Category Archives: Dove Vai?

Dove Vai? – To Siena to See the Door to Heaven

Experience the extraordinary opening of the Porta del Cielo (Door of Heaven)  – or, at least, Siena’s version of it. From April 6 to October 27, 2013, if you happen to visit Siena, don’t miss this spectacular opportunity.

[Photo Credits: Opera - Civita Group]

For the first time, after extensive renovation, it will be possible to take a tour of the walkways in the vault of the Duomo of Siena. Internal passages, balconies (both inside and outside) and hidden attic spaces will be open to small, guided groups. Until now, these parts of the Cathedral were accessible only to the architects and builders in charge of maintaining the structure over the centuries.

photo credit: www.worldeasyguides.com

The two massive towers on each side of the façade of the Duomo house spiral staircases that lead up into the roof where there is a series of walkways and rooms that provide astonishing views of both the interior of the Duomo and the city of Siena outside.

[Photo Credits: Opera - Civita Group]

You will be able to look down onto the marble intarsia floor of the main nave and understand its design in a way that until now could only be done through photographs. You will be able to traverse the walkway over the main altar and almost reach out and touch Duccio di Buoninsegna’s stained glass rose window. Finally, you will be able to walk along the balcony inside the dome of the cathedral from which there is a fabulous view of the high altar.

[Photo Credits: Opera - Civita Group]

The visiting itinerary “from above” will thus permit visitors to better understand the dedication of the Cathedral of Siena to the Assumption of the Madonna, and the strong connection the people of Siena have had with their ‘patron’ for centuries: Sena vetus civitas Virginis.

[Photo Credits: Opera - Civita Group]

The exterior views extend over the Basilica of St. Domenico, the Medici Fortress, the entire dome of the chapel of St. John the Baptist and the landscape of the surrounding Sienese hills.

The Door to Heaven Guided Tour (La Porta del Cielo)

6 April – 27 October, 2013

Reservations required: tickets per person €25, groups of max 17 people €400. Tel +39 0577 286300 (Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm) or email: opasiena@operalaboratori.com

For all of the details of what to wear and what to consider before taking the tour see the official website.

Friend In Florence Gets a Nod From Dream of Italy

A favorite Italian-interest website (and newsletter), Dream of Italy, just named Friend In Florence and yours truly as one of Italy’s Best Local Tour Guides for 2013. A big GRAZIE to both founder Kathy McCabe and contributing editor Rebecca Winke (also of the fabulous Agriturismo Brigolante Guest Apartments in Umbria).

best-tour-guide-badge-largeOver ten years ago, Kathy McCabe had the brilliant idea of starting one of the first subscription travel newsletter on the Internet. She was passionate about all things Italy so it became Dream of Italy, The Insider’s Guide to Undiscovered Italy. The newsletter was awarded “Best Consumer Subscription Newsletter 2007” and has been recommended by USA TODAY, National Geographic Traveler, U.S News & World Report and BusinessWeek, among other major media outlets.

Kathy McCabe
Kathy McCabe

Through her newsletter and media appearances, Kathy has become well known as the travel expert for Italy. She has helped thousands of travelers “be Italian” for a day, a week, or a month. She was recently voted one of the “12 Top Travel Twitter Personalities for 2012.” She was also the editor for the recently released mobile app – Rome: Dream of Italy.

Kathy’s first-hand Italy reporting has included assisting in the production of buffalo mozzarella in Campania, partaking in truffle hunts in Piedmont and Umbria, soaking in magical hot springs in Tuscany, watching open-air opera in Verona, visiting ancient caves in Basilicata and reviewing Italy’s newest restaurants and hotels. She recently wrote about her visit to Francis Ford Coppola’s new venture, the exclusive hotel Palazzo Margherita in the Basilicata region, for The Huffington Post.

Rebecca’s blog is one of the wryest (and truest) looks at an expat’s life in Italy. When is she going to write that book?

Agriturismo Brigolante Guest Apartments
Agriturismo Brigolante Guest Apartments

Dove Vai? – Florence is alive this week with Florens 2012

It seems like just yesterday that Florens 2010 brought a lawn to Piazza del Duomo and a full-sized David moved from place to place around Florence. For the second edition of this global cultural event, the city is graced with seventy olive trees forming a grove around the Baptistry and three historic crucifixes inside. Across town, the piazza in front of Santa Croce, as if by magic, has grown a cross of its own, made of tons of marble.

The grassy lawn, know as the Prato, was the hit of Florens 2010
The grassy lawn, know as the prato, was the hit of Florens 2010

The olive grove is best seen early in the morning or late at night when the fewest people are around. The trees are only a small part of Florens 2012. Every day this week there are lectures, bloggers, food and wine, all of which are described on the Florens 2012 website.

Dwarfed by the Baptistry and Duomo the forest of olive trees are obscure the people
Dwarfed by the Baptistry and the Duomo is a grove of olive trees (photo by F. Boni)

Many of the olive tree are over 100 years old. Those made up of three or four twisted trunks are really branches of a tree that survived the 1985 deep freeze that turned the Arno to ice.

Olive trees older than any of those who enjoy getting lost in the grove
Olive trees older than any of those who are lost in the grove (Photo by F. Boni)

Florens 2012 tries to mix the references to the Garden of Gethsemane with environmental concerns of today. Neither symbol comes to mind as you wander through the trees.

No olive hang from these carefully pruned trees (Photo by F. Boni)
No olives hang from these carefully pruned trees (Photo by F. Boni)

In 2010, the Prato was in honor of Saint Zanobi, but most people just enjoyed the rare feel of grass in this city of stone. These ancient pruned olive trees may only make you think of the drought-caused blight on the 2012 olive harvest and wonder about the high price a liter of extra virgin cold pressed oil will cost in January 2013.

