Thursday, December 15, 2016

Free Museums in NYC - Museum of Modern Art and Robert (the restaurant)

Many know this, but for those who don't, the Museum of Modern Art - MOMA located at 11 West 53rd Street in Manhattan is free on Friday nights from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. But for New Yorkers, if you apply for your NYCidcard this museum, as well as many others in town - is free all the time for one year after you receive your id card. Plus you get discounts on Broadway shows, sporting events and even movies!

Enjoying a quick visit to some of the current exhibits as well as their permanent collection with my friend Bud, it was great to see the works of Jackson Pollock . . .

 . . . Henri Matisse . . . 

. . . as well as some lesser known but brilliant artists. We stumbled upon Florine Stettheimer.

Family Portrait, II by Florine Stettheimer

Whimsical and almost childlike, her paintings are very exciting to see up close. There are hidden clues as to the idiosyncrasies of each character she paints. Her works reminded use of the Russian painter and costume designer, Leon Bakst. She was also a poet, and set and costume designer.
Stettheimer costume design
From 1915 to 1935, Florine, with the help of her sisters, ran a literary and artists salon. Gertrude Stein was welcomed as well as modernist artists which included Georgia O'Keeffe. It must have been an exciting time to be an artist then!

DIZZY NOTE: With the hoards of people and the design of the museum itself, my vestibular symptoms as well as vertigo were starting to throw me off.

So off we went to Robert. Located at 2 Columbus Circle on the top floor of the Museum of Arts and Design building.

This restaurant has a fantastic view of the circle and Central Park beyond. If planning on having dinner, be clear to specify that you'd like a table up against the window. 

If just having cocktails there is a lounge just a few rows back behind the diners, but you'll still have a good view.

We just opted for drinks but I'm eager to go back and have dinner, as well as spend some time in the Museum of Arts and Design.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Wrap up of One Glorious Week in Florence, Italy, Part - 3

Watercolor of me with the Ponte Vecchio in the background

Back in the States, I just watched the film A Room With A View, Again. And what is amazing is that they could get as much of the master shots in as possible. For example: like the Piazza Della Signoria. Somehow they were able to keep at bay the tourists and maintain the period look of the film. And they kept their wide shots tight enough not to show any of the restaurants or caffes that surround the square.

(NOTE: We totally loved our Airbnb but if hotels are more your style, check out the #1 rated hotel in Florence on Tripadvisor, the Hotel David.)

 Yours truly in front of the Palazza Vecchio, the Fountain of Neptune and the Loggia dei Lanzi

That being said, the movie transported me right back to Florence. Butterflies in my stomach (in a good way.) But stepping beyond the usual points of attraction and exploring the city with our firenzecard (entrance to 72 museums for 72 Euros within 72 hours) we literally bumped into museum showings and cultural events that we didn't even know about. Palazzo Strozzi clebrating the controversial Chinese artist Ai WeiWei we chanced upon the beautiful Museo Novecento - very modern!

Ai Weiwei

The very modern Nove Cento Museum was extremely eclectic . . .


. . . but outside of  the Palazzo Stozzi was the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. So peaceful, so open and at the far end is the Santa Maria Novella Church.

Piazza Santa Maria Novella
Santa Maria Novella in the background
It was such a calming escape from the touristy chaos of Florence's historic center. But inside this gorgeous church hangs probably one of the most priceless art treasures - Giotto's Crucifix done in the 1320s.

It's just hanging there for you to admire. It's truly remarkable!

Later in the day, my travel partner Bud and I met up with our Venetian friend, Francesca Marucci.

She was so generous to spend time with us. Francesca walked us over to the Il Mercato Centrale, a very classy but casual giant food court with all types of food and wine bars. They even have cooking classes. There's live music and artisan shops...kind of a cross betgween NYC's Chelsea Market combined with Barcelona's La BoquerĂ­a.

No matter what city you visit, if you can connect with a local, you will discover an entirely new perspective to where ever you are visiting.

Thank you Francesca . . .

. . . and thank you Florence!

Love this "twig" giraffe sitting on the banks of the Arno.
Bud and I had discussed how low the level of the Arno was and then less than a week after we left, the river flooded.

Be safe Florence - hope to see you again, soon!


Friday, November 11, 2016

Florence, Italy 2016 Part 2

Located in the historic center of Florence is The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

The first church to occupy this footprint was the Episcopal Church of Florence in 394. Eventually the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was constructed in 1416. And to this day it is still one of the most awe-inspiring designs you'll see in in the world. It's massive!

Giotto designed the bell tower.

