. The boys couldn’t get in the door fast enough…..


to choose from the many flavours that were on offer. Before you can order you must pay in advance at Vivoli. Every gelato is served in cups (a big disappointment for the boys). The service was very fast, friendly and on a cold winters afternoon the shop was warm and cozy to sit and eat cold gelato in complete comfort.


The boys both had their regular lemon flavour and then strawberry as the second. I have to say it was one of the best strawberry flavours I have tasted. It had real fruit pieces flaked through it and the strawberry was jam packed with flavour, Max wasn’t too keen on sharing his that’s for sure!


I of course had pistachio (the colour was a deep army green that really grabbed my attention) and the depth of flavour was fantastic I have to be honest, however, the body was too creamy for my taste. I paired the pistachio with a meringue flavour (new to me) and it was a great match. It had bits of crunch, a little sticky wet meringue texture and then creamy gelato. Of course I ate every last scoop and then tasted Nic’s coffee and marscapone gelato for the sake of my dear readers!! Again beautiful deep, rich flavours with a creamy texture. 



I can understand why a lot of Florentines love Vivoli and I wouldn’t say no to a return trip ,however, I felt it was a very rich gelato and one I could have on very special occasions where guilt wasn’t allowed to crawl into the back of your mind. 

With the afternoon coming to an end, our tummies topped up with gelato and our warm house waiting for us at the top of the hill, we all ventured outside into the cold and walked among the Christmas lights on the way to our bus stop.


Christmas is coming, the cold weather is staying and it is time to put the birthday celebrations to rest for another year. 

Vivoli ranked high on my gelato recommendations, however, you do feel the rich layer of cream on the back of your throat which makes you stop and think maybe you should wait a few more weeks until having another……..or perhaps I should just eat it in summer?



Eggs poached in tomato


It is a blistering winters day or should I say week in Florence and I can’t help but want to cook and eat to keep warm. I went for a great walk into town yesterday to meet up with a friend and check out the Christmas markets. It is an hours walk at a good stride and I was striding at my best to keep the chill at bay. I think we got to a high of 7 degrees yesterday and for this Sydney sider that is bloody cold!!

Anyway, the walk was great, I met up with Mel and we discovered we were a week early for the markets so we decided to have a coffee in one of Florence’s best restaurants Cibreo. Actually we went to their coffee shop, although I’ll have to dine in the restaurant because as we were sipping our coffee the owner came in. Mel had met him before so she introduced me (quite a handsome older man, very much the intense chef you meet in places of note). We shared pleasantrles and then went about our business. My business was listening to Mel fill me in on her week while my new mate’s business made my jaw drop.

Being a person who loves to have a good stare I found my mate talking with a couple of guys that look like they really just wanted to go back to the farm, I was interested, however, I turned back to Mel as she had lots to tell (and yes Mel I really was listening!!), but I turned once more to look at my new mate and nearly freaked out. Before him lay about 5 large white truffles!!! The guys were selling to him, I couldn’t believe it so of course Mel and I had to stop, sniff the air for that sweet, sweet flavour of pure joy before continuing with our conversation and then the next minute my mate is in front of me saying “Hey chef, want to smell?”

“Hmm YES PLEASE!!” I took in every ounce of that massive white truffle and I may have be salivating as well. WHAT A TREAT! Of course that made my morning and the only way it could of been better was if I ate some truffle but I’m happy with smelling them right now. So that was my morning and I was feeling pretty happy when I picked Alex up from school at 12.30 (his short day so he can come home for lunch……I’m sure this only happens in Italy?).

I asked him what he felt like for lunch on such a cold day and he asked if he could try the tomato poached eggs I made for a brunch I went to a few months ago (he has a memory like an elephant!). Thankfully I had all the ingredients so I set out to make them and forgot how easy and tasty they are. I first found out about them through Mel, she told me her husband makes them when she is in the throws of the wedding season (she is an amazing cake decorator/maker) when she never feels like eating anything.

I know there are a hundred different ways to make these, you can put a Mexican, Israeli or Aussie spin on them but the technique is pretty much the same. For my Italian tomato poached eggs I kept it very simple. I make a basic tomato sauce, sauteing off some sweet onions with olive oil on low heat to bring out the sweetness on the onions, then add garlic slices, salt, pepper and pour in about half a bottle of passata (I have also used whole tinned tomatoes chopped up and will add extra water to have enough liquid for poaching), reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Once I have tasted it and am happy with the flavour I’ll crack 4 eggs into the sauce and have them on a simmer.