As you move inside the Baptistry, the Garden of Gethsemane gives way to the crucifixion with never-before gathering of three wooden sculptures by Florence’s favorite sons – Donatello, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo.

The Mystery of the Cross inside the Bapistry
The Mystery of the Cross inside the Bapistry

The exposition is know as Mysterium Crucis or Mystery of the Cross. Florens 2012 casts its eyes back 1,700 years (only in Italy can you get away with that) to Emperor Constantine, who in October 312 (they are precise about the month and year) at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, saw a cross accompanied by the words in hoc signo vinces (in this sign you win). The curators ask you to bring your thoughts forward to the meaning of the cross today.

Brunellschi's Crucifix from the Gondi Chapel of Santa maria Novella (1415)
Brunelleschi's Crucifix from Santa Maria Novella (1415)

But you may just want to stop and think about the artists who, each in different decades of the 1400s, carved such masterworks out of wood. Each artist had a very different vision and style, but each was influenced by the iconography and customs of their time.

Michelangelo’s sculpture is the most shrouded in mystery. Supposedly carved for the prior of Santo Spirito, this 1492 crucifix, was rediscovered in 1962, but not attributed to the artist until 2001.

Michelangelo's Crucifix from Santo Spirito (1492)
Michelangelo's Crucifix from Santo Spirito (1492)

If art historians have it right, Michelangelo was still a teenager when her carved the crucifix hanging today in the Baptistry. The delicate carving is interesting in comparison to Donatello’s (1413), which was not appreciated by his contemporary, Brunlleschi, who thought the life-like face of Donatello’s Christ looked more like a peasant.

Crucifixes from 1412, 1415, and 1492 are together for the first time
Crucifixes from 1412, 1415, and 1492 are together for the first time

Moving on to the modern, you must walk across town to Piazza Santa Croce where Mimmo Paladino has hauled in tons of marble to create a cross of his own. This is a very interactive piece with people actually encouraged to write on the gorgeous marble’s creamy white face. Art in public spaces is a theme of this piece, although you might wonder how the gold leaf fluttering off one of the blocks is going to last out 24 hours.

Mimmo Paladino and his design for Piazza Santa Croce (Photo P. Avallone)
Paladino's design for Piazza Santa Croce (Photo by P. Avallone)

Paladino’s cross includes bronze pieces – body parts, large geometric shapes – as well as monumental carved pieces of stone that are attached to rough-hewn block of marble, seemingly just cut out of the hill-side in Carrara.

Kids are loving the artistry of climbing on Paladino's Cross (photo La Repubblica)
Kids are loving the artistry of climbing on Paladino's Cross (photo in LaRepubblicaFirenze.it )

Part of the public interaction is to scale the heights of these blocks. Only in Italy, it seems. In the U.S. there would be at least warning signs or signed releases-of-liability or, most probably, a high fence.

It is hard to see the design from ground level , but that is part of the fun (photo at Artour.com)
It is hard to see the design from ground level , but that is part of the fun (photo at Artribune.com)

Another aspect of the planned interactiveness involves a a stone cutter who goes around carving out the graffiti left by passers-by. The “I luv Mario” and “Forza Viola!” are now carved into the stone for perpetuity or at least until it is sanded down after the exhibit is removed from the piazza.

The final design by Mimmo Paladino in situ (photo by LaReppublicaFirenze.it)
The final design by Mimmo Paladino in situ (photo at LaRepubblicaFirenze.it)

The Santa Croce installation provides the most Kodak moments. It is also the event you will have wished you had seen from the moment the first stone arrived until the last one is removed on November 11, 2012.

Dove Vai? – The Umberto I Library at the Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute, Library #7

The Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute is a modern orthopedic hospital, founded in 1896 in the monastic complex of San Michele in Bosco on the hill close to the Bologna center. The Umberto I Central Library, named after King Umberto I, is located in the sixteenth-century rooms where once the books of the Olivetani monks were kept.

Ornate Umberto I Library at Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute
Ornate Umberto I Library at Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute

As with many historic locations in Italy, there is controversy as to the exact date of the construction of the first library of the monastery of Saint Michele in Bosco: to some it was raised towards the end of the 15th century, while others argue that the Priorate of Barnaba Cevenini ordered the construction in 1517. It is certain that in 1677, Taddeo Pepoli, prior of the monastery, refurbished the library, entrusting the task of architecture to Gian Giacomo Monti, and the contract of the ceiling paintings to Domenico Maria Canuti.

Painted by Domenico Maria Canuti (1677)
Painted by Domenico Maria Canuti (1677)

With Napoleon’s suppression of the monasteries in 1797, the library suffered great damage: the antique 16th century shelves were destroyed and the precious miniature books and manuscripts were dispersed. The former monastery of San Michele in Bosco went through a dark 50-year period until 1841, when the complex became the residential palace of the Legato Pontificio Spinola. In the library, the Canuti paintings were restored. The rooms of the library were used as a hall of princes, cardinals, knights and famous politicians until 1880, when Professor Rizzoli acquired the convent to construct an Orthopedic Hospital.

But the library only regained its greatness in 1922, when the director of the Institute, Vittorio Putti, restored the rooms as the Umberto I Library, thanks also to the donations of the Bologna Province to honor the memory of King Umberto I. Now the rooms hold one of the most complete and rare collections of books in the entire field of orthopedics.

Globe of the 18th century world by Father Rosini da Lendinara (1762)
Globe of the 18th century world by Father Rosini da Lendinara (1762)

The first item that catches your eye as you enter is a giant world globe. It is the 1762 work of Father Rosini da Lendinara, who used maps and descriptions of global explorers to create the masterwork. The Canuti paintings shine over the shelves of both ancient and modern books. A giant (about 3 feet long and 2 feet wide) complete three volume 19th century copy of the Divine Comedy by Dante is housed on its own wooden shelf.

