FLORENCE: NOT JUST A MUSEUM, IT IS MAGIC

All the time I pass from Florence, it happens: I walk in the center of Florence and my mind is projected into another dimension. You can image the life of centuries ago that made the city great: culture, history, art, poetry and food… this city is also ingenuity, wisdom, mystery and magic. The pillars of an unprecedented beauty that has no equal. But Florence is not just a museum. It is more….

One of the most famous square in Florence

Florence and its genetic traits attracted artists, poets and novelists from all around the world as the source of their inspiration and as their temporary home, their refuge. Florence is life. Florence is even the city of craftsmen that also today are the citizen of this beautiful city. Churning out large and small masterpieces, handing skills, values and character.

Enjoy the Flavors of Florence

Florence is the heart of Tuscany... maybe one of the best representation of Italy. If you pass from Tuscany you will stop here, walk around Florence, taking photos from Piazzale Michelangelo, Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River.  A trip to Florence means a visit to the Uffizi Museum, and the imposing Palazzo della Signoria. To truly taste Florence, you need to enjoy also the food of Florence and the wine. Stop in one of the small restaurant and take your glass of red wine sitting there in the middle of this amazing city!

You can also inhale the perfume of leather at the markets and eat a real Fiorentina. “Ristorantedel Fagioli” in Corso dei Tintori, 47 R - FIRENZE, one of the best! But you need a reservation!

Some good place to eat an amazing Italian sandwich (La schiacciata) are:

From Fratellini

Or you can go to the Sant’ Ambrogio Market and choose what you like.

For the night you can go to Piazza Santo Spirito and take an aperitivo. If you are Vegetarian search for “Il Vegetariano”. It is incredible, how it is delicious!

In Florence the best thing to do is walking, lose yourself in the middle of the town, and don’t pass your time to visit only museum and buildings …. Enjoy the peace and the beauty all around you!

KIEV or KYIV: THE CITY of THE RECENT REVOLUTION OF DIGNITY

Kiev has a
long history that started more than 1,500 years ago, when around 950 the first churches,
cathedrals and monuments were built. Below, you find a list of the must-see
historical and contemporary attractions in the city.

But what we may not remember is the recent history of the city: in 2014 there was a revolution here, “The Revolution of Dignity”.

In November
2013, the President Viktor Yanukovych announced that Ukraine was suspending
pursuit of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement for which the country
had been preparing for since 2008.  The
announcement led to the largest peaceful protests seen at the Maidan in Kyiv
since the Orange Revolution of 2004.  But
after some time, the Berkut Special Police forcefully dispersed the hundred
student-aged protesters who remained at the square, beating some with
truncheons. The reaction of the public in response to the attack was momentous.
10,000 people occupied the Maidan later that day. 

As the days
went on, more people from all corners of the country arrived in Kyiv. There was
no single leader organizing the protest. 
It was time for Ukraine to rid itself of corruption.  People organized themselves into subunits,
mainly based on areas of Ukraine from where they came. A perimeter was
established with barricades erected to keep the Berkut Police at bay. A self-defense
patrol called Samo-borona was established, its rules and discipline were based
upon the Kozak (“Cossack”) traditions of Ukraine.  Every day after work hours, people gathered
to hear the speeches of community activists as well as politicians who
supported the movement.  Musical &
cultural artists kept the crowd entertained and in good spirits day and night. The
government paid street hooligans, called “titushkas”, to attack protesters,
kidnap activists and journalists and create general chaos throughout Kyiv,
while the corrupt police turned a blind eye to these hooligans.

In February
2014, protesters began a peaceful march through the streets of Kyiv but were
met by Berkut officers throwing stun grenades and firing at them from rooftops.  The bloodiest day of the protests occurred on
February 20,  when government snipers
perched on rooftops shot and killed 67 protesters who were armed with wooden
clubs and shields made from sheet metal or wood. The massacre was filmed by
professional and amateur journalists and widely distributed on the Internet.  By February 22, the shock created by that
bloodshed had prompted a mass defection by the president’s allies in Parliament
and prodded Yanukovych to join negotiations.

