How do you create the perfect Renaissance superhero? Art historian, Elizabeth Lev, narrates the story in her fascinating book, The Tigress of Forlì. The story starts with a baby girl, Caterina Sforza, the illegitimate child of dissolute, but noble Milanese father and a drop-dead gorgeous mother. She is tutored in the classics, learns how to ride a horse and hunt, and masters the management skills of a great household. Then her father arranges for an engagement at age ten (consummated with the fiancée, aged 30) and marriage at age thirteen (blessed by the Pope). She gives birth of … Read More
Italian Life Rules – The Anarchy of Shutters
One sunny autumn day Francesca and I were walking through a narrow medieval street downstream from the Ponte Vecchio.
“Anarchy,” said Francesca, “I like it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Look up there,” she said, pointing to the top floor of a medieval building in the center of Florence.
“I don’t see anything anarchical.”
“The shutters. They are turquoise.” Francesca pointed at a pair of small shutters on one window on the top floor where a noble family’s servants once lived.
Sure enough they were a light blue-green — different from every other shutter in Florence. This is absolutely illegal … Read More
Tuscan Traveler’s Picks – Women Artists Now More Visible at the Uffizi
INVISIBLE WOMEN, a documentary based on the book Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists of Florence, written by American Jane Fortune (The Florentine Press, 2009) won an Emmy award on June 1, 2013, as the Best Documentary in the Cultural/Historical Program category by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The documentary, produced by WFYI Productions of Indianapolis, was recently aired on American public television (PBS).
“Winning the Emmy is a new boost to my project, which aims to restore and exhibit artworks by women in Florence,’ said Jane Fortune, art collector, philanthropist, as well as Founder and Chair … Read More
Mangia! Mangia! – Dante Would Have Loved the Prato Bread Festival
Tourist are frequently surprised when they first taste traditional Tuscan bread that is always made without salt. Tuscans, especially those from Florence and Prato, would not eat it any other way.
Dante agreed. “Tu proverai si come sa di sale Lo pane altrui, e comè duro calle Lo scendere e il salir per l’altrui scale.” In these lines from the Paradiso of ”The Divine Comedy,” Dante learns of his exile from Florence and is given some idea of the difficulties he will face. ”You shall learn how salty is the taste of another’s bread, and how hard a path the … Read More
Dove Vai? – To Siena to See the Door to Heaven
Experience the extraordinary opening of the Porta del Cielo (Door of Heaven) – or, at least, Siena’s version of it. From April 6 to October 27, 2013, if you happen to visit Siena, don’t miss this spectacular opportunity.
For the first time, after extensive renovation, it will be possible to take a tour of the walkways in the vault of the Duomo of Siena. Internal passages, balconies (both inside and outside) and hidden attic spaces will be open to small, guided groups. Until now, these parts of the Cathedral were accessible only to the architects and builders in charge of … Read More
Mangia! Mangia! – Baccalà Binds and Divides Italy
In the U.S. you can count on finding a burger at every truck stop, small town or major city. In the U.K. the same could be said about fish and chips. In Italy, it’s baccalà (salt cod). In the case of hamburgers or fish and chips, the recipe never varies much, but the recipe for salt cod changes drastically from region to region in Italy. Don’t ask for baccalà alla Livornese in Venice or baccalà mantecato in Puglia.
It’s not hard to imagine why salt cod became the go-to food around the Italian boot. In times before trucks and refrigeration, … 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 – Men in Tights Never Go Out of Fashion
For years I’ve been telling my touring clients at FriendinFlorence.com 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
Mangia! Mangia! – Cioccolata Calda, the Best Florence has to Offer
Before the New Year’s diet resolution kicks in there was time for one last venture into the world of great hot chocolate in Florence. This time it was a paper cup of Grom’s Fondente with a moustache of whipped cream and a tall white ceramic cup of Catinari’s Fondente with only a silver spoon.
Of all the cioccolata calda in Florence, Catinari is the best in quality, quantity, presentation and experience. Vestri comes in second in taste, but the plastic cup is a flaw. Grom serves three interesting versions of high quality, but the paper cup and no place to … Read More
Mangia! Mangia! – Christmas Lunch with Chiara Latini
It is not uncommon for Italians to start discussing what they are going to eat at the next meal moments after they finish that last one. We decided to eat Christmas lunch with Chiara Latini near Certaldo the day after we had Thanksgiving dinner with her parents at Osteria di Giovanni in Florence. And we did so – along with over a hundred other holiday celebrants, including a couple of surprise visitors from North Carolina.
Chiara follows in the footsteps of her father Giovanni and her grandfather Narciso by managing the family restaurant, Ristorante Latini, outside of Boccaccio’s birthplace … Read More