Mangia! Mangia! – Ristorante Galeffi, from fizz to fine food

The sophisticated menu is ever-changing, depending on the season and what is fresh at the market. One day the appetizers might include whipped salt cod on toasts with truffles or saffron creamed rice surrounding a tiny savory cake garlicky tomato-infused bread. The second course could be risotto with creamy taleggio cheese and truffles or a fettuccine with a sauce of tiny fish and cherry tomatoes. A favorite main dish is rabbit with artichokes and a side of crispy fried vegetables.  This vies with the filet of pork with a confection of layered apples and foie gras.

Dessert is a specialty … Read More

Dove Vai? – Historic Shop in Florence

It’s nearly impossible to find a store in the U.S. that has been in business for 130 years.  And it is getting more and more difficult to find a multi-generational family business in Florence.  But tucked across from the back side of the Duomo is one such place – Nante, a shop of timbri (rubber or ink stamps), cornici (picture frames) and targhe (signs). Mario Nante, grandson of the founder, displays a large sign from his grandfather’s first shop in Rome.  It’s dated 1879 – just after Italy became unified as a country and the capital moved from Florence to … Read More

Dove Vai? – American World War II Cemetery Near Florence

When a visitor tires of the noisy teeming crowds amid the gray stones of Florence, he or she should board the SITA bus or travel by car to the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial, located south on the roads to Siena and Greve. In the green silence, this historic location is a place to learn about the importance of the American sacrifice in World War II and the reason most Italians still hold the U.S. in high esteem, as well as it is a spot to contemplate the beauty of the Tuscan countryside while thinking of its turbulent past.

Don’t … Read More

Dove Vai? – Museo Casa Siviero, an Unknown Jewel

In the Oltrarno of Florence, upstream from the Ponte alle Grazie, is a small jewel of a museum that is open free to the public. The Museo Casa Siviero is located at the ground floor of the fine 19th century building on the banks of the river Arno, where the sophisticated collector and wartime “James Bond of Art”, Rodolfo Siviero lived from 1944 until his death in 1983. He left his home and its contents to the Region of Tuscany.

Siviero played a very important role in protecting Italy’s cultural heritage. Thanks to his efforts, most of the works the … Read More

Dove Vai? – The Castle Town of Montefioralle

The village of Montefioralle is one of the most well-preserved medieval villages in all of Tuscany. Originally a walled castle, it is located in the heart of the Chianti Classico region on a low ridge above the town of Greve.

Castello di Montefioralle, first mentioned in 1085, was built with two parallel octagonal walls. The stone walls still exist, but the outer defensive wall evolved through the ages as houses were built against it, using the existing structure.  Now a ring of homes and a narrow circular cobblestone street fills the space between the original walls. The four original gates … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Wishing for Snow in Florence

Snow in Florence is rare. But it does frost the Duomo every few years for a day or two.

While Tuscan Traveler was enjoying the sun on the Pacific Ocean on the coast of Chile in 2005, snow fell on Florence.

Again in 2008, this time the sun, but not the warmth, was in Santa Fe, NewMexico, and snow amazed tourists on the Ponte Vecchio.

Of course, the locals say, “This is nothing like the time in 1985 – the Arno froze solid that year, you know.”

Now in the first days of 2009, Tuscan Traveler is waiting for snow … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – The Wine Portals of Florence

The wine portals, buchette del vino, are unique to Florentine architecture. An observant visitor on a walk through Florence can find dozens of these small, once useful, doors.

Those who have traveled to Rome, Venice, Milan, or even the small hill towns of Tuscany know that Florentine palaces built during the Renaissance were designed to resemble the bank vaults of their owners. (The city was once the home to over one hundred banking families, serving all of Europe.) The palaces had few windows in the exterior walls and the central courtyards were closed behind massive fortified doors to all … Read More

Dove Vai? – To the Arno during Acqua Alta

This past summer the Arno was so low that water plants were creeping across the river, strangling the flow. Three months later the plants are history, swept away by a torrent of cafféllatte water that is lapping half way up the lawn of the rowing club near the Ponte Vecchio.

Although the situation is not as dire as the floods in Venice or the present scare that the Tiber will crest its banks in Rome, Florence has done less that most Italian cities to prevent a repeat of the 1966 Alluvione. (On November 4, 1966, the Arno broke over … Read More

Mangia! Mangia! – Biscotti di Prato is 150 Years Old

When an American dunks a biscotto wedge into his coffee – something an Italian never does (biscotti are dipped into Vin Santo or nothing) – he is honoring the memory of one of the first biscotti makers, and certainly the most famous, Antonio Mattei. Biscotti di Prato, sold worldwide in Mattei’s distinctive blue bag with gold lettering, turns 150 years old this year.

In 1858, pastry chef Antonio Mattei opened a biscottificio in Prato (near Florence) at 22 Via Ricasoli. The storefront and vast simple kitchen continue operating in the same location today, producing and selling the typical twice-cooked cookies … Read More

Mangia! Mangia! – Gelato and Hot Chocolate Together!

Does anyone else experience this seasonal change – a summer yen for gelato, but a winter chocolate craving? In Florence there is a small shop to visit all year long – Vestri Cioccolata (e Gelato). Leonardo Vestri has solved that problem of bridging the seasons with Affogato (Gelato “Drowned” in Hot Chocolate).

In the mid-1960s, Leonardo’s father Daniele, followed his own father into the artisanal chocolate world in the southern Tuscan town of Arezzo. Recently, Daniele went to the source to assure that he had the finest cocoa. He purchased a “finca”, a cocoa plantation in Puntacana, Dominican Republic. … Read More