Florence, Italy–Naked David in The Land of Shoes

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Some cities scream at you. Others whisper.
Florence is a city of understatement. Its distinctive design is barely noticeable. But you can’t help feeling the seduction of the soft buttery soft colors of each building, that is quietly projecting a powerful presence.

It’s a place of old money. And old Italian guys sitting in the park talking about politics.

A storm was rolling in right when we arrived, which means we need to buy an umbrella from one of the Ethiopian dudes that materialize in your face when the first few drops start falling. They’re masters of umbrella hustling. The guys selling cheesy paper art reproductions on the street aren’t too bright. If this was their career choice, they might be better off selling water bottles.

The first day in Florence is trying to figure out the maze of skinny circular streets that all seem to lead to an enormous church or a gelato shop. In the rain, we were hunting down the Dan Lorenzo Market where they sell everything on the planet from squid to leather bags. So far, after a week in Italy with no particular agenda, I’m realizing that I’m guided more by vacation gods than maps.

After circling I don’t know how many churches and gelato stands and umbrella hustlers, We finally found the central market with only 15 minutes left till closing time. One thing Ill say about Europeans, is that they live a much healthier lifestyle than us workaholic Americans.

Every day, everything closes down from 2:00 to 4:30 pm. Can you imagine what your life would be like if you had a 2 1-2 hour lunch break? Most people have 30 minutes to inhale a sandwich at their desk. No wonder American have digestive problems that range from heartburn, to weight issues to fatigue and depression. All of that originates with having not enough time to eat and digest. Trust me, I’m an expert in the field.

At the Central Market, we bought an eggplant parmesan take out order from the deli…and OMIGOD…it was the smoothest most flavorful eggplant parm I ever tasted. Like the city itself, textures, flavors, colors, fabrics, sound and smells are soft and whispering, yet penetrating to the core.Every time you take a taste or.a bite pf something, you have to pause, and really experience it.

No inhaling, rushing or harshness here. I’m sold on 2 1/2 hour mid day breaks. When I get home, I’ll try setting up my work schedule like that to see what happens. Sometimes you can’t a left shoe on a right foot. But if the USA really needs change, the real change has to be created
by business owners and the people themselves.

if you’re shoe obsessed like I am..or even just fascinated by a guy who can get away with selling a pair of shoes for $700, then you’ll want to wander through the Salvatorre Faragamo museum, created inside the  EMPIRE that’s inside a 12th century castle by the Arno River.

Note: The Salvatorre Faragamo Castle is a place of worship. It’s where you go to worship SHOES. So I got down on my knees and prayed to some amazing shoe styles. Some of the famous ones designed for celebrities them are pictures here in this blog!

Next we go on a road trip to Chianti to taste wine and get lost on squiggly windy country roads in Tuscany. One more time, I pray to the shoe gods for a magic pair of hiking boots!

Supermarket Shenanigans in Venice, Boats and Baccala!

Murano, Veneto, Italy

handmade-glass-flowers

Nobody can take a bad picture in Venice. The entire city is ornate. It’s sculpted from granite and stone–and it rises out of an ocean of what looks like olive colored jello just before it solidifies. It’s a dance of saints and sea nymphs and a stillness that feels a little bit like forever.

After I ogled a shit load of 15th Century cribs and hand made glass art in Murano, I snapped so many great shots I felt like an important paparazzi.

Amazingly, in Venice…you can’t even take a bad photo in the Supermarket. My Mom and I snapped away at Venetian food and cleaning supplies (the deli and toilet paper isle is always crowded) and for the remainder of our time in Venice…we were the SHOP-A-RAZZI. What do Venetians eat? What do they use for cleaning supplies? Do their kids go bonkers in the cereal isle like ours do? Will I hear kids begging for Count Chocula in Italian? We had to find out what life in the supermarket was like. I’ve seen enough Churches and Byzantine art…and after a while it all looks the same. But what do people throw in their shopping baskets in Venice?

