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

Burnt to a Crisp – Outlaws on a Bench

Unwary tourists risk getting hefty fines in some Italian cities and villages for doing things that are perfectly legal everywhere in the world.

At Eraclea, near Venice, The Independent of London rightly reports, “parents need to keep a beady eye on their children: sandcastles are banned, as they ‘obstruct the passage’ along the beach.”

“Two people may sit down on a park bench in the city of Novara [Piedmont], but if a third person joins them and it’s after 11pm, all three are breaking the law. In Viareggio, the benches may contain as many people as care to squeeze on … Read More

Mangia! Mangia! – bir & fud

bir & fud, a trendy beer and pizza joint on a narrow busy pedestrian street in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome, will put a smile on your face every time you think of the name or the food. 

With an ever-changing menu of artisanal beers on tap and over 100 different bottled brews, this is the premier beer destination for all of Italy, not just Rome.  bir & fud not only prizes the yeast in its beer, but also that in its special pizza and focaccia dough, the revered lievito madre.  Order the fresh-daily buffalo mozzarella as an antipasto … 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