Okay, the food…it’s just spectacular!

When we first decided to spend three months in Florence, one of the things we were most looking forward to was shopping in the local markets and cooking meals in the apartment.  There are two major local markets that are within easy walking distance from us, the San Ambrosia Mercato and the Mercato Centrale – we have shopped at each of these markets every week, trying not to stock up on too much fresh produce or pastas. Our at-home cooking has been pretty good, despite the fact that we constantly see new osterias or trattorias during our daily ventures into different parts of the city.  On average we have tried to cook at least one meal each day – two if you include breakfast which we always have at the apartment.

Link to some of the local mercatos: http://www.aboutflorence.com/typical-markets-in-Florence.html

But, alas, our will power is not the greatest!  We have probably enjoyed more meals out than in, but that’s okay….we will survive!  At first I was taking photos of everything we were eating, but I started looking like a real tourist (although I do take pictures of delicious looking meals where ever we are).  I thought I would share some of our at-home meals and out-on-the-town meals.  Enjoy and be happy that there is not one calorie in any of these photos!  Ciao…xxoo

Zuppa di Pesci

Zuppa di Pesci

Oven baked pizza at the Mercato Centrale Nuovo

Oven baked pizza at the Mercato Centrale Nuovo

roasting tomatoes at the apartment

roasting tomatoes at the apartment

appetizer with anchovies, bread, butter and vodka shots

appetizer with anchovies, bread, butter and vodka shots – Trattoria Garga

Pasquale's cappucino

Pasquale’s cappucino – Cafè Mingo

wild boar sauce

wild boar sauce – Bettola Vecchia


piselli – at Bettola Vecchia

At Cafè Libertà

At Cafè Libertà – Pear Tart

Frank's homemade chick pea soup at the apartment

Frank’s homemade chick pea soup at the apartment

At the apartment

At the apartment – Pasta è vongole

At Good Tastes of Tuscany with Chef Luciano

At Good Tastes of Tuscany with Chef Luciano – Panzanella




Posted in Firenze 2014, osterias, Panicale, ristoranti, trattorias, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

A Wonderful Little Farm in Panicale, Umbria

Over this past weekend FHFB and I spent some time with his cousin Mario and his wife Pam at their little farm in Panicale, Umbria.  The trip is about a 90 minute train ride from the Santa Maria Novello train station in Florence.


olive trees – beginning to flower

We visited a few years ago with our son Frank, but this time we were able to spend the night and wake up with the birds singing, sun shining and olive trees greeting us a savory ‘good morning’.  I think the best word for this place is ‘serene’ – it is quiet and so peaceful.



Mario and Pam keep this property looking incredible – between the rows of olive trees, plantings of various fruit trees, flowers and vegetables – everywhere you look is a feast for the eyes!


sloping field and gardens at Panicale


Plums, persimmons, quince, cherries, loquats, and peach trees stretch out over the gentle slope of the field, and the vegetable garden is brimming with peas, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, onions and herbs – pots and pots of herbs and herb seedlings all over the place.




plums growing like clusters of grapes in Panicale



persimmons – just flowering and beginning to show their fruit – they will be ready to eat sometime in November-December











a really large rosemary bush growing on the hillside behind the farmhouse – Panicale


sitting and chatting, looking out over the gardens, with a bottle of homemade wine – does it get any better??


geraniums love the sun in the front of the farmhouse


more geraniums and herbs


looking out towards the persimmon tree


front steps to the top floor of the farm-house 

Shanti is the mascot of this little farm, keeping us laughing with her antics and keeping a sharp eye out for jack rabbits and wild boar!

































Ciao for now!  Leave a comment!  xxoo

Posted in family, Firenze 2014, fruit trees, gardens, Panicale | 3 Comments

Trattorias, Osterias and Ristoranti

According to WiseGeek,http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-trattoria.htm …

Trattoria is an Italian term for a fairly casual, mid-priced restaurant. Less formal than a ristorante and more formal than an osteria, the trattoria is traditionally a family-run establishment that offers simple fare and a relaxed atmosphere. Outside of Italy, the term can be applied to any type of Italian restaurant, which can lead to considerable confusion of expectations.

Restaurants in Italy focus on atmosphere nearly as much as food, providing the visitor or resident thousands of choices for every dining experience. At a trattoria, the mood is meant to be relaxed and fairly informal. While ristorantes may offer a wide range of antipasti and several courses of food, trattorias prefer to offer a few, well-executed entrees. Wine is often less expensive and served in a decanter, as opposed to by the bottle.