I hope you Enjoy my Shop-a-razzi photos. I’ve added some comments on the photos to give you a sense of Venice under flourescent lights and shelves stocked with the stuff of modern life.

My next blog takes place in Florence, where artists, writers and musicians hung out. It’s where Galileo boldly told everyone the world is round. He had the nerve to say, “Yeah, the world is round–you retards!”  Stay tuned!!!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Am I Tripping on Ancient Acid–or am I in Venice??

Ballò di Mirano, VE, Italy

grand canal venice

For all of Milan’s sexy, sleek designs and velvety color pallets, the eyeball experience in Venice is the opposite. Venice is Hallucinatory. I don’t’ know of any place where the roads are made of liquid. I’m only familiar with asphalt.

But even before I arrived in Venice, trying to find it by taking 3 different trains was like living in a parallel universe. The announcements are vague and in italian, and by the time I master the extreme learning curve of figuring out what the fuck train I have to switch to on what the fuck track–I have a freaky, floaty, trippy feeling that makes me panic a little. I know, it sounds like simple train station stuff. If it was any other county, the information would be understandably organized, so when you look at a map, at least you can find the “you are here” box and figure out where the hell that is.

Honestly, I LOVE trains. I love trains so much I take trains to work. I take them all over Los Angeles and I don’t even own a car. But today, leaving Milan, I found myself praying to Saint Hertz to please send me a car. Any car. Just so I could tell the GPS where I’m going and it would tell me exactly how to get there.

In Italy, when you ask a PERSON for directions, the universal reply is, “I don’t know.” No matter how bad their english is, every Italian can say ‘I don’t know”.

But since this is Italy, even a GPS would say “I don’t know” .

Hunting down a public restroom can be more disorienting than finding your train. When you have to pee really bad, It feels like a scavenger hunt on Mars.At the Cadorna station in Milan, I found a ” WC” merged with a hairdresser, Apparently both are of equal of importance. (Either Italians won’t pee without styling thier hair..or they won’t style their hair without peeing) In Padova (en route to Venice) the restroom was barracaded by moving glass wall and a guard who looked like a night club bouncer. You couldnt go through the glass wall without putting;80 euros in the meter, and feeling slightly afraid of the bathroom bouncer. Using the restroom cost almost as much as the cost of the train from Padova to Dolo, where we would be renting a guest room at a stranger’s apartment. Renting people’s extra bedrooms while we travel saves money , so we can have more to spend on cannoli’s and shoes. By this time I’m dizzy and disoriented and seeing liquid freeways, and odd decor. I see ancient stone Palaces where emporers once lived and dudes selling cheesy souvenirs. I see an endless mashup of boats, food, carnival masks, and Catholic accessories.

Venetians enjoy mashing together many different colors and textures and themes. Every place you go feels like youre in a giant Minestroni Soup of history, humanity, and bad taste.

The restaurant we ate at last night was decorated in a theme I’ll call
‘Jesus goes to the Bahamas’ . The walls were tangerine color, covered with tropical straw hats and a huge crucefix, where Jesus sandwiched between a flat screen TV and a dart board. I think my Mom begand hallucinating too–or was our waiter, Lucio, flirting with her?

In spite of the many times it seemed impossible to find a train or a toilet, what I Discovered in Venice is that its impossible to take a bad picture. Everything I snap at looks like a dreamscape of stone palaces floating on water. It can’t be an acid trip. So I must be in Venice.

If You get to the Train Alive, You Can Enjoy Milan

Mozzate, Lombardy, Italy  

Holy fuck, there’s like 5 inches of space between cars whipping by, and ME! mozzate death defying walk to the train
When Google maps said “use caution when walking” in their list of directions to places in Milan, I had no idea what a white knuckle–fear of being hit by a bread delivery truck– walk to the train stazione’ this would be.

