The Oblate And The Bargello

Street Art In Firenze

Lyn's Week
Another week for me at Il Bisonte, it's been raining most of the week, but no snow. Apparently it has been snowing heavily in Arezzo, and the snow has closed a lot of roads and caused "CHAOS" (according to the paper). It has been pretty cold, cold enough for me to wear a hat and carry an umbrella to school. The hours are back to 9.30am to 1.30pm every day except Tuesday which is 9.30am to 6.30pm.
Everyone (except Carla who said "liberami!" meaning "free me!") has finished their woodcuts and started to prepare their zinc plates ("la lastra" mans "the etching plate")
Clara has been working on this reduction woodcut for 2 weeks
I am glad I got my plate done last week as it was a bit of a struggle for room at the bench to file the edges. I saw most of them had taped their plates to the bench with packing tape and I thought it was a good idea until Tony couldn't get the sticky part of the tape off and spent the whole morning with different combinations of chemicals (eucalyptus oil would have done the trick!) and ended up using a burnisher to get the scratches off. He was okay about it - I probably would have given up as it looked like hard work, but these Italian students are a pretty calm bunch.
I had taken this photograph while we were in Venice and decided to use this for my aquaforte.

A Street In Venice
I didn't understand many of the instructions from Manuel on the first day as he is very passionate about printmaking, especially aquaforte and so it was in very fast Italian, I couldn't keep up, even Ignacio was struggling. At one stage I thought he was telling me that we shouldn't use the press near the door because the Turkish resident artist was using it; the word for press is "il torchio", which to me sounded like Turkey or "toccare", which means "to touch". I was on the wrong track completely!
I looked at the books he had available on the desk and realised that with aquaforte you don't scribe any outlines, it's all done with tiny little lines like cross stitch. If anyone is interested, google Nunzio Gulino.
Of course, I had done my usual type of drawing which is not what we were supposed to do.
Anyway, we didn't actually do any work on the Monday, just listened as Manuel took us around the studio showing us how all the presses work. There is a large press that was used by Giorgio Morandi for the prints he made at Il Bisonte, there are also another 7, or maybe more, etching presses, 2 of which are motorised (one has a boat engine running it- or I think that's what he said!) As I said before, the place is like a rabbit warren. During the week I have done 9 proofs, but I will only show you 4 as it gets a bit boring.

1st Proof

2nd Proof

3rd Proof
4th Proof

The plate after 7 periods of etching (about 4 minutes each time)
The Press
The Inking Bench
Lucia drawing her design for her plate

By Friday I had finally finished my first aquaforte.
I will put  a photo of the final print in next week's bog - I just have to decide what colour ink and how big an edition to make (probably sepia and 5 prints).
Vincenzo and Manual have asked me if I want to use aquatint on this etching, but I said that I want to learn how they do things here. I told them that "if I wanted to do the same as I do at home I might as well have saved my money and stayed home!" They were a bit surprised at this as I think that most "stranieri" (foreigners) seem to continue to work the same way they do in their own studios at home. But not me..... right now, I am looking as incompetent as a beginner! Even the bevels on the plates are completely different and the plate preparation is totally different, but I am doing my best to learn. 

Guy's Week
My final week of language school is this week and I have mixed emotions - one one hand, I am going "Yahoo" as it has been a tough three weeks so far, but on the other hand, Lyn has now convinced me that I have made progress and she is probably right. I can ask for things in shops and make myself understood in most places - well, I think I can anyway.
I have decided to have some time off and try to enjoy Florence without the pressure of having to go to school each day.
The last week was no different to the first two weeks, but there were a few highlights - one was having to explain how to make a Pavlova to a class of Japanese, a Russian and a Frenchman. As a conversation topic, we each had to explain a famous dish from our own country. Being a Kiwi/Ozzie, naturally it had to be Pavlova!
One of the Japanese guys is learning cooking here in Italy and he gave us a recipe for a Frittata-type dish that is famous in Genoa (go figure!). That was a laugh for all of us, but I tried it on Friday night and it was actually very nice.

I have found a couple of really nice walks that go up into the hills behind Florence to the south, away from the crazy traffic and onto small single-lane roads among the houses of the "absolutely loaded" Florentine residents.
It is nice to get away from the city noise and actually hear the birds singing in the trees.
There are also some pretty nice views to be had from the hills that you would not normally see.

On Friday afternoon, we went for a walk around town and found a shop that sells games - guess what this is? Italian scrabble!
We tried to have a game last night using a dictionary, but it's really hard with a language in which just about every word ends in a vowel! There are many more vowels and no K, Y , X or J.
We thought they would have vowels with accents on them, but there weren't any of them. Maybe we'll get better-  you better be prepared for Italian scrabble if you come and stay with us!!
In the end, we gave up and helped each other to create words - our very first Italian word was a real biggie - "lei" ("she" in Italian) - yahoo!
View from the roof-top cafe at the Bibliotecca Oblate

The main reason for our walk was to join the library - it's called the Bibliotecca Oblate and is in an old convent. It is quite close to the Duomo. It is very similar to the City Library in Melbourne and has a great cafe up the top of the stairs which has a fantastic view of the Duomo. Anyone can join and it's free, you just have to take your passport as ID. 