In terms of cuisine, a trattoria in Italy will frequently offer regional, local, and family specialties on the menu. The focus is generally on the best of local Italian food, rather than adopting a global cuisine. Wines and other drinks may be from local producers or even family vineyards. In family owned versions, recipes may be centuries old and be a tribute to the long history of great Italian food. Eating in this type of restaurant while traveling in Italy can give a tourist real insight into the neighborhood and region.

This may indeed be the case, and I will need to pay more attention as to whether or not we are having our meal in a trattoria, osteria or ristorante ( I could actually just look at the name of the restaurant).  Our meals have been varied, from simple wood fired pizzas and a glass of wine at the New Mercato Centrale to full course meals at our favorite restaurants, Trattoria Garga http://www.garga.it.

Every corner in Florence seems to have a coffeeshop or pasticerria –  they are great spots to stop off for a cappucino and cornetto.  They also offer little paninis, made with all sorts of local meats and cheeses – simple and perfect!

Forgive the limited text here, but I am still learning how to navigate working with the text and photos on Word Press.  The rest of the post is really a feast for the eyes….some photos of the meals we’ve had out – either at a trattoria, coffeeshop, osteria or restaurant.

This little sweet dessert was delicious, made with pears and a homemade buttery crust.

We had this delicious chocolate torte after lunch at Trattoria Palle d’Oro, and I remember that I saw the waiter walk by with a piece and just knew we had to try it.  The slice was served warm, and was one of those chocolate desserts that you just want to roll around in, it was that good….and I am not a chocolate lover like some of my friends.

Georgette from the Girl in Florence blog shared a great post about the Osteria de L’Ortalano…so we just had to give it a try, and it’s practically around the corner from our apartment. She describes the following dessert, among many other things, much better than I could, so check out her blog to read more about it.




Another delicious food that we tried at Osteria de L’Ortalano was an apple and pepperoncini jam with cheese.  This little osteria has a booming business of homemade condiments as well as many other things.  Two jars of the apple and pepperoncini jam are coming home with me!

Now onto some of the fresh salads, primi and secondi photos…





















The dish below is full of fried anchovies and zucchini flowers, served with many of the locals at Alla Vecchia Bettola.  While I was searching for the restaurant’s website I found that Ina Garten has a delicious looking pasta recipe from the restaurant on the Food Network site http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/nick-and-tonis-penne-alla-vecchia-bettola-recipe.html – I think we might make it one night for dinner.















Home made wide pasta with Wild Boar (cinghiale) sauce – not sure where we had this.









Piselli alla fiorentina








After all of these photos from trattorias, osterias and ristoranti, we are actually cooking home tonight.  FHFB is busy making a delicious white clam sauce, and we are serving it with homemade linguine.  As some side dishes (contorni) we are serving a fresh tomato salad, wide Italian green beans, and  Tuscan beans cooked with garlic and rosemary on grilled crostini.  Yes, it’s a lot, but there will be leftovers for lunch tomorrow~!

I hope you enjoyed reading (looking at) this blog post.  Some ideas for future posts include the gardens and balconies we are seeing here and some of the wonderful shopkeepers we have met here.  If you have anything that you’d like to know more about just let me know and I’ll try to include it.

Ciao, xxoo


Posted in Firenze 2014, ristoranti, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Mangia Salvatore!!”

For some reason my dad always says “Mangia Salvatore!!” whenever he sits down to a huge Italian dinner.

FHFB and I have been busy downsizing our ordering out at restaurants –  feeling less anxious if we don’t always order a primi and second – knowing  we can always go back and try the other dish next week, or tomorrow!   As you can imagine, managing the restaurants and trattorias is truly a challenge here in Firenze.  By manage I mean getting to all of them, which is quite impossible since there are thousands already in existence and new ones opening all the time.

Having a large apartment with a complete kitchen was one of the things we were looking for when we found this apartment.  Our kitchen is small, but it has everything we need to make some delicious local recipes, as well as a quick cappuccino, although it is much more rewarding to walk across the street to Cafe Mingo to have a chat and caffè with Pasquale and his brother Antonio.


We have put together some very delicious dinners for two as well as some welcome lunches for friends and family.  After going through all of my photos this morning, labeling some and deleting some, I thought it might be fun for you to see some of the food we have been enjoying here in Firenze.  Sidenote: Florence is for foodies…you must savor everything with as many senses as possible!

Let’s begin with some of the meals we have enjoyed in the apartment.  Right down the street there is a wonderful little pasticceria where we found some small but delicious little handmade – fatto a mano – pizzas.  They make an interesting addition to our store bought cheeses and salamis. IMG_3319As you can see, there are several different toppings:  grilled zucchini, green and black olives and roasted red peppers.  These are just a few of the options – other toppings include onions, chicken liver – “crostini di fegato” – a Fiorentine staple – as well as many other toppings.  Strawberries are just coming into season here and get sweeter with every purchase.

