By Francesca Papi, Private Tour Guide of Florence

Monthly Archives: May 2011

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Bernardo Buontalenti, first inventor of the gelato

 

Bernardo Buontalenti (Florence, 1531-Florence 1608) was a Florentine stage designer, architect, theatrical designer, military engineer and artist. He was much employed in the design of fortifications, villas, and gardens and is considered one of the most important architects of the Mannerist period (the Medici Villa in Pratolino, the Tribune in the Uffizzi Gallery, the palace of Bianca cappello in Via Maggio, the Forte Belvedere, the Buontalenti Cave in the Boboli Garden, the project for the new city of Livorno, etc.) . He was also a great mechanic, and an excellent mathematician. Besides tha, he is also traditionally considered the inventor of modern gelato. The Grand Duke Cosimo I de’Medici wanted him to organize an opulent banquet to celebrate the Spanish deputation, that had to stand open-mouthed in front of so much splendour. Buontalenti invented a new dessert for the occasion: a sorbet made with ice, salt (to lower the temperature), lemon, sugar, egg, honey, milk and a drop of wine. His cold cream was flavoured with bergamot and orange and was the forerunner of the modern Florentine cream. Buontalenti was an expert of the ice conservation; he has indeed projected some cold storage room both in the Boboli Garden and in the Cascine area. Near the Medici Fortress there is a street called Via delle Ghiacciaie (i.g. “icehouse street”), that owes its name to the cellars covered with isolating cork and wood panels, with a system of canes that let the thawed ice flow down. Buontalenti probably even built a sort of manual whisk to whip up the cream.

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By |May 25th, 2011|Gelato, Home|2 Comments

Cosimo de’Medici: Businessman, Politician, Patron

Cosimo took his  first steps along with his brother Lorenzo. His father, a very well-informed man, wanted his son to study the classics with the awareness that he would find in them indications of value for tuckling public life.

To understand better the situation that awaited the young Cosimo when he entered politics we have to go back to 1393, four years after his birth. Florence was de facto ruled by the Albizzi family, that immediately sized the occasion to get rid of the Alberti and, shortly afterward, also of three members of the Medici. For the moment Cosimo’s branch did not come into conflict with the new regime owing to the renewed wisdom of Giovanni di Bicci, Cosimo’s father, who at that times was only concerned with increasing the volume of his business, setting up the bank that was to provide the economic support for the ascendent of his family to power and glory. (more…)

By |May 22nd, 2011|Galleria degli Uffizi, Medici|0 Comments

Dwarf Morgante at Medici’s Court

In many European courts there were dwarfs working like clowns, constantly taunted and held up to ridicule.

The were often painted in official works as rare curiosities or exotic animals. Between the artists who painted dwarfs there are Andrea Mantegna (in the Bridal Chamber in Mantua), Antoon van Dyck, Diego Velázquez and Pieter Paul Rubens. But also Agnolo di Cosimo, better known with the name of Agnolo Bronzino, for his copper-colored hair. Braccio di Bartolo, called Morgante (ironically, with reference to the theatre work by Luigi Pulci Morgante, whose protagonist Morgante was a giant) suffered from Achondroplasia dwarfism and got a job as entertainer at the palace of the Gran Duke Cosimo I.

We know from the chronicles of that times that he was continuosly humbled, for instance one of the delights at court was to assist at  the fight among Morgante and a monkey. In spite of this degraded condition, he had a privileged life compared with other people. He also was in charge of the so called “uccellagione”, which consisted in the hunting with the owl to catch little birds, like larks and quails. Around 1553  Bronzino painted the dwarf Morgante in a unique way: Morgante is completely naked and he is hunting. (more…)

By |May 13th, 2011|Galleria degli Uffizi|0 Comments