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!




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…………..






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



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!








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


In Fabbrica

by Lisa Brancatisano on March 10, 2014






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.


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.



 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.


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.




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.



Tools of the Trade


Masterpiece in the making



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!






with Gianfranco Pampaloni


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


Busy, Busy, Busy!

by Lisa Brancatisano on 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 that unbeknownst to me, while I was writing my last post and enjoying my drive around the Tuscan country-side in Giacomo, the vintage Fiat 500, I was actually pregnant! I am now nearly 5 months and baby is due mid-late July.  I did suffer from some awful morning sickness for the first 14 weeks and also incredible exhaustion. Working long hours which included quite a bit of travel, combined with also having a toddler to look after made me want to just collapse after putting Matteo to bed each night. And actually, that is what I did at every moment possible. I had many great post ideas whirling around my head but just didn’t quite have the energy (or ability to write anything intelligent while feeling so nauseas) to get them written down and posted! There is nothing worse than the constant nausea one experiences with morning sickness!  Thank god that has all passed now.

As mentioned earlier, I have traveled a lot these last few months as it is the season for the release of the new Autumn Winter 2014 Fashion collections.  In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I work for a fashion distributor who imports various shoe and apparel brands into Italy so since I last wrote, I have been to Berlin, two freezing trips to New York and also Milan twice in the last two weeks alone.
TWINS-Gemelle in Cucina

One of the most incredible things that I was involved in though would have to be the three days I spent with my sister, Toni in Rome doing something that I never imagined I would do – take part in a cooking show on Italian TV! I was incredibly fortunate to participate in the amazing experience of filming a cooking show with my sister which is currently airing on the Gambero Rosso channel on SKY every Tuesday night at 9:30pm (for those of you living in Italy!)  The show is called, “Twins, Gemelle in Cucina” and we cook some of our favourite recipes from our childhood that our mother used to prepare for us, basically Australian and English comfort food.  Below is a link to the promo -–gemelle-in-c

The best compliment was when we finished filming each episode, the crew would all pounce on the food exclaiming how good everything was!  If any of the episodes ever get loaded onto YouTube, I will be sure to post a link or two here.



Driving a Fiat 500 in Tuscany.

by Lisa Brancatisano on December 15, 2013


Giacomo's rear

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 the crowd and he caught my eye immediately.  I was told his name was Giacomo (one of my favorite Italian names) but to proceed with caution as he was the playboy of the group.    I then asked how old Giacomo was and was informed that he was born in 1971,  the same year as me!  (a good sign!) I couldn’t believe that we would be spending the whole day together.   It was destiny.  I was so excited to get to know Giacomo better and hoped that he would be kind to me.  So who was this mystery man?


A very handsome, Vintage Fiat 500 that I would have the pleasure of driving for the day.   So am I to also consider myself vintage being of the same year? I’m not so sure that’s a good thing!  :-(

The other week, I was very privileged to be invited to a blogger day with the 500 Touring Club


I arrived at the Touring Clubhouse to meet our hosts for the day, Fiat 500 Touring Club owners,  Andrea and Beppe and their trusty assistant Lindsay.  Also along for the ride, were fellow bloggers, Alessandra of Rosaspina Vintage, Georgette, better know as Girl in Florence, Tiana Kai   and Alexandra from Artrav.

The Fiat 500 is such a beautiful car and let’s face it, very cute as well!   They always turn heads when out on the road,  especially when you have five of them in a row and they are in the eye-catching shades below.   So without further ado, let’s Meet the Fleet :

From left to right ;  Olivia-gorgeous green and the leader of our pack, driven by Beppe, Topsy-the romantic, perfect wedding car, Paola-sexy red-head. Need I say more?, Giacomo-my vintage ride & Roberto-a former race car with the Portofino-sea-turquoise exterior.


OK,  so if I’m honest,  I was also attracted to Giacomo’s creamy yolk-yellow colour.  He matched my Kitchen-Aid and Dior sunglasses so that was surely a good sign!  I was then told that he did not have the Double Clutch as is standard for this model.   Upon hearing this, my choice was confirmed!   I was a bit nervous about learning this new skill as had never driven a car with a double-clutch before and thought it best for me to just concentrate on driving Giacomo while enjoying the beautiful Chianti view.  This double clutch change, called the ‘Doppietta‘  in Italian was explained to us by Beppe in our lesson before we took off for the day.  We were told to think of it as like another gear in the middle, so clutch, gear 1, clutch-gear 1.5 then accelerator. Sounded like a complicated dance but I do feel that I will need to try it sometime in the future so that I can say that I have had the true and authentic experience of driving these Vintage beauties.