On Saturday, we went to the Bargello National Museum. We have both got "Friends of the Uffizi" cards which gives us free entry into most museums in Florence - it also means we can skip the queues. This museum was the original Questura (headquarters of the police) and at one time was a prison - they used to execute people in this courtyard!
It is worth a visit as it has some wonderful statues and all sorts of fantastic paintings. It is sort of like a snap-shot of the whole of Florence really - and it's only 4 euros to get in as well.
Another bonus is that it is off the beaten track and not too many tourists come here - it really is a pretty spectacular building.

Entry courtyard of the Bargello

Statue of the "Fisher Boy" in the courtyard.

After we left the museum we walked over the road to one of Lyn's student colleagues (Giulia) and her family's shop.
Giulia's whole family are artists and they live in a small village outside of Firenze where they have a factory where they hand-paint pottery with traditional Tuscan designs.
Giulia and her grandfather are in the midst of a consignment of 250 hand-painted pieces of pottery. Her father is also a painter (he calls himself a "copyist" as he copies famous masterpieces from the renaissance on commission) and her mother paints glazes on the pottery too.
The shop sells lots of different glazed pottery pieces - it's all very beautiful.
Ignacio (another Il Bisonte student from Spain) was also visiting the shop, so we arranged to see him at our local market the next day.

Today (Sunday), we went to the Santo Spirito market just around the corner from here. It was big today, lots of stalls selling antiques, books, sweets, bread, cheese and junk.
The day was cool, but in the sun it was beautiful and actually nice and warm - a truly spectacular winter's day.
Even the local "shady" traders were there with the rugs spread out on the cobblestones selling odd stuff, until the local police weighed in and told everyone "Non Vendere" and shifted them on.
We caught up with Ignacio and had a coffee in Guy's favourite cafe called "Volume", a very trendy little bar/cafe which was an old woodworking shop before it was renovated.  They have kept a lot of the old machinery, tools, wood-carvings and benches.
The language school Guy goes to is right next door.
Lyn has worked out that a "latte macchiato" will get her a reasonable cup of weak coffee (she can't drink the strong brew they serve here in Italy). It is similar to our cafe latte, but it is still small and lukewarm.
I (Guy) usually have a cappuccino here as I think that it is the best coffee I have found in Florence so far, and it comes in a medium sized cup, however their cups are like our small coffee cups in Oz - and they are never hot!
Right now, I would kill for a "bucket" of HOT coffee!
Volume Cafe
After coffee we went for a long walk up into the hills (south of the river and east of the city) where all the rich houses with big blocks of land are.

We then walked back down the other side of the valley where we took a shortcut through the Boboli Gardens and home- altogether about a 3 hour walk - we had to walk off the "pane sale" (salted bread) and numerous "frittelle di riso" (a small round lemon flavoured Florentine specialty) that we ate!

We have now been in Italy for a month and away from Oz for almost 2 months - the time has flown and we both feel like it was only a week or so ago that we were madly doing last-minute things getting ready to leave for the UK.
It is our wedding anniversary tomorrow (9th) and we can not believe that year ago we were in our back-yard getting married, we were so hot and the drama of the bush-fire was all around us.

A "Good Information" Moment!
One thing of note is that Florence "eats" mobile device battery capacity (phones, tablets, etc.) due to the stone-walls and narrow streets, so I have had to order a new battery for my phone (the original is a few years old) and also purchase a "Power Bank" to supplement the phone battery. This is a device that will recharge your phone without having to charge it from the mains.
For all you people heading to "Old Europe", I would strongly recommend bring a power bank with you to stop those "Oh No!" moments when your phone goes flat because it has been searching for network coverage for the last 4 hours!


  1. I found some rules for you about drinking coffee in Italy

    1.Take your coffee standing at the bar. Sitting down will cost at least four times more.

    2.Never drink a coffee with your meal, always after. The exception is below at no. 3.

    3.Never drink a cappuccino with or after a meal unless it is breakfast. Dunking is allowed.

    4.Never drink a cappuccino after midday. Exceptions to this are: you have woken up late and it is your breakfast or it is an
    exceptionally cold day and you are warming yourself up with it.

    5.Never drink a cappuccino with something savory. It just doesn't go.

    6.Latte is simply milk, and a latte macchiato (what most English speakers would consider a “latte” is usually drunk by children or pregnant women).


  2. Liam, rules about coffee drinking are a load of crap... but thanks for sending them!
    You can drink whatever coffee you want whenever you want, you are paying for it!
    The price difference between sitting down and standing up is minuscule except in fancy cafes where we don't go.
    No one will ever mistake us for being Italian, it will take longer than a year for us to pass as Italian even by a tourist .
    The latte macchiato tastes just like a cafe latte only it's bigger and it would be nice to get it hot, have to ask for it to be molto caldo (at which they will tut, tut)
    We haven't seen any children drinking coffee, and there are lots of babies here, but very few pregnant women they probably can't get up and down the stairs to their apartments so stay home!
    Italians see coffee as a drug and slug it down lukewarm, can't get a good cup of tea, they give you a cup of lukewarm water and a box with teabags so you can choose your own. So please thank Jennifer agin for the tea at Christmas! Mum xx

  3. I converted to Italian coffee styles after visiting a few years ago. Luke warm is the way to go. Espresso after a meal, cafe latte or cappuccino in the mornings. I love it.
    Love the courtyard at the Bargello.
    You must have taken the last shot with a phone. It's a bit blurry and out of focus. Great work on the blog, I'm really enjoying reading it.
    Off to the WSBK next weekend. Missed the Island Classic unfortunately. Cheers Andrew