19th century copy of the Paradiso from Dante's Divine Comedy
19th century copy of the Paradiso from Dante's Divine Comedy

Positioned in what once were the apartments of the Priors of the Monastery of Saint Michele in Bosco, in front of the Umberto I Library, there is the study and private library of Professor Vittorio Putti, which he donated to the institute upon his death. Born in Bologna in 1880, Professor Putti succeeded famed orthopedist Professor Alessandro Codivilla, as director of the Institute. He held the post from 1912 to 1940, the year of his death.

Professor Putti's office is now one of the most famous collections of historic orthopedic texts
Professor Putti's office -- one of the most famous collections of historic medical texts

An excellent surgeon with great managerial skills, Professor Putti was interested in all issues of orthopedics, introducing new methods and innovative instruments. He gained great international prestige and became an honorary member of the most important foreign societies, as well as being the correspondent for the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, the largest medical journal in the orthopedic specialization.

Fireplace in Professor Putti's office
Fireplace in Professor Putti's office

A renown book collector, the professor created in his own study/library a small private museum of the history of medicine. In his study, wall-to-wall with dark briarwood shelves, he gathered more than 1.000 antique books of medicine, including more than two hundred 16th Century works, into a collection, which is considered by experts to be one of the richest and most carefully selected in the world, not only for the quantity, but also for the quality of the texts they contain.

Umberto I Library at Rizzoli Institute displays historic orthopedic text
Umberto I Library at Rizzoli Institute displays historic orthopedic text

Among the rare collection of texts are editions of Ippocrate, Galeno, Avicenna and other fathers of medicine, you’ll find the Fasciculus Ketham (the first medical book with illustrations published in Italy in 1493); one of the four volumes of anatomical woodcut prints (1528) by Albrecht Dürer (some inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci); the famous first edition of Vesalio (De Humani Corporis Fabrica) 1543; and the first book of orthopedics written by Nicholas Andry published in Paris in 1741.

Book of anatomical woodcut prints by Albrecht Dürer (1528)
Book of anatomical woodcut prints by Albrecht Dürer (1528)

In the Donation Room off of the office hang the portraits of famous doctors, a collection of surgical instruments that were used from Roman times until 1800, as well as other valuable objects bought by Putti from the most famous antique dealers from all over the world, including two splendid manikins from 1500 that can be dismantled and were used in Europe for teaching and in China for diagnosing.

Visitors can admire the architecture, the frescos and other works of art from the XVI and XVII centuries in the church and halls of the former monastery by taking City Bus # 30 from the train station to it’s very last stop. Tours of the library are limited by reservation, as are those to the Putti Collection.

View of Bologna from Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute
View of Bologna from Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute

The Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute is organized in two departments that group wards and healthcare services and research laboratories. The units are specialized in: treatment of degenerative pathologies of the hip and knee; spine pathologies, pathologies of the foot and upper limbs; sports pathologies; tumors of the musculoskeletal system; pediatric orthopedic pathologies; and diagnosis and treatment of rare skeletal diseases. High expertise; organization aimed at integration between research and treatment and the offer of high quality healthcare; innovative technologies in continuous evolution – are the ingredients for Rizzoli’s success in Italy and worldwide. Website: http://www.ior.it/en.

Dove Vai? – Predappio, the Scariest Haunted Town in Italy

We weren’t there for the celebrations, but in August the town of Predappio, Italy, seemed haunted by Benito Mussolini, all the same.

Most Italians just try to forget about it, but they have just had to face up to this tricky subject again, as October 28 is the 90th anniversary of Mussolini’s “March on Rome” (1922) that brought the Fascist leader to power and enabled him to stay there for 23 years.

Mussolini brought fascist architecture to his hometown
Mussolini brought fascist architecture to his hometown

For many years after the fall of fascism, Italians turned their backs on their recent history. The fascist party was banned, the history curriculum in Italian schools even stopped at World War I. But gradually in the 21st Century old taboos are being broken.

The dress code for the celebration is rigorously black. The chants nostalgic, a medley of Fascist truisms peppered with clipped bursts of “Duce, Duce, Duce” will be hushed when the parade enters the cemetery in this central Italian town this week to arrive at its mecca: the tomb of the former Fascist dictator.

Tomb of Benito Mussolini
Tomb of Benito Mussolini

It’s always thus in Predappio, three times a year, a strange and scary group of odd fellows gather – the older black-suited Mercedes owners, the young tattooed skinheads, military-styled (also dressed in black) middle-agers, who unload black SUVs of pretty Stepford wives and two to four children, all coming to commemorate the day of Mussolini’s birth (on July 29, 1883, in a house not far from the cemetery), his death (at the hands of partisans on April, 28, 1945) or the March on Rome, which brought Mussolini’s party to power in Italy in October 1922. This year, on the 90th anniversary, the crowds are sure to be bigger and more strident in these time of economic turmoil when the trains do not run on time.

Mussolini’s tomb gets between 80,000 and 100,000 visitors a year, with peaks during the three commemorations.

After Mussolini’s corpse was hung upside down on meat hooks on April 29, 1945, in Piazzale Loreto in Milan, where citizens vented their fury at their former leader, he was buried in an unmarked grave in a nearby cemetery. A year later, neo-Fascist loyalists dug up his body and hid it in box in a convent in Lombardy until 1957, when the remains were returned to Mussolini’s widow, who buried them in the family crypt in Predappio. Supposedly, the brain took a separate path, but was eventually reunited with the corpse.

Such veneration weighed on Italy’s leaders in 1945. After Mussolini was killed, a decision was made to obscure his grave site, much the way military officials in the Transitional National Council of Libya chose to bury Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in a secret location last month and American commandos buried Osama bin Laden at sea in May, to avoid creating a shrine for their supporters.