ROAD TO THE INDEPENDENCE SQUARE

In mid
January, at Yanukovych’s demand, the corruption-laden parliament rammed through
a series of anti-protest laws that came with severe penalties, making the
country a de facto dictatorship. The peole exploded.

Day 1

Santa Sofia

It is the
oldest Kyiv standing church, built in 1037 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise, who
incidentally was laid to rest inside. He commissioned the project to
commemorate the site of a victory of Kyivan Rus over the Pechenegs (Asian
nomadic tribes) and to glorify Christianity.

This
majestic 13-cupola sanctuary adjoined Yaroslav’s Palace and became a holy place
of
worship for Kyivites as well as a political and cultural centre. Meetings
with foreign diplomats and treaty negotiations were held here, and the church
housed the first library and school in Kyivan Rus.

The bell
ower, azure and white is 76m high and was finished in 1752. The cathedral’s
upper Ukrainian Baroque section and gilded cupola were added in 1852. Today it
is a museum and contains archaeological artefacts and architectural displays,
such as models depicting Kyiv as it looked before being razed by Mongol invaders
in 1240. To enter the cathedral itself, purchase tickets from the kiosk around
the corner from the bell tower entrance.

Cable railway

This type
of transport is very important for citizens of Kiev because it connects the
upper town with historical part of Kiev Podol. Underground station
"Poshtova ploshcha" and River port are situated near Lower station.
There are only two Сable railways for whole Ukraine that is why don`t miss your
chance to tick "Cable railway" in you ToDo, ToTry, ToVisit list for
Kiev!

Foods!

The
Ukrainian cuisine is amazing. Your food adventure has to include stops at the
popular national restaurants of the city center to taste the traditional
dishes!

Remember to
ask for traditional Ukrainian starter – salo with garlic and toast. It goes
accompanied with a complimentary homemade liquor.

Then, it’s the
right time you taste the most popular Ukrainian soup – borsch. It is made from
cabbage, potatoes and beetroot that gives the soup an intense red color.

After that,
your lunch can continue with  sample
delicious vareniki (dumpling). You may choose from different stuffing, like
meat, potatoes and mushrooms, cabbage, etc.

Combining food tasting and sightseeing is the best way to spend your time in Kiev! And of course drink Vodka!

VODKA SHOTS

Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) and
the recent story of Kyiv (Kiev)

After that
you can choose: You can either head underground for a guided "urban
exploration" tour, navigating through storm drains and tunnels beneath the
Ukrainian capital; or if you prefer, you can stay topside for a tour of Kyiv’s
eye-catching street art highlights.

After lunch, you can take a tour through Maidan Nezalezhnosti, where you can learn about the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution visiting the places where it happened.

Day 2: the other side of Kyiv (Kiev)

Andriivskyi Descent Road

It`s the
most historical and famous street of Kiev. It had been playing an important
role in ancient times because it connects the two central districts of Kiev -
Upper Town and Podol (Lower Town). Now it is the most creative street and locals
really like to visit it. Here you will find theaters, a lot of art cafes,
several museums.  Also here you can find
a Ukrainian souvenirs of all types.

There are
lots of things to see, visit and do on one street that is often called
Ukrainian Montmartre.

First you will see the
grand church, designed by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli and
constructed during 1747–1754. St Andrew's church is considered to be one of the
most beautiful Baroque buildings not only in Kyiv but also in Europe. Curiosity:
it is the only church in Kyiv that has no bells.

Going  down to the down town, you will nderstand
that there is a reason why Andriyivsky Descent is called the Kyiv Montmartre:
it has long served as a place where artists and sculptors created and hosted
most popular exhibitions. Many renowned contemporary and classical art
galleries are located here: for instance, Tryptykh, 36, Fortuna, Karas and
Soviart.

The main
exhibition gallery is Andriivskyi Descent itself: the street is full of
paintings, sculptures, antiques, traditional Ukrainian embroideries and various
souvenirs from street artists and vendors.

