By Francesca Papi, Private Tour Guide of Florence



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San Marco Convent is one of the most important destinations for Renaissance lovers and for Fra’Angelico’s devotees in particular. The large number of frescos and their specific function (to celebrate the Dominican Order and create comfortable spaces apt to friars’meditation), together with the fact that every artwork was made for this same place, makes this museum really unique.

Fra' Angelico, Annunciation (1440-50), San Marco Convent

Since the 1200s San Marco Convent was held by the Silvestrine monks. In 1436, Pope Eugene IV assigned the convent to the Dominicans of San Domenico di Fiesole. This followed the donation of a lavish sum of money to refund the convent by the rich Florentine banker Cosimo the Elder. He also gave consistent funds to sustain the friars’community, bound by the vow of poverty. The Florentine architect Michelozzo was in charge of the renovation, which was concluded by Epiphany in 1443, year of the consecration by the same pope.

Saint Dominique of Guzman was born in 1170 in Castilla (Spain). He distinguished himself for poverty and charity and he was convinced of the necessity of bringing the church back to its austerity. He founded the Order of Preaching Friars, based on beggars life, traveling preachers and in-depth study of religion. He died in Bologna in 1221 and his was canonized shortly after in 1234 by Pope Gregory XI, a fact which demonstrates how popular this friar was amongst the people.
San Marco is tightly linked to the name of Beato Angelico (or Fra’Angelico). He was baptized Guido di Piero and he was born in the countryside around Florence towards the end of the XIV century. Angelico is the epithet given to him after his death for his religiosity and humility. He was a dominican friar who tried to join together the new Renaissance principles, such as the perspective and the attention on the human figure, with old medieval aspects, like the educational function of art and the mystic value of light.

Fra’ Angelico was called from Fiesole to Florence to supervise the fresco decorations of the entire convent. In particular, the decoration consisted in episodes of the New Testament or Crucifixions in every cell, where Saint Dominique or other dominican saints were portrayed: the friars had to follow their examples and their virtues (compassion, prayer, meditation, prostration, etc). His frescoes in San Marco Convent are a real milestone of Renaissance art. Their force derives from their absolute harmony and simplicity which tend to evoke in the friars a devoted contemplation. These are the masterpieces of Angelico’s maturity, characterized by formal rigor, desert backgrounds, ethereal figures, a metaphysical light and a very delicate palette of colors, creating a sensation of real abstraction. Dominican saints are depicted in these scenes to update the holy episode to the real life of the Dominican congregation.

Fra' Angelico, Crucifixion in San Marco cloisterThe years of the realization are still debated, as well as the authorship of Angelico of every fresco. It appears certain that he conceived and drew all the frescoes, but it’s still open if he was flanked by collaborators and how much he painted. He supervised the entire work, and, due to the big amount of frescoes painted in a relatively short period, we can be sure that he had apprentices and co-workers. One of Fra’ Angelico’s masterpieces in San Marco is the Crucifixion in the main cloister. The symbolic abstraction, the figures who are extrapolated into a space without time, the surreal intense blue color of the azurite background, represent one of the highest moments of this painter. Another great work is the famous Fra’Angelico’s Annunciation on the upper floor. This is the first thing that you see arriving from the stairs. The Virgin Mary sits down on a simple stool that represents her simplicity, in her house, that could be a Renaissance loggia, and the angel suddenly arrives to bring her the message of the Incarnation. On the background a garden with luxuriant trees, representing the world’s temptations. Both figures are portrayed in a attitude fully subdued to a greater will. Mary is the model for charity, humility and love, virtues of the Dominicans. Every descriptive detail that could distract the view from reflecting on the mystery of faith has been eliminated by the painter. The result is a very ethereal and rarefied atmosphere.