Our first welcome lunch was created for Frank’s niece Nerina.  She visited for a few days, all the way from Sicily.  Our table included melon wrapped in prosciutto, burrata with honey and almonds, a tomato salad and our go-to chicken breasts over crispy arugula greens.  Flat Italian green beans and some panini from Cafe Mingo were also included.  This type of lunch is great because the leftovers make for great pickings later on with a Spritz or bottle of delicious local red wine.




Our second welcome lunch was made with love for Chris and Katie’s arrival from London to Firenze.  Nerina was already visiting from Sicily so we put her to work with us that morning.  Together we put together a menu with homemade pasta with a marinara sauce, chicken breasts, salami and cheese, a tomato salad and some Tuscan bread.  It’s been a little difficult getting used to unsalted bread, and if you want to learn more about why the bread is unsalted, check out this link:http://www.charmingitaly.com/article/tuscan-unsalted-bread-origins

One thing that isn’t pictured was the dessert that Nerina made, with cannolli shells all the way from Sicily.  She simply combined mascarpone cheese with Nutella and almonds and created the most delicious cannollis that were enjoyed by everyone for the next days.


The morning here has moved quietly into the afternoon, and after a small lunch here FHFB and I will head out to the San Ambrogia area, to explore some of the streets and shops that are past the San Ambrogia mercato.  After that we are heading to the city’s archological museum to learn about some of the Etruscan history in Cortona, the beautiful little town from the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”.  Cortona is only a short train ride away from us. There is so much that is nearby – and so far the trains and buses have been a reliable and fairly inexpensive way to travel.  Our travel plans for the next two months include Panicale in Umbria, Bellagio and Lake Como, Rome and Sicily.  Ciao for now!  xxoo

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Train Trip to Lucca and Some Other Things

On Monday Frank and I took the train from the Santa Maria Novello train station and headed northwest to the medieval city of Lucca in Tuscany.  This beautiful little town is surrounded by it’s original city wall, which you can walk or bike around and see the beautiful hills of Tuscany beyond. We plan on taking that walk the next time we visit Lucca, most probably on one the the Sundays when the antique or craft market is in town.

This is the main entrance door, or porta, into the city of Lucca.


Giacomo Puccini was Lucca’s most favorite and famous son, and there are many trattoria’s, cafès and streets named after him.  Some of his most famous operas are La Boheme, Tosca and Madame Butterfly.  This statue of Puccini is right outside his home in Lucca, which is now a museum in his honor.  There are many original letters and musical scores exhibited, along with letters to his lover, Elvira Gemignani, whom he eventually married after divorcing is first wife as well as the fact that her first husband was killed by the husband of another woman due to infidelity….whew…a very active scene back then in little Lucca.

Statue of Giacomo Puccini in his piazza….


One of my favorite arias from La Bohème…audio http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgaN3vIqJUY

Palazzo Pfanner is a 17th-century villa with magnificent gardens and a visit there is well worthwhile.  Although we couldn’t get into the palazzo, which is something I would have loved to do, the gardens were worthwhile.  Here are some of the views, although you need to actually be there to feel the peace and quiet.

IMG_2461 IMG_2462 IMG_2465 IMG_2502

Of course you can’t visit anywhere in Italy without seeing some beautiful cathedrals and churches.  It was hard to get photos of some of the churches because they are so large.  Here are a few…

IMG_2441 IMG_2446 IMG_2448 IMG_2457 IMG_2516

So far I think I’m coming across pretty much like a tourist, and that’s something I’m trying to avoid.  We’ve gotten to know a few people here; Andrè the owner of the wine shop down the street;  Massimo, owner of a men’s shop in San Ambrogia; Roberto, the owner of a small trattoria near Piazza de Republica; and Angelo, a very knowledgeable guide who is an archeologist when he’s not showing off beautiful Firenze.

Here’s a photo that I think really shows that we are trying to live like the locals….our laundry drying in the guest bedroom!  No dryers here, just a very slow washing machine.IMG_2520


Now for my Italian practice.  I was proudly able to tell the waitress at lunch today at Cafè Cibreo in San Ambrogia that “noi abbiamo un apartmento a Firenze per tre mezis”.

