New Year’s Resolution

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Hope everyone has enjoyed their Christmas!

Now it’s time to look forward to 2014.
I’m looking for the perfect quote to inspire my new year resolutions , so far this is my favorite:

“If you want your life to change, your choices and actions must change. Every day brings a chance to start over”.

Do you want to change anything in 2014?

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My kind of “White Christmas” !
Wishing you love , happiness and joy from the sunny Hawaii !
Hope that everyone would have their Christmas wish to come true!

Did you get your perfect present yet?

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The 8th Wonder of the World!

The 8th Wonder of the World!

As you saw in my previous post, San Gimignano is a pretty unique place. A complete fossilized city in the middle of nowhere. One of the most intriguing things about the city is their delicious food!

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I found a restaurant that Tripadvisor gave more than 1200 reviews. It was located in a non-descript alley, with an unmarked door.

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A little curious fact is that the restaurant was  right next to the Museum la Tortura.

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(As you may have guessed, “Museum la Tortura” means “Museum of Torture.” Because my hands were shaking when taking the photo, you may notice the skeleton in the cage.)

The restaurant that I was looking for was called Cum Quibus. The sign said they will open at 7:30 pm.  And just in case someone wanted to open the door to peek in, it had curtains in front of it: a complete mystery.

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It was only 3 o’clock and I had to eat something. Some American tourist suggested Cafe Stella, and I thought, well maybe something light will help me survive to 7:30 pm. Of course I ended up eating a 3 course meal (dessert included) since this was the absolute best food I have had in Italy so far! Caffe Stella was not even close to Cum Quibus’ ratings on TripAdvisor, so my desire to go there was hightened 10 fold!

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At 7:25 I went back to Cum Quibus and waited another five minutes under the pouring rain, for the doors to open. The restaurant was booked completely but somehow they managed to find an extra table. The place had a really cool rustic Tuscan vibe and was very small.

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Food started coming in and despite the more casual presentation it had the most surprising, bold flavor combinations that were extremely artistic.

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Then some of the loyal patrons started coming and congratulating Lorenzo, the restaurant’s young owner that TripAdvisor just announced Cum Quibus as the 8th BEST Restaurant in the WORLD! 

That was unbelievable! 8th restaurant in the WORLD in the middle of nowhere?! How is it possible?

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Cheers for Cum Quibus from Instagram

But it made me think of an Armenian proverb that says “a polished diamond won’t sit on the floor for too long”.

Regardless of where you are and how small you are, if you’ll do a good job, it won’t be unnoticed.

That was the beautiful lesson from old San Gimignano and wounderful Cum Quibus.

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Lost and Found in Tuscan Hills

Lost and Found in Tuscan Hills

People don’t normally like the feeling of being lost, me included. It is the uncertainty, the loss of control, disorientation, frustration, anger, denial, and the list can go on.

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But if we have time and we can move past the initial sense of anxiety, being lost can be an opportunity to see new places, to discover new things, to become an explorer…almost like Columbus.

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I was not quite in the philosophical mood when I got lost on the way from Florence to Sienna. Rain and feeling hungry did not help the situation. But pretty soon a structure that resembled old city walls appeared, as well as promising signs of Trattorias and Pizzerias nearby. The medieval city structure was so impressive that for a little while I forgot I was hungry. Rain almost became a drizzle and my iPhone finally got an Internet signal showing that my location was at San Gimignano.

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Since I had never heard of this city, I wanted to get inside and see what was happening inside the city walls.

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Especially after seeing that TriplAdvisor.com recommended an amazing restaurant there, which had more then 1200 reviews on it, all being fantastic and fabulous!

Inside the city walls the cutest medieval city was hiding! Coming from LA it almost felt like a movie set. But of course it is as real as it gets!

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With the 14 towers that were leftover from the previously built 72 (the highest one 54 meters!), it was an architectural gem that I was feeling so blessed to see.