Girolamo Savonarola, painted by Fra' Bartolomeo (1497).But San Marco is not only Renaissance painting. It’s strictly bound to the historical and political figure of Girolamo Savonarola. Born in Ferrara in 1452, Savonarola was ordained Dominican friar in 1475. In 1482 he arrived to Florence, as a lector at San Marco Convent, with the duty of recounting the Holy Scriptures from the pulpits of the Florentine churches. He was assigned the pulpit of San Lorenzo, the Medici’s church, on Easter of 1484. His reception was bad, due to his Ferrarese accent that might sound barbarian to the refined ears of the Florentines. He was a vehement preacher, he announced that humanity was going to be flagellated by catastrophes like pests, hungers and the Anti Christ, because of all the human vices. After a period spent in northern Italy, he came back to Florence, this time called by Lorenzo il Magnifico (what a bad trick of fate!). The main member of the Medici family wanted the friar in Florence because he understood his potential and his charm on people. He might have been a good ally. But Lorenzo’s previsions were wrong. Savonarola proclaimed that the good and the evil of a city come from its rulers, but they were corrupted and superb, they exploited the poor imposing high taxes. In the meantime he became Prior of San Marco Convent. Lorenzo il Magnifico couldn’t contrast Savonarola’s popularity. He died in 1492 in his villa: Savonarola denied him the last rites. In 1497 Savonarola even organized a bonfire of vanities in Piazza della Signoria, giving to the flames artworks, pagan paintings, lavish dresses, precious vases, which provoked an uncountable damage for the Florentine Renaissance. e was excommunicated by Pope Alexandre VI in 1497; he was burnt at the stake with the condemnation of heresy one year later, where his famous bonfire of the vanities took place.

By |November 29th, 2016|Home|0 Comments

LGBTI Scene in Florence. What to do, where to go. Culture, entertainment, music and sports

When it comes to talk about LGBTI community in Italy we usually think of cities like Rome and Milan, certainly more populated. But honestly talking, Florence is probably the gayest city in Italy. Think about it. What’s in Florence? Art is everywhere. Fashion with Pitti events, the high couture stores in the city center, the Polimoda Fashion School near the Arno river and the textile tradition. The antiques and the historical markets, theaters, museums and of course the great art masterpieces of the past. Artistic expressions are always related to gay culture history. More than any other community gay people enhance and renew the forms of art communications. In this article we want to guide you in all the aspects of this love for beauty and for expressing ideas, with events and social initiatives created and supported by the Florentine LGBTI community.




The Flog night

The most famous Florence LGBTI night event of all. It exists since 1992, it’s only once a month from September to May and in recent years it has been re-named Necessariamente, because people feel the urgency, the necessity of this party.
The venue is always at Flog “Fondazione Lavoratori Officine Galileo” and it is a real gathering of people from all cities of Tuscany coming to Florence because they know they will really enjoy as if they were going to visit some friends who organized the most massive of house parties. During the evening, always a different show: musical, plays, cabaret, live music or special moments of social propaganda on issues the community care about.
Then music stops at 4am. You’ll came back to reality with the Sirtaki, which is danced by everybody while the security bodyguards expect the last survivors of the evening to recompose and go back home…

Flog is located just outside the center; we suggest you to reach it in 10 minutes with a cab. If you have your own car you can park in the pine garden parking for just two euros. Do not arrive after 11 p.m. because you will not find easily parking, (not even inside).
But here’s the solution: come for dinner. Il Giardino del Poggetto , the pizzeria in front of the Flog has become a real tradition of the community: first pizza, then fun and dance.













Piccolo Cafè

It’s the historic gay bar in the center of Florence, near Piazza Santa croce. This year Piccolo celebrates its 21st birthday and changes its interiors every 6 months offering always new fantastic looks. On Thursday evening the most important DJs of the Florentine nightlife play here to entertain tourists and citizens. On Fridays and Saturdays there are so many people that you can just take your drink inside and drink it outside in the crowd, that street we can be considered the small “Florentine gay street”.












It’s the newest and coolest party of the city. Five brilliant Florentine girls, Margherita, Andrea, Costanza, Sofia and Vezia created this special night, the real rising of gay & friends parties in town. DJ sets, live music, colors, one of the best vocalists of Italy: Jenny Jackson.











Interno 3

It’s a new bar restaurant in Calenzano. Patrizia with its karaoke night and its PATlive music festival delights all those who participate during the happy hour, every Friday and Sunday. You can find here the most disparate audience: a place where you talk with LGBTI families of Florence and always have fun. Cocktails, DJ nights and tango dance events.


Azione Gay e Lesbica

Located in Via Pisana 32, Azione exists since 1989 and organizes the Flog night Necessariamente. The association has always answered about gay events of Florence to the youngest people. They also organize Ciackline, a retrospective of gay-themed movies accompanied with debates, every week. Azione hosts book presentation events and debates. All the guys who work here are volunteers. They have also a stocked library of gay-themed books that you can always consult.

GGG Gruppo Giovani GLBTI

A group of young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (and others) of Florence. They meet every week and the themes of each meeting are always different: self-training, confrontation, self- awareness and knowledge. To participate you can write to or consult their Facebbok page.


