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

Dove Vai? – Olive Oil Museums of Italy, Museo del Cibo #4

photo from eatdrinkbetter.comOf all of the Musei del Cibo (Museums of Food) in Italy, there are probably more dedicated to olives and olive oil than any other (except, perhaps, wine). Tuscany has the best olive oil (according to this writer), so it is a decided disappointment that the region has only one measly museum (and perhaps another, rumored to be in Carmignano) dedicated to the golden-green oil.

As the new 2009 extra virgin cold press Italian olive oil is released to the impatient masses, the following is a survey of some – but not all – of the Musei dell’Olio d’Oliva.


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Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Beach Life Italian Style

Only death or divorce will get you a spot in the coveted first row on an Italian beach. In a country where there is a socialistic equality in most things – health care, long lines at the post office, job security, good food – the beach is not one of them. In the U.S., if you get up early enough, you can stake out the best piece of sand on almost any shore and you can usually have a couple of yards between you and your nearest neighbor.

In Italy, the best spot is already taken – everywhere.  This prime … Read More

Dove Vai? – Balsamic Vinegar Museum, Museo del Cibo #3

While visiting the Musei del Cibo in the region around Parma, a visitor will find a rewarding short detour to the Balsamic Vinegar Museum (Museo del Balsamico Tradizionale) in Spilamberto, less than ten miles southeast of Modena.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale) is produced in the area around Modena, which was once the ancient lands of the ducal family of Este.

With no addition of any aromatic substances, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is obtained from cooked grape-must, which is slowly turned into a rich, think, sweet deep caramel-colored liquid from natural fermentation and progressive concentration … Read More

Dove Vai? – Two Rivers Arrives in Florence

Despite the fact that it may seem like carrying coals to Newcastle or running the sprinkler in a downpour, the arrival of many of American Greg Wyatt’s sculptures to Florence’s Piazza Signoria and the Sala d’Arme in the Palazzo Vecchio is a welcome change from the offerings of Giambologna, Cellini and Ammannati.

Greg Wyatt, a native of Grand View-on-Hudson, New York, presently holds the position of Sculptor-in-Residence at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City. Cast bronze is his primary medium of artistic expression. Dr. Anthony Janson, editor of W.H. Janson’s History of Art, … Read More

Dove Vai? – The Prosciutto Museum, Museo del Cibo #2

The Museum of Prosciutto and Cured Meat Products of Parma is located in the small city Langhirano, west of Parma,in the site of the former cattle market between the historic center and the Parma River.

For centuries and still today the area south of the Po River and north of the Apennine ridge of mountains, is famed for its prosciutto, cured hams.  It is a land rich in oaks yielding acorns for feeding pigs; guaranteed a supply of special preserving salt from thermal springs; and blessed by the marine winds from the Mediterranean Sea for drying the savory … Read More

Dove Vai? – The Parmesan Museum, Museo del Cibo #1

Northwest of Parma, on the edge of the small town of Soragna, is the oldest of the new food museums, musei del cibo, organized in the last five years in north-central Italy. The Parmesan Cheese Museum, Museo del Parmigiano Reggiano, is worth a detour, especially if you pair it with a visit to a modern Parmesan cheese factory in Soragna.

The famed quality of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is the excellent and well-balanced result of many factors, from the particular lushness of pasturelands and milk, to the artisan techniques of production (unchanged for seven centuries), to natural ripening and maturing … Read More

Dove Vai? – La Foce, Tuscany Meets England in the Garden

For garden-lovers and those who just enjoy the vistas of the classic Tuscan countryside, an afternoon touring the gardens of the famed La Foce estate, two hours south of Florence, provides the impetus for many that brings them back to stay in one of the many renovated farm houses or even in the villa once occupied by the author Iris Origo.

La Foce lies on the hills overlooking the Val d’Orcia, a beautiful valley in southern Tuscany. Midway between Florence and Rome, it is also within easy reach of Siena, Arezzo, Perugia, Assisi, Orvieto.

From Etruscan times (a burial-place dating … Read More