See my other articles on Europe!

3 DAYS IN BARCELONA: A PERFECT LONG WEEKEND!

3 days are the perfect time to experience Barcelona at your first visit, you could see most of the city’s main tourist attractions and even get a little bit more! The city, widely considered one of Europe’s is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, with unique mix of culture,and energy. Here’s some tips on how to spend 3 days in Barcelona!

FIRST DAY:STARTING TO GO AROUND...

If you want start from the heart of Barcelona, you can have a great start with a walk on the Rambla and go to visit its most iconic market: the Boquería Market (La Rambla, 91). Today it has become a bit touristic but it’s still a must-visit in Barcelona. Better to go in the morning before it will be too crowd. You can you’re your breakfast there from one of the stalls and do some morning grocery shopping.

After your good breakfast, continue to the Paseo de Gracia, where you’ll find two of Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudí‘s most famous works. First, Casa Batlló: go inside to fully understand Gaudì prospective!

Following you will arrive to the nearby Casa Milá, Gaudí’s last work. Known as “La Pedrera” (“the quarry”), the interior is quite fascinating as well. The nice thing is to go on the spectacular rooftop terrace for some of the best views in Barcelona and take some pictures.

There, go around the neighborhood: Gracìa was a little village before being completely absorbed by the sprawling metropolis becoming part of Barcelona! Take your time to admire its picturesque, narrow streets and see where they take you.

You can end your day having some good Tapas there and after that see what the night will bring you!

SECOND DAY: SAGRADA FAMILIA Y PARC GUELL

The second day can start with the visit to the most beautiful church I ever see in my life: the Sagrada Familia, another Gaudí masterpiece. The building began to be constructed in 1882 and today is still uncompleted! Gaudì died before finishing this amazing pace of art and the legend says He was almost obsessed of it…. Actually He died in the meanwhile He was admiring the uncompleted construction mashed by a carriage and anybody recognized him in that moment. After few days people started to ask where He was, and finally they discovered He was dead….

The Curch is built thanks to the tips and the entrances the tourists pay to visit it!

The interior is reminiscent of a magical fairytale forest, with its towering tree-like columns and glittering light produced by the stained glass windows. Tip: book your entrance before going to Barcelona, there is difficult to find free places!

After the visit you can relax yourself in the park and have lunch.. Maybe not closed to the church, there is more expensive.

A must-stop in Barcelona is the Park Guell. The famous architect originally intended to build an upper-class housing development. That vision never came to pass, but the public areas of the development were completed and turned into a whimsical park.

Closed to there you can visit also the Carmel Bunkers (Carrer de Marià Labèrnia) located to the north of Park Guell. It is an abandoned military structures left over from Spain’s Civil War in the 1930s might be Barcelona’s best-kept secret. It’s a spectacular place to watch the Barcelona sunset!

For the night you can go around the “Barrio Gotico”. There take some cervezas or cocktails and enjoy the Barcelona nightlife!

THIRD DAY: VISIT THE GOTHIC BARRIO AND CILL IN BARCELONETA

The last day, you can visit the storied Gothic Barrio that maybe you saw during the night the day before. With over 2,000 years of history lining its streets, there’s no shortage of things to see and do here. Step into the shoes of Gaudí or Picasso, relax in a picturesque plaza or get lost in the winding streets of the old Jewish Quarter. The Gothic Quarter is full of magic just waiting to be discovered.

You can also visit some museum, for example the one of the Spain’s most iconic artist, the Picasso Museum (Carrer Montcada, 15-23), or enjoy the Gaudí’s works at the Gaudí Exhibition Center (Pla de la Seu, 7). After that you can stop to the cathedral!

The long walking day can continue on the beach of Barceloneta, so relax take some sun and drink a good mojito there…..

In alternative you can go for a tour of the street art of Barcelona, in that case see my article: BARCELLONA: STREETART WALK – THE POBLENOU

You can do so many more things in Barcelona… this is just a part of them so be ready to go back to this amazing city!