13/03/2018 by Eleonora

In the heart of the historic center of San Gimignano, in the central Piazza Duomo (Cathedral Square), is the Palazzo Comunale (Municipal Palace), also known as Palazzo del Popolo (“Palace of the People”) or Palazzo Nuovo del Podestà (“New Palace of the Chief Magistrate”). It stands between the Torre Grossa to the right (“Big Tower”- with its 54 meters is the tallest tower of San Gimignano, built between 1300 and 1311), and the Loggia del Comune to the left. The palace was built between 1289 and 1298 on the remains of a preexisting building, and it was enlarged during the 14th and 15th centuries. From its construction until today, the palace has been the house of the Municipality of San Gimignano and since 1852 also the seat of the Civic Museum.

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06/02/2018 by Eleonora

In the Piazza San Giovanni (“St. John’s Square”) in Florence, more or less in front of the North Door of the Baptistery, stands a column with a cross on top: this small monument is connected to a Florentine story about one of its most important citizen: a saint, who was the first bishop of the city, Saint Zanobi. He lived around the 4th-5th century, much loved by the people, and when he died, he was buried in what became the first cathedral of Florence, the church of San Lorenzo.

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25/01/2018 by Emanuela

I would like to go back to the Age of Exploration, and thus to another important Florentine navigator that deserves a great tribute: Giovanni da Verrazano, who lived between 1485 and 1528, and who has become famous for discovering the New York Bay and the Eastern Coast of the United States of America.

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22/08/2017 by Silvia

History gives us different versions, depending on who teaches it, and, above all, where we study it. In the Spanish classrooms students learn that the date of the discovery of America is 1492, a date that cannot be forgotten, as the protagonist of this feat: Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus). In Italy, things are viewed from another perspective, without diminishing Columbus, but giving more credit to the Florentine Amerigo Vespucci, a figure that is instead ignored in Spain; Americans, however, know very well whom they owe their continent’s name.

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Mario Romoli and Porta Romana in Florence

18/08/2017 by Silvia

At the end of the 19th century, the avenues surrounding the historic center of Florence were built, almost completely destroying the last medieval city walls by Arnolfo di Cambio. Despite this, some evidence still survive in the city gates, that were part of these walls, and that are still visible along the avenues. The south gate, called “Porta Romana” (“Roman Gate”), because it leads to Rome, is also the one that preserves a section of the 14th century walls, and that can give a better idea of how this medieval fortified city was. Each entrance gate welcomed us into Florence, and it was decorated with frescoes, often with religious subjects, and sometimes by the hands of important artists. Unfortunately, not many original examples reached us, due to problems of external preservation of these artworks, and so sometimes they were painted again centuries later.

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The “Palio di Siena”

14/08/2017 by Eleonora

The famous horse race of Siena, called Palio di Siena, is a very important and heart-felt event, it is not just a mere historical commemoration, but it is an integral part of the people of this city, since the contrada (the city district) is like a larger family, and the contradaioli (the district’s members) are primarily friends.

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26/07/2017 by Emanuela

Today, July 26, is St. Anne Feast Day. Saint Anne was the mother of Mary, and grandmother of Jesus; but she is also one of the patron saints of Florence, along with the main one, St. John the Baptist, and the others, St. Reparata and St. Zanobi. The devotion to Saint Anne in Florence dates back to a specific episode of the 14th century, that occurred in a decade that will prove to be quite tormented for this city, and that has the church of Orsanmichele as the protagonist.

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24/06/2017 by Emanuela

On June 24 Florence celebrates one of its most important holidays: its patron saint day, St. John the Baptist. It is on this date, in fact, that the Church celebrates the Nativity of this saint considered the Forerunner of Christ, and the one that introduced baptism in the water as a form of purification. Many events take place in the city during this day. But: why is St. John the Baptist so important for Florence?

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23/06/2017 by Eleonora

In these days we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Don (Father) Lorenzo Milani, a priest that for many years was considered a thorny figure, and therefore often marginalized and left alone by the Church; recently, though, a reconciliation has been attempted, as shown by the visit of Pope Francis to his tomb.

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Montelupo Ceramics

14/06/2017 by Eleonora

Every year in June Montelupo Fiorentino, a city in the province of Florence, dedicates a few days to its most important and famous product, ceramic, organizing a festival dedicated to it: Montelupo Ceramics Festival.

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13/06/2017 by Eleonora

The “Florentine football”, also known as “historic football” or “costume football” is a Florentine tradition that dates back to the 15th century. It is a mix of soccer and rugby (and nowadays a little wrestling too!), because ball is grabbed with hands; this game was played especially during carnival time, and this explains the reference to costumes in its name. Nowadays players are dressed in medieval-style costumes, each one with the colors of his own team. Teams are four, one for each historic quarter of the city: Santa Croce (Blues), San Giovanni (Greens), Santa Maria Novella (Reds) and Santo Spirito (Whites).

