April 27, 2010

The Unforgettable First Time

So I introduced my boyfriend, who became my husband, to Italy. And he loved it, and we got engaged in Florence, travelled to Rome, visited my “Italian family” at their house in the countryside and all was good.

A year or two later, we’re back to Europe and it’s time to show him Venice-the city, the canals, all the Venetian glass and more Italian beauty. We had travelled extensively in those years, as we both worked in the travel industry at the time- we had been to other parts of Europe, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Kyoto. But nothing prepared him for seeing Venice for the first time.

My husband was a relatively sophisticated traveler even then, back in the mid-80’s. Maybe we’re all jaded now, and some people say that Venice has become a sort of Disneyland, but this was around 25 years ago….

Train travel was de rigueur for us in those days, and suitcases didn’t have wheels, or at least ours didn’t. So we get off the train, walk straight out of the station, and lo and behold, waddaya know- water! Well, you would have thought I was married to Gomer Pyle! Golleeeee. You know that delight when you see your toddler realize something for the first time? Well, I felt that same sensation seeing his face. Now he gets it; the lightbulb just went on. And it made me love him all the more.

Enjoy these photos of Venice, brought to you by my friend and fan Jodie!


April 21, 2010

Savoring Life

Italians relish their daily rituals and pleasures, and being around them gives us the freedom to do the same. The pleasure of feeding someone a home cooked meal- or of eating it- to be present in body and mind- are all qualities present in that delightful environment. All the mindfulness we endlessly hear about- it’s right there. While a lot has changed since I first started spending time in Italy, the essence remains.

Thirty years ago, I was a young student living with a family not far from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. My “Italian brother” Giorgio, who at 29 was still living at home, would come home every day for lunch, as did I. (And yes, of course I had a mad crush on him...) Mamma was always ready with a hot meal for all of us, pasta, meat, wine and all, finished off with fresh fruit which she dutifully peeled for her adored son. Try going back to work or school after that every day!

Fast forward to 2010, and mealtime, even a lunch during the workday downtown, is still sacred. Now, there are plenty of Italians who eat a quick panino at a bar- they certainly do. But it's way different than eating a burger out of paper bag. And there’s always a caffe’ to drink, albeit tiny, that must complete the meal, along with conversation with the barista and the other regulars.

I’ve got my favorite bar, Le Logge, right near the Straw Market, which at lunchtime turns into a restaurant, with tablecloths on the small round tables, hot pastas, full meals, and salads, ready for the 1PM rush, all served on lovely dinnerware. And all the local office and shop workers pile in, ready to be fed by the mammas of the 21st century. The pleasure is reciprocal!

If you spend time in Italy, you certainly notice the care taken in preparing your purchase- and maybe it makes you feel as if the shopkeeper’s job, to wrap your selection- be it an Italian bracelet or leather purse, or even your morning brioche- with flourish, care and attention, is the most important thing they have to do in that moment. And in fact it is.


April 15, 2010

The Light in the Piazza

“It’s something about the light.” That’s what I said to myself one afternoon as I stopped in my tracks in Piazza della Signoria. One day last May, as I was walking through the piazza, which of course I’ve done thousands of times, something very special caught my attention. The late afternoon spring light, so pure, clean, and soft, as it shone on the ground, in the air, over the people sitting at Cafe' Rivoire, and on the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio across the way, was transporting me to another level of awareness. I know it sounds crazy, but my senses, from head to toe, were heightened to a new place. Tears came over me, and I just stood, bursting with joy, marveling at the light in the piazza.

I had just come from a dizzying but exciting visit at Angela Caputi on Via Santo Spirito. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, Signora Caputi is an elegant Florentine woman, who has been designing high-end creative costume jewelry in Florence since the 1970’s. We love to import merchandise from her because each season, she manages to wow her beloved and loyal followers with colorful creations- necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pins- in a variety of styles and colors. And with Angela Caputi jewelry, there’s always something for everyone- whether your style is conservative or more edgy.

The art of choosing what to import from Italy for our website takes quite a bit of practice and a fair amount of confidence. I guess we just follow the light inside of us, helped along by the light in the city. Can’t go wrong with that.   

April 9, 2010

Returning to My Second Home

Many years ago, at about the age of 19, I fell in love with the city of Florence. Maybe you’ve heard that line before. But it’s really true. And it happens to the best of us. I don’t mean just with the gorgeous Italian men and women or the Botticelli paintings hanging in the Uffizi, or the italian leather handbags and creative fashion jewelry that are displayed so beautifully. What I mean is the whole package.

Life abounds on those cobblestone streets. Architecture, sculpture, centuries of creativity, beauty on so many levels is everywhere. Florence is a sophisticated city but has a very comfortable small-town feel at the same time. Maybe it’s that combination which adds to the allure. Early mornings, caf├ęs are full of regulars standing at the bar, in their usual spots having their caffe’. And you’re sure to see them stopping in later on for a little panino or aperitivo. It’s the place where everyone knows your name.

Buying merchandise in Florence for Serena Italian Imports gives me the opportunity, each time I return, to relive my youth in a way. I walk down the same streets, return to my favorite corners, see old friends, and depending upon the season, eat my favorite treats- like lightly fried zucchini blossoms, a bursting persimmon or a few tiny plums. It’s true, maybe the young men on the street don’t notice me quite as much as when I was a tad younger, but I’ve got my memories!

Let all of us at Serena Italian Imports bring the best of Florence and Italy to you! We can bring you the charm and the spirit of this romantic place in personally chosen objects you will treasure.

A presto,