I leave the lid off for 3-4 minutes and then put the lid on to help with the poaching. Just before I am ready to take them out I will lightly cover the eggs with more sauce to cook that fine egg white film layer on top. We like our eggs runny so I pull them out once the top skin is fully formed, just like a poached egg.

Alex doesn’t like to eat a lot of extra sauce so he has his as they come and served on toast with prosciutto crudo….


I love the sauce, especially when you get some caramelised onions; I also love eating them with white anchovies, it just tastes fantastic, the salty, vinegary flavour blends beautifully with the gooey egg yolk.


Max is home today for his ‘early day’ and just before he left for school this morning he turns to me and says ‘We are having tomato poached eggs today right?……you can’t have all the good things when I’m not here, that’s not fair’. So I guess with that said, I know I’ll be making another batch for lunch today….I think I have some coriander in the fridge, I might have to make mine hot and spicy.

Olive Harvest


It has been a pretty busy weekend for the Baker family and not without mishaps and bloodshed because this just seems to be the way we roll these days!? So grab yourself a coffee and stay a while.

Friday was our landlord’s olive harvest day!! His lovely wife was out and about early Friday morning checking the olive leaves to see if they held too much moisture from the night. The rains were predicted and the pressing was booked in for Saturday morning so there was nothing else to do but help with the olive harvest. I have been eyeing our olive tree off for the past few weeks wondering when we will be picking; however, Roberto has just been telling me to wait….soon Camilla, soon.

After it was decided that picking could commence at 11am it was all hands on deck getting the nets laid. I have never seen how to pick olives so I was eager to help with the process, as were the kids for about half a second and then something else looked like more fun so off they went playing with sticks.


The nets are very sturdy and massive, spreading out over a large expanse of ground, bushes and anything else that got in the way of catching the olives. Roberto had a fancy tree- or branch-shaking device that helped with the picking of olives up high while the rest of us gathered around the lower branches picking and sorting out good from bad the old-fashioned way.


Max seemed to hang around a little more and managed to pick a few olives before the others called him over for a game of Knights and Castles…..


The olives were mostly bright green, however, there were a few dark purple olives and I think when they start changing this is when you must start to pick?? I could have that wrong so please correct me if I’m way off track!


As Roberto was shaking the olives out of the trees,


Piera sat down on the boulders with her little basket and started picking the olives from the small new trees. I could have been more helpful, however, I had my good friend Sue coming for lunch so I really only picked until she arrived. Lucky for me Roberto still has more trees up the back of the property that need picking so I can get a proper fix as I find it relaxing work (again I picked over one tree, I may feel different after 3 or 4!).


Roberto and Piera picked all day long and only stopped when they could no longer see what they were doing. When you have the press booked you don’t have the luxury of taking too many breaks. Roberto was up at 5am on Sunday morning to deliver his precious goods. When we saw them around ten on Sunday morning they were looking very happy and pleased with themselves and said with much pride ‘it is a beautiful green, very green!’ We were then invited to partake in the festival of the first press. They explained it’s like a party you would have if you brought a new baby into the family and really when you tend to these trees and watch the olives grow it really is a big moment when you reap your rewards.

We replied a hearty YES! and were going over to their place for a tasting of the new oil in the evening, I was beyond excited!

While all of this was going on, our very good friends from Chicago had arrived in Florence and were coming to visit for a few weeks. Excitement all round, old friends, first pressings and glorious weather…it doesn’t really get better than that and this is when the wind changed.

Sunday was a very windy day in Florence, the boys were playing out in the yard having a great time with old and new friends, and we were sitting back with Kathleen and Jim talking about how I almost walked them into the ground on their first day here and then we heard it. Blood curdling scream (attention grabbing) then a jumble of profanity coming from Max’s mouth (wash his mouth out with soap!). I jumped out of my seat and was about to say something like ‘I beg your pardon Maximilian!’ when I looked up and saw him coming my way with blood pouring from his head. He was fuming, crying and looking very red. It didn’t really hit me until he was close enough for me to put my hand over the wound and feel the warmth of the blood and that’s when I thought ‘HOLY SHIT!!!’

