October Heat!

by Lisa Brancatisano on October 20, 2014

Yes, the weather is this gorgeous at the moment……….

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I have to keep reminding myself that it will be November next week! We only had our first really cold morning yesterday and as you may have heard, it has been raining so much in parts of Italy that many places have suffered from dreadful flooding in the recent weeks.

In Florence, the humidity has been so high and last Sunday it actually reached 26°C!!!  As much as I hate the cold, I am enjoying the fresher air that arrived yesterday.

You can still definitely pick the Italians from the foreigners! The Italians are the ones wearing jackets and scarves because it’s October you know and this is what we should be wearing at this time of year, regardless of how hot it was and how much you are sweating!  Matteo refused to wear long pants until yesterday when we insisted (it was not easy or pretty!) and so I would get quite a few disapproving looks from the Italian Nonnas when they would see him in the morning wearing just a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt.  When I asked him if he wanted to wear his jeans, he quite rightly told me that “It’s not cold Mamma!” and I couldn’t really disagree with him. I was praying that he didn’t pick up a cold otherwise those same Italian nonnas would have been looking at me with ‘I told you so!’ glances.

I never thought a 3 year old boy could be so difficult, fussy and downright stubborn about what clothes he wore.  This is obviously the Italian side of him coming through! (God help me!)  He even tells me if he doesn’t like the clothes I am wearing!  “Why are you wearing those shoes Mummy?”  He screamed at me once,  “No not that top! Take it off, TAKE IT OFF as if I had committed the ultimate fashion sin.

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Thomas is now 4 months old and we have had an interesting time adjusting to being a family of four. I will be honest and say that I had a few very trying weeks with Matteo who really showed his dark side when faced with the combination of a new school, new baby brother and having his afternoon nap removed.  Tantrum is the word and did we see some big, frustrated, angry dummy-spits!   I was torn between wanting to discipline him and just give him a big hug as I realised what a confusing time he was going through.  He threw a huge wobbly at the park one day and when I glanced around to see who was watching, it was like one of those frozen moments in a movie where everyone had stopped what they were doing to just stare with their jaws hanging open while watching the incredible performance of Matteo.  Looking at me with shock on their faces like their kids never had a tanty!

Overall though Matteo did settle in very well to his new ‘Scuola Materna’ and we had an easy ‘inserimento‘ by Italian standards!  What does Inserimento mean, you may wonder?    Basically when your child starts a new day care or pre-school in Italy, they are eased into doing the full day.  The first day they go for just an hour or two but the parent stays in the class room with them.  This gradual acclimatisation is slowly lengthened each day with the mother or father also slowly spending less time with their child.   The inserimento usually lasts for two weeks before you can leave your child at the school for the full day on their own.   The difficulty with this system is when you have a full-time job and basically have to take time off from work to ensure that your child is phased gently into the school system without being scarred for life!  As Matteo had already done two years of full-time day-care, I figured he would adapt quite well and pushed for his inserimento to last only the week. We had three mornings of tears before he would happily wave me good-bye every morning.

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Last week our street was closed for the annual lunch.  San Niccolò is like a little village with everyone knowing everyone (and their business!)  It was a great atmosphere and it was a really good turn-out which of course was also thanks to the amazing weather.

You can see Matteo with Emiliano in the photo below checking out the delicious food and saying hello to the neighbours.  I think this is such a lovely tradition and it is also a great opportunity to meet and greet the ‘vicini’ (neighbours) that we pass by so quickly in the mornings and evenings.

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Autumn is such a beautiful month and one of the things that I love the most is the arrival of the seasonal fruits and vegetables. Porcini, broccoli, pumpkin and let’s not forget chestnuts and the delicious Tuscan Castagnaccio ‘tart’.

And speaking of pumpkins, I have a little boy who is expecring big things this weekend when we carve the pumpkin for halloween so stay tuned but don’t expect anything too impressive!

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Meeting Thomas

by Lisa Brancatisano on July 30, 2014

 Thomas Joseph Di Donato

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Today the 29th of July is the ‘official’ Due Date of Thomas, when I would have been 40 weeks.  Even though I knew that I would probably not go full term considering a cesarean was the plan at around 38-39 weeks, I certainly did not expect him to surprise us one month early, at 36 weeks!

There I was, just finishing dinner on the 2nd July, feeling pretty tired as had crammed as much as possible into the first THREE DAYS of my maternity leave when I crossed my legs and felt a little leak!  So my first thought was, “oops I really need to do more pelvic floor exercises!” The thought that my waters may have broken did pass quickly through my brain but I just as quickly dispelled any such thought!  It was too early!  I had a lot of plans for the next few weeks and giving birth so early wasn’t really one of them.  I stood up, felt more fluid run down my legs and then gave Emiliano a look that probably said something unprintable here but I’m sure your imagination can fill in the blanks.