Room of honors in the crypt dating from 1945 to 2012
Room of honors in the crypt dating from 1945 to 2012

In fact, Italian authorities’ efforts to hide the burial site backfired on them, as its location rapidly became a matter of intense interest. “The vitality of Mussolini’s afterworld life was great as long as the mausoleum didn’t exist. A corpse that is nowhere is everywhere,” said Sergio Luzzatto, a historian at the University of Turin who wrote The Body of Il Duce about the corpse’s travels. The popular documentary Il Corpo del Duce was inspired by the book.

“Italians lived the absence of the body as a presence, so continuing the love story between Italians and their leader, which was very carnal in many ways,” Luzzatto wrote. That story ended when the body was returned to the family and “it became fixed and sepulchral,” primarily in the guest books at the tomb, where visitors can sign and leave comments. New commemorative, adoring metal plaques, dated 2011 and 2012, keep getting attached to the walls of the underground tomb where Benito is not alone – he is surrounded by the long past and recently deceased Mussolini family members.

Other family members share Mssolini's crypt
Other family members share Mssolini's crypt

Still this October other admirers will come to glorify an epoch in which they believe that Italy, in contrast to today, counted for something in the world. Some today think that Italy needs a distinct change – that it is the laughingstock of Europe, especially after the Berlusconi bunga-bunga years.

Plaster bust for Dad, T-shirt for Mom, and a Benito bib for Baby
Plaster bust for Dad, T-shirt for Mom, and a Benito bib for Baby

A museum of Duce memorabilia opened in 2001, curated by Domenico Morosini, a successful Lombardy businessman, in what was once a Mussolini summer home. The registers are shelved under a beam inscribed with a Mussolini citation: “It is not impossible to govern Italians, merely useless.”  The museum gets between 2,000 and 3,000 people a year.

Selling well in Mussolini's hometown
Selling well in Mussolini's hometown

On Predappio’s main street, bordered by a jarring number of gargantuan Fascist-designed buildings, on a steaming hot day in August we toured a handful of shops doing brisk business in Fascist memorabilia, selling everything from truncheons to bronze busts of the long-dead leader to Mussolini calendars and authentic German helmets, circa 1945. Ever felt a cold chill climb the back of your neck on hot summer day?

Truncheons on sale for neo-fascists
Truncheons on sale for neo-fascists

This is just the kind of tourism that Predappio’s center-left mayor, Giorgio Frassineti, would rather avoid. “We refuse a vision of Predappio of the few, of the people who attend the commemorations, but also of those from the extreme left who want to cancel its history,” Frassineti told a New York Times reporter, apparently straddling the divide that splits this tiny haunted community.

The smallest town with the biggest fascist-inspired buildings
The smallest town with the biggest fascist-inspired buildings

To see what happened October 28, 2012 view the videos in this article.

Dove Vai? – To Savor ‘Cake Thinking’ at Palazzo Coveri

For a sugar high on a beautiful Spring day in Florence, walk on by Cake Thinking, a new free exhibit on display at the Gallery of Palazzo Coveri. The show, featuring the indulgent works of Tuscan artist Marina Calamai, is entirely dedicated to the theme of the dessert, interpreted in multiple manners and variations.

Cake Thinking at Palazzo Coveri
Cake Thinking at Palazzo Coveri

Arezzo-born Calamai’s creations depict a simple world that joyously combines the antique with the modern. These works are inspired by the art of Renaissance pastry-cooks, rediscovering and reconstructing the forms and colors of the sweetmeats that graced the table of Eleonora and Cosimo I de’ Medici. The artist has created an original style of painting, sculpture, and jewelry, with the theme of sumptuous cakes and pastries of all sorts, able to appeal to the eyes and the appetite at the same time.

A tart topped with a cherry makes a ring good enough to eat.
A tart topped with a cherry makes a ring good enough to eat.

Be sure to see the art-à-porter sculpture of “sweet” hats (meringues to profiteroles) that transform the ordinary into the unconventional – they can be worn as an ironic headdress or displayed as sculpture.

There are original audio “sound” paintings of the artist, including a diver taking the plunge into whipped cream.

A great fantasy - diving into whipped cream
A great fantasy - diving into whipped cream

The unique polyurethane foam sculpture entitled Corredo Cromosomico (Chromosome Complement), and the three-dimensional painting representing Cromosoma 4 (Chromosome 4), which is thought to be the gene responsible for the “sweet-tooth,” are the only two pieces that don’t look good enough to eat.

Don’t miss the celebrated installation Muffin, a huge cake that you can walk inside with a cherry on top, and, my favorite, the Kiwi table made with resin. There are also sweet silk scarves and jewelry in the form of cream puffs and cakes.

Kiwi table is a refreshing take on the fruit
Kiwi table is a refreshing take on the fruit

The Gallery of Palazzo Coveri is located on Lungarno Guicciardini, 19 in Florence.

Entrance to the exhibit is free and is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 11 am to 1 pm and 3:30 pm to 7 pm.

The show ends April 16, 2011.

For further information, visit galleriadelpalazzo.com and marinacalamai.it .

Dove Vai? The Folon Rose Garden of Florence

I was intrigued by the sculptures of Jean-Michel Folon the first time I left Florence by car going south. There on a small traffic island stood a man with an umbrella — it was raining inside the umbrella. He was appropriately titled l’uomo della pioggia (the rain man).

Carlo Buliani catches the light of l'uomo della pioggia
Carlo Buliani catches the light of "l'uomo della pioggia"

Alexandra Kourey of arttrav.com fame caught a different view of the same statue, one winter day when someone forgot to turn the umbrella off — now he was the ice man.

Alexandra catches the man in rain on a very cold day
Alexandra catches the rain man on a very cold day

My next sighting of Folon was in the butcher shop of Dario Cecchini. He was a friend of the artist and has a ceramic Everyman as well as a watercolor and a couple of sketches created by the artist in the shop on butcher paper. Perhaps I even saw Folon’s art on the covers of the New Yorker and Time in the years before I arrived in Italy and just didn’t know his name.