Ireos address is Via dei Serragli 3, just near the Arno river. You can always find a counseling of psychologists to talk about sex problems and you can do here, for free, HIV tests (just write to The test is anonymous and accompanied with an interview that will give information on risk behavior, ways of transmission, treatments. Datas collected during the last years show that about half of the people doing the HIV test at Ireos are heterosexual. IREOS also organizes training courses on discrimination, meetings and educational projects in the schools of Florence to encourage debate and discussions on issues like homophobia, transphobia, gender stereotypes, human rights and other related issues.
Also held presentations of books, meetings with authors, happy hours and parties.
But the most important event organized by Ireos is the Florence Queer festival.


Florence Queer Festival











Florence Queer Festival

It’s one of the most important Italian exhibitions dedicated to queer culture. Arrived at its thirteenth edition, the festival takes place every November during the 50 Days of Cinema in Florence  at the Odeon Cinema, perhaps the most beautiful and old theatre in Florence. Odeon is situated in the centre of the city, next Repubblica Square and proposes movies in their original versions with Italian subtitles. The festival not only presents retrospective of important movies from all over the world but also photo exhibitions, video art, theater, music, books presentations, debates and parties.


Do you really think that gay guys and sport are two separate worlds? You’re wrong.
In Florence we have gay football teams and sport fans getting together organizing tournaments to promote not only love for sport but integration without prejudice.
Do you like football? There’s Revolution Soccer TeamWith great irony these guys propose the Finocchiona Cup (finocchiona is the typical Tuscan salami with fennel but also a term used to refer to a gay person in the Florentine slang).
A football tournament called MSP sees the girls of the team sponsored by GULP.
You can go to cheer the girls and be updated about matches visiting the official Facebook page of Gulp. Do you prefer volleyball? Consult the Facebook page Ore d’ariaSchermata 2016-02-28 alle 14.14.27



Or what about a hike? In Florence Altri Passi organizes informal tours to guide people in the fantastic world of trekking. The target is always meeting new people during wonderful trips that alternate historical-artistic interest, landscapes and nature.

Visit Florence and have fun. Our city is not “just art”.
If you are part of the LGBTI community or friends, here you will never get bored!


by Stefano Chianucci

By |March 16th, 2016|Home|0 Comments

The 5 WOW! views of Florence

View of the Duomo from the CupolaHi there! Today I want to give you some tips about the 5 places where you can enjoy the best views of Florence.

BRUNELLESCHI’S DOME. 463 steps, tiny corridors, people sweating in summertime: this is the dome, “cupola” in Italian. A little precaution: if you don’t like claustrophobic places, don’t go up! Built by Filippo Brunelleschi between 1420 and 1436, payed by the Florentines with their taxes, it was the biggest dome ever built and it was the pride of the city (it still is!). It’s a self structure of two domes placed on each other, creating a double shell. The climbing is hard and steep, but at the end there is an amazing reward. Thanks to the fundamental relevance that Brunelleschi’s dome played on the development of modern architecture, this huge construction is the most important architectonical work built in Europe from the Roman antiquity. You have to walk through the two domes from the inside to get to the top. You go up a spiral staircase, seeing also the frescoes of the dome with its marvellous Last Judgment by Giorgio Vasari (1572-79) from an unusual and very close point of view. There’s a breathtaking panorama waiting for you at the top, with all Florence around you. Isn’t it exciting? It’s like a carpet of colourful roofs at your feet. Ready to climb to the top?

RINASCENTE’S TERRACE. One of my favourite spots to meet my friends for a cup of tea or a cappuccino is the cafe on top of the department store called Rinascente, in Piazza della Repubblica. The first Rinascente department store was opened in Milan in 1865, shortly after the unification of Italy in 1861. Few years after it was inaugurated in Rome, Genoa, Venice, Turin, Naples, Palermo, Bologna and Florence. So this department store is one of the oldest ones in Florence. You can have a delicious and creamy cappuccino on this terrace while chatting with a friend enjoying a great view on the square: the triumphal arch, the column with the Statue of Abundance, the top of Orsanmichele Church, the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the peak of Giotto’s Bell Tower. It’s all around you! This will be definitely the best cappuccino of your life!