Our first concern (after getting over the initial shock) was what to do with Matteo who was peacefully sleeping unaware that his new brother was about to arrive!  As Emiliano and I have no relatives who live nearby,  we had no idea who we could call to look after Matteo at such short notice.  As I was sure that I would be having a scheduled cesarean, we hadn’t really thought about who we would call if we had to do a late night run to the hospital.  We also didn’t want Matteo to wake up and find a stranger in the house so I sent a quick message to one of his favourite teachers from day-care who replied immediately and was at our house within 10 minutes.

There is a lot to be said for those of you who have your hospital bags prepared way in advance!  I was soon to discover that you can never be too organised! I threw a few things in a bag as quickly as possible only to find that when I got to the hospital and needed a change of underwear, I had packed no undies but instead, I had packed three bras! At the hospital, you have to bring your own cutlery, water-glass and coffee cup which I also forgot along with my moisturiser and a change of clothes.

After an uneventful night (no contractions) I was whisked into the delivery room and prepped for a cesarean. At 9:43am, weighing 2.680kg and measuring 48cm, Thomas Joseph Di Donato was safely delivered. As he was born before 37 weeks, he was taken off to the nursery for observation but he was fine and showed that he was putting on weight so he was discharged four days later.

The last 26 days have absolutely flown. I am soaking up the newborn smell, touch and tiny size of Thomas as I know that he will soon be a chubby toddler crawling around at our feet and getting at everything within reach.IMG_1655[1]

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Today in Florence

by Lisa Brancatisano on June 15, 2014

There is so much going on in Florence at the moment, mostly to coincide with the ‘Firenze Hometown of Fashion’ week.   Thanks to a bit of rain and a drop in the temperature this weekend, we went for a lovely walk into the center and the below photos are a little taste of what we found happening around town.

I personally love the art by Emilio Pucci wrapping around the baptistery to hide the restoration scaffolding.  An interpretation of one of his original scarf designs from 1957 and a symbol of the Florentine designer’s ties to the city.  The installation, titled Monumental Pucci is part of the events celebrating 60 years that Florence has been the Center of Italian Fashion and coincides with Pitti Immagine which will run from the 17 – 20 June at the Fortezza del Basso.  This is a ‘trade only’ event so not really open to the public.  This coming week Pitti will be showing the Spring Summer 2015 Collections so there will be lots of fashionistas strutting their stuff around the Florence streets –  if the weather behaves, should be perfect for grabbing a cocktail and watching the passing parade!

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Also for the occasion of Pitti Immagine this week, iconic high fashion boutique Luisa Via Roma have created a controversial ‘art’ installation out the front of their shop!  Titled, ‘Il Tempo Vola e Anche Le Farfalle’ / ‘Time Flies and so do The Butterflies’, about 200 exotic, Amazonian butterflies have been placed in a large case and as you can imagine, the reaction from the public has been very mixed.  There is a sign explaining the habitat of the butterflies which also lists the biologists who not only assisted with the transportation but are also looking after these specimens while they are on show.  It was a bit sad to see a few of these beautiful creatures lying on the ground with damaged wings and clearly with not much time left in this world…………..

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The swinging pendulum below, representing time passing can be seen in Luisa’s front window.

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Walking along the river today, we were lucky to get a preview of tomorrow evening’s event which will culminate with a light installation on the Ponte Vecchio designed by local designer Stefano Ricci.  The lights will be turned on at 10pm by Andrea Boccelli after he has performed at the ‘Nuovo Teatro dell’ Opera’ and we will also be entertained by a spectacular water show by Fous de Bassin, a floating spectacle created by French company Ilotopie.

I would love to take Matteo to see this seeing as it walking distance from our house but I’m afraid it will just be too late for him and if the predicted rain falls, then I may not venture out myself!

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Sadly, I think this is close as Matteo is going to get to seeing this water show tomorrow night!


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In Fabbrica

by Lisa Brancatisano on March 10, 2014

with PAMPALONI

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Looking at the photos above, and based on the decor and beautiful silverware on the tables, you would be mistaken for thinking that I am in a very expensive and exclusive restaurant,   You will probably be very surprised to learn then, that this is the cafeteria or Mensa as it is called in Italian of PAMPALONI.   By day, the silver-smiths who work in the factory downstairs can be found here having their lunch.