Antica Marcelleria Cecchini envisioned by Folon
Antica Marcelleria Cecchini envisioned by Folon

Jean-Michel Folon was born in Brussels in 1934. He grew up in a modest bourgeois family where his father was a wholesale paper dealer. Young Jean-Michel loved to draw and showed a strong desire to be an artist. His father however thought being an artist was impractical and enrolled his son in the architecture program at Ecole Saint-Luc in Brussels. According to Folon, he “spent the next four years drawing bricks” and left the school just six months before he was to receive his diploma. He moved to Paris in 1955 to follow his dreams.

Folon hangs out with his reading man at Forte Belvedere (2005)
Folon hangs out with his reading man at Forte Belvedere (2005)

Presenting a summary of Folon’s artistry entails skimming through over forty years of creation. His works have traveled the world: from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the Correr Museum in Venice and from the Gaudí Museum in Barcelona to the Picasso Museum in Antibes. Even though some of his works became part of museum collections, Folon kept a lot of his works for himself.

Partir in the autumn sunshine
"Partir" in the Rose Garden under the autumn sunshine

For this, Florence has reason to give thanks because now twelve sculptures (ten in bronze and two in ceramic) are part of a permanent collection in the Rose Garden (Giardino delle Rose) below Piazzale Michelangelo.

The idea started in 2005 when over 100 of Folon’s works were displayed at the Forte Belvedere in Florence. The experience, some say, was an epiphany for Folon, who was passionate about Tuscany, and was married to an Italian, Paola Ghiringhelli. He dreamed of permanently displaying his work in the perfect Italian garden with good lighting and a spectacular view. It was his desire that his bronzes would have a yearlong dialogue with the vistas he loved. Sadly Folon died soon after the close of the 2005 exhibition.

L'Envol is about to take off in the wind
"L'Envol" is about to take off in the wind

But Paola persevered. Clearly a woman of fortitude, she fought the Florence city government that was happy to take her husband’s statues, but wanted to stick them in an obscure park in the periphery of the city. She remembered how Folon loved the way his bronze suitcase Partir framed the Duomo in 2005. She wanted the same effect and knew it could be found in the Rose Garden located at about the same distance above the Arno as Forte Belvedere. But the Rose Garden was only open a couple of months a year, complained the powers that be. So? Open it all year ….

Folon's Chat may look sleepy, but is ever vigilant
Folon's "Chat" may look sleepy, but is ever vigilant

And it finally happened. The Rose Garden is open all year and last fall Folon’s bronzes were installed. Even now, when there are few flowers and it is very cold, the garden is a joy to explore. Colorful graphic maps help you to find each of the sculptures, although the positioning of the ceramic pieces still needs work to show them at their best.

The highlight is certainly Partir — the huge outline of a suitcase with a ship riding sea waves inside — but even better, it frames the Palazzo Vecchio and the historic center. Surely some day there will be a series of photographs that celebrates the seasonal changes framed by this bronze.

25eme Pensee has a mind only for gardening
"25ème Pensée" has a mind only for gardening

The three Everymen, one with a flower pot for a head, another getting set to fly off in the winter wind, and the third simply entitled Walking, are classic Folon. The man reading on the bench kindly leaves you room to join him. The cat-bird is the most whimsical animal, but be sure to find the fish-man in the pond, the streaking bird, and the water-spouting beast called Vivre that is a mix of at least four creatures.

The catbird is only one of Folon's fanciful animals
The cat-bird is only one of Folon's fanciful animals

So that Folon’s contributions may be enjoyed in any season, the Giardino delle Rose will now remain open year-round. It is an oasis of quiet, ever changing with the seasons, similar to the Bardini Garden, in that, unlike the Boboli, it is usually empty of tourists. Admission to the Giardino delle Rose is free.

Some of the best views of classic Florence are from the rose garden
The best wintery day views of classic Florence are from the Rose Garden

The reason the garden is never crowded is that it is off the beaten tourist track. To get to the garden, starting from the top at Piazzale Michelangelo, go down the stairway (Via di San Salvatore al Monte) descending from Viale Galileo. From the bottom, go through the porta at Via di Belvedere; walk up Via del Monte alle Croci until you see the stairs.  There will be a small door in the stone wall to the garden at the intersection.

Folon left Florence after the Forte Belevedere exhibition in 2005 to focus on his new passion — a 1930 yacht that he called Over the Rainbow. But that’s another story, for another time.

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Florence Museum Card Face-Off

Attention:  Effective as of June 15, 2015, the Regional Secretary of the former Superintendency of the State Museums of Florence stipulated that Amici degli Uffizi members, holding valid membership and ID cards, are eligible for the free entrance and the priority pass to the Uffizi Gallery only. This severely limits the benefits of the card.

Trailing most other museum-intensive cities, Florence finally has two competing museum cards. And before too many more months pass, I promised myself that I would perform an analysis of the relative worth of the Firenze Card and the Amici degli Uffizi Card, which if you click on the foregoing links you will have a chance to read, in detail, about both cards.

Full Disclosure:  I am not good at math. (My sister got those genes from our father. I got our mother’s.)

Michelangelo's David at the Accademia Gallery
Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery

Our Mission

(I am assuming you are in this with me.) To determine which museum card, if any, should be bought by: 1) a lone traveler with a larger than normal interest in Renaissance art and history; 2) a couple (related by family (i.e. sisters), married, or domestic partners) with an interest in only seeing the David and the Birth of Venus; 3) a couple who are interested in seeing at least four museums; 4) a family of four (parents, two children) with only an interest in seeing the David; 4) a family of four interested in seeing the David and the Birth of Venus; and 5) a family of four interested in seeing more than those two museums, and also gardens, churches or Medici villas.