The Lesson


I felt a little guilty about spending the day with Giacomo as Emiliano had to stay home and look after a sick Matteo and I know he would have really enjoyed driving this amazing car.  I would have liked to have sat back and enjoyed being a passenger too.

As it turned out, we were so lucky with the weather.  What started as a heavy downpour stopped as soon as we were ready to leave.  The clouds parted and we even had a few glorious bursts of sunshine throughout the day.



Olive Grove

Our first stop was at Domenic’s Olive Grove where we got to look at a few beautiful varieties of olives up close.   Domenic explained the traditional technique they use to harvest the olives.  Big nets are laid out under the trees while the branches are shaken to release all the olives.  The nets are then gathered up and the olives are collected in wooden bins ready to be taken to the olive mill.  There are machines used nowadays as well that are much quicker and effective at getting the olives off the branches.


After wandering around the olive grove,  it was up to the terrazza to taste some incredibly delicious, Olio Nuovo which had been pressed just two days earlier.  We did not have to be encouraged to eat the fresh bruschetta while admiring the amazing view before us.  How I would love to wake up to this view every morning!




One of the other highlights while here was getting up close (well not too close) to the alveari (bee hives) and having a mini lesson about bees.  Did you know that bees cannot see the colour red?   Really such fascinating creatures!  We also got to taste some of Andrea’s very own honey which was amazing!

After stocking up on a litre of Domenic’s new Olive Oil, (you can contact him at to order your own) it was back to Giacomo and off to visit the Frantoio to see how olive oil is made.  And this was the moment that I stalled the car and had to do an impressive hand-break start to get out of the rather steep drive-way onto the road.  Suffering from mild humiliation, I continued on to the frantoio without any more embarrassing driving exhibitions.  I must admit though that I did have a bit of trouble actually starting the car.  As you can see by the photo below, there are two levers found in-between the front seats.  The one on the right is pulled up after turning the key and the car should start after a few pumps on the accelerator.  I managed this a few times but not without the help of that second lever on the left, commonly known as the choke!

20131124-003951.jpg The Frantoio was the like something out of a picture-perfect Tuscan movie set.  We drove down a cyprus lined drive-way as the sun was shining, bringing everything that was wet from the recent rain alive.  The vivid colours and scenery were breath-taking.   We wound our way down the path to the room where the magic happens.  Olives went in and iridescent green olive oil came out the other end.  I had seen this process many years ago but never on such a grand scale.  The olives are fed along a conveyor being washed as they pass through after the initial screening which separates and removes any large twigs and leaves.


Frantoio man

The freshly washed olives are then conveyed to the hammer mill where they pass through a series of hammers that crush them into a fine paste.  The paste that is created by the hammer mill falls into the malaxer where it is mixed by two corkscrews.

The paste is mixed for approximately one hour. While it is mixing, the paste warms naturally so the water serves to ensure that the paste and subsequent oil does not overheat.  The water and oil in the mash begin to separate from the flesh of the olive. The mixed olive paste is passed from the malaxer into the three-phase centrifuge. Here it is spun through a series of cylindrical grates. Oil and water are spun out of the paste.

Olive paste enters the system and oil, water and olive paste exit it separately. Both the oil and water pass through the vertical separator which further separates the two from each other

If you have never seen fresh olive oil, you will be surprised at how bright green the colour is.  Almost fluorescent, it is so beautiful to see the final result flowing into the large pails.

The flavors are also so intense.  The Italians say the oil pizzica la lingua which is a similar sensation to when you eat pepper.  You will never want to buy generic supermarket olive oil again after tasting Olio Nuovo!

By this stage we had developed quite the hunger so it was back in the cars for a nice drive through Impruneta to Galluzzo for a typically Tuscan lunch at another incredibly beautiful location, Villa Piazzole.


wine barrell



It was great to get to know Andrea, Beppe and the other bloggers better over a few lovely glasses of wine while also enjoying, prosciutto, salame, bruschetta and pecorino drizzled with Andrea’s home-made honey.

Andrea and Beppe are so welcoming and their local knowledge about everything from Tuscan food, locations, wine and of course the Fiat 500 will ensure that you get much more than what you expect from your Fiat 500 Tour.

I cannot think of a more authentic and enjoyable way to explore Tuscany.


Gone Touring


500 Touring Club
Via Gherardo Silvani 149/A
Firenze, 50125
ITALIAGet Directions

Club House Firenze.
ph +39 346 8262324

US Booking Line.
ph +1 347 53 500 30



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November 9, 2013
Thumbnail image for Orange shade of Autumn

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