I will tale more about this fascinating city but I wonder if you can guess why people will build these labor-intensive tall towers in the 14-century, 72 of them and one higher than the other?

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Styling à la Florentine

Styling  à la Florentine

When you enter a city trough the medieval gigantic doors, you know it is a special place.

Firenze (Florence)  is an epitome of the Italian Renaissance where even the hotels are built with the Renaissance in mind.

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When the hotel room has a Renaissance themed frescoes on the walls, it must be Florence!

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Florence has a very distinct style.

It is an open air museum that would take a visitor a few months to experience and appreciate all the gems that this city has to offer.

One of the least touristy places is the Medicis’ villa. There are so many primary spots that I think the Medicis’ villa hardly gets any traffic.

It is a unique feeling to experience such historical locations in a Zen atmosphere.

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In this Zen environment, I have stumbled upon the most beautiful movie theater ever!IMG_1998

Doesn’t it just look fascinating?

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It just needs a popcorn and a soda machine!

Talk about Form NOT Following the FUNCTION!

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And if the movie is boring, one can always look up to the “sky” for more action!

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What do you think? Would you like a home theater à la Florentine ?

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Crystal Chandeliers and the Gas stations

Spending time in Venice seems like time travel. Life in a beautiful painting, life in a fantasy land. No cars, no streets, no gas stations…instead it is canals, bridges, palazzo and basilicas.

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I was almost afraid that I lost touch with reality.  When it was time to stop by a gas station on the way to Florence, I was almost excited: finally back to the modern life, not as pretty and romantic, but you know it is REAL!

But there was an element of a surprise waiting inside the gas station. Cristal chandeliers, dark hardwood flooring, freshly made Panini’s, gourmet espresso and  restaurant quality amazing pastries.

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“Welcome to Italy,” I told to myself. How could you expect an ugly gas station where food and beauty are the matter of a national pride!

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I do agree with the “form follows function” rule that moved 20th centuries design and esthetics, but maybe there is something else besides pure “function” of an object that the “form” needs to reflect …such as uplifting the viewer’s mood with it’s pleasant look.

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Gas stations with crystal chandeliers and wooden floors can be a great example for the new ‘postpost modern’ esthetics of the 21st century, where some excess won’t only be allowed but also welcomed.

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“Like the legend of the Phoenix”

“Like the legend of the Phoenix”

The Legend of the Phoenix is one of the primary archetypal legends that sits in our psyche…death and rebirth, loosing and winning, an endless cycle of life.

It was symbolical to witness this in Venice in the world famous Theatro La Fenice (Phoenix in Italian).venice opera house la fenice

In 1774 The San Benedetto Theater, the leading Opera House in Venice for more than 40 years, was burned to the ground. After rebuilding the Opera House it was renamed La Fenice, symbolizing it’s rebirth.  In 1986,  it was damaged by fire again and managed to rise from its ashes one more time.

IMG_1832_2 Despite this setbacks it became one of the leading Opera Houses in Europe premiering many operas including Verdi’s masterpieces: Attila, Rigoletto and La Traviata.

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I saw the production of Madame Butterfly, the night I was there. One of the top 10 operas staged in the tragic tale of love between an American marine and a Japanese Geisha. Set design and costumes design was extremely modernized which added an interesting twist to the story, making it timeless.

At the end of the story, Madame Butterfly commits Hara-kiri, a Japanese suicide, since Pinkerton abandoned her and remarried Kate (an American wife).  Kate offered to adopt Madam Butterflies’ son (that she had with Pinkerton) who she is not able to support financially.

This story always makes me cry. It is very sad and you can always see how it gets repeated over and over again in every part of the world. Broken hearts, broken families, financial instability of single mothers…

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My wish was to see the production modernized in a way that it will show Madam Butterfly become an independent and strong woman and take care of her son without giving up on life. I wished that she would rise up from the ashes of her depression, like the bird of Phoenix. That would have modernized the story for me more than the set and the costumes…don’t you think?

