Pandemics in Italy – Today and in the Past

In this time of pandemic, a study of previous epidemics in Tuscany and Italy shows many similarities of successful disease management and dismal failures. Surprisingly, not much has changed in a thousand years.

Ferrara was ahead of its time in 1630

The Black Plague (bubonic plague) ravaged large cities and provincial towns in northern and central Italy from 1629 to 1631, killing more than 45,000 people in Venice alone and wiping out more than half the population of cities like Parma and Verona. But strikingly, the northern Italian town of Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna managed to prevent even a single deathRead More

Black Christ of Lucca – Oldest Carved Wood Statue in Europe

Imagine the feelings of the soldiers of the segregated African-American 92nd Infantry Unit after they cleared the Nazi forces out of the Tuscan town of Lucca on viewing the Black Christ of the the Lucchesi in the city’s cathedral. The awe-inspiring black figure crowned with gold, framed by a free-standing ornate marble chapel, is also known as “Il Volto Santo” (“The Holy Face”). Some of those soldiers returned to Lucca on a regular basis to visit the memorable relic.

The Legend

Legend holds that Il Volto Santo, a wooden crucifix, was carved shortly after the resurrection of … Read More

Time for Pesto

Italian cuisine is not only regional; it is also seasonal. Insalata Caprese (mozzarella, tomato and basil) is not served in the winter. Spicy, hearty Pappardelle al Ragu Di Cinghiale, does not please on a hot summer’s day. When spring arrives it is time for pesto.

Pesto is a sauce synonymous with Liguria and pesto alla genovese unites the region. Unfortunately, for those of us living outside of Italy and craving pesto, it is incredibly hard to find the real thing. Too often a jar labeled “Genovese Pesto” contains some basil, spinach, canola or safflower oil, pecorino cheese or grana Read More

Tuscan Traveler is Back and Tuscany has Changed

Tuscan Traveler has been on hiatus for about a year and for nine months of that time Florence and Tuscany existed without change – packed with tourists, full of art and history, replete with fabulous food. Then the world turned upside down and Italy helped lead the way with Covid-19 cases, but also with testing and treatment – experiences that helped the rest of Europe and the United States. Tuscany, to date, has 9,445 cases and has lost 854 people to the virus.

Florence has been locked down since March 9, a much stricter practice than is occurring in 90% … Read More

Finding the Foods You Miss After Leaving Italy

To many of us who had the fortunate experience of living for years in Italy, we miss many things when we return to our home countries. For me the list is long and populated with the foods I despaired at finding on this continent. But I was wrong.


Mozzarella in the U.S. is notoriously rubbery and tasteless. Burrata, the most decadent of all mozzarella cheeses, must be eaten fresh and doesn’t travel well from Italy

Burrata is a little mozzarella sack filled with creamy goodness. It’s made from fresh cow’s milk (Of course, I also love the version using … Read More

Uffizi Wants Its Painting Back!

In 2015, a German was appointed to run the most Italian of museums in Florence, Le Gallerie degli Uffizi, the Galleries of the Uffizi (includes not only the Uffizi Gallery, but also the Vassari Corridor, the Boboli Gardens and the Palazzo Pitti), the first time a foreigner has run the museum. After only three years on the job, the new German director of the Uffizi, Eike Schmidt, is drawing international attention by demanding the return of a painting stolen by Nazi troops in 1943 and presently in the hands of a German family. Schmidt says the German government has … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Pick – New Biscotti Museum in Florence

On the occasion of the 160th anniversary of its founding, the Biscottificio Antonio Mattei, the famed biscotti bakery, is opening its Piccolo Museo Bottega  in the heart of Florence.

With the same spirit of simplicity and elegance that has always distinguished Mattei’s image world-wide, the well-designed space contains an archive of memorabilia and documents that tell the story of both the company and the Pandolfini family, who have been operating the  biscottificio since 1904, when they inherited it from Antonio Mattei.

The museum of Mattei’s long history is divided into five sections dedicated to the various phases of … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Expatriate Stories, Frederick Stibbert’s Museum

Coming of age in 1859, Englishman Frederick Stibbert settled in the villa his mother Giulia bought in Florence at the edge of town in the Montughi neighborhood. He was wealthy due to a large inheritance that he was determined and able to increase by means of financial dealings in Italy and in the rest of Europe. His real passion, however, was art – it was the only thing, reportedly, he had been good at in school – not as an artist, but as a collector.

He began to fill his mother’s villa with items he obtained in his travels as … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Expatriate Stories, Frederick Stibbert

The stories of immigrants and expatriates who choose to live in Italy are some of the best tales told about present and former residents of Florence and Tuscany.

This is the first in a series of Tuscan Traveler’s Tales about the “foreigners” who put down roots in Tuscany. The first post is about Frederick Stibbert, a British citizen, who settled in Florence in the mid-19th century and left behind on of the most unique (and under-appreciated) museums in the world. First, his story:

The Grandfather

Frederick’s grandfather, Giles Stibbert was the source the impressive family fortune, but he came from … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Cremona, City of Violins

A few weeks ago CBS Sunday Morning presented a story that started in the Italian Alps of the Dolomites where a woodcutter with the name of Fabio Ognibene (Everygood) was seen wandering through a forest of alpine spruce while pointing out which attributes of various trees – ones with long and straight trunks and few branches or knots – were perfect for  making violins.

It seems Italian stringed-instrument craftsmen have been selecting spruce and other varieties of prepared wood from the Fiemme Valley for almost six centuries because the light and elastic mountain timber makes stringed instruments, including pianos, sound … Read More