Florence, Italy (our pictures!)

After our few days in Rome, we hopped on a train (the trains are so fast!), and headed North to Florence. I had no expectations whatsoever for Florence, and ended up being blown away.

Florence is absolutely walkable, which I love about any city–we never needed a bus or taxi. There is something interesting to see wherever you go. The multitude of piazzas offer plenty of opportunity for sitting with some cappuccino or gelato and people watching. Speaking of the food! I can’t even explain. Food in Florence was to.die.for. There is great shopping in Florence, as well, if that’s your thing–lots of street markets, high end retail shops, and everything in between. If you want any kitchen gadgets or accessories, head to Bartolini’s. I bought my pasta maker there, and loved it.

We stayed at the Hotel Malaspina, which I recommend wholeheartedly. It’s in a great location, their breakfast is delicious, and the hotel staff is very helpful and accommodating. We even lucked out with a room that had a tiny balcony overlooking the park!

20150319_163945 A big site in Florence is the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. The outside is massive and absolutely gorgeous. You can tour the inside, as well as climb the dome (Il Duomo) for some killer views.

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???????????????????????????????Florence is home to many wonderful and well-curated museums. We enjoyed wandering the Museum dell’Accademia, where we saw Michelangelo’s David. It’s amazing to see works of art like this in the flesh, after having studied them out of a textbook in art history class. You stare up at it, in all of its smoothly carved marble magnificence, and it becomes real. Michelangelo carved David over 500 years ago, and here it is. Kind of makes me small and insignificant, but also proud of being a part of this thing called the human existence.

???????????????????????????????We took a break from all of the art, and toured the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, which houses recreations of da Vinci’s original designs. You can even try some of them! The Galileo Museum, while not having much in the way of actual Galileo artifact, offered an interesting look at different aspects of science and math in antiquity. In some ways, things were very advanced, considering it was hundreds of years ago. In others, not so much.

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We relaxed a lot more in Florence than we did in Rome, which was nice. Three cheers for napping on vacation.

All in all, Florence is a great city to visit, explore, and experience. I’d absolutely go back, rent a flat, and have a great time pretending I was a local for a few days.

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After 3 days in Florence, we hopped on the train and headed farther North to Venice. I’ll be back next Thursday with some photos, if you’d like to see.

Homemade Pasta (and a DIY pasta drying rack)

While we were in Italy (photos later this week, if you want to see!), I was looking for something souvenir-like to take home with me. I’m a big proponent of souvenirs being beautiful, useful and/or locally handcrafted. Better if they’re all of the above! After some thought–clothing? purse? a platter? linens? I settled on hunting down a pasta maker.

I found Bartolini’s in Florence, and didn’t look back. It was fun to wander their store, and the staff were so helpful. After thinking about it over lunch, we bought an Atlas 150 Pasta Maker. The Atlas is made in Italy, entirely stainless steel, and positively wonderful.

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If you follow me on Instagram, you know we gave the pasta maker its first go, and did beautifully!

Homemade Pasta

You’ll need:

  • 300 grams all purpose flour (yes, weigh your flour. If you don’t have a scale, it’s approximately 2- 1/3 cups. But really, weigh your flour)
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature

1. Measure the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the middle, and crack the eggs in. Using a fork, mix the flour and the eggs. Add more flour if it’s too wet, and add water, teaspoon by teaspoon, if it feels too dry.

2. Knead with your fingers for 3-4 minutes, adding flour and water as needed. Your goal is a dough that is not too sticky–if it sticks to your fingers even a little, it needs more flour.

3. Chop off small chunks of dough and run through the pasta roller. For fettuccine, you want to roll it out to a 5, for thinner pasta, roll it to a 7 (on the Atlas, anyway).

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4. After a chunk of dough is rolled and cut, hang the pasta on spoons/dowels or lay out flat on a cutting board while you make the rest (or make a handy pasta drying tree. Tutorial below!)

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5. Bring water to a boil. The pasta will only need to cook 3 or 4 minutes, since it’s fresh. Drain, and serve with whatever sauce you like (we browned 1 lb hamburger, drained it, added one jar of marinara sauce, and a few tablespoons of the pasta water).

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And the verdict is: AMAZING. I was skeptical our first time around would be a flop, but it wasn’t.

And the next time we make pasta, I’ll have my very own drying rack! Bob made one with just a few supplies–he’s the best!

You’ll need:

  • 2–1/4″, 36″ long dowels
  • 1–3/4″, 36″ long dowel
  • some material for a base, 5″x7″ (give or take)

How to:

Cut the 1/4″ dowel into 12″ segments (you’ll have 6 total), and the 3/4″ dowel down to 16″.

Using a drill press, drill a hole large enough for the 1/4″ dowel to fit perpendicularly in the top of the 3/4″ dowel. Rotate 30 degrees, and drill another hole 1/2″ lower than the first. Keep going, until you have 6 holes.

Using a drill press, drill a hole in the base to hold the 3/4″ dowel.

To finish it off, he beveled and sanded all of the edges. Before we use it, we’ll rub it with mineral oil.

This is what resulted! Is he great, or what?

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Happy pasta making!