Piazzale Michelangelo in FlorenceARNOLFO’S TOWER. This is the tower of Palazzo Vecchio, the public palace built to house the government in 1299. Today Palazzo Vecchio is still the town hall of Florence. The tower is named after the architect Arnolfo di Cambio, who likely designed it. The palace was first the headquarters of the Republic and then the Medici family’s house, when they eventually took the power in the XVI century. The structure is strictly medieval, with its buttresses and crenellations. However, inside the palace was completely renovated by the Gran Duke Cosimo I, who transformed the sober and imposing Middle Ages architecture into a sumptuous and magnificent Renaissance residence: frescos, statues, geographical maps, all with the purpose to extoll the high lineage of the family. On top of the building there is the camminamento di ronda, the rampart used by the patrol sentinels to watch over the square. The overlook is really beautiful, you can dominate the entire Signoria Square. Can you imagine the soldiers throwing down pitch and boiling oil on the enemies’ heads? Just out of curiosity, facing the stairs, you will pass by a little cell called by the Florentines “alberghetto“, that means little hotel. You don’t have to think that it was a cozy little hotel room, but it was rather a prison cell whose “guests” were, among others, Cosimo the Elder de’Medici, accused in 1433 of plotting against the Republic, and the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, accused in 1498 of heresy and then burnt in the square… Cosimo had a better luck: he was only exiled for one year out of Florence.

PONTE SANTA TRINITA. One of the highlights of Florence is undoubtedly Ponte Vecchio, the former bridge of the butchers and fishermen, later replaced by Medici order with jewellers and goldsmiths. It’s the only one still original of the Middle Ages, because all the others were destroyed during the war by the German troops during their retreat. But where is the best place to take a picture of this famous bridge? In my opinion it’s Ponte Santa Trinita, the bridge next to Ponte Vecchio. It was built in 1252 in wood, financed by the Frescobaldi family, taking the name from the church near it. In 1259 it collapsed under the weight of the people who were there to see a show on the Arno river. It was later destroyed again by the flood of 1333 and rebuilt once more. But the bad luck wasn’t over: another flood in 1557 made it fall down. The bridge we see today dates back to that time when Cosimo I de’Medici appointed the Florentine architect Bartolomeo Ammannati to rebuild it, following a design by Michelangelo. In 1608 the statues of the four seasons were placed at the four sides to celebrate the wedding of Cosimo II with Maria Maddalena of Austria. This unlucky bridge was blown up by the Germans on August 4, 1944. The new bridge was eventually inaugurated in 1957. The statues came back to its original location much later, because one of them, the Primavera (Spring) had lost her head. An antique dealer of Florence even put a reward on her head: $ 5,000 to who could find it. It was found only in 1961 by some sand diggers in the Arno. The American film director Spike Lee took inspiration from this to make his movie Miracle of St. Anna (very beautiful, you should watch it). Today, hundereds of people take pictures from Ponte Santa Trinita. So at sunset, take your camera, your selfie stick (or better just ask someone else to take you a picture!) and go to this bridge to catch the best light!

Ponte Vecchio at dusk from Piazzale MichelangeloPIAZZALE MICHELANGELO. This is definitely the place where you will enjoy the best view of Florence. It doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter time, at dawn or dusk, the thing is that here the panorama is absolutely unique. Generations of Florentines have chosen this place for a first date, the romanticism is guaranteed! You can see from this overlooking terrace all the monuments of Florence: Santa Croce Church with the National Library, the Duomo with Brunelleschi’s imposing dome and the Bell Tower, the Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, the beautiful green dome of the Synagogue. This breathtaking landscape is framed by the hill of Fiesole and the Apennines in the background. Why the name of this terrace? Because a replica in bronze of Michelangelo’s David is standing in the centre of the square watching us! The statue is a perfect mould of the original, which stood in Signoria Square until 1873 and then was moved inside the Accademia Gallery. At the feet of the copy of David, there are other four sculptures reproducing another Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the characters he created for the tombs in the Medici Chapels (the statues of Dawn, Dusk, Night and Day). This spectacular square was designed in 1869 by the architect Giuseppe Poggi on a hill on the south side of the river, completing the works of the so-called Risanamento (restoration) when Florence was proclaimed capital city of the Reign of Italy. The restoration plan included the creation of the lungarni (boulevards along the river), the destruction of the medieval city walls, the demolition of a big part of the historic centre and the making of a panoramic avenue called Viale Dei Colli (avenue of the hills) that brought to the new Michelangelo Square, possibly the most enigmatic result of Florence’s renovation. You can reach the square on foot in about 30 minutes starting from San Niccolò neighbourhood (across Ponte Vecchio) or taking the bus n. 12 or 13. The walk is very nice. You can also go to San Miniato, few meters from the square, a magnificent Romanesque style church, where you have another wonderful view of the city. You will see many people sitting down on the stairs, with a bottle of wine, two glasses, a camera, and maybe a guitar, waiting for an amazing show: one of the most spectacular sunsets of your life! 

By |February 24th, 2016|Home|0 Comments