And to make us feel like we are lost in an especially complicated SAT math question, let’s add the variables of: a) a three day stay in Florence, or b) a more than three day stay in Florence.

Okay, we have only a limited time (or attention span) to solve this problem. (Spoiler Alert: get the Amici degli Uffizi Card)

Assumptions

Assumption (not proven): both cards are equally easy to purchase and to use at all qualifying museums.

Assumption (proven): both cards are accepted at the Accademia (the “David “(I know that you knew he was located there)) and the Uffizi (housing Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and thousands of other great paintings).

Assumption (proven): if you do not want to wait hours in line, you must have reservations (4 euro extra per ticket for a reserved entry time) to the Uffizi and the Accademia. All of the other museums you can walk into within minutes.

Assumption (not proven): visitors to Florence hardly ever take the bus. (See Firenze Card bonus.)

Assumption (good for today):  1 euro = $1.42

Facts

Firenze Card

Firenze Card- 3 Day Museum Pass
Firenze Card- 3 Day Museum Pass

Cost: 50 euro ($72) per person

Free access to 30 major museums, villas and historical gardens in Florence

Admission to museums is granted by showing the card at the entrance, with no reservation requirements

Free travel on public transports: ATAF&Linea buses and trams

Free access to museums and public transport for EU citizens under the age of 18 who are accompanying you (Note to U.S. families: this does not include you.)

Time Limit: 72 hours (3 days)

Amici degli Uffizi Card

Cost: Individual – 60 euro ($86); family of maximum two adults and two children (under 18 years) – 100 euro ($142); or “young people” (up to 26 years) – 40 euro ($57)

Amici degli Uffizi
Amici degli Uffizi

Free access to 22 major museums, villas and historical gardens in Florence

Admission to museums is granted by showing the card at the entrance, with no reservation requirements

Reduced price tickets for concerts of the Teatro Comunale

Reduced price (15%) tickets for concerts of the Orchestra della Toscana at Teatro Verdi

Discount (20%)on price ticket for premières and Saturday performances at Teatro della Pergola

Time Limit: calendar year January 1 to December 31 (i.e. 3 days, if you buy it on December 29)

Ready for our problem sets?

Birth of Venus found in the Uffizi Gallery
Birth of Venus found in the Uffizi Gallery

Individual

One person who is in Florence for 3 days and wants to see two museums per day, including the Accademia and the Uffizi (for example, also the Bargello, San Marco, Boboli Gardens and Palatine Gallery (Pitti Palace)

Museum Ticket Prices

Uffizi – 15 euro ($22) (remember this includes the 4 euro surcharge for reservations)
Accademia – 14 euro ($20) (ditto)
Bargello – 4 euro ($6)
San Marco – 4 euro ($6)
Boboli Gardens – 6 euro ($9)
Palatine Gallery (incl. Modern Art Museum) – 8.50 euro ($12)

Cost for an Individual

Firenze Card:  50 euro ($72)
Amici degli Uffizi Card:  60 euro ($86)
No card:  51.50 euro ($74)

Winner: Firenze Card (unless this person is either a) under 27 years of age; or b) a music lover (see Amici degli Uffizi discounts))

But if this person is in Florence for more than three days and/or wants to see more museums, villas, or gardens than those listed above, the Amici degli Uffizi Card is a better choice,

Couple or Two Related People (see Amici degli Uffizi “Family” definition above)

a) A couple who are in Florence for 3 days and only want to see the Birth of Venus and the David

Museum Ticket Prices

Uffizi – 30 euro ($43) (remember this includes the 4 euro surcharge for reservations)
Accademia – 28 euro ($40) (ditto)

 

Firenze Card
Firenze Card

Cost for a Couple or Two Related People

Firenze Card:  100 euro ($142)
Amici degli Uffizi Card:  100 euro ($142) (Family Membership)
No card:  58 euro ($83)

Winner: No card (remember to make reservations well in advance (call +39 055 292883)

b) A couple who are in Florence for 3 days and want to see four or more museums.

Winner: Tie between Firenze Card and Amici degli Uffizi Card (do the math yourself)

c) A couple staying in Florence for more than 3 days or want to see more than 2 museums, but not all in a three-day period.

Winner: Amici degli Uffizi Card

 

Family – 2 parents and 2 kids (not EU citizens)

a) Family is in Florence for 3 days and only wants to see David

Museum Ticket Prices

Accademia – 56 euro ($80) (remember this includes the 4 euro surcharge for reservations)

Cost for a Family

Firenze Card:  200 euro ($287)
Amici degli Uffizi Card:  100 euro ($142)
No card:  56 euro ($80)

Winner: No Card

b) Family is in Florence for 3 days and only wants to see David and the Birth of Venus

Museum Ticket Prices

Uffizi – 60 euro ($86) (remember this includes the 4 euro surcharge for reservations)
Accademia – 56 euro ($80) (ditto)

Cost for a Family

Firenze Card:  200 euro ($287)
Amici degli Uffizi Card:  100 euro ($142)
No card:  116 euro ($166)

Winner: Amici degli Uffizi Card

c) Family is in Florence for more than three days and seeing everything

If you’ve made it this far, you know that the Amici degli Uffizi Card wins for families staying in Florence for longer than 3 days and if they want to see more than just the Uffizi and Accademia museums.

Summary

If you are under 27 and interested enough to read through this post you are clearly interested in more than the David and the Birth of Venus, so you should buy an Amici degli Uffizi Card for a “young person”, and you should read this post.

Amici degli Uffizi Cards
Amici degli Uffizi Cards

If you are a couple, or two people related in any way, or at least have the same address, and you want to see more of Florence, either gardens, villas or museums, as well as the incredibly expensive Uffizi and Accademia, you want to purchase the Amici degli Uffizi Card. Read on here.

