Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Mud Angels, Then and Now

Two days after the devastating Florence Flood, November 4, 1966, the twenty-foot torrent that swept through the city was gone, but the piazzas, streets, churches homes, and businesses were buried in mud, naphthalene heating oil, mountains of waste, household goods, wrecked cars and even farm animals that had been swept down the valley. There was no potable water or electricity. Food was in short supply because most of the stores, including the massive Mercato Centrale had been flooded.

The federal government was slow to act, but first the Florentines pulled together in solidarity, neighbor helping neighbor, and then as … Read More

Dove Vai? – The Laurentian Library by Michelangelo, Library # 6

The Laurentian Library (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana) in the cloister of the Church of San Lorenzo is not a library where the visitor to Florence can hang out in comfy chairs, but it is one of the most important libraries in Florence –  well worth a visit. The Laurentian was designed by Michelangelo and houses one of the largest neo-classical collections in the world. It is used today by scholars.

Designed by Michelangelo

The Laurentian Library was commissioned in 1523 by Giulio d’Medici, who became Pope Clement VII. Michelangelo came under intense pressure to work quickly; the correspondence between Read More

Dove Vai? – Piazza del Capitolo, Library #5

Through a small ally the grand Piazza del Duomo, about half way along the south side of the cathedral, there  is a little square, Piazza del Capitolo, at one time known as Corte dei Visdomini for the noble family whose tower still stands near by. The Capitolo was (and is today) the Chapter of the Florence Duomo and has governed the actions of the priests, canons, provosts and other dignitaries of the cathedral and its predecessor church, Santa Reparata, since the before the 8th century.  Some say the Chapter goes back to Bishop Saint Zanobius in the 5th … Read More

Dove Vai? – Galileo First Editions at Biblioteca Biomedica, Library #4

The Year of Astronomy was celebrated in 2009 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s invention of the telescope. It was also a special opportunity to see the Florence Biomedical Library and its collection of first edition books published by the scientist, including the volume that brought him before the Inquisition.

The Biblioteca Biomedica is located in the Careggi Hospital complex. Galileo’s books came to the library from the collection stored at the ancient (built in 1288, but still in use) Santa Maria Nuova Hospital, located near the Duomo. It was a bit disconcerting to realize that over a million … Read More

Dove Vai? – The British Institute’s Comfy Reading Room, Library #3

The most Anglo American-styled library in Florence, the Harold Acton Library, is owned and operated by the British Institute of Florence. Contained on 2 ½ book-lined floors, the library allows full access to the stacks and provides knowledgeable assistance to the collection and extensive archives. The full catalogue is computerized and is available on-line. The Acton library contains the largest collection of English-language books in Italy.

There is a reading room, furnished with ancient over-stuffed couches and chairs, where both English and Italian newspapers and a variety of literary, economic, news and travel magazines completely cover the coffee table. … Read More

Dove Vai? – Tourists are welcome at the Oblate, Library #2

Americans and Brits usually find visiting libraries in Italy both frustrating and dissatisfying. The stacks are not open, so no browsing. You usually have to deal with a surly civil servant who will tell you that you do not have the right paperwork, but even if you did have lending privileges, it will take at least two weeks to obtain the books you are requesting and then you won’t be able to remove them from the premises and there is no place to sit down.

In May 2007, the Oblate Library (Biblioteca delle Oblate) opened. It is the … Read More

Dove Vai? – Accademia della Crusca at Villa di Castello, Library #1

In the 16th century Medicean Villa of Castello, is one of the most important of Florence’s many libraries, the Crusca Academy (Accademia della Crusca).  The Villa of Castello, located on the northern edge of the city, with its magnificent gardens (open to the public), passed from the Medici dukes to the Lorraine dukes to the King of Italy, who gave it to the State in 1919. The villa was chosen as the permanent home of the Crusca Academy in 1966.

The location is fitting because the origins of the Accademia della Crusca can be traced back to the … Read More