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lunedì 27 gennaio 2014

EATALY opens in Florence



 by Louisa Loring


It seems as if Eataly shops are opening left and right all over the world with recent openings in Chicago, Dubai and Istanbul.  Thus, it is no surprise that Florence was next on the list.  Florence is geographically a particular city in the sense that all you need do is drive five minutes outside the city to be surrounded by various farms and woods, making it a perfect location to support local agriculture.  On December 17, Eataly Firenze opened in Via Martelli to the public with an inauguration by non other than the mayor, Matteo Renzi.  Every time, the franchise seems to be getting more creative by creating a new twist. This particular location, Eataly Firenze, themed and inspired by the Renaissance, will be offering shoppers audio guides which will tell stories about how Florence came to be home of the Renaissance through its people. 

If you have ever been to an Eataly before, this one is no different with various restaurants nuzzled in various corners of a gourmet grocery store that prizes itself on supporting Slow Food products and local produce.  Eataly Firenze has partnered with the farm Azienda Agricola Radici to bring local, organic produce to the store. There are eight different eating areas, pizza, open just for dinner and fish, meat and pasta, all open for lunch and dinner, amongst others.  If that doesn’t give you enough choice, you can warm up with a bowl of soup at the casual restaurant Le Verdure e Le Zuppe, run by two brothers from the Trattoria Da Burde where you can find traditional Tuscan soups such a ribollita.  Never tried Lamprodotto, the traditional Florentine sandwhich? This might be the time with Luca Cai who is serving up one after another.  If you are looking for something a little less casual, you can dine at the restaurant Da Vinci, run by chef Enrico Panero, which opened just days ago on the top floor where you can find also the enoteca to enjoy a glass of wine with light fare such as crostini or various cured meats.  To top things off, if you saved room for desert there is a bakery and coffee bar.

Although the space might be small, it is not lacking in excitement and choice. Whether you came to pick up your organic olive oil, artisanal cheese, grab a slice of pizza, or spend a full afternoon shopping, nibbling and listening to the audio guide, you will not leave hungry nor dissatisfied.


 
 

venerdì 24 gennaio 2014

Istituto Europeo visits Palazzo Coppini, International Meeting and Study Center


by Louisa Loring


Palazzo Coppini, home to the Fondazione Romualdo Del BiancoLife Beyond Tourism, is more than a center for cultural exchange and workshops but also, a testimony to Florence’s stamp on architecture throughout the ages.  This Palazzo is the perfect place to get hands-on experience and see true examples of various architectural periods in Florence outside the classroom.  This week, Istituto Europeo visited Palazzo Coppini with a group of architecture students for a guided tour to experience just one of Florence’s many testimonies of artistic and cultural change.

The palazzo is rich with structural and decorative elements of both the Medieval and Renaissance period in Florence, making it of specific interest.  In touring the Palazzo, it became clear the many aspects that make this place particular such as the tower remaining from the medieval period before it was cut short in accordance with the 1250 law stating that no tower may top the highest point of any government building.  The palazzo was later restructured during the Renaissance time, which can be noted in the helical stone staircase, and the fountain marked by the Mannerist ‘Grotesque’ style.  Palazzo Coppini proves to be rich in various elements, testifying to the changes in Florentine architecture throughout the centuries for our students to study hands on while in Florence. 

Today, the palazzo has opened its doors to universities and institutions from all over the world, such as ourselves, to promote exchange between different cultures.  The Foundation, which was created after the fall of the Berlin Wall to encourage communication and conviviality, aims to promote cultural dialogue by inviting institutions, organizations, associations and businesses to make Palazzo Coppini home to events and various workshops, proposed and executed by students.  Throughout the years, the Foundation has successfully created a network of over 500 institutions in over 76 countries.  Through these various workshops and events, the Foundation helps to create and maintain mutual respect in the world while highlighting the differences in cultures that are slowly disappearing due to the ‘melting pot’ phenomenon while emphasizing the idea of coming together, learning, and working together to form new ideas and learn new things.


In fact, tradition has been shaped to illustrate these cultural differences amongst us in the form of a small museum which Palazzo Coppini houses. To them, this museum is a museum of friendship as it reflects the relationships between Italy and other countries. By tradition, everyone who comes to the palazzo brings a gift from their country that represents a part of them, whether it is a book, or tea set or a fine liquor. In this way, each room is beautifully decorated with treasures from all over the world, including over 600 books, all testimonies to this leading effort in cultural integration at Palazzo Coppini.

