Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Moon Shines

Does the moon shine other places in the world as beautifully as here? I haven’t noticed. Since I am out usually in the evenings, the moon follows me around, lighting the way, and creating beautiful and romantic scenery. It is tough to capture in a picture....really you should be here to see it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Towers of Florence

In the 12th century, the time between the Roman period and the Renaissance, there was much “feudal fighting” within the cities. Important families created fortresses, and each had a tower from which to keep a lookout for a neighbor or enemy in this time of feuding. The towers were austere buildings with narrow slit windows rising with the density of a modern high-rise in cities today. The feudal towers were also as symbolic as they were functional. The taller the tower, the more important the family. (Very phallic, don’t you think? My tower’s bigger than yours!)

At the time, there were at least 90 of them in the center of Florence, but today only a few remain. The remaining ones had to be lowered to the height of the palaces at the end of the 13th century. During the time that the towers were intact, sometimes they were lowered to indicate the diminishing status of a family.

Cindy and Greg stayed in the Hotel Torre Guelfa, which translated means the Tower of the Guelfa. This hotel had one of the towers and we visited it one evening. There were beautiful views of the city here, as you can see.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Making It All Real

I have said a few times before that when friends visit, it makes this fairytale that I am living more “real”, and in a good way. There have been so many things, that I have seen and experienced and laughed and cried over, and being here alone to experience most of them, I sometimes wonder at my judgement, (or sanity) with all of these things I experience.

I delight in the most simple things here, as well as the extravagant beauty and everyday living, and I wonder if my love for this place has clouded my perspective.

When friends come who I have known and trusted for years and years and confirm the beauty and wonder of it all, and marvel at this place in their own way, it is validating and rewarding in a way that I can’t even explain.

Greg and Cindy visited me this past weekend. They had a rough trip here with mechanical delays and flight changes. They had been to Florence before, so coming again just to see me was really special. They arrived late on Friday evening, but most things were in full swing and we had dinner, and drinks on the Piazza.

On Saturday, they came to visit my apartment and my neighborhood in Santa Croce. It’s the “tourist site” I always recommend that people sometimes overlook, but is a beautiful and interesting place. Here we are on the steps of Santa Croce (Greg and I) and Cindy and Greg in the Piazza, which I call home.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Waiting for a Sign

Daily Horoscope for karen mills

Saturday Oct 27, 2007

Consider your next career move. Try to look at the end result before making your decision. Taking less upfront with the intent of making more as time passes should be your plan. Follow your heart and you will not be disappointed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Carousel

There is a beautiful antique carousel that stands in the Piazza della Republica just below the arch. It was here when I arrived in February, but by May, it vanished. When I asked where it had gone of one of the locals, he told me it went to the beach in the summer.

Last week, when I returned from the United States and was taking a walk to assure myself everything was as it should be, the carousel had returned, from it’s "summer vacation".

I have not been on the carousel, but hope to before I leave. I remember when I was a child in Nashville, there was a department store that had a carousel in it’s basement. My grandmother would take me into town on the bus for a day of shopping and lunch, and a ride on the carousel. When I see that carousel, it reminds me of that.

From what I understand, the carousel is owned by the Picci family, who is now in it’s 5th generation. The carousel is made of wood and has been around since the early 20th century, and has been fully restored. It is not very big, but elegant and beautiful and has scenes from different Italian cities painted around the canopy on the outside.

I sit on the benches outside the carousel almost everyday and watch it go around and the children holding on for dear life or screaming for their "Nonna". Watch for photos of me when I finally ride the carousel myself!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Al Cinema

This Fall the new "Original Language" series started at the Odeon. The cinema here which is in the center of town was once a part of the Strozzi Palace, and is ornate and beautiful inside. The tickets cost 7.20 euro (about $11) and they have a small concession stand which sells popcorn and candy.

There are usually a lot of people there, although because of the size of the theater, it is never full. Maybe it’s because I have been away a while, but seeing American films in another country, in a setting such as this is surreal. Recently I saw Sicko, Disturbia, No Reservations, and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Sicko was interesting, but disturbing, causing me and the other 200 Americans sitting in the theater discomfort and shame. I have seen all of Michael Moore’s movies, and found them clever, entertaining, insightful, and extreme. Extreme is what many American’s need to overcome American propaganda around how things "really" are in the US and other countries, so who can blame him? He has two hours to plant a seed that maybe things aren’t as they seem. It was interesting and surprising that the film received the same standing ovation as the others of his that I had seen in the US. I don’t know why it surprised me. I think the same group of people with the same ideas go to his movies, while those who think otherwise are at home talking about what a bad person (communist, pinko) Michael Moore is and that his films should be censored!