If you are a family and you want your kids to see more than just the David, you should get an Amici degli Uffizi Card for a family (even if you have more than two kids (compare price for extra one or two “young people” Amici degli Uffizi Cards vs. Firenze Cards)). So read this post.

If you are an individual (over 27 years old) who is going to be in Florence for more than three days and want to see more than two museums or may be returning to Florence within a year or you live in Florence full time – you want to be the proud owner of an Amici degli Uffizi Card. Again, see this post.

BUT, if you (or you and a couple of unrelated friends) are just the type who races through one of the most fascinating cities in the world while checking off the David and the Birth of Venus on your list of 1,000 Things I Have to See Before I Die, then pay cash (but for heaven’s sake make a reservation) at the Uffizi and the Accademia or purchase the Firenze Card. You’ll thank yourself as you cross the Ponte Vecchio, while marking it, too, off your list.

 

Museum Passes in Florence: Part Two – Firenze Card, finalmente!

June 14, 2011 — Tuscan Traveler has compared the two museum passes available in Florence. Check this link.

The new mayor announced last year a “big deal” he had hammered out with Rome’s state museum authority – Florence, like every other major city in the world, was going to offer a museum pass. After the big press conference, nothing happened. Then, in the middle of January, Mayor Renzi said, “It’s on its way.” Nothing happened.

Yesterday, March 25, the 72 hour Firenze Card arrived at selected points (mostly museum ticket offices and official Tourist Information offices) and you, too, can benefit – mostly by skipping the queue/line – for the hefty price of 50 euro. Now will begin the debate over which is the best museum card in Florence – the Amici degli Uffizi Card or the Firenze Card. (Watch Tuscan Traveler for Museum Passes in Florence: Part Three – What’s the Best Deal?)

presentazione_ficardThe following comes directly off the very fine web site developed to support the card  where you can also buy the Firenze Card online (the emphasis is mine):

Firenze Card grants access to the major museums, villas and historical gardens in Florence.

Firenze Card is a 72 hours (sic) card that gives you admission to 33 of the most important museums in Florence. You will have access not only to permanent collections, but also to exhibitions and all other activities held in that museum without further costs. You have just to show your card at the entrance to the museum’s personnel, who will record your entry and let you in. The card can be used just once in each museum, and it will provide free access also to a EU citizen under-eighteens (sic) accompanying you To use your card for public transport, just swipe it against the validation machines located on every bus or tram.

Firenze Card is activated on the first visit to a museum or first use of public transport. Since then you have 72 hours to visit the city and its historical and artistic heritage. The card’s validity is therefore independent from the purchasing time. Remember to write your name and surname on the back of your card before using it. Some museums can offer free access on special occasions. Please, consult the “News” page (online) to check updated timetables and find out access benefits and all the other information about museums.

ficard_acquistaFirenze Card is valid for 3 consecutive days from its first use. The card will expire at the end of the validity period and also your free access to museums and public transport with it. The card is strictly personal and not transferable, and it has to be showed with a proof of identity on request by the museum’s personnel.

In addition to free admission, Firenze Card allows you to avoid long queues at the ticket offices of main museums. Just look for the signs “Firenze Card” in your chosen museums and show your card to the personnel, who will record your entry and let you in.

It is promoted by the Municipality of Florence, the Ministry for the Arts and Cultural Activities, the Regional Direction of Cultural Heritage, the Special Superintendence for Historical, Artistic and Ethnic-anthropological Heritage and for the Museum Circuit of the city of Florence, the Province of Florence and the Chamber of Commerce of Florence, in collaboration with ATAF.

With the Firenze Card you get a lanyard with a handy pocket for the card and the accompanying booklet that describes all of the museums that qualify for “free” entry.

The following are the museums, gardens, villas and churches included in the Firenze Card Program:

Museo di Palazzo Vecchio – piazza della Signoria Firenze

Museo Stefano Bardini – via dei Renai 37 Firenze

Palazzo Medici Riccardi – via Cavour 3 Firenze

Museo di Santa Maria Novella – piazza Santa Maria Novella Firenze

Cappella Brancacci – piazza del Carmine 14 Firenze

Fondazione Salvatore Romano – piazza Santo Spirito 29 Firenze

Cappelle Medicee – piazza Madonna degli Aldobrandini 6 Firenze

Galleria degli Uffizi – Piazzale degli Uffizi 6 Firenze

Galleria dell’Accademia – Via Ricasoli 58/60 Firenze

Galleria Palatina e Appartamenti Monumentali – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

110204_FirenzeCard_EmbeddedGalleria d’arte moderna – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

Museo Giardino di Boboli – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

Museo degli Argenti – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

Museo delle Porcellane – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

Galleria del Costume – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

Museo Archeologico Nazionale – Piazza Santissima Annunziata 9b Firenze

Museo dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure – Via degli Alfani 78 Firenze

Museo di Palazzo Davanzati – Via Porta Rossa 13 Firenze

Museo di San Marco – Piazza San Marco 3 Firenze

Museo Nazionale del Bargello – Via del Proconsolo 4 Firenze

Cenacolo Andrea del Sarto – Via di San Salvi 16 Firenze

Cenacolo del Ghirlandaio – Borgo Ognissanti 42 Firenze

Cenacolo del Fuligno – via Faenza 42 Firenze

Cenacolo di Sant’Apollonia – Via XXVII Aprile 1 Firenze

Chiostro dello Scalzo – Via Cavour 69 Firenze

Complesso Monumentale Orsanmichele – via Arte della Lana 1 Firenze

Villa Medicea di Cerreto Guidi e Museo storico della caccia e del territorio – Via dei Ponti Medicei 7 Cerreto Guidi