Giotto's Bell Tower

And Filippo Brunelleschi, one of the founding fathers of the Renaissance, was the architect for the Cathedral's amazing dome. As you can see, there are people up on the very top. You can climb a steep and narrow staircase, if you want to experience the amazing view.

Inside and looking up to the dome, is Vasari's fresco, which was begun in 1568 and completed by Federico Zuccari in 1579.

And here is the octagonal Baptistry of Saint John.

The baptistry to the left, the Cathedral center and beyond and the bell tower on the right.

There's also the Crypt to visit inside the Cathedral, which has been transformed disappointingly into their gift shop. The entire complex sits in the middle of the Piazza del Duomo, a very lively and crowded square bordered by scores of restaurants, caffes and souvenir shops. I could spend pages on the history of these structures and the brilliant artists who created them in this UNESCO World Heritage site - but let's move on.

NOTE: Regarding visiting museums...My travel partner, Bud, and I opted for the Firenzecard. Purchased in the Palazzo Vecchio located in the Piazza Signoria, the card offers entrance into 72 different museums around town for 72 euros during a 72 hour period of time. This was truly worth it. Of course we didn't hit 72 museums but it did allow us to skip the long lines, for example at the Uffizi Gallery.

The "U" shaped Uffiz
As sometimes happens, exhibits are temporarily closed. I specifically was hoping to see Botticelli's works, The Birth of Venus . . .

The Birth of Venus

and his Allegory of Spring La Primavera . . .

Allegory of Spring La Primavera

  . . . but alas, his room was closed. Like other large museums, pick and choose what you are interested in. It's overwhelming to try to see everything. Time for a quick lunch. We discovered a restaurant one street over from the Piazza della Repubblica that drew us in, La Posto - Via dei Lamberti 20. Surprisingly, they don't have a website but if visiting please try to visit it. I wanted to go back but there were so many more places to discover. It's charming, off the beaten path and the outdoor seating is quiet and romantic. 

La Posto

I was already exhausted from site-seeing and feeling a bit jet-lagged.

But this lunch totally revived my spirits and energy! As an appetizer we ordered their burrato buffalo e bruschetta.

Oh. My. God. I've had this simple dish so many times in different cities and restaurants and even at home BUT this was hands down, the best. The crostini was such a flavorful toasted Tuscan bread topped with cherry tomatoes. There was obviously olive oil but I think it was the salt that made the dish sing. It made my eyes roll back into my head! The buffalo mozzarella exploded luxuriously and of course the basil.  I almost ordered it a second time instead of having an entree, that's how awesome it was.

But I did order a terrific fresh taglierini with Parmesan, prosciutto, and sausage and Bud, had a wonderfully light risotto with asparagus.

I'm still dreaming about that crostini! *drooling*

Stomachs full, we marched our way back over the Ponte Vecchio . . .

. . . and it was a short walk over to the Palazzo Pitti, also known as the Pitti Palace.

On the outside it's not the prettiest palace in the kingdom but inside and it's quite astounding. Again, our Firenzecard give us quick admission passing any lines of people. Like the Uffizi, this museum is gargantuan, so choose the rooms you decide to view wisely. Amongst the former living quarters of the Medici family is a treasure  house of priceless paintings, jewelry, furniture and statues.

Just a couple of remarkable pieces of artwork are Raphael's Madonna and child - two versions! I was surprised that these famous paintings were just casually placed within the palace living quarters.

There's also an amazing Costume Gallery within the Pitti Palace. Established in 1983 it's the only National Museum of Italy exclusively dedicated to the history of fashion. It houses not only garments worn by the Medici's back in the 16th century but it travels all the way up to the present. Very extensive!


Currently there's an exhibit featuring Karl Lagerfeld, (not featured), which in my opinion was "meh" compared to the permanent collection.

Behind the Pitti Palace are the Boboli Gardens. Designed as a formal 16th century garden by the Medici's it's massive in scale and reaches up to the top of a steep hill, offering amazing views of the city.
Looking down towards the back of the Pitti Palace, half-way up the gardens.

At the very top of Boboli Gardens is the porcelain house.

The porcelain house.
There's a stunning collection of pieces . . .

. . . including an amazing portrait done of Napoleon. In the late 1700s Napoleon took over the palace as his strategic headquarters.

Strolling through the gardens was a well needed escape from the hoards of tourists down in the historic center of Florence.

I should have stood next to this sculpture - it was enormous!
Bud at the base of the gardens.

One of several grottos.
After a long day it was time to head back to Claudia's Airbnb for a relaxing glass of wine while we pondered where to have dinner that night.

(NOTE: If Airbnbs or VRBOs are not your cup of tea and prefer hotels, check out the amazing castle-like Torre Guelfa Hotel.)

  Buon pomeriggio!