 
 

giovedì 23 gennaio 2014

Ethics and Beauty in Florentine restaurants - Our suggestion today: ZIBIBBO FIRENZE



Nicola Di Leo, chef at Zibibbo


Interview by Fabrizio Ulivieri 
Translated by Louisa Loring



I would like to start by knowing a little bit about Zibibbo's Chef, Nicola Di Leo.

I come from the deep south originally but I lived in other areas such as Bologna for years.  I haven’t followed the traditional culinary path as far as training.  I graduated from classical high school and then went on to graduate in law in Bologna, where I lived for six years and worked different culinary jobs to support myself while in school.  After that, I moved to Florence where I started working seriously in food service, having decided I didn’t want to use my law degree.  I worked in several different restaurants, including the Gucci restaurant in Piazza Signoria, but didn’t find many opportunities for growth.

In talking to not only you but also, other chefs, it is clear that a real chef is born from real experience and not necessarily a traditional form of training.

Yes, indeed.  In fact, some of my past coworkers who graduated from Buontalenti, the culinary and hotel management school here in Florence, are of course, greatly talented, however, they didn’t shine or excel beyond expectations.

So you came to cooking practically by nature.  Where does this natural relationship come from?

For the love and passion of eating.  As my friend Peter says, you are from southern Italy, of course you love and know how to cook.  And there is this sort of ritual around food in the south, even too much maybe (laughs). Growing up, it was almost a challenge between my brother and I to try and help our mother out by cooking for everyone. 

What type of cuisine do you find at Zibibbo? What are your goals as a restaurant and what kind of clients do you cater to?

Here at Zibibbo we stray away from the traditional Tuscan cuisine and do other things such as livers, pasta al cacio e pepe, which we have renamed after the specific cheese we use, but there are also international dishes that you would typically find overseas such as foie gras and fish prepared in various ways.  Our goal is to cook for "medium-high level clients". We don’t want to be unreachable to most people but neither put ourselves in competition with the average type of restaurants here in town because unfortunately, it is very touristy.  Thus, we try to rediscover tradition and innovate by offering plates that you can’t find in other restaurants.  Our main rule of thumb is to make the most possible by hand in the restaurant.  For example, we don’t use any type of pre-made pasta, except spaghetti; everything is made from scratch. 

You talk about innovation.  What pushes and inspires you to go outside the box?

First of all, we always try to satisfy the public desire.  Luckily, here, I have the chance to experiment and maybe serve something that is risky.  We have, for example, various deserts like tarte tatin that was made for the first time with pears that gives a sort of sweet and sour taste that everyone might not like.  Or we have something called ‘fried custard’ which is absolutely an unknown.  Innovation is also rooted in rediscovering those dishes that were once considered ‘poor dishes’ that are often discredited in high cuisine but can actually be validated by giving them a new spin and reintroducing them.  Italy is so rich in its different regions and thus, there is such an array of dishes.  Even at fourteen kilometers away from the town where that dish was born, it becomes foreign.  We also go around to different festivals where we look to make these dishes known by bringing them to a bigger public here at Zibibbo. 

What is your relationship between culinary trends and your vision? Who do you look to for inspiration?

Sincerely, I believe we have made pornography out of food.  What I mean is that it has become a bit too trendy.  Looking at TV series, you see these shows in which chefs are trying to complicate things as simple as buttered pasta.  A simple plate, though, if done correctly, is unbeatable. Obviously, the presentation is important; it is something we like and we try to include.  The Chef Alessandro Borghese, who has a program on RealTime, Cucina con Ale, represents me well.  He travels around Italy collecting recipes from small, old townswomen and brings them back, making them accessible to everyone.  That is exactly what I admire: making things accessible. When you arrive at levels too much psychological, you loose the true sense of the food.

Yes, in fact, they say that if you want to test a famous chef, make them create a simple dish like pasta with tomato sauce.  It is very hard to make well because the simplest things truly are the hardest to make.