Italy may have an abundance of ass washing gear (bidets, little bottles of butt soap and towels) but they’re totally short on sidewalks…and room on the roads for pedestrians. Holy fuck, there’s like 5 inches of space between cars whipping by, and ME! Its only few blocks stretch to the Mozatte train station going to Cadorna, But omigod…I get heart palpitations every time I hear a string of traffic approaching. Cars speed by so close you can smell the driver’s cigarette and cappuccino breath as you imagine being crushed to death. My knees are getting weak as I wonder how many more blocks I have to “walk with caution” –and will my body be a bloody roadside pomadoro on the first day of my vacation!

Finally, after I get to the station safely, and roll pleasantly into Milan where all the cool stuff is, I realize that Milan is a fun, chill place that’s easy on the eyes. Its a visual buffet of diverse architecture, colors, food, fashion and well put together people. Everyone of all ages, even senior aged people look clean, slender and stylish. Wearing  cheap, shitty eyewear is probably illegal in this city. Milanos wear cool glasses. If you see anyone who looks like a slob, they’re definielty NOT from Milan. And of course be assured that Milanos not only dress better than you–their asses are cleaner than yours too. If they should pass gas…it just might smell like Gucci.
I’m not sure why such a huge Italian city is so clean and quiet and stylish. Maybe because it’s heavily guarded by saints and Jesus statues. There are huge sparing churches everywhere that have statues of saints on top of their spires that stare down at you–warning you not to even Think of wearing clothes from WALMART. These statues are so high up you can see their “bullioni’s” under their knee high robes. This leads me to believe these saints, and possibly Jesus…were gay. I dont want to stereotype, but how else would straight men learn to look hot. Here in Milan, almost every guy on the street seems sexy. If they didnt leave the house well dressed and oozing with man-mojo..they would probably be sent to hell by the gay saints that guard the city from badly dressed infiltrators and other human abominations.
As for the architechture…just stare at the buildings and you’ll know that a lot of people worked their ass off. Right now, the Duomo…a massive church made entirely out of granite and marble is being scrubbed clean. Over the Centuries, it turned black from car exhaust emissions. If car emissions can turn a white church black, you can imagine what breathing in carbon particles all your life does to your lungs. No one seems to be concerned about that apparently.  I snapped a shitload of photos of the Duomo…and you can see some of the dirty parts and some that they scrubbed clean. Too bad there’s no way to scrub your lungs…but at least the gay saints that watch over Milan are keeping everyone and everything looking fabulous.

Holy Pizza! Italy is Freakin’ Addictive

Pictured: Bottom: 1987 with Granny in Milan. Hordes of birds think my giant 80’s shoulder pads are nests. Top right, 2013 with Mom in Milan. Top Right, after several airport security gropings we’re off to Italy. Top left: Time goes by,  but the Duomo Cathedral is timeless.

Welcome to Kitty Martini’s Wicked Good Life–Addicted to Italy.  

If you haven’t traveled to Italy, just know that if you go, there’s a magnetic force that feels like an ancient, seductive ghost who invites you back.  This ghost will haunt and lure you with garlic and spaghetti and wine—’till you cave in and go back there again. Thhe Forget about the other places in the world you want to see, get another ticket to Italy.

“You’re going there –AGAIN??” people ask me.

September 23, 2013

I went to Italy 28 years ago for the first time when I took my Italian grandma there for her 70th birthday.  In the late 80’s when there was no internet, no AirBnB, no GPS or Smart Phones–there was just a shitty map and my fearless 20-something attitude. I packed a Fodor’s Travel Guide book that listed places to visit. My Grandma packed a suitcase full of toilet paper. “I heard they have a shortage there” she said, “and it’s like sand paper”. 

Most people fly to Rome, but don’t fly to Rome unless you want lots of traffic, noise, chaos, air pollution and crowds of cranky tourists on your first day in Italy.  Instead, go to Milan, in the Northern part of the country which is a perfect launching base to cool places like Cinque Terre, Venice, Florence & Como. Fly to Linate–the small airport. Customs isn’t crowded, and usually no long entry lines. The big airport that has huge lines and crowds is Malpensa which is a long, 30 minute treck to Milan.  Linate is only 7 miles from the City Center and you can take a local bus from the airport to the city for just a few euros. 

