Italian Life Rules – The Dreaded Draft or a Blast of Air

In no other part of the world is the air as dangerous as it is in Italy. Not because of pollution, although cities like Florence have some of the most polluted air in Europe, but because of the air itself — throughout the country — inside and outside. In fact, it seems to be more risky inside than out. And air conditioned air is the worst of all.

Tell an Italian that you have any of the following symptoms: headache, sore throat, indigestion, chest pain, toothache, earache, stiff neck; and the diagnosis will be the same — you have been … Read More

Friend In Florence Gets a Nod From Dream of Italy

A favorite Italian-interest website (and newsletter), Dream of Italy, just named Friend In Florence and yours truly as one of Italy’s Best Local Tour Guides for 2013. A big GRAZIE to both founder Kathy McCabe and contributing editor Rebecca Winke (also of the fabulous Agriturismo Brigolante Guest Apartments in Umbria).

best-tour-guide-badge-largeOver ten years ago, Kathy McCabe had the brilliant idea of starting one of the first subscription travel newsletter on the Internet. She was passionate about all things Italy so it became Dream of Italy, The Insider’s Guide to Undiscovered Italy. The newsletter was awarded “Best Consumer … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Last Post from the Atacama Desert

Florence in January and February is mostly gray – gray medieval or renaissance stone palazzos, gray cobblestone streets, gray rain, gray skies, gray clothes – so it warms me up to think back to hot days on the high, high, high Atacama Desert of Chile with its rose and peach wind-shaped bluffs, its white-silver salt flats with pink flamingos, its blue-black midnight skies with a moon hanging within reach.

Before I arrived at the Calama airport, I thought I knew deserts, but the Atacama is unique with geysers at altitudes that steal your breath, volcanos – both active and sleeping, … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Seeking Stars at La Silla in Chile

Sometimes Tuscan Traveler wants to go someplace out of this world. La Silla Observatory run by the European Southern Observatory seemed to be the best place to start.

ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in the Atacama Desert region of Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. ESO’s first site is at La Silla, a high desert mountain 600 kilometers north of Santiago, Chile. It is equipped with several optical telescopes with mirror diameters of up to 3.6 meters. La Silla has been an ESO stronghold since the 1960s.

And, among other things, they are looking for earth-like planets, which … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Arno is Still Rising with the Bomba D’Acqua

Florentines always think that the river to watch after days of rain is the Arno. But this week with incredible downpours – known as bombe d’acqua (bombs of water) – a small creek, the Mugnone, threatened to overflow its banks in parts of the city.

The Arno also continues to rise. The Mugnone is a tributary to the Arno.

Residents located along the Mugnone were told to head to higher floors and parking garages warned car owners to move their vehicles to higher ground.

The over-taxed freshwater sewer system flooded streets and piazzas in parts of Florence. The storm has … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales: High Water in Italy

They say a combination of heavy rain, strong winds and warmer than usual temperatures have put Italy under water this week. But I know the truth. My friend – let’s call him Giorgio – arrived in Florence this week after causing that wet thing called Sandy a couple of weeks ago in his hometown of Washington, DC and his other place out in Virginia.

Now the Arno is getting to the highest level since the flood of 1966 (nobody knows where Giorgio was that November). Be warned! Giorgio plans to stay in Florence until December. He’s also scheduling a side … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise on the Move

On September 8th this year, in honor of the 716th anniversary of the Duomo, the original Florence Baptistery’s Gates of Paradise will return to public view in the museum of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore (behind the Duomo), after a restoration lasting 27 years.


Coincidentally, 27 years is the same amount of time it took Lorenzo Ghiberti to achieve the originals. Without equal in complexity, the restoration saved the legendary gold-leafed bronze doors from certain destruction.


Directed and performed by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, commissioned by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, the restoration … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Clet is not just about Street Signs

I am a fan of Clet Abraham’s street art that is manifest by the alteration of common street signs throughout Florence. But his anarchic acts don’t stop with a few signs. In a town mired in a 500-year-old artistic patrimony, Clet continues to bemuse residents and visitors alike.

During the dark of the night on January 19 last year, Clet and a couple of friends installed Common Man, a life-size black fiberglass statue, without permission, on Ponte alle Grazie. Common Man (Uomo Comune) bears a striking resemblance to the black cut-out figure on Clet’s altered street signs. The … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Men in Tights Never Go Out of Fashion

For years I’ve been telling my touring clients at to listen for the sound of drums and trumpets in the alleys of Florence. “You are sure to see men in tights if you find the corteo,” I say.

Throughout the year, there are at least thirty parades, processions, or other celebrations with historical costumes, including men in tights. The drummers are in tights, the trumpeters are in tights, the flag wavers are in tights, even the noblemen on horses are in tights as they ride in the corteo.

What brings this to mind today – a day … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Clet Abraham’s Street Art

I hate graffiti. I especially hate graffiti on the ancient Florentine walls. I want to hang the idiot, who keeps painting YOGURT on the walls in my neighborhood, up by some painful part of his anatomy. I especially want to throw away the key when the paint is on stonework or frescos created over 500 hundred years ago and can’t be cleaned off or painted over. I’ve written about this twice, here and here. So I was perfectly willing to condemn all street “artists” in Florence.

Until now. Well not exactly now. I giggled at this artist’s whimsical street … Read More