I have had the unfortunate chances to work with people who, when presented with the challenge to cook a simple dish for the family with a baby, he or she can’t manage to create it well because they have never really learned the basics but have been overly trained in those more sophisticated dishes.

What is the hardest aspect of your line of work?

The most difficult aspect is to maintain lucidity and awareness.  You spend many hours in the kitchen and one thing that is very important and difficult to maintain, is to keep passion alive.  The most important thing is to always be enthusiastic about what you are doing.

From what I know, one of the hardest things is to form a team. In your opinion, how can you form a good team?

After having a group of people, the most important thing is for the leader to understand the potential in each person. He needs to try to push them to arrive at their maximum potential without having to ask above and beyond.  At that point, it is his job to help them grow and make each member feel a part of a greater whole.  By making the line cooks feel like what they are doing is just as important as the work of the su or master chef, it creates the feeling of indispensability and of harmony, which comes through in the dishes. 

What are the difficulties and delights of working in Florence? How can this be helpful or how can it complicate things?

I adore Florence; it has given me everything.  I think it is a luxury to work in Florence and every chef has a dream to work here because of the beauty in just arriving to work in your bike, as I do.  The hard part is the masses of people, which, however, keep this city alive even in hard economic times.  There are pros and cons, like with everything but there are so many pros in this case that it would be the best if we could learn to infiltrate these tourists with the Florentine culture. 

Finally, do you have a piece of advice for someone who wants to enter into this line of work?

I would advice to start working seriously as soon as possible. Be humble and don’t become stuck in any role or job.  Be conscious of your capacity and believe in yourself.  Always try and obtain a goal and express yourself. 

Alessandra, head hostess and waitress at Zibibbo
A good restaurant is indeed made up of a team, including those outside the kitchen. Everyone works together to make this restaurant and so Alessandra, the head hostess and waitress volunteered to speak with us also.

What is the most challenging and best aspect of this type of work?

We aim to make our patrons feel as if they were at home, which means making them feel welcome by introducing them to new things and making them feel comfortable by being disposable to them.  The most challenging aspect is to find the balance between being friendly and allowing people their privacy and comfort.

What must you have to do this work? What do you do to prepare your employees to be successful?

Communication is key.  Communicating with the clients and showing that you believe in the food and restaurant you work for makes a huge different.  If you believe in it, they will believe in it too.  It is also important that all our employees understand how dishes are made and what they taste like so they can better guide our patrons and help them choose a dish that they will like even if they have dietary restrictions.  In this way, we can communicate better what our food is all about, including information about where ingredients come from, what the process is and what the end result is.

What is the main distinction between the two main types of clients that come here, intending tourists and locals?

With tourists, they eat here because they know they are looking for this specific kind of food and service. It is unlikely that he or she will leave feeling unsatisfied because they came with a certain expectation that was met. With locals, they come based on word of mouth or suggestion and it is natural that not everyone can like the same thing. In this case, some people may not be satisfied because they don’t understand our philosophy or our mission.

lunedì 20 gennaio 2014

Carnival 2014: A Fairy Tale Carnival of Wonder and Fantasy



by Louisa Loring



By now Venice’s annual Carnival festival is no mystery; its name alone evokes images of colorful masks and crowded piazzas.  It is now so popular that people, tourists or not, flock from all over to get a glimpse of the luring masks and tantalizing shows and parades.  Other towns even have their own carnivals nowadays so everyone can take part in this beloved celebration. This year it starts on February 15th and ends on March 4th, Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday to mark the start of Lent.  In fact, the name Carnival means “farewell to meat” as it marks this Christian celebration in which followers commit to some form of fasting or giving something up. 

Carnival is a tradition that has been taking place for centuries, starting in the 11th century.  Historically, this was a time when people of all classes took part in the festivities, including, parades, music and various shows, disguised in masks and costumes, often characters from the 16th century theater genre known as the ‘Commedia dell’arte’.  Today, this is still the case but it is clear the masks and costumes and developed and transformed to catch up with the 21st century.  There are two main types of masks that people wear, the bauta, heavily gilded and covers the entire face or the columbina, a half mask that covers the eyes, nose and upper half of the face, secured with a ribbon.  Both those who are part of the parades and shows and those who come to marvel have the chance to disguise their true identity for a day.  As a spectator, you can purchase a mask prior to coming or at one of the many shops that sell a variety of masks from the more simpler columbina to a highly elaborate mask made by one of the venetian artisans who have been passing down this craft for hundreds of years.