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The “wine windows”

06/06/2017 by Emanuela

Walking through the streets of Florence, both in the crowded ones around the main monuments, as well as in the quieter ones, if you look around with curiosity, you can see many things, small and large, that the various attractions and the above mentioned monuments sometimes shade: tabernacles; decorated traffic signs; pictures of historical celebrities.. underwater; “Dante’s plaques” with Divine Comedy excerpts; more marble plaques on the walls of palaces, commemorating important personalities who had lived there; and much more. But if we look not so high, more or less at our height, we can often notice some strange, small windows on the walls of palaces: these are the so called “buchette” (small holes), or “finestrini” (small windows) – they have many names – for wine. Between the historic center, and the streets that were outside the last 1333 city walls, we can count more than hundred wine windows! But: what are they? And what is their function? Better: what was their function? Simple: to sell wine!

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23/05/2017 by Silvia

Every May 23rd, Florence celebrates “La Fiorita” , a flower tribute to commemorate an event that occurred in 1498: the death of Girolamo Savonarola, a monk that upset the city after the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent Medici, spreading terror and “condemning” the Florentines for their luxurious tastes, for their worship of other religions, and for their pagan art.

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Bartolini Salimbeni: speaking of “you snooze you lose”!

22/05/2017 by Emanuela

Let’s talk about another important family of Florence, this time with the Bartolini Salimbeni .. that were actually native of Siena, and exactly at the time when these two cities were bitter enemies: during the fights between Guelphs and Ghibellines, in the 13th century. Their last name was then just Salimbeni, and its members were, in fact, Ghibellines: thanks to their merchants’ money, they were able to help the Senese Ghibelline troops against the Guelph troops of Florence in the Battle of Montaperti (1260). After its great defeat, Florence will become Ghibelline for about six years: the Guelph power will be restored only six years later, after the defeat of Manfred of Sicily in the Battle of Benevento (1266). But this is another story!

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10/05/2017 by Eleonora

If you are in Piazza della Signoria, in the center of Florence, and look up at Palazzo Vecchio (the “Old Palace”), you can immediately notice that on the façade, just below the brackets, there are some coats of arms. They are nine altogether, and once their sequence is completed, they are again repeated in the same order; they date back to the Medieval times, in particular to 1343, and are the result of the main historical events of the city of Florence.

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27/04/2017 by Emanuela

Uffizi are not just Florentine painters: the vast collections that have reached us through different channels, in particular thanks to the Medici and the Lorraine families, include many “foreign” artists, and we are lucky to be able to admire them in this museum. For example: thanks to Vittoria della Rovere, who became wife of the Medici Grand Duke Ferdinando II in the 17th century, bringing a rich inheritance of artworks from Urbino to Florence, we have the Venus of Urbino by Titian, and The Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca; thanks to Ferdinando III of Lorraine, who fell in love in Siena with the Annunciation by Simone Martini, we can now admire this masterpiece in the first rooms dedicated to the 14th century; thanks to the Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici, who visited churches to find paintings to buy for his collection, we have many artworks in the Pitti Palace; or the paintings by Caravaggio, arrived here as a gift from the artist’s mentor, Cardinal Del Monte, to Ferdinando I Medici.

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27/04/2017 by Silvia

Tuscany is a land famous not only for its thousands of years of history, and for the quantity and quality of the artworks that are here preserved, but also for its landscape that has been captured in many famous movies (Under the Tuscan Sun, Life is beautiful, Stealing Beauty, A Room with a View - just to mention some), and that has attracted a considerable number of tourists. There is however another essential element that will give you a complete knowledge of this territory, allowing you to fully enjoy it: its food and wine tradition. Since the origins of civilization of this area with the Etruscans, people have started to cultivate and produce some of the products that are still at the base of the Tuscan cuisine: wine (red wine mainly), olive oil, cheese, cereals and legumes.

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06/04/2017 by Eleonora

After five years of restoration at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (literally “Workshop of semi-precious stones”, created by the Medici in Florence at the end of the 16th century), one of the most important artworks by Leonardo da Vinci in Florence, the Adoration of the Magi, is finally back on display.

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03/04/2017 by Silvia

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29/03/2017 by Silvia

The wealthy families of every city are those who influence history and, sometimes, politics. Often they have been important for the economy and for art, turning into patrons of artists, poets, intellectuals and scientists.

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The art of birth

23/03/2017 by Silvia

Flowers and chocolates are the most common gifts to new mommies. But.. imagine to receive a tray instead! A particular tray decorated by the most famous artist of the moment! This was the object that women, belonging to the wealthy families, used to receive after giving birth (and after having survived the birth), or as a wedding gift to encourage the couple to soon build a family. The practical purpose of these trays was to bring food and beverage to the woman still in bed after giving birth. The woman’s task, as we know, was to give birth to as many children as possible, and the main parents’ concern was to find a husband or a wife for their son or daughter, so to bring the lineage on to the next generations. Wife was often and therefore chosen among candidates considered suitable to give birth. This task might seem very easy.. but in fact it wasn’t at all! The mortality rates for infants and for women during birth were high, so that the big issue was not just having children, but to survive birth for women, and to reach adulthood for children. If we also consider all the plagues, as the terrible big plague of 1348, that killed huge percentage of the population, we cannot be surprised about how people then gave special importance to birth.

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