No Reservations is nothing but a chick flick. I loved it. I was especially surprised to find how homesick and nostalgic I was seeing NYC, since it is set there. After thinking, I realized that this is the longest time I have gone without visiting NYC. I was there in early February, twice in 2 weeks, but haven’t been back since. Usually I am there 3-4 times per year. The stark contrast between Florence and NYC was also apparent at every turn. The number of cars, the lights, the modernity of the buildings, the wide sidewalks, the large restaurants with angry demanding Americans, and the noise. Still, I wanted to be there again. The similarity was the exhilarating passion and life and heartbeat of the cities.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Coming Home

You know that old corny saying, "Home is where the heart is"? Well, I have found the root of the meaning here in Florence. I returned to the USA for a week to interview for jobs last week. When I arrived in Florence after the week, I have never felt such contentment to return to a physical space.

The sound of Italian all around me, the beauty in the architecture and on the streets. People dressed in "la bella figura" for their evening passiegatta. The smell of garlic and pizza and the Fiorentina bistecca in the air.

I arrived at 8 a.m. in the morning, and headed straight to bed. When I awoke, it was all I could do to get dressed fast enough and out on the streets to drink in the life and the air. I took a long walk to make sure all of what I remembered was still there. The Arno, Santa Croce, the Ponte Vecchio, David at the Palazzo Vecchio, the Piazza della Signoria, Piazza della Republica, the Duomo.....all still intact and beautiful.

I had a celebratory glass of prosecco to be back, and then went to dinner for a pizza and some wine. Fortified, I thank my lucky stars to be here again.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thelma and Louise

One of the best things about coming to Nashville is getting to see my family. I spent some time when I arrived with Mom and Dad, who have been more supportive and generous with their help than I deserve. Mom has had a full time job dealing with my mail, and a variety of other things that have "cropped" up since I have been here. I am so thankful for that.

The other big perk is seeing the other half of what is a very "dynamic duo". Connie and I are called "Thelma and Louise" by a variety of people who know us well. Sadly, I think it is a good description. We manage to bring out the best and the worst in each other....but more often the best, and only occasionally the worst. When we are together, we manage to go through a full range of emotions together and touch on every topic known to man. We don’t always agree, and we can have some pretty open discussions, that would embarrass most people. We also "wax philosophical" after the alcohol kicks in. Even though we talk on the phone almost every other day, being together is like fitting two pieces of a puzzle together, we just "click"

This time, I arrived at Connie’s after 3 hours of sleep the night before when I was at Nick’s show in Miami. We could barely take a breath with all the talking, crying, laughing and catching up we had to do. I did find the energy to prepare Connie’s favorite meal of grilled salmon, and to drink a bottle of wine. It’s true what they say, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Right Thelma?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mix n' Mash

Nick's White Crop Design
Nick's Metal Jacket Design

Will and Nick

DJ "Dummy"

Will, Me and Nick

Will, Me, and Brad

Mr. and Mrs. DJ Dummy

This Spring, my son Nick who is a student of Fashion Design at the International Academy of Art and Design in Tampa, won a design competition sponsored by Red Bull at his school. The competition prize was to be included in a Fashion Show during Miami’s Fashion Week, showing 7 designs from the team (Nick’s team was only he and another male student). The show was called Mix n’ Mash. Red Bull had also gathered the support of 4 Miami dj’s to work with the students in the production and design concept. Basically, the competition was from sketch to show. Nick and his team member, Cedric sketched, designed, chose fabric, and actually made 7 outfits for the show.

They were also responsible with the help of the DJ, the music, and production for the models during the show. Prior to the show, they had a professional photo shoot in Tampa for a limo company using the models and designs of Nick and Cedric.

Nick specializes in male fashion, and was able to design the 3 male models clothing, and Cedric designed the women’s. The show was held on South Beach at the Plaza Theater

It was a real surprise when I was putting the interviews on my calendar to discover that the show was on the weekend that I was in the States. It was the highlight of the trip! Although traveling from Florence to Cleveland, to Miami, to Nashville, back to Cleveland and then Florence was strenuous, it was worth it!
I got to have a preview in Nick’s rooms of the garments that he had designed and made, but didn’t get to see a lot of Nick that afternoon. They had to prepare the garments and accessories, and to make sure the models were dressed properly with the right make-up and were "stage ready".

Before the show, I went to dinner at Joe’s Stone Crabs in South Beach with Will, who had also come in for Nick’s show, and with his friend Brad. You know I love being surrounded by beautiful young men (even if they are my sons and their friends). Will just took a new job with Hewlett-Packard, and his friend Brad works for Accenture. (Not only good looking, but smart, and very gainfully employed!)

