Dove Vai? – New View of the Cricket Cage

Covered by scaffolding for over ten years, the Baccio D’Agnolo Balustrade, located at the external base of the cupola of the Florence Duomo has been restored and is now on show to the observant spectator. The best spot to view it is the newly open Biblioteca delle Oblate – also a great place to hang out and read newspapers and magazines (English language) for free.

But back to the balcony. Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) rightly gets the credit for designing and overseeing the construction of the dome on the Duomo.  He also designed the marble lantern that tops the terracotta-clad dome, … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Duomo Clock Keeps “Italian Time”

Most people don’t know that modern clocks run on “French Time.” There is only one clock in the world that runs on “Italian Time” and it is in the Duomo in Florence.

“Paolo made the colored sphere of the hours above the main door within the Church, with four heads, painted in fresco.”  Giorgio Vasari, in his “Lives of the Artists” (1550), goes on to tell us that Paolo Uccello was paid 40 lire in February 1443 when he finished the face of the clock, decorated with the heads of the four Evangelists, on the inner façade of the front … Read More

Master Craftsman – Simone Taddei

Simone Taddei’s workshop/store, directly across the alley from Dante’s Church in Florence, should be visited when you have plenty of time. Not only are there elegant burnished leather boxes, picture frames, desk sets and other leather gift items to be examined, admired and purchased, but Simone is an enthusiastic interesting man, who loves to talk not only about his work, but also about his worldview. Simone is that rare character, a Renaissance man, descendant from generations of Florentines. He is a philosopher, an observer of history and politics, a family man, but above all, he is an artisan. He is … Read More

Burnt to a Crisp – Haunted Honeymoon Revisited

A law school friend wrote to ask for advice about an upcoming trip to Italy.  She wanted to walk the cliffs of Cinque Terre, shop in Portofino, and take a small ferry along the coast to San Fruttuoso to see the monastery and the underwater bronze sculpture.  My advice was to start in the small picturesque fishing village Camogli, take the ferry south to San Fruttuoso and Portofino, stay overnight and then head to Cinque Terre.  

I then told her the story of my first visit to Camogli in October 1999 and wished her a very different experience.  I wrote … Read More

Dove Vai? – The Fix-It Shop for the Cathedral

The Florentine Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore (St. Mary of the Flower) recently celebrated the 712th anniversary of the laying of the first stone on September 8, 1296.  The day was marked by the ringing of the bells in Giotto’s campanile, the annual opening of the mid-level terrace to visitors, and the open-house of the La Bottega dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore — the fix-it shop of the cathedral.

On Via dello Studio, half a block from Piazza del Duomo, Claudio, a stone-cutter, works with about ten other men to keep the Duomo in repair.  Usually passersby look … Read More

Mangia! Mangia! – Tale of Two Brothers

For over half a century in Florence, the name Latini has been associated with classic Tuscan food and wine.  Today, the two Latini brothers carry on the proud tradition, but each in his own unique way.

Latini Family History

Narciso Latini took over his Uncle Angelo’s fiaschetteria (wine bar) in Via della Vigna Nuova almost sixty years ago, a few years after World War II ended.  He sold wine made in the Chianti region around Val d’Elsa.  He offered prosciutto, salame, finocchiona, and hardboiled eggs to go with his customers’ glasses of vino rosso.

Soon Narciso’s … Read More

Walking in the Footsteps of the Grand Dukes

A Unique Opportunity

Visitors to Florence, Italy, know that to miss the paintings of Botticelli and Caravaggio in the Uffizi Gallery, the Ponte Vecchio with its famous gold merchants, and the gaudy splendors of the Pitti Palace is to miss three of Florence’s best-known sites.

What many tourists do not know is that along this same sightseeing path they also have a unique opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Renaissance nobility.  Here they can view a vast collection of paintings usually reserved for the pleasure of a select few.  It is called the Vasari Corridor.

The Vasari Corridor is … Read More

Dove Vai? – Refuge in a Bookshop

Whenever I can’t leave town, but I want to escape the Renaissance Disneyland that Florence has become, I go to Paperback Exchange to hide out for an hour or two.

Established almost 30 years ago as a second-hand, trade-in, English bookshop, Paperback Exchange began life as a tiny store, on a busy, dusty corner, crammed with jumbled piles of books. In 2005, Maurizio and Emily moved the shop to a tranquil street in the heart of the city, less than a block from the Duomo.  

The new place has two expansive rooms with large windows, comfortable reading chairs and well-organized … Read More

Four Other Museums in Florence

The noise, the traffic, the heat, the dust of 600-year-old buildings and the exhaust of motor scooters and Pullman buses; the squadrons of German and Italian tourists dutifully following the high-held umbrella or long stemmed plastic rose; “too much ‘David’,” ditto the Madonnas with Child –  so why does anyone venture to Florence, Italy anymore, much less return again and again?

italia-firenza-pedestriansNoted author, Mary McCarthy enumerates each of these complaints and about one hundred more in the first ten pages of her narrative guide The Stones of Florence.  The amazing thing is that she wrote the book forty years ago. … Read More