At our hotel in Milan, the first attraction we visited was the restroom.  Call me an idiot, but back then I was confused to see another contraption next to the toilet that looked sorta like a toilet, but it was more of a fountain for your butt.  Now I could see that butt washing was a good way to eliminated the need for the sandpaper du’ toilette that my Grandma freaking out about. I had to wonder why Americans wouldn’t even THINK of the butt shower as a bathroom option. Somehow, staring at that thing made me aware that Americans might have once been Europeans…but they are distinctly different in many ways. Especially after taking a dump. Clearly Americans are so freakin’ “wipe and run” busy they apparently don’t have time to grab a butt shower on a bidet. 

The immediate thing to do after bonding with a bidet, is–head for the Duomo Square in Milan—which is dominated by an astonishing cathedral with a roof heaped in massive granite sculptures of saintly humans looking down at you, as if to say “I’m watching you…so don’t use too much toilet paper. And please, wash your butt.” 

In the shadow of the holiest of cathedrals, there’s a tiny pizza joint with square trays of insanely good–maybe even holy–pizza. Every tray is a checkerboard of  veggies, meat or fish toppings. And each square is littered with black olives. thin wisps of red onions, and a light tomato sauce. I don’t know if it was blessed by the Pope, or possessed by some kind of holy spirit that lives in the kitchen, but when I tasted it I was in heaven. 

28 years after that first trip I went back to Italy with my Mom, for HER 70th birthday. 

The year was 2013. I stopped in Florida to pick up my Mom before taking off to Milan. This is her official birthday celebration trip, so we decided to have a little birthday fun before heading for the airport. 

Since we couldn’t bring a gooey fruit tart cake through airport security, we ate it at home. But the pointy birthday hats in six glittery colors will definitely be packed in my bag and going with us. Security check points can be a bitch when they see something weird in your bag– and they end up detaining you until they feel busy and important enough to let you move on. 

I ALWAYS opt out of walking through that big creepy x-ray machine. So I have to go through the whole feel up and pat down process every time I fly. When I first started telling the airport people to frisk me, I thought maybe I was just lonely and starved for attention…and every little bit of contact coming from a warm human hand would fill my vacant soul with joy–even if it was a brief boob squeeze by a chick with dreadlocks and a huge ass and a name tag that says “Taneesha.”  But several grope-fests later I realized I wasn’t opting out for the boob squeezes–I was just freaked out by that ominous X-ray machine that’s allegedly “safe” for humans to walk through and get zapped with god-freakin’-knows-what

So here is my secret way to speed through getting frisked at security checkpoints: don’t shower for 4 days. Once Taneesha gets a whiff of my B.O. she waves me right through! 
I’m ripe and reeking like a New York City cab driver from Dhakka, and ready to fly! My bag is packed with birthday hats and organic snacks, and as soon as we get through security, we’re off to Milan after a 5 hour layover in Newark, New Jersey. 

Well, at least in Jersey no one will notice I need a shower. Newark smells so bad, I’ll blend right in! In fact—compared to what Newark smells like, my armpit fumes could pass for air fresheners. Stay tuned for more when we land in Milan!

This blog is a humorous, and irreverent chronicle of the weird adventures and cool discoveries I make every time I visit.  You can use it as entertainment or as a travel guide if you want to explore things that most of the boring books and shows out there might describe. But here you’ll discover cool stuff, travel tips, and the crazy stories I tell about this very special place that I’m addicted to.  

Bring a small carry on bag. I’ll be dragging a rolling suitcase around for 3 weeks on our Italian adventure. If you want to vicariously roll with Kitty Martini…this is where you’ll live the “Wicked Good Life” in Italy. When you’re bored and need a quick overseas adventure, just read my latest entry. If you’ll excuse excuse me now, I gotta start packing for Milan, where you’ll read about in the next entry of this blog. 

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