Carnival in St. Mark's Square, Venice
Each year the carnival prizes itself on a different theme or idea to bring everyone together.  To celebrate the growing interrelations between different cultures, this year’s carnival is themed upon wonder and fantasy. The theme is rooted in the idea that every culture has its own expression, through fantasy and fairytales, of life. Often, these tales express the relationships between the environment and humans through images of mystical creatures and landscapes speckled with mankind.  These fairytales have historically been a way to also answer the big question of the origin of life.  Thus, masks will be inspired and designed by traditional fairytales and short stories of all cultures from western to African, Arabian, Mongolian, Indian and Mesoamerican in the hopes to inspire us to rediscover the importance and symbology of fantasy.  And there certainly isn’t a better city that Venice to act as a stage with all its magical and mysterious corners, bridges and piazzas. 

It is no surprise that the St. Mark’s square is the focal point of the carnival.  No matter which day you go, you won’t miss the showing of the best dressed as people march in two morning and afternoon parades to battle for the ‘Best Masked Costume’ contest.  Of course, the winners will be selected based upon their dedication to wonder and fantasy.   Amongst these parades there will be various entertainment, clowning and street theatre to liven up the piazza and keep you coming for more by involving the spectators.  Every parade is different as performers and street acts are always new and exciting, evoking smiles, laughter and the chance to take part in the show.  If you aren’t able to make it in the morning, it is never too late because there is never a lull in the entertainment during these weeks.  Every day during lunchtime between 1pm and 3pm there will be music and dance performances inspired by various cultural traditions. 

Carnival in Venice is not just a time for entertainment but also, a time for new art that communicates ideas and traditions from various cultures.  Every year, cultural projects including literature, photo, poetry, film and performance art will be submitted and judged based on their relevance to this years theme. At the end of the festival, these works will be published as texts.   

Frappe
It is also a time for sweets and treats.  Every region of Italy has its own name and tradition to celebrate carnival through taste and smell.  The best known are ‘frittelle’ and ‘frappe’, both types of fried dough.  Frittelle are softer inside and sometimes flavored with lemon or apple while frappe are thin, crisp pieces of dough dusted with powdered sugar.  You won’t be able to resist the smells wafting from bakeries in every ally.   But not to worry if you are too absorbed with the entertainment to taste because you can easily find them all over, no matter where you are in Italy.   

Carnival is something that everyone can take part in, whether you want to make it a day trip or stay overnight.  You can either stay in the city or stay close by and come in for a couple of days.  You can visit the official site here to book tickets, find suggestions and a program of events.

2014 Venice Carnival highlights:
Friday 14th February: Prologue, Valentine’s Day
Saturday 15th February: Opening of the Venetian Festival with a show, Cannaregio
Sunday 16th February: Boat pageant – Grand Canal – Cannaregio
Saturday 22nd February: The traditional "Festa delle Marie"
Sunday 23rd February: Flight of the Angel
Saturday 1st March: Float parade, Marghera
Sunday 2nd March: Flight of the Eagle and Flight of the Donkey, Mestre
Tuesday 4th March: Flight of the Lion and Prize Giving Ceremony for the "Maria" of the Carnival 2014
From 22nd February to 4th March: Best Masked Costume contest 



 
 


giovedì 16 gennaio 2014

ISTITUTO EUROPEO INTERNS: Louisa Loring


Louisa
by Louisa Loring



I first fell in love with Italy when I came here to work on an organic farm in 2010. I had wanted to learn the language ever since I was young and with a passion for environment health and safety, I also wanted to learn about sustainable ways to grow and cultivate organic produce. After having spent almost three months in Umbria while traveling around the whole of Italy, I knew this was what I wanted to concentrate my studies on in College.

While studying, I spent my junior year abroad in Florence with Smith College and after graduating in Italian Language and Literature, I decided that I wanted to come back and live in Italy. I was taken by the art and beauty the city and all it has to offer, from its food, to its pace of life to its diversity. I love the Italian culture and to speak Italian so I have moved back to find my path here. While studying various subjects such as sustainability, translation, art and education, I worked as a teacher’s assistant and as in world of fiber arts, which has lead me to pursue a career in helping to facilitate between children, art and learning.