Here are some photos of me and "the boys" and of Nick’s fashions. What a fabulous time! Could I be any more proud?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Out of My World, Out of My Mind

This week, I entered the Twilight Zone. I cannot even begin to describe after 18 hours on a plane from Florence, what it felt like to be sitting in Cleveland, in a corporate office the next day. It was an "out of body" surreal experience.

I am looking at the building which is modern and made of glass and concrete, riding in a car down wide streets with no side walks, and everywhere around me people are speaking English. I was offered an espresso from a machine, and had lunch in a "cafeteria". I was dressed as I haven’t been in a while, but did manage to wear my Italian leather boots for some reassurance that I hadn’t left everything behind.

Isn’t it odd how something that has been in your life for so long can seem so "foreign" after a short period of time. I have redefined my world, or maybe found the definition of "my world" and now, I am preparing to return to "the other". What a challenge! The second part of my adventure to "live somewhere else, and do something different." I wonder what this segment holds for me?

For those of you who know me well, I have relinquished all "control" of my life right now, and I am "going with the flow". Believe it or not.

Friday, October 19, 2007


It is not so much our friends' help that helps us, as the confidence of their help. Epicurus

During my time in Cleveland this week, I was lucky to have Robert and Lisa there to help. Robert and Lisa had visited me recently in Florence, and we knew that I would be in Cleveland soon for interviewing. When the dates were scheduled, I let them know and they graciously offered their guest room. Not only that, but because I had lost my license this summer, they also "carted" me around like a child.

I am certain this was not so convenient for them, but am so thankful that they were willing to do this. First of all, I was having a lot of stress about transportation once I figured out I couldn’t rent a car without a physical license. In Florence, I don’t drive, so it had not been a huge ordeal not to have one. Of course, there was nothing so easy as on line drivers license replacement in Tennessee, so I was without. Lisa assured me they would transport me, and they did. This was not always an easy task with the schedule I was keeping.

Additionally, this was a tough week. Tough being away from Florence, back in the States getting ready to "re-enter" the workforce, and interviewing for some pretty big positions. An 18 hour flight and many interviews in 3 days is tough. Having Robert and Lisa to "come home to" really made things better. I can’t even imagine returning to a hotel room after all of that.

In the evenings, we visited a couple of their favorite wine bars, cooked a meal at home, and went out for dinner. Robert patiently listened to all of our "Progressive talk" and Lisa helped me so much think through and format my thoughts on a project plan for one of the interviews.

During this week, I am so thankful for what Lisa and Robert did for me. I also must say that the prior week while preparing for interviews, I called on so many co workers and friends for information and discussions about the interview process and content, that I cannot even begin to thank you all, but I will try. I was overwhelmed at the help that you offered and the time that you were willing to spend with me on the phone, or in writing. So, a huge heartfelt and overwhelmingly sentimental thank you to: Robert and Lisa Prisco, Rusty Beaty, Alysia Burns, Erika Bachrach, Eric Francis, Eric Gressman, Doug Gray, Kenny Teaster, Jim Ward, Matt Rohden, Ken Walker, Randy McChristian, Kevin Yoo, Connie Mang, and to all of you "well wishers" that sent me notes of encouragement: Linda Ruffolo, Matt Thornton, Michele Shotts, Cathy Dempsey, Greg Lacy, Nicole Rivera, and God help me....whoever else that I left off the list. I appreciate you all.


Inspiration is an odd thing that comes of it’s own accord. Since moving to Florence, I have had no problems thinking of things to write on my blog. My imagination is active and I wonder at all that is around me and want to share it and keep it forever in writing to remember. Of course, since I am not working, I have plenty of time to think in an abstract, philosophical way, and to ponder those thoughts in writing.

In "the other world" of working, social engagements, not so much architectural beauty, and art, and the "awe" is limited to "Oh boy, we are getting a Walmart!" Inspiration doesn’t come so easily for me.

I did find some sources of inspiration though, this week in the kindness of friends, the pride of motherhood, the support of parents, and the encouragement of co workers. I’ll share them here in the next few days.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Going Full Circle

The weather has been fabulous here and I have commented on it often. Now Autumn is here, and the rain, which was sorely lacking for 6-7 months has come. I am painting now, because of it, and that’s as it should be. I know what is out there in the city, and can be content in my apartment on a rainy day, listening to music, studying the language (piu e sempre), painting, and cooking a pot of soup.

It’s chilly and damp in the streets, the bone chilling dampness that was here when I arrived. In March, there were days that I just could not get warm. I layered my clothes, took hot baths, wrapped in blankets, but the concrete surrounding me, in my apartment (plaster and tiles) in the streets, (cobblestones and block palaces) seeped into my bones and joints.

I am welcoming it now as I wind up my days here. The crowds have lessened, the wind is chilled, the rain has come, the carousel on Piazza della Republica has returned from it’s summer at the beach, the harvest moon shines behind the Palazzo Vecchio and on Piazza della Signoria in a mystical way through the misty fog at night, and I still walk in wonder at the beauty around me.

I try not to be too nostalgic, sad, or melancholy as my time winds up. Who can believe all that I have seen, done, and experienced? What a gift I have given to myself. .

Monday, October 8, 2007

When Two Worlds Collide

This week, I won't be posting blogs, as I am returning to the USA for interviews. See you on the other side!

Cinque Terre Again...With Cathy

Cathy and I visited Cinque Terre. She had seen it on my blog early in the year, and thought it was beautiful, so we planned a trip. We left on Friday morning and took the 2 ½ hour train ride through Pisa and then on to La Spezia. We stayed in one of the small towns on the Italian Riviera. It was a beautiful little resort/fishing town with a bay and a medieval castle. We saw another beautiful sunset there.

The next morning, we went out on a boat which takes you to each of the 5 towns that make up Cinque Terre. I am happy to say that this time it was a little easier, although some of the trails are tough....but it is beautiful. The trails go between each of the 5 towns.

We managed to do ½ of the trails, but opted for the train to the last town when the trail got rough and consisted mainly of an olive grove. In the evening, we were exhausted, but found great seafood at the local restaurants. A nice and very different change from city life in Florence.

The Top of the Duomo

Well, I finally did it. I always wanted to, but when I got here, I was too fat and out of shape, and as that started to change through the summer, it was too hot. Lots of good excuses not to climb the 463 stairs to the top of the cupola in the Duomo.

When Cathy visited, it was something she really wanted to do, and I had agreed. Cathy’s brother, Chris, and his girlfriend Reagan, joined us. Other of my friends had done it without me, my excuses being listed above and I also added the claustrophobia factor as well.

We got up early one morning to be there at 8:30 a.m. when it opened. Cathy's brother Chris and his girlfriend Reagan came with us. This way, we avoided the crowds, and it was cooler. I think everyone was glad about that. We went right in and started to climb. The stairs are narrow and curvy, and get more narrow and like a cork screw the higher you get. I would have been very claustrophobic if it had been hot, and more people because on some parts of the narrow staircase, people are going up and down, and you have to pause in the concrete narrow corridor and let them pass.

Thankfully, and unexpectedly, there are a couple of "resting spots" on the way up. The first is a large portico that houses some of the sculptures that have been taken off the outside of the duomo for restoration, etc. You continue to climb, and then come to a railed balcony surrounded by plexiglass that gives you a view of the inside paintings of the dome. After climbing some more you come to a second balcony that is in the middle of the paintings, and the view is spectacular, as you can see all of the details

When you get to the top, the stairs are extremely steep, but the climb onto the roof, is worth it! There lies Florence at your feet and you are at the highest spot in the city. It was incredible and worth it!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Police In Designer Uniforms

Did you know the police in Florence, the "vigili urbani" wear designer uniforms? Check it out. These were designed by Pucci, and they have a host of accessories with jackets and sweaters, and they all look marvelous.

The officers must have to pass some "modeling" criteria to be suitable for their jobs, wouldn’t you say by looking at them? A man in uniform is one thing, but an Italian man in a Pucci designed one is "un’altra diverso cose!"

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Wine Harvest Parade

Cathy and I stumbled upon the beginnings of a parade near the Duomo, when we saw people in costume around flats loaded with bottles of wine. You know those bottles of wine attracted me like flies to a cow pile! We went over to take a look as they assembled the oxen to pull the carts, and the costumed people into lines for the parade.

I remember reading about the parade in a local paper, and it was to celebrate the harvest of the grapes in the Tuscan area. The people were in medieval costume, with flags and instruments. The parade went from the Duomo to Piazza della Signoria were the "maidens" on the back of the wine cart, sold wine to the people in the crowd.

They assembled the group, and the oxen were giving them a lot of trouble. They seemed agitated and angry, and two men walked beside them, pushing them in the right direction and warning people standing on the side lines to stand back. The parade commenced, and the costumes were beautiful.

Cathy and I got some photos in the beginning, and then I blazed a trail through the back roads to Piazza della Signoria to get a perfect seat at Rivoire, one of the oldest sidewalk cafes in Florence. We got a front row seat, ordered a drink and waited for the parade to come.
It finally came and there was a presentation and flag ceremony at the Palazzo Vecchio, and all of the wine was sold from the cart. This was Cathy’s first day here, so a nice welcome!