Villa Medicea della Petraia – Via della Petraia 40 Firenze

Giardino della Villa Medicea di Castello – Via di Castello 47 Firenze

Museo di Casa Martelli – Via Zannetti 8 Firenze

Collezione Contini Bonacossi – Via Lambertesca 6 Firenze

Villa Medicea di Poggio a Caiano – Piazza de Medici 14 Poggio a Caiano

Villa Corsini a Castello – Via della Petraia 38 Firenze

Firenze Card Web Site

Museum Passes in Florence: Part One – Amici degli Uffizi

September 2015 — Effective as of June 15, 2015, the Regional Secretary of the former Superintendency of the State Museums of Florence stipulated that Amici degli Uffizi members, holding valid membership and ID cards, are eligible for the free entrance and the priority pass to the Uffizi Gallery only. This severely limits the benefits of the card

June 14, 2011 — Tuscan Traveler has compared the two museum passes available in Florence. Check this link.

As the prices of reserved tickets to the Uffizi or the Accademia hit 14 euro ($19) or above (depending on if an extra exhibit is included, such as last year’s Caravaggio or Mapplethorpe shows), there is much talk in Florence about a multi-day museum pass. And, in fact, the mayor has announced that soon a three-day 50 euro pass ($67) will be available.

But Florence already has a great museum pass – the Amici degli Uffizi membership card.

Membership cards to the Amici degli Uffizi - Friends of the Uffizi
Membership cards of the Amici degli Uffizi – Friends of the Uffizi

Established in Florence in 1993 by a group of concerned citizens, following a terrorist bombing that damaged the Uffizi Gallery and some of its precious artworks, Amici degli Uffizi (Friends of the Uffizi) embarked on the task of restoring and maintaining the artistic heritage of the Uffizi Gallery.

Since 1993, the Amici degli Uffizi has supported the Uffizi Gallery in Florence by facilitating acquisitions, supporting restorations and organizing special temporary exhibitions. The Friends of the Uffizi Gallery (the American sister organization), in conjunction with the Amici degli Uffizi, raises funds to support all of these activities through an international group of members and patrons.

Over twenty important restoration projects, designated priorities by the Uffizi Gallery, have been completed over the last several years and include important paintings, altarpieces, sculptures and tapestries. The organization also underwrites special free exhibits for the public such as the recent one of Self-Portraits of Women Artists.

Original symbol of the Amici degli Uffizi
Original symbol of the Amici degli Uffizi

But best of all, for residents and visitors of Florence, Amici degli Uffizi offers its members a year-long museum card for 60 euro ($80) for individuals, 100 euro ($134) for families (2 to 4 members included in the one price), and 40 euro ($54) for students. Memberships can be purchased online or at the the Amici degli Uffizi Welcome Desk located between Entry Door Nos. 1 and 2 at the Uffizi Gallery.

The best part of having the Amici degli Uffizi card, besides free entry to more than twenty museums, (at the end of this post is a list of all of the museums included in this card) is the ability to skip the line.  At the Uffizi and the Accademia visitors wait for hours unless they have the foresight and the extra 4 euro to make a reservation. With the Amici degli Uffizi card you go to the ticket office, show your card and a photo i.d., and you are given a ticket for immediate entry into the museum.

Not to belabor the point, but the Uffizi is a huge museum, mind-numbing in its number of paintings. With the Amici degli Uffizi card you can go in to sit for an hour or so in the Botticelli Room and come back the next day (or after a nice lunch) to enter again with a new free ticket to peruse the Titians and pop by the monolithic Byzantine enthroned madonnas.

In 2010, the Amici degli Uffizi and the Polo Museale Fiorentino, launched a permanent welcome service for the association’s members. “We wanted to create a welcome point for local citizens and visitors equal to those that have been available in the world’s other great museums for some time,” said Maria Vittoria Rimbotti, President of the Association. “This is the first time that an Italian state museum is offering such a service.”

The Welcome Desk is located between entrances #1 and #2 of the Uffizi museum. Its hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Tel. +39 055 213560 and +39 055 284034)

Today's Friends of the Uffizi
Today’s Friends of the Uffizi

Although the Welcome Desk will be a reference point mainly for Florentines, it is an easy place to purchase your Amici degli Uffizi museum card. Greeted by polite and helpful (attributes frequently hard to find elsewhere in Florence) staff members (who also speak English) you will be able to register and become a member or renew your membership within minutes. (Remember to bring your passport.)

At the Welcome Desk, members will also be able to access useful information about the museum and the city, information about cultural programs sponsored by the province of Florence and the Tuscan regional government, and via the online connection with the APT (Agenzia Per il Turismo), visitors can obtain real-time information about current cultural programs.

The Amici degli Uffizi membership card provides free entrance to the following museums:

Galleria degli Uffizi,
Galleria dell’Accademia,
Palazzo Pitti:  Galleria Palatina,
Galleria dell’Arte Moderna,
Galleria del Costume,
Museo degli Argenti,
Museo delle Porcellane,
Giardino di Boboli,
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Museo delle Cappelle Medicee, Museo di Palazzo Davanzati,
Museo di San Marco,
Giardino della Villa Medicea di Castello,
Villa Medicea della Petraia,
Villa Medicea di Poggio a Caiano,
Villa Medicea di Cerreto Guidi e Museo storico della Caccia e del Territorio,
Cenacolo di Ognissanti,
Cenacolo di Andrea del Sarto,
Cenacolo di Fuligno,
Cenacolo di Sant’Apollonia, and
Chiostro dello Scalzo.

The Amici degli Uffizi membership card also provides:

– Reduced price tickets for concerts of the Teatro Comunale (Maggio Musicale Fiorentino)
– Reduced price (15%) tickets for concerts of the Orchestra della Toscana at Teatro Verdi
– 20% discount on price ticket for premières and Saturday performances at Teatro della Pergola