Kathleen is a nurse so she went right into work mode and kept the situation calm and focused. Pressure was applied, ice was applied and calm was brought to the situation. Heads bleed A LOT, this I know for sure because when we finally stopped the bleeding I could barely see the wound. K saw it straight away (trained eye) and thought it may need a stitch so we had to run over to our landlords (we don’t have a car) and ask for help.

The thought hadn’t left my mind that they were preparing for dinner that night, however, they were so completely helpful and dropped everything to drive us to the ER and Piera even promising pizza on our return…I love these people. Roberto had us at the hospital within 12 minutes, I think we waited 4 minutes before being ushered into another room when a lovely nurse with blue hair and green/white fingernails started shaving Max’s head to find the wound.


Once the area was shaved she then said ‘Boh!….one stitch’ to which she proceeded. Anaesthetic would have taken too long to kick in so I told Max to grip my hand and she went for it. Max was very brave and it was all over in minutes. We were done and dusted in about 40 minutes and back home in time for the festivities to begin.

The festival of olive oil started with pizza and then worked its way up to wonderful stuffed peppers (they were filled with bread, capers, anchovies and olive oil) that I could of eaten all night, they had such a deep flavour and were completely morish. Bruschetta was then brought out and we were told to lightly brush the bruschetta with raw garlic then pour on the new olive oil quite liberally and then sprinkle with a little salt- DIVINE!! The olive oil came alive and the luscious grassy flavour dominated your taste buds….you didn’t want it to end.



Preparations for the end result…..


It was about here I wished I hadn’t had that extra serving of peppers because Roberto brought out the ribollita, salami, fagioli (at this point I almost burst but of course kept on eating because it all tasted fantastic especially when drizzled in the first pressing olive oil!!) I thought I had made it and eaten all I could until Piera threw her hands up in the air and said she forgot about the pork! I am not sure what part of my stomach made room but I was served a delicious helping of diced potatoes cooked with small pieces of pork (soaked in a little milk) and then roasted with bread pieces, sage and rosemary. If I wasn’t so full and bursting at the seams I would have had seconds, alas, I was done. If that was a celebration of the new oil I had wet its head well and truly and enjoyed every last drizzle…….oh and you know there was a dessert table just around the corner!

With Max’s head looking a little worse for wear and the four of us full of delicious food we said our thank yous, good byes and many thanks for everything else they had helped us with. Roberto placed a bottle of oil in my hands and I could not thank him enough for this precious gift. A gift I will keep on giving to my friends and family…..I’m already planning my own concoction of beans and olive oil- Yummmm




Sant’ Ambrogio Market

For a while now I have been wanting to walk into town for a bit of exercise and to re-visit my old stomping ground (I remember there were a lot of fabulous shops along the strip of road that took me to my old supermarket) and to hit the food markets. For the summer months it was way too hot to even think of going on a 40-minute walk into town. However, now the boys are in school, I have mornings free and my friend Shelly is also up for morning market visits, and so we finally wandered into town last week.

It seemed like a very quick walk, we hit Sant’ Ambrogio in about 40 minutes which also included the obligatory coffee and pastry stop off (when living in Firenze!). Shelly is very passionate about the organic movement and she had found a farmer a few weeks back who grows organic produce and wanted to go back to him. We have talked about the organic movement quite a bit and if I am honest, I don’t think a lot of the farmers in Italy use chemicals quite as much as Australian and American farmers and I am more than happy to shop around picking up produce that looks good and smells like it is the real deal, I haven’t been disappointed yet.

The farmer was very nice and his produce didn’t look like other organic farmers I have seen, where the bugs have got to veggies first and you get the second best parts but pay a premium. No, this was good looking produce, I’m sorry to say I didn’t get any photos of the produce…….. I was too busy buying! How about a market shot instead?


The other surprising fact with this organic farmer was it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I bought some polenta, carrots, potatoes, peppers, cavolo nero, eggplant and something else for the glorious price of 12 euro! I have since cooked all my veggies and made some polenta and can happily report they were all delicious, flavoursome and have me thinking I need to go back for more.

I went a little crazy in the outside section, it was pretty hard not to considering there was a man selling gorgonzola & olives and an Asian lady with all her Asian produce; by the time we went into the covered section I had already blown a hole in my purse. However, this did leave me time to window shop and take photos.