Here goes using some Google for help…..Oggi il sole era fouri per la mattina, ma ora piove un po.  Stasera noi siamo cucinare a il appartamento – pollo è rucola, e pasta con zucchini e melanzana.  Andrè ci ha dato un bottiglia di vino bianco da un suo amico che possiede un vigneto locale.  Daremo una prova, dovrebbe assaggiare qualcosa come una vernaccia o vermentino, ed è biologico.


Ci vediamo!


Posted in Firenze 2014 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Walking, walking, walking….

Today is Saturday, and we have been in Florence for a little over a week.  Our goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps each day, and we gave ourselves a week to be tourists, making sure we saw all of the main piazzas and ate at our favorite restaurants.  So far we have had dinner at La Giostra and La Cucina di Garga as well as a small trattoria called Osteria di Natolino and several other small trattorias.  Working on finding a delicious pranzo that is less than 30 euros – we think we found it yesterday. We took a walk over to the new Mercato Centrale, always a very fun energetic place to be.  The new top floor of the Mercato Centrale is beautiful and very trendy, but the authentic vendors still hold the first floor of the mercato; olives, bread, fish, butchers, grocers, vegetables and fruits, basically anything you would need.  It’s full of tourists but also a place that many locals shop at, but only until 2pm each day, when the mercato closes and gets ready for the next day. IMG_0021 A new mercato for us is Mercato San Ambrogia, just a short walk from our apartment.  This is a truly authentic mercato, with inside and outside vendors.  We already found a favorite little stall for cappuccino or caffè machiato in the mornings.   IMG_2249 The fruits and vegetables are so fresh looking , although only a small portion of the produce is from Italy.  Right now the oranges and some varieties of tomatoes are from Sicily, but much of it is from Spain right now.  Fresh pasta and delicious oven-ready rolled stuffed meats. IMG_0078   For tonight we have tickets to an opera at St. Marks’ English church in the Santo Spirito area.  The actors are performing La Boheme, one of my favorites.  This is the link to the St. Mark’s website: http://stmarksitaly.com/music-arts/opera-at-st-marks/#sthash.ozawrRtT.dpbs And this is for my friends at my Italian conversation class and Chiara, my Italian tutor….and yes, I did need to use Google Translate for much of this – it is easier to stumble through my Italian verbally than in writing. Oggi piove e la temperatura è fresca. Abbiamo acceso la lavatrice per la prima volta e speriamo di non sovraccaricare l’elettricità in appartamento.  Quando sono spesa parlo molto Italiano e loro capiscono.quando sto acquistando parlo molto italiano e deinegozianti sembra di capire la maggior parte di quello che sto dicendo.  Fatta eccezione per la donna delle pulizie – lei non ha la pazienza e vuole sempre mio marito per chiarire tutto quello che cerco di dire.  LOL, vabbè! Ci vidiamo!

Posted in Firenze 2014 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Living La Dolce Vita

Welcome to Frog Hollow Farm at Word Press.  For several years I had blogged as Frog Hollow Farm Girl through Blogger, but have decided to start anew at Word Press at the recommendations of a few friends and family.  I haven’t deleted my Blogger site because it is full of so many memories and descriptions of family, friends, travel, delicious food and life here at Frog Hollow Farm. You can find it at froghollowfarmgirl.blogspot.com if you have some time to check out some of my past posts.

Several months ago my husband and I found a great apartment in Florence on the Vacation Rental by Owners website (vrbo.com) and decided to go for it and rent it for three and a half months.  We are leaving next week and will be staying through the summer.  Florence has been a vacation destination of ours for several years, and I really wanted to experience the city differently than a tourist….to shop in the markets and cook some delicious meals and to walk without having to stop in and buy something at every pottery shop I passed.  Yes, it will be hot there, but our plans are to take the train up to Lake Como and some cooler destinations during the month of July.  Our children will be joining us for a week in the middle of May, along with friends later in May.  A favorite niece from Sicily has also found some time in her busy schedule to visit us for a few days.

One of our first stops will be for aperitivo at the Corona Cafe on Via del Corso in Florence. This is a truly decadent collection of food and one of my goals is to find some simpler, more local aperitivo bars.  Here’s a link that tells you a little about Italian aperitivo and how it differs from our American Happy Hour. http://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/food-and-wine/italian-aperitivo

This is a photo of the aperitivo at the Corona Cafe we took a couple of years ago.  That was the first time I had tried a drink called a Spritz, made with Aperol, Proseco and a slice of orange.  It is a really delicious drink that is cooling and pretty to look at and has become one of my favorites.



So, beginning next week I hope to memorialize this wonderful trip via my new Word Press blog and hope that each of you enjoys my day to day reporting.

Ciao bella!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 9 Comments