Italian Holiday (18)

Remembering Bologna

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Porcini …

… enough said!

Well, when you see the picture of the “thing” that my friend Simone brought over yesterday afternoon, an exclamation is in order! He had a paper bag in his hand. He said it was a gift from his mother. Nothing I knew about mushroom prepared me for the sight.

Here it is in a pic taken earlier by Pia:


Later that night we prepared the huge mushroom to Simone’s mother’s recipe (thanks!) with some garlic, olive oil, salt and a squeeze of lemon, oh and a steak! DELICIOUS!

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Step into my office

Anyone who’s ever worked from home will tell you it’s hard to stay focused with too many distractions all around. Having no children, the only distractions at home for me would be the cat. But we have both learned to respect each other’s space and daily habits, so there’s no problem for me there.

Now, I thought this would change once we came to Italy. I had a goal to work in public places at least once a week since we came here. I have managed to do that a couple of times so far.

The key was being well prepared. I have a couple of extra batteries for the netbook I use (Acer Aspire One). The larger one (12cell chinese made) will stay up for about 7 hours without wifi. With the UMTS/broadband USB key however, I found it will stay up for about 4 hours. The other batteries keep me up for the rest of my 8 hours work day, so I’m covered there.

The other thing to look for is a good place to sit and be comfortable while trying to concentrate on troubleshooting server problems 🙂
I tried doing that at the pitti palace gardens (boboli gardens) last month, but it was too hot to bare. I had to go find another place to work as mosquitoes and other annoying things were eating me up in the heat. The solution then was a nice busy restaurant with good air-conditioning and friendly staff.

The best time I had so far working in public places was at the Piazza della Signoria. The main attraction for tourists in Florence. It’s where you find the free open-air meuseum, the Palazo Vecchio (with the fake David up front) and right around the corner from the Uffizi Gallery.

I found a nice spot under one of the historical statues (not the one with the warrior holding high the severed head of an ennemy). There was a street musician playing guitar (same tunes over and over). And there was a nice cool breeze all day. I completely phased out of my surroundings as I started to work, up until the time when Pia came back from her self-made tour at the Bargello.

I hope I can do that again sometime. Maybe with the nicer weather I could find other interesting places to work at. It’s so nice to work from home, but troubleshooting Linux server issues at a museum is a dream come true!


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Galleria degli Uffizi

“Galleria degli Uffizi” or The Uffizi Gallery, is one of the oldest and most famous art museums of the Western world. It is housed in the Palazzo degli Uffizi, a beautiful palace in Florence, Italy.

Today, I was very excited about visiting the Uffizi Gallery! It was a dream coming true.
For an art lover, seeing the works of the Grand Masters (Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Donatello…) is actually a big deal. And I have to thank my husband for that :)

We went in the afternoon, not worrying about the long lines in front of the museum, because of our membership in “The Amici Degli Uffizi”. We went to gate number 2, a nice lady handed us our tickets and directed us to the entry.
I was a bit mad because it was forbidden to take photos, and despite that, many couples were taking out their small point & shoot digital cameras and snapping shots secretly. I couldn’t do the same with my 0.703 Kilograms Nikon D90!

We wandered around the rooms and corridors of the Uffizi, amazed by it’s grandeur and beauty, the ceiling frescoes and the large collection of roman sculptures and paintings.

The original post and the pictures an be found on

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Good Food

One can eat good food no matter where one lives (in areas where food is available anyway!) So I won’t say the Lebanese eat better than the Italians or vice-versa. Pia and I were mostly eating all Italian in Lebanon and we’re now mostly eating Lebanese in Firenze. Don’t ask me why! 🙂

I like to learn more about how people eat, and what they love to eat in a certain place. In Italy, it seems every area has its own food heritage. Tuscany is known for the great wines and meat-stuff they make. But for some reason we haven’t been able to enjoy this type of food much since we got here.

We did go to Zaza a couple of times (4). But that’s about the best we’ve done so far. At Zaza, I should say, we had some wonderful food: spaghetti with mussels, pizza with truffle sauce and other less interesting toppings (but good nonetheless), beef steak (also with truffle sauce), and of course la Bisteccha a la Fiorentina.
Now, there should be a whole post about that I know, but it should be mentioned. It’s a beautifully piece of steak 10cm thick and very juicy, grilled on charcoal fire. I want to taste it somewhere else before I say if I really like it or not though 😀

We’re also trying another Gelateria every other day. So far so good. I’m loving the panna-cotta, but trying to try something else every time.

The other day we were near piitti palace, it was too hot and we were looking for a place to eat. So we find “La Mangiatoia”, a place we almost missed or dismissed as a macelleria (butcher’s). But I took another look and there was a menu, and a bar where one could stand and have lunch. It looked good enough, and the meat looked delicious. We walked in to find they had a couple of rooms in the back. And the place was filled with Italians having lunch. The food was good, Pia and I shared a primi and secondi and stopped before eating too much to get dessert. Dessert was a panna-cotta and tiramisu that looked small, but was just the right size to enjoy. It was truly lovely. We tried to go there another time yesterday night, but it was closed!

Now most people would be waiting for the mention of pizza. I’m not too fond of pizza really. We had a few good pizzi, but nothing to write home about. Yesterday, we arrived home tired and hungry, so we ordered one large pizza from the pizzeria right around the corner (salsiccia and stracchini). I should say it was very close to what Pia would make at home, so pretty good 🙂

We just had a large serving of gnocchi with pomodoro sauce. Pia made that in about 15 minutes, using ready made fresh gnocchi from the COOP. Very tasty indeed. I wonder if I’ll ever like anything better than my wife’s cooking …

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Under the same sky?!

Do we really live under the same sky? That’s what I kept asking my husband since we came here!

It’s really amazing how different the sky looks in Italy. It’s huge, vast, enormous… amazingly beautiful!
Lebanon is surrounded by the Mediterranean from the west, a series of mountains from the east… so the sky is always bound no matter where you look. Here it’s different, wide spaces with mountains in the far horizon and plains extending as if forever. Maybe that’s why the sky looks larger (to me at least)!

Here are some photos with beautiful Italian skies.
I should take a few more to show you what I mean.

The original post and the pictures an be found on

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Parla Arabo

Early in our stay in Italy, we learned (thanks Stefania) that the phrase “Parla Arabo” (lit. speaking Arabic) actually means “speaking gibberish” or “making no sense”. The fact that we actually speak Arabic seemed to be funny for some of our Italian friends.
We had a few encounters where Italians started talking to us in Italian. They would start slowly with words we understand (Pia and I learned French in school so it’s not too hard to understand Italian if we’re concentrating). Then they pick up the pace and we lose the meaning. That’s when we actually tell them we’re not Italians and that we do not speak Italian (“no parla Italiano”). At this, many would turn to our Italian friends and starts talking about us in Italian. We still understand what they’re saying, but they seem to forget that and go on talking about us anyway. It’s all in good fun.

Italians are friendly. I guess it’s in their nature. And everyone wants to help out if they can. For example, the other day we were looking for the bus stop for the Ikea shuttle near S.M.N. Stazione in Firenze. I started by asking the guy in the ATAF (bus company) booth where the shuttle stop is, and got the right answer. Being paranoid, and learning from earlier bad experiences, I wanted to ask someone else, just to make sure. The second guy I asked, also an ATAF driver, told me the stop is on the other side of the street, about 20m away. Humm, now that’s a bit confusing!

I went ahead and asked yet another driver, and got a totally different answer: “go to where the Taxis are parked and ask there. It’ll be near …”. I thought he might be mistaken, so I asked a street salesman who pointed me in yet another direction! All in all, I had 7 different answers  from 7 different people on the same street.

At that, we decided to go look for another way to Ikea (Busses no. 29 and 30 go there). Pia’s “positive” reaction about the whole experience: “Italians are so helpful, they don’t want to turn you away, so they would tell you anything they think might help :)”

Oh well, and they say “Io parla Arabo”!

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Pitti You Were’nt There

This post is dedicated to my friend Barakat.

It was hot and humid. Mosquitoes were flying everywhere. The water was boiling in the burning sun. Wish you were there 🙂

Here are some pics

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Our Travel Journals

    It’s been 25 days since we arrived to Italy! Despite how very hectic it was during the past 3 weeks, we enjoyed the vacation and time we spent with our siblings and friends.

    I have been trying to start writing our travel journals, as was agreed upon,  since the first day we got here .  While we were still in Lebanon,  Abdallah would ask me everyday:  “you’re going to write a new post everyday,  aren’t you?”.
    To be honest, I have been very exhausted by the end of  the each of the 25 days, too exhausted to even think  about what I should write, and now i feel so guilty that so many days have passed by without posting anything on my blog!

    Better late than never, right? I will try to write everyday from now on, and also write about the past 3 weeks and try to tell you about our numerous adventures here.

    Yesterday we decided to visit the Boboli Gardens of Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti), it was the first time we use the  “Amici Degli Uffizi” tickets (which proved to be very practical). Why the Boboli Gardens? well, because I was trying to find somewhere we could hang out,  me wandering around taking photos  and Abdallah working on his laptop.  So I thought that the gardens must have some descent place to sit and enjoy the scenery. It was too HOT! we were barely able to breath. We spent a couple of hours in the gardens, then went out and had lunch in a nearby restaurant and came back to visit the Costume Gallery.
    This gallery contains a big collection of theatrical costumes dating from the 16th century until the now. It is the only museum in Italy which details the history of the Italian fashion.

    The Palazzo Pitti is a huge Renaissance palace, which was bought by the wealthy Medici family and later became their residence. The palace is divided to several museums and galleries as follows:

    • Pitti Palace
    • Palatine Gallery
    • Gallery of Modern Art
    • Costume Gallery
    • Silver Museum
    • Porcelain Museum
    • Boboli Gardens

    It is impossible to visit the whole place in one day. So we will have to come back again to check out the remaining works of art.

    The original post and the pictures an be found on

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    “Keep on the Watch” International Assembly in Rome – 2009

    Our Italian (working) holidays started on the 4th of August. The first destination was the “Keep on the Watch” international assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    We chose to stay with friends in Rome instead of getting a room in the hotel. We knew beforehand it was going to be less convenient, as we would be staying in someone’s house. But we felt it’s worth the hassle if we get to meet and know new brothers from another country. Now thinking about it, it was truly worth it!

    The house we stayed in was the De Cata’s (Leo and Stefania). We had never met that family before. But their love was overwhelming. Both Leo and Stefania had trouble communicating in English, but we overcame that quickly by writing numbers and verses and other indicators on napkins and whatever. Later their daughter Giulia was very helpful translating from English to Italian and back. It was a great week that we would never forget.

    There was a bad side to it, as we were 40Km from the city. So it was hard to meet with Juliano, Matia, Ghassan and Hanan! As always, most of the time was spent on the road between stations.

    We did enjoy a couple of nights out with Simone and the gang. We went to Piazza di Spagna and sang along with dozens of brothers and sisters from all over the planet! We met many friends, and made some new ones. It was great 🙂

    On Sunday, Leo offered to take us with him to the Olympic stadium. We spent the morning there with Juliano. There was ~60,000 there! It was amazing.

    Then went back (also with Leo) to the Assembly hall. Picked up Ghassan on the way. Sorry Leo for putting you through this!

    All in all the Assembly was very refreshing. Looking forward to next year. Who knows 🙂

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