As soon as we walked in through the doors I was drooling over this pasta store. Vibrant colours of pesto and homemade pasta were staring at me…what had I done, how could I not remember the inside section!!???


Shelly highly recommended the lemon ravioli which I was already eying off along with the fungi porcini parcels and ragù di carne….heaven without the coin is somewhat of a wet blanket; however, I won’t be so narrow minded with my next shopping trip!


Shelly pleased as punch with her purchase…..and I love that they write the cooking time on the packet, so you don’t ruin all the hard work that has been put into making the pasta.


Cheese was our next destination, you could just follow your nose to this store as it was pungent and mouthwatering. I’d just bought a lovely piece of pecorino the day before so I wasn’t so miffed I didn’t purchase some of the offerings this time round.


While Shelly was asking the lady about the organic cheeses on offer I was poking my head around looking at the meat counter which always catches my attention. I looked a little further and this is what I found….


It was concealed in it’s own compartment and looking like something from a Doctor Who episode! I know it looks VERY unappetising but I couldn’t stop looking at it and wondering what all the bits were (it’s the chef in me). It did help me figure out what I was eating in a restaurant a few weeks ago, though part of me wishes I still didn’t know but the texture of tripe is kinda hard to disguise. I know, I know, I can’t finish the blog with this as my last offering to you so here is another rose from my blooming garden to wipe the eyes clean….


How was your morning?

It’s 4.30pm and I finally get to sit at my computer and contemplate our ‘quick trip’ downtown. Well right there, thinking it was going to be a ‘quick trip’ really set me up for complete and utter failure. Now I know I have blogged beautiful scenic photos and made a lot of you green with envy so this is a blog post for all of you who think I’m ‘living the dream’ 24/7.

For anyone who has lived in Italy for longer than three months, you’ll no doubt roll your eyes and understand when I say I lined up to get my Permesso di Soggiorno this morning. Basically it is a card to say that in fact, yes, you can come and go whilst living in Italy as you have paid extra money, stood in multiple lines, been kept waiting for several hours on several occasions just in case an Italian police officer wants to check your papers….whenever.

We arrive at the questura at 9am, grab a ticket (lucky number F80!) and then proceed to wait with hundreds of other people trying to do the right thing. (I have also heard there are literally 1,000s of people without i.d in Italy so this is a good thing…..waste of money and time, but a good thing!?) I looked up to see the number on the screen and it lit up number F15! Get your books out boys, it’s going to be a long wait……


Right, well that is one and a half hours gone and wasted, how about a game or ten of chess to keep morale high? What is that you say?? Why are all the windows empty? Hmm good question, is it a coffee break or just nobody there? Yep ding, ding, you got it, just nobody there…..!!


Anyway 3 and a half hours later I am happy to say I now have my permesso and happy to be ‘legal’ and living the dream!


We got out of the questura and ran to the nearest cafe for a coffee hit and pastry before we headed back up the hill for home. If anyone is living in and around the Florentine area then you will of experienced the madness of the European bike racing and no doubt also trying very hard to love it. I was loving it until today that is.

You may wonder why the boys were with us today, being Friday and all. Well the reason is because of the bike racing, I guess the council decided they didn’t want to block up all the roads with parents doing the drop off or pick up runs (bikes aren’t even coming close to our school) so they closed all the schools in Florence for Friday, hoping the event would run smoothly. This is of course brilliant for the boys, however, I think they would of preferred something a bit more interesting than a trip to the questura!

After pastries and coffee, we whizzed around to pick up some coconut milk from the Asian store and then off to catch the bus back home. We had just missed the cut off for our bus! That’s right, no more busses run to our neck of the woods until 3-4pm…argghh!!

So, we caught a bus to Campo de Marte where we then proceeded to walk 4 km home along blank, clear roads. Roads that were ready and waiting for hundreds of cyclists to carve up and perform… about 2 hours time. We managed to get home around 2pm and thankfully I had a jar of ragù in my fridge thanks to Max’s friend’s mum who gave us some to try (Ohh I’m liking her more and more!!). I cooked up a bit of pasta, ragù on top and lots of grated parmesan just in the nick of time before Max was about to chew his arm off.

Happy Friday.