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Will Love Last?

Will Love Last?

Early in the morning , while I was having breakfast with the most picturesque view that I have ever seen in my life, I thought about, “What makes love last?”

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Everything was as perfect as it can possibly be.

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The plan was to go to the close of the Accademia museum where some of the Leonardo Da Vinci’s original artwork was on display. (Being a lifelong Da Vinci Fan this was not an opportunity that I could miss).

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On the way to the museum when crossing  the Accademia Bridge,  I noticed a very strange-looking gentleman hanging from the street lamp with metal-cutting scissors in his hands and attracting attention from those passing by.

_MG_0075Apparently that was the infamous Venetian Love Lock Cutter and he was doing his performance art by cutting down all the locks that were attached on the bridge.

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Before seeing him I did not even notice the existence of thousands and thousands of locks on the bridge.

_MG_0087The Love Lock trend in Europe started from Federico Moccia’s story “I Want You” in 2006.  Lovers all over Europe started writing their names on the Padlocks attaching them to the bridges and throwing away the keys into the water. This Love Locking process is believed to make the love everlasting.

It is incredibly romantic if not one small downside: there are millions of couples who are in love, which results in enormous quantity of the Love Locks and subsequently extreme amount of weight that  damages the structural integrity of the old bridges.

Government authorities are interfering with the romantic Love Lock movement and cutting them down at least once a year. Italy is probably the strictest and there is a high fine for trying to attach a padlock.

So what should romantics do?

They want their Love Locks to last and not be thrown away. How to make the Love last?..Well at least Love Locks last.

The Love Lock concept  reminded me of the wishing trees that I have seen in Armenia, where people would wish for love and tie their handkerchief on the tree.

It did not look extremely appealing but provided couples with the comfort of knowing that their love will last.  I could not stop thinking about it until I found the Perfect Picture that provided the solution to the issue.

Love Lock Trees!!! Good for lovers, tourists and the government officials!

What do you think? Would you prefer old bridges or trees to immortalize your love ?

xo

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What Goes around Comes around

I discovered Gustav Klimt when I was around 11-12 in my brothers’ art history books. It was love at first sight! His fantastic ornaments and wild imagination always stayed in my memory as an eternal question: “Where did his inspiration come from?”

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Of course I have read that he was very much inspired by Italian cities of Venice and Ravenna, but what does that actually mean?

I did not figure out the true meaning behind the inspiration until I experienced Venice.

And I do want to emphasize the “experience” part, because regardless of the amount of pictures, artwork and movies you see, experiencing Venice is a must! It divides your life into before you went to Venice and after.

But back to the Gustav Klimt.  His secrets started being revealed in San Mark’s Basilica, which was fully decorated with golden leaf mosaics called Gold Leaf Tesserae a technique which sandwiches a golden leaf between 2 pieces of glass, thus achieving absolute luminosity for the gold, which nothing can compare.

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Seeing all that gold solved the mystery behind Klimpt’s golden leaf elaborate backgrounds. I don’t think any artist who witnesses all that artistic glory can stay indifferent and not be moved by it.

Even the recent collection of Dolce and Gabbana is heavily inspired by the golden mosaics at San Mark’s basilica. (Another proof that Venice is experiencing a serious cultural comeback).

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Another unique inspiration of Gustav Klimt came from Murano Glass.

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He probably saw the ““millefiori” is a style of Murano Glass that is defined by each layer of molten color being molded into a star, then cooled and layered again. When sliced crosswise, it has the appearance of many flowers, thus mille- (thousand) fiori (flowers).

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Now all of a sudden his unusual ornaments fully made sense! It is a Millefiori!

The most exciting part was that last year the city of Venice honored the master and everywhere in Venice were exhibitions dedicated to Klimt. And as we all know: “what goes around comes around” and Murano Glassmaking masters created a whole new series inspired by Gustav Klimt’s work which marked a true comeback!

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