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

Dove Vai? – Florence is alive this week with Florens 2012

It seems like just yesterday that Florens 2010 brought a lawn to Piazza del Duomo and a full-sized David moved from place to place around Florence. For the second edition of this global cultural event, the city is graced with seventy olive trees forming a grove around the Baptistry and three historic crucifixes inside. Across town, the piazza in front of Santa Croce, as if by magic, has grown a cross of its own, made of tons of marble.

The olive grove is best seen early in the morning or late at night when the fewest people are around. The … 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 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

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

Dove Vai? The Folon Rose Garden of Florence

I was intrigued by the sculptures of Jean-Michel Folon the first time I left Florence by car going south. There on a small traffic island stood a man with an umbrella — it was raining inside the umbrella. He was appropriately titled l’uomo della pioggia (the rain man).

Alexandra Kourey of arttrav.com fame caught a different view of the same statue, one winter day when someone forgot to turn the umbrella off — now he was the ice man.

My next sighting of Folon was in the butcher shop of Dario Cecchini. He was a friend of the artist … Read More

Master Designer in Glass & Crystal Beads – Ornella Aprosio

In a magical oasis on the edge of the noise and bustle of Florence’s historic center, you can find a glittering green-blue seahorse hanging on a ribbon just a foot away from a pink calla lily lapel pin. Fiery chili pepper necklaces vie with ruby red cherry earrings and spotted ladybug pins. On the upholstered “husband” bench, beaded needlepoint pillows provide support for the viewing of one after another of the jewel-toned purses and evening clutches.

This is the world of the Aprosio & Co., the dream child of designer Ornella Aprosio, master artisan of the tiniest of crystal and … Read More

Italian Food Rule – No Doggy Bags, 2nd Serving

This is how I learned about the Italian Food Rule: No Doggy Bags!

Years ago, I was a regular at La Maremma on Via Verdi in Florence. I loved their penne pasta with mushroom and truffle sauce. I adored their fruit tiramisu. In fact, I don’t think I ever had a dish I didn’t like there. Everything was cooked to order, the service was fantastic, and the ambience with its slanting floor was warm and comfortable. (Since then, the restaurant has been renovated, but the high quality of the food is still getting rave reviews.)

One evening, I … Read More

Italian Food Rule – No Doggy Bags!

History of a Food Rule

Some of the best stories are those that start in the same place where they end. The more things change the more they stay the same. The Italian Food Rule: No Doggy Bags! has strange antecedents because according to some the doggy bag’s first appearance was in the 6th century BC … in Rome.

Apparently, when invited to a banquet at the neighbor’s villa the ancient Roman would bring a napkin or two. It was a compliment to the host to take some of the dinner home wrapped up in your napkin.

But perhaps … Read More