In the meantime, I have been working and living between Florence and Camporsevoli since May 2013. I am currently working for the Istituto Europeo in Florence, researching and writing for their blog which has allowed me to see Florence through a different lens, as a writer and as a young women who wants to make others fall in love with Florence as much as I have by writing about what all the city has to offer while keeping up with Italian current events and news.



 
 

venerdì 10 gennaio 2014

ISTITUTO EUROPEO Bloggers: Olga Lenczewska


I come from Poland and am currently studying Philosophy and Italian at the University of Oxford in the UK. I will spend the next year in Italy as a year abroad which is compulsory for linguists at Oxford. My academic interests include the contemporary Italian literature, literary translation, aesthetics and epistemology. Outside of the academia I like to dance, play the flute, sing, and - above all - travel, documenting my adventures through the lens. When I go abroad - no matter for how long - I consider it not only a chance to see new places, but above all an opportunity to learn new ways of living, understand other cultural heritages, and become a wiser person. I am glad Istituto Europeo gave me the chance to write short articles on various literary, philosophical, and cultural aspects that interest me most, sharing them thus with the world.

giovedì 9 gennaio 2014

ROCK ME PITTI: the 85th edition of Pitti Imamgine Uomo in Florence


via pittimmagine.com

by Ilaria Gelichi



Until January the 10th fashion fans in Florence cannot miss the 85th edition of the fashion fair Pitti Immagine Uomo. Created in 1972, the fair is held in Florence twice a year, in January and June. Rock me Pitti is the soundtrack of the event, which gathers trend setters, bloggers and fashion experts from all over the world.

Music is mixed with fashion at the Fortezza da Basso, location of the event: classic, swing, jazz, pop, rock, electronic, house – every kind of music for the nearly 30,000 people who will participate at the fair. Many guests will be present at the prestigious kermesse: the chef Bruno Barbieri and Carlo Cracco, the musician Morgan and other Italian VIPs such as the art critic Vittorio Sgarbi and the showgirl Cristina Chiabotto.

WHERE: Fortezza da Basso, Florence
WHEN: January 7th-10th 2014
INFO: http://www.pittimmagine.com/en/corporate/fairs/uomo.html



mercoledì 8 gennaio 2014

JANUARY 2014 at ISTITUTO EUROPEO: Schedule of Activities



SCHEDULE OF ACTIVITIES OF
January 2014 (January 7th 31st)
 

Mon  6                         NATIONAL HOLIDAY
Tue   7    9:00 am       Written and oral placement test
               7:00 pm       Welcome dinner € 30 
Wed  8    2:00 pm       Presentation about cultural activities in Florence in January
Thu   9    2:30 pm       Movie: “Il postino” by M. Radford
Fri     10  7:00 pm       Dinner in trattoria € 30
Sat    11  TBA              Day trip to Siena - TBA
Sun   12                     Free time

Mon  13  1:30 pm       The Director meets the students of Istituto Europeo
Tue   14  3:00 pm       Visit to a Florentine workshop: Lastrucci’s mosaics
Wed  15  12:30 pm     Lunch (typical tastings of Tuscan cuisine) € 20
Thu   16  2:30 pm       Movie: “Terraferma” by E. Crialese
Fri     17  7:00 pm       Dinner in trattoria € 30
Sat    18                      Free time
Sun   19                      Free time

Mon  20  2:00 pm      Visit to Alinari Museum € 9
Tue   21  2:00 pm      Conference: “Dante and his Time
Wed  22 12:30 pm      Lunch (typical tastings of Tuscan cuisine) € 20
Thu   23  2:30 pm      Movie: “Non pensarci” by G. Zanasi
Fri     24  7:00 pm      Dinner in trattoria30
Sat    25                      Free time
Dom  26                      Free time

Mon  27  3:00 pm      Visit to Ferragamo Museum € 5
Tue   28  2:30 pm      Movie: “Io non ho paura” by G. Salvatores
Wed  29                      Free time
Thu   30 5:00 pm       Concert provided by the artists of Istituto Europeo
               7:00 pm       Farewell dinner € 30
Fri        31  12:30 pm   Farewell party. Awarding of attendance certificates/diplomas