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!

Evelina Galli in Tuscany

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

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

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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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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Gritty Palace in Venice

Venice can be considered one of the most beautiful places created by man. It has been captured in millions of photographs and artwork and it almost seems that there will be no surprises when you visit it.

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On the contrary, from the moment you jump into a water taxi at the airport to the moment you leave the city, it feels like you’re on a “Hollywood set” with the constant element of surprise. With the perfect weather and the perfect clouds it felt like a Las Vegas version of itself. (I know it sounds like heresy :)

Layers of history can be seen everywhere from the San Marco Square, Rialto bridge, Grand Basilicas to great palazzo hotels lined up on the Grand Canal.

One of these gems is the Gritti Palace, a 15 century palazzo that recently underwent a $50 million dollar renovation with the help of the celebrate designer Chuck Chewning.

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The Gritti was a nobleman’s home in the 15th century but later became a residence for Andrea Gritti, the 16th-century Doge of Venice who gives the property its name today. In 1895 the palazzo was converted into the Grand Hotel.

Staying there seemed nothing short of a time travel even after its “modernized” high-tech restoration with natural marble bathrooms and Aqua Di Parma Spa.

Gritti Palace was a prominent place for the artsy types and even made an appearance in the Hemingway’s novel Across the River and into the Trees.  Hemingway who was one of the frequent visitors of the Hotel alongside Peggy Guggenheim, Somerset Maugham and John Ruskin, all of whom now have suits named after them.

EVelina Galli Gritti Palace

Now it is all in the past and among exceptional art and elegance, the restored Gritti Palace retains its reassuringly  “Old World” feel with the high-tech comforts of a modern life.

Dramatic views of the canal and the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute are absolutely breathtaking when you sit on the restaurant patio.

It’s a centrally located hotel so there are varieties of attractions within walking distance (yes there are actually walking streets in Venice)… But for the Stiletto addicts like me, a friendly recommendation: not the best idea to wear them in Venice! I was able to survive the walk from the Gritty Palace to the Opera House, (which was very close), but that was my limit.

EVelina Galli Gritti Palace

I always wanted to visit Venice before it sinks, but it did not seem like it is sinking at all. Instead it is a breath of fresh air and is becoming the IT spot again like it was for centuries.

Do you think it can become a cultural center again or just stay as an open air museum?

For more pictures check out:

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Total Package or The Benefits of Venturing Out

-Why there are no Restaurants on the Moon?

-Because there is no Atmosphere!

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I mentioned before about my addictive personality. It definitely applies not only to fashion, but to other things as well, such as Restaurants.

My decision-making strategy about where to eat is simple: depending on which neighborhood of LA I am in, I have my ultimate place to go to and I don’t venture out.

I feel “exploring” new restaurants can be hit or miss and since I don’t have much time, I don’t want to end up at a “miss.”

Well at least that was my thought process until recently…

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I was at the “Prive” salon in West LA, where amazing hair sculptor Brian Borg was trimming my hair (he actually calls it “dusting off” not trimming… sounds so much better !)

…My later plans included having dinner at “The Little Door” an intimate French-Lebanese place that I became “hooked on” because of my friend. The food is consistently great and there are no unwanted surprises…Well that was my plan, until Brian asked ”You know that the best Italian restaurant in LA is right next door?”

“Seriously Brian?”…“The Best? Right here?”… after realizing that I had already accidentally parked my car at the “Angelini” valet, combined with the degree of starvation I was experiencing , the decision was made in nanoseconds!

Evelina GalliJust like that I diverted my dinner plans from “The Little Door” to the next door and landed at Angelini Osteria.

I have never been to Italy before, but stepping into Angelini was as good as buying a ticket and flying to Italy!

The staff spoke in Italian, the customers were charming, and the colors of the interior were warm and welcoming!

House made black ink pasta with lobster and cherry tomatoes was unbelievable and to compensate me for not having any company, they offered a glass of champagne on the house. The high note was when Venetian tiramisu arrived with a small cup of espresso. The dinner was fantastic from the very first bite of the Ciabatta bread and the Extra Virgin Olive oil delivered from Italy specifically for them.

Only after the dinner I noticed the Zagat rating award/trophy, where it spelled out that Angelini was the best. But the truth is, you did not have to see any Award/trophies to know this was the best. It was not the food or the staff that made this place so special and not the customers or the decor…it was all of the above creating an ATMOSPHERE, a sum that was greater than its parts!

Have you ever discovered a “true” hidden treasure in your neighborhood by chance?