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By night, the room upstairs, behind this door above transforms into an amazing restaurant serving an interesting menu with an unusual mix of Italian and Japanese food.  An example of the menu is below.

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 A few weeks ago we were invited to visit In Fabbrica during the Florence TASTE festival and experienced a fascinating evening of art, food and even a bit of politics.  We were treated to the most delicious tempura fried vegetables and also tempura apples, pears, bananas and strawberries served with chocolate dipping sauce.  Tempura fruit was a first for me and I must say, very delicious!  I would like to try this at home, kind of a modern banana fritter but sure I would just make a huge mess so I will leave it to the experts!

Located a quick 5-10 minute drive from the City Center, in Via del Gelsomino, in what seems to be a residential area, you would be forgiven for driving past without even noticing the stunning silver sculpture set back behind the entrance gates.  No big sign with the restaurant or even the company’s name on display.  Just the discreet doorbell lets you know you have come to the right place.

Once you walk in the door,  you are greeted by an impressive exhibition of the more historical  and iconic silver pieces that Pampaloni are known for.  Here you can also read the story behind every collection before going upstairs to the restaurant.

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Lorenzo explaining the philosophy behind In Fabbrica

For those of you wishing to try a very authentic and different experience when visiting Florence, I would definitely add a dinner at In Fabbrica to your list of ‘things to do’.  Your waiters will be the silversmiths who by day have been creating some of the beautiful creations that Pampaloni sell around the world.

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You may have noticed an interesting symbol on the Italian side of the menu.  The roof of the restaurant also has an impressive light feature of the Hammer & Sickle whose usage  usually indicates an association with communism.   The two tools symbolize the urban industrial workers and the rural agricultural workers respectively, and their overlapping symbolizes the unity of the two as the working class.  The owner of Pampaloni Silversmiths is Gianfranco Pampaloni, a very proud Communist who also has a very witty and ironic way of illustrating and symbolising his opinions and views of various current affairs.  You will note the irony everywhere – from the artistic vintage style posters decorating the factory walls, to his exclusive wine and olive oil labels and even displayed in the window of his Florence shop located in Via Porta Rossa.

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Tools of the Trade

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Masterpiece in the making

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If you would like to take home a little souvenir from Pampaloni, their shop in the center of Florence will certainly cater to all tastes and budgets.

My son Matteo is a very lucky 2 year old as he already has a beautiful silver cup from Pampaloni, received for his baptism.  Apparently silver actually purifies the water!

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with Gianfranco Pampaloni

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Restaurant “In Fabbrica” – Via del Gelsomino 99, Firenze – 347 5145468

 Da Mercoledì a Sabato – Dalle ore 20:00

Workshop – Via del Gelsomino 99, Firenze – 055 2320523

Florence Shop – Via Porta Rossa 99r, Firenze – 055 289094


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Busy, Busy, Busy!

March 7, 2014

I am feeling a little sheepish writing after such a long absence! I can’t believe that it has been nearly three whole months since my last post! A bit embarrassing really BUT I will tell what has been happening in those past months and you may understand. (I hope!) I guess the biggest news is […]


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Driving a Fiat 500 in Tuscany.

December 15, 2013

It was a stormy morning, the rain fell heavily and dark grey clouds rolled across the Florentine sky.  It wasn’t looking like the weather was going to improve as  I drove into the drive-way and saw a group of people huddled under umbrellas.  At least I had arrived at the right place. I saw him standing out from […]


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Orange shade of Autumn

November 9, 2013
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We are experiencing such a beautiful Autumn at the moment.  Lovely warm days with crisp mornings and fresh nights.  One downside of this time of year is that we have turned our clocks back so it is depressingly dark at 6pm and it feels so late when I leave the office to pick Matteo up […]


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Cantuccini

October 11, 2013

Home Made by Emiliano Emiliano’s favourite desert believe it or not is a traditional Tuscan biscuit – Cantuccini accompanied of course with a glass of Vin Santo.  He has been nagging for weeks now that he wanted to actually try to make them himself so the other night he finally got his wish and we […]


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Risotto con Funghi Porcini

September 27, 2013

I don’t want to blow my own horn but I make a pretty good risotto! It is the ultimate comfort food and a sure sign that Autumn is here. If you were to ask me what is the secret to a good risotto, I would say patience. I will never forget a cook book that […]


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Let’s Go Ride A Bike!

September 22, 2013

Cos this week you really don’t have an alternative! The World Cycling Championships are currently underway in Florence and for most locals it basically means blocked streets and looking for alternative transport to get to work this week.   Fortunately (depending how you